Senior Product Designer at MessageBird↗
Previously at Blendle, IENS, Mediamatic.
Design Sprint to explore how too improve the timeline in the Blendle app.
Blendle is an app where you can get your media from multiple sources. In the beginning, it had a pay-per-article business model, much like iTunes, where you could buy a specific interview for €0,70 without having to get a full subscription to that one magazine or newspaper. Later on, they introduced a subscription model for a selection of articles selected by in-house editors and matched to your interests by a machine learning model.
The timeline where these articles appear is a big part of the app. If users enter the app, it is the first thing they see, and it will determine what they will want to read, and how many times they come back to the app to check out other content.
On the first day, we interviewed stakeholders from the company to get a sense of what is important to incorporate into the understanding of the problem at hand. We interviewed for example the CFO, a couple of editors that create selections every day, and a customer support agent. After these interviews, we started writing out many user stories and quickly sketching quick solutions for them.
As you can see in the pictures, it got pretty messy which is a good sign for this part of the creative process.
First very productive day of the Design Sprint where we tried to understand the problems from multiple angles.
At this point, we identified a couple of potential pain points for the user by sketching out three-panel storyboards visualizing the user story. Doing this is a great way to quickly come up with a lot of ideas that are visual and easy to understand by everyone for the voting process that would take place the next day.
At the start of the second day of the Sprint, we hung up all the storyboards from the previous day around a meeting room. We needed to bring down the number of feasible ideas and problems we wanted to tackle by voting on them.
Day 2 of the Sprint where we converged all the problems into a smaller selection of solutions to be tested.
After voting, the team was split up in two, to work out some of these ideas into a more scoped out storyboard and solution to be prototyped. Instead of a three-panel storyboard, each team gets 15 to tell their story by presenting the solution.
The solution you see above was a way to see how reading articles on Blendle could be more seamlessly fitted into a busy workday schedule. As we had an algorithm to determine the amount of time it would approximately take to read an article, we could also present articles to the user based on that. If the user would input the amount of time they had to spare (for example a 30-minute train ride home), the app could present one or more articles that combined would fill up that time frame. This way the user wouldn't have to think about if they would be able to finish a certain article in time and because of that decide not to read it at all.
Now, for the final part, I spent the rest of day 2 working out these ideas into a prototype that we would be able to test with users on the third day. The ideas we incorporated into it and wanted to test were:
Some screens from the prototype that we used for the user tests.
We interviewed around 5 users with this prototype and documented their responses. The rest of the team was able to see the interviews through a live stream and write down notes too. In the end, we gathered all notes and discussed them in the end.
Utrecht Central Station by Jeroen van de Water
Thanks to Ron, the copywriter at the time, we had a steady stream of users willing to come to our office and test the product, our designs, and new features and share their thoughts. Together with the design team, he set up a great framework, and we were able to test our designs quickly and iterate based on the feedback coming from those sessions.
We were also very lucky with Blendle's office location. It was situated right next to the busiest train station in the Netherlands, a big shopping mall, and the city center of one of the bigger cities in the Netherlands. This made it easy to go out with a prototype on a tablet or phone and ask people passing by to quickly share their thoughts.
All the notes coming from the user tests gave us a lot of feedback to work with. While we didn't end up implementing the solutions we came up with after the Design Sprint, we did work on features that users told us would make their experience better sparked by the ideas incorporated in the prototypes. A bigger emphasis on the reading time, presenting the article selection in different ways, etc.