A few weeks ago, a friend of mine expressed how frustrated she was because she had to stop practicing one of her favorite . She just didn’t have time for it anymore. Her studies and her job were increasingly taking more time from her. Moreover, having a 2-hour commute every day was not helping her.

I discussed this topic with a few more friends, and I was surprised to find this was a common issue. People were frustrated because they had to abandon some of their hobbies and had issues keeping up with the rest of hobbies that they still tried to practice. The main factors in this issue were work (overtime), studies and long commutes.

As a Designer, this issue tickled my curiosity. This was something I related to and maybe I could offer an effective solution to the problem. That curiosity and willingness to solve it brought me to create Hobble, an app for busy people to find low time-consuming hobbies. With Hobble, users can find and experience hobbies to their needs and available time, share their accomplishments and hobby experiences and connect with people.

When I started digging around the problem, I had a hypothesis in mind: If people don’t have time for their hobbies, they might need to find less time-consuming activities to do or hobbies that can be practiced in short periods of time. However, I needed to validate this statement. My next step was to sketch a Lean Survey Canvas and start working on a survey. I needed to know if this was really an issue, why and how I could start building up a solution.

The Lean Survey Canvas helped define the questions of the first survey.

However, the first survey turned out being inconclusive. Since I needed additional quantitative data to start drawing conclusions, I released a second survey that helped me obtain the necessary information. Overall, the surveys generated more than 80 results that defined the interviews, which were useful to obtain qualitative data.

The survey results show that:

  • Most people (69.5%) feel like they don’t have enough time for themselves quite often.
  • 65.2% of the participants also feel they do not have enough time for their hobbies.
  • In a scale from 1 (less) to 5 (more), most participants indicated that their hobbies are as time-consuming as a 3 in the scale, with the next most voted value being 4.
  • 65.2% of participants also feel that often or always pushing their hobbies aside and prioritizing other things.
  • Most people (65.2%) have abandoned a hobby because they didn’t have enough time at some point in their lives.
  • 87% of the participants would be willing to learn about new hobbies, with 78.3% of the participants preferring less time-consuming hobbies (doable in a few minutes). The rest (21.7%) would rather learn about more time-consuming hobbies that require more commitment.

These results revealed that people feel like they don’t have time to entertain themselves with hobbies. These get usually pushed aside because there are other priorities.

After analysing the quantitative data, I started working on an Interview Guide and looking for people who could be an interesting fit for the research process. I approached 5 interviewees from different backgrounds and asked them to walk me through one regular day of theirs. My goal was to identify pain-points throughout their everyday lives regarding the balance between their responsibilities and leisure/free time. Moreover, I also asked them about their hobbies and favourite activities. The interviews validated my hypothesis and revealed that there is the need to use our time in more meaningful ways. People want to learn about less time-consuming hobbies and to acquire new knowledge while still being able to relax.

I’m constantly pushing hobbies aside in order to prioritize my responsibilities. You can actually do lots of things without money, so time is the main issue.

— N., one of the interviewees.

Affinity Diagram: Interpreting Data

Since I had a great amount of both, quantitative and qualitative data, I created an Affinity Diagram in order to narrow down the research findings and define pain-points and opportunities.

With the Affinity Diagram, I sorted out the information in order to get more specific and valuable data. By then, I was already having nightmares about post-its attacking me at night.

Pain-Points and Opportunities

These are the pain-points people are currently facing during their journeys:

  • People have a hard time balancing their hobbies.
  • People do not have time to fully commit to all their hobbies.
  • People end up abandoning hobbies because of factors like time and money.

Moreover, some bits of data also allowed me to define opportunities to help people:

  • People want to learn about new less time-consuming hobbies.
  • People are interested in using their time to acquire new knowledge.
  • People want to manage their time more efficiently, including moments when they do not know what to do.

At this point, I had a few possibilities in mind: a product that tackled this issue could aim to improve people’s time management or maybe help them find new hobbies that required less commitment while still being satisfying. Based on the research findings, the second option seemed a better way to help people solve their problem: Hobble was born.

Problem Statement

At this stage, I had defined the problem I was trying to solve and how I would approach it. With that in mind, I also defined the problem statement.

Busy people need a way to find less time-consuming hobbies because they want to use their time to learn about and experience new things.

Persona

As a way to synthesize and converge all the research findings into one point, I also created a User Persona.

Meet Carla Medina, a student and school teacher from Blanes, a small northern city in Spain. Carla has a 2-hour commute from her hometown to Barcelona, where she studies her Master’s Degree and works as a teacher. She has been feeling frustrated because she isn’t using the commuting time as efficiently as she would like.

Ideally, she would work on her laptop, but the train sometimes is so full that she can’t even get a seat. She’s been thinking about learning something new during that time. Since she does not have a lot of time for her hobbies and, in fact, she has had to abandon some of them. Therefore, she would like to find new hobbies that can be done while commuting or in short periods of time.

Feature Prioritization and the MVP

The next step was to define the core of the product, with the necessary features for establishing a Minimum Viable Product. The definition of the MVP was based on what seemed most valuable to users like Carla (Research) as well as on suggestions from developers (ease to build).

As stated in the brief, the core pillars of Hobble are Find, Experience, Share and Connect. Therefore, the product needed a series features for these core parts to work and fulfil the persona’s needs. In order to define the MVP features and the future of the product, I used the following MoSCoW Diagram:

Ideating, Prototyping and Iterating

Once I defined the MVP and the User Flow, I was ready to start generating ideas and iterations. I started creating a low-fidelity paper prototype in order to quickly test a few ideas with users, which I then iterated into mid-fidelity wireframes.

As shown on the paper prototype above, once users have logged in (first row) they land in the Home screen (second row). This tab allows users to browse activities based on the time they require and the setting (at home, commuter-friendly, outdoors…). Moreover, users can search, filter, save and share activities. Once users select an activity they enter the activity page in order to start practicing a hobby (third row).

Through User-testing, I obtained the necessary data to find out which layout was more intuitive and worked better towards my goal. I continued to generate iterations based on the User-testing results. Digital mid-fidelity wireframes continued to explore several options and layouts while testing continued. During the mid-fidelity wireframing stages, I focused on the navigational aspects of the app.

Mid-Fidelity wireframes were used to explore several navigational possibilities as well as to continue to define the final layout of the app. At this point, the tab bar included home, hobbies, bookmarks (changed to triumphs) and profile.

For instance, the “Bookmarks” tab (3rd on the tab bar) was moved into the user profile tab and replaced with the “Triumphs” tab based on. Another change that was applied when transitioning to High-Fidelity was moving the Search feature into its own tab (see the final prototype below).

Users also showed confusion with the “Home” and “Hobbies” tabs and would frequently ask why they were separate sections. During the Mid-Fidelity stages, these tabs were supposed to work together: the first one allowed users to browse hobbies and the second one enabled users to add hobbies to their list. The activities that were shown on the “Home” tab were based on the hobbies users followed on the “Hobbies” tab. However, that logic was not clear enough for users and more than half of the prototype tests were failed.

Moreover, the aim and uses of the “Triumphs” tab weren’t clear neither. As stated during the research stages, users want to connect with friends based on their hobbies. The purpose of this tab was to show what your connections accomplished after completing activities. However, both the naming and the purpose of this tab were confusing. User testing showed that people expected an achievements record on this tab rather than a social feature.

All feedback generated during formative Usability Evaluation was crucial in order to improve and iterate the product. Most of the necessary changes were applied when the product entered the High-Fidelity prototyping stages.

Navigation suffered lots of changed based on user feedback.

The image above shows all the tab bar iterations. The final tab bar solution (#5) combined the previous “Discover” and “Hobbies” tabs into a single tab. This new tab for hobbies made more sense to users and combined all the browsing and discovering features into one powerful tab.

Moreover, there is a noticeable shift towards Apple’s Human Interface Guidelines for iOS. This is due to most interviewees and user testing participants being iOS users.

Once I transitioned to High-Fidelity, I continued to explore several visual variations, especially for the main screen. It was important to evaluate which one seemed to be more effective in terms of content, visual metaphors, and visual design. I also started to think about Interaction Design and microinteractions. For instance, content cards on the main page went through several iterations, including carousels, stacked groups, and folders as different ways of grouping cards. The most effective solution in terms of usability seemed to be using folders for those content cards that aren’t specifically tied to a hobby but to a situational element (E.g.: Commuter Friendly, Popular, etc.).

Layout explorations and iterations for the main screen (now the “Hobbies” Tab).

As you can see above, at the same time the main screen changed, so did the navigation, which suffered the changes explained at the beginning of this section. The top navigation, which included the search and profile sections, was also iterated accordingly. For the final design, the navigation only shows the page title, the back button, and an action button if needed.

Visual Design

Hobble was designed with its users in mind: young people and millennials who now live in a dynamic world and are looking for a friendly experience in order to learn about new hobbies. Therefore, Hobble features rounded and dynamic shapes that blend together and offer contrast when needed.

With the users in mind: rounded and dynamic.

The first color explorations revolved around red and gray tones, with an emphasis on pictures. However, those first explorations seemed a bit too aggressive based on feedback provided after usability five-second tests were conducted. Therefore, I switched to a more calm and friendly color palette composed of light grays with blue and pink tones as accent colors.

Hobble’s visual style was designed to feel friendly and clean, with illustrations that help users understand the content.

Interaction Design

A crucial part of the design process for Hobble was Interaction Design and, more specifically, microinteractions and animations. My goal with Hobble was to create a system of visual clues and metaphors that helped users understand the contents and features of the product.

Not only microinteractions are useful to provide a better sense of navigation and orientation (What did just happen? What’s happening now? What’s going to happen?), but they also enhance the meaning of the content and link it to specific types of user.

For instance, recommended activities on the “Hobbies” screen are displayed in grouped folders that unfold when tapped, revealing the activity cards for that category. This visual metaphor helps users understand those activities are part of a broader category. Moreover, each recommended category displays an animated illustration that directly mirrors the situation in which the user might be interested in those activities. This provides a better sense of what to expect in terms of content.

The Result

All in all, hobble was designed to feel like a modern app where users like Carla can spend the time they need comfortably and find hobbies tailored to modern needs.

In the following demo, Carla has just downloaded Hobble and is ready to start looking for new hobbies and sharing her experiences with her friends, which are already using the app. After a quick onboarding process, Carla is asked to choose the hobbies she is interested in. Her choices are going to be displayed as different sections with activities in the “Hobbies” tab.

On the video, Carla added the “Coloring” hobby on her list, since she might enjoy it later. Now, the hobby is also on Carla’s “Hobbies” tab, providing her with content based on her needs and likes. However, Carla decided that she wants to learn more about Origami, so she selected its tab and started with the Origami 101 activity. Once she finished it, she shared the result as a post with text and a picture.

When Carla shared the post, it automatically appeared on the “Circle” tab, the social space of the app where users share their experiences, results and more. Her posts are also displayed on the profile tab, under the “Posts” section.

With Hobble, Carla has discovered a new hobby, experienced it for the first time, and shared her experience with her circle of friends so others can also hear about the hobby and maybe give it a try too.

Conclusions

Hobble is the answer to a complex problem I related to and faced as a designer. Understanding what people want to do and need for leisure is a complex task. When creating an app for entertainment there’s the risk to fall short or to end up being too vague of an effort. How do we manage content? What approach should we take? Should it be more similar to a Social Network or to a ToDo list? For that reason, the research stages were one of the most challenging parts of the process. For instance, I wasn’t expecting the first survey to fail and to be inconclusive, but I wasn’t asking the right questions. So I decided to try again with a new survey and focus on what people feel, want and need regarding hobbies. This time, it worked and I was able to continue defining the solution that would later become Hobble.

Hobble was a lesson about the challenges we might face as designers. During the design process, we should be prepared to fail and act accordingly. Seek divergence, generate as many options as possible and fail early so you can learn from that and create something even better.



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