II. Crafting the Service

I made an ambiguous photo with floating Facebook emojis and -related icons to match!

Design is all about *embracing ambiguity, right?

For our 10-week long service design course, my classmates and I were tasked by our clients, Facebook and Matter, with exploring ways to increase political participation through social media platforms and/or increase accuracy and trust in the media. Groups were provided general prompts to jumpstart from such as building trust in face to face interactions and utilizing viral moments to inspire political action, but were encouraged to dig deeper to see what was truly holding people back from being politically engaged.

16 of the 20+ interviewed

Putting the “human” in “human-centered service design”

My teammates and I initially set out to create a service that would help college students escape from their campus filter bubbles and become more engaged with the community around them. However, in interviewing 20+ college students around the country — a couple of which are featured here — and conducting research, we found that the core issue was a lack of news and retention. Students were aware of and fairly well-versed in issues plaguing their campuses, but not in those that affected the country.

Our findings were used to shape our two guiding user personas: Ashley and Adam.

“I’m embarrassingly uninformed. Also, Syria. Everyone was making fun of Gary Johnson for not knowing what Aleppo was and I was like shit.”

Our primary user persona, Ashley

Meet Ashley, an aspiring fashion brand manager who wants to be more informed about current events but doesn’t know how

Ashley, like many college students, has an extensive knowledge of pop culture — specifically The Chainsmokers — but gains most of her political knowledge through links on Facebook and Twitter. She wants to be more informed of political news and current events so that she can participate in discussions with her peers, but lacks the confidence to do so. We want to design a service that will give Ashley a clearer path to be more informed, and help build her confidence.

Our secondary user persona, Adam

Meet Adam, a Reddit enthusiast who wants control over his news consumption and also wants to be heard

Our secondary persona, Adam, has more of a distrust towards traditional media outlets and resorts to learning about current events from friends and Reddit. Like Ashley, he’d like to be more informed in an unbiased fashion, but he’d also like more control over his news consumption and sharing. We want to design a service for Adam that helps build his trust in the media while also providing him with a platform for current events discussion.

Journey map of Ashley’s news consumption experience on Facebook

Okay, but how often do you actually finish reading an article on Facebook?

In order to visualize a college student’s news consumption experience on Facebook, we pulled from our interview findings to create a journey map centered around Ashley. Even though Facebook is flooded with a wide variety of content, Ashley, like many college students and Americans, sometimes finds herself using it as a source for news. However, the information from these sources typically isn’t well retained as distractions online and IRL surface. Ashley wants to be able to discuss the article with friends but finds it difficult to communicate its content confidently.

Key research findings synthesized into 3 main themes

Synthesizing our findings and transitioning from exploration to creation

After conducting additional interviews and research, we presented our insights, themes, and how might we questions to our clients for midterm feedback. Our findings can be categorized by consuming political information, assessing news relevance, or discussing politics, with each category having their own set of goals for our design. After incorporating feedback from our clients, we refined three of these HMWs in order to lay the foundation for one of my favorite parts of the design process: ideation.

150+ brainstormed ideas for our 3 HMWs

Don’t’ worry, I spared you the trouble of having to look at another sticky notes grid

Okay, we obviously used a ton of sticky notes (and candy) during our individual and group brainstorm sessions. We just wanted to type and categorize everything so you could see all of our 150+ ideas — even the awful ones — in their glory. Our final solution, Pears to Pairs, pulled from several ideas listed, the most obvious being, “Pop culture analogies to current events (compare Kanye to Trump.”) Little did our early-2017 selves know that we’d be seeing wearing Ye wearing MAGA hats and meeting with our orange POTUS in the White House. Thankfully, Mr. West has decided to focus his energy his creative endeavors instead of politics.

3 service blueprints of varying implementation levels

*JAY-Z voice* “[Service] blueprint 2, baby on the way”

From those 150+ ideas, we incorporated feedback from our classmates and mentors and storyboarded 3–4 ideas until narrowing it down to Pears to Pairs (we hadn’t come up with the name yet though.) While we would have loved the ability to be able to fully test these 3–4 concepts, it made much more sense to focus on our best rather than dividing our efforts in several directions. The appeared to be a fun and engaging way to tackle our key problem: college students tend to consume news at a surface-level (simply through headlines,) and therefore lack confidence needed to engage in in-depth news discussions with their peers. We then created *3 service blueprints — step, reach, and leap versions — in order to visually communicate how customers and service providers would interact throughout the service. The step blueprint ideas are small and can be implemented within 6 months, reach require a bit more effort and about a year, while leap are wildly different and will take at least 3 years to implement. Rough drafts of these blueprints were tested with potential stakeholders before reaching the versions you see here.

Testing various versions of the game at UC Berkeley

Testing the core game mechanics of Pears to Pairs

We headed to UC Berkeley’s Sproul Plaza to conduct user testing with local college students (and a couple of high schoolers.) In purely testing the game mechanics, we used a variety of game styles and configurations in order to see what types of discussions players were having with these cards and what content was preferred for these cards. Our insights included:

  • It’s more fun for players to make comparisons rather than link impacts
  • Players generally had fun and liked the game
  • More effort is involved in making comparisons than in a game like Cards Against Humanity
  • Most players nodded in agreement when they heard compelling comparisons
  • Some players might not feel confident while playing the game because they weren’t familiar with the news events

“Beyonce and Hillary [Clinton] are both powerful women trying to say something with their work.“

– Freshman at Seaside High School

prototyping at UC Berkeley’s campus

Let’s get digital, digital

In addition to testing the core mechanics of the game, we wanted to see how making the game digital would affect gameplay. Our main concerns were whether people would actually like playing the game on their phones and whether they preferred integration with an existing service like Facebook. We found that:

  • Players are excited about a Facebook Messenger platform as it enables the utilization of pre-existing social connections
  • Some players might just not know the most popular topics (Pokemon Go, Beyonce)
  • Our existing prototype screens were confusing to players

“ I feel like this game could work really well with Facebook! “

– Dillan, UC Berkeley student

VR prototyping subject, Jeffrey, at UC Berkeley’s campus

Attempting to test the VR aspect of the game

Though the VR integration was just part of our “leap” concept and we certainly didn’t have the budget or time to actually create a VR service, we wanted to see how our player’s interactions were affected by the presence of headsets. Our findings from the lo-fi VR prototyping were:

  • Users are not comfortable with talking to someone without knowing the person was there
  • Additional prototyping is required to understand how people interact with one another in VR environments

“ I don’t know if I’d be comfortable [with VR] if I couldn’t see people’s faces first. “

– Jeffrey, UC Berkeley student

Remember to double check your copy, kids…

Finalizing the digital service

The feedback we received from these prototyping sessions gave us the confidence to make the game fully digital, though we definitely needed to work on making the UI less confusing (and improve our spelling.) Players seemed to be excited for the potential integration with Facebook Messenger as it wouldn’t require an app download. The digital medium also provided us with the opportunity to ensure that prompts could be updated over time in order to avoid becoming outdated. Additionally, rather than continue to come up with the prompts ourselves, we also decided to change them to relevant news headlines — providing a legitimate source and a quick link for background information on the prompt.

We still wanted to maintain the magical elements of playing board games with your friends while in a digital landscape, so we pulled inspiration from popular in-person multiplayer mobile games such as Heads Up or Spaceteam. As we noticed during testing that most players would nod when hearing great comparisons, we wanted to provide a way to give feedback to other players without being disruptive so we came up with the shake to praise feature and rap airhorn button. Rather than have players vote on a winner at the end of each round, the game automatically tallies scores from the amount of shakes received and airhorns sounded.

Final service blueprint and journey map of Pears to Pairs

Presenting to our clients and looking to the future

As our ten weeks were suddenly coming to an end, we created final journey maps and service blueprints to prepare for our final presentation. Our clients loved the idea of utilizing a game to increase news comprehension in order to spark people to become more politically informed (and our Facebook representative definitely liked that they were included.) But because this was a 10-week service design class, we focused more on creating the service instead of fully developing the detailed UX of the game.

However, this project helped me realize my passion for UX design and I became fixated on creating the full thing — you can read a more detailed reflection here. The section below this one details my individual work in bringing Pears to Pairs’ screens to life.

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