kelly phillips
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Nod: Interaction and Notification Design

Case Study

 

Project Overview

During a week-long sprint with Cactus, my design team and I worked with Hopelab on Nod, an app that helps college students to take social risks and “embrace the uncomfortable”. We were challenged with enhancing the product user experience through notification and reflection interaction patterns. With the phrase “awkward is normal” in mind, my team and I developed a notification deployment strategy for the app, as well as delightful interaction patterns to help Nod resinate with its target users.
One-week design sprint / May 2019.

Role

Research, UX Design, Illustration / Animation Design

Team

Kelly Phillips, Sarah Cohen, Karen McClellan


 

Project Timeline

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Preface

Design is translation.

My team and I were given a blue sky challenge: how might we affect change and make a difference? As a team, we were drawn to a problem space we all could relate to on a personal level: the feeling of being burntout from overwork. We dove into this topic and found that burnout is caused by a variety of issues, such as going too long without taking breaks, and lack of work-life balance. We felt a change could be made to help the everyday person take better care of his/herself through helping them to build healthy daily habits, and encourage self care practices.

 
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The challenges

How might we enhance and deepen reflection with delightful interactions to close the loop and drive learning?

With an oversaturated “self help” market, we aimed to design interactions that delighted users and helped Nod to stand out amongst other solutions.

How might we nudge freshmen to take risks in a way that’s seamless to their college transition so that they stay engaged with their social goals?

Gen Z are bombarded with notifications, and excessive alerts can lead them to delete an app. Our goal was to make sure our notification deployment was minimal, yet effective and fit into the busy schedules of college freshmen.

 

User Research

Interpreting insights

During our research sessions, we conducted user interviews with students on the University of Colorado campus. Along with this, we dove deep into secondary research around Generation Z and what resonates with them the most. This information directly informed our tone, notification styles, and interaction ideas. Some of the key insights we collected were:

  • They are savvy about their needs and goals, and know how to use technology to meet these goals.

  • They can tell if they are being manipulated or pandered to, and will stop using a service that does this.

  • They are not opposed to well-placed and relevant ads / notifications.

  • They appreciate a quirky tone that can speak to them without “trying to be cool”.

 
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User research

Personas & user journeys

Nod’s ideal users are students who are the most at risk when entering college for the first time. My team and I decided to create three different personas, each representing a different type of college freshman who might seek out Nod for various different reasons. Our main persona was Eric, “The Loner”, who spends a large amount of time in his dorm room studying and gaming online with his friends from home. Along with Eric, we created Kaylie and Margot. Kaylie, “The Small Talker”, is a student athlete who has a large friend group, but feels like her connections are only surface-level. Margot, “The Go-Getter”, is an outgoing PolySci major who doesn’t feel like her relationships are lacking depth, but she’d like to learn a few more life skills that might help her in the future. From here, we created user journeys to help us understand how Nod might organically fit into each persona’s day through message, channel, and timing.

 

Interactions

Using CBT principles to create delight

With our insights in mind, we worked with the Principles of Cognitive Behavioral Therapy to draft interaction ideas that might spark joy with our Gen Z users after reflecting on an experience they’ve had. During our user interviews we asked what students’ go-to Instagram accounts were when they needed a laugh or smile, and what they might send their friend who was having a bad day. Some of the most popular answers were things like cute animals, funny fails, memes, and inspirational quotes. From here we developed an organizational method to keep track of our brainstorms and the CBT principle wrapped into them.

 

Interactions

Conveying animation with paper prototypes

Due to time constraints, my team and I decided to use low-fidelity paper prototyping methods to conduct user testing.

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Interactions

User testing

We had overwhelmingly positive reactions to the paper prototypes that we tested. Even when testers were informed of the CBT principle associated with each prototype, most seemed to embrace and understand the metaphors we created. One thing we realized was the importance of testing with interactive assets. Those who we tested with had an immediate change of mood between us approaching them, and them seeing the paper prototypes we wanted them to try out.

 

Quotes / Insights

Student, 20.

“I love how wholesome this is. This would ground me.”

Student, 18.

“I’d chill on this app.”

Student, 19.

“I get it— this is me actively turning my day around.”

 

 

Notifications

Finding the ideal moments

My main deliverable was designing a companion app that would allow users to check their progress at a glance, as well as alter settings and control their light remotely. The challenge I faced while designing was making sure the app was not a necessity when using the product. The interface was designed to be glanceable, to limit the time users needed to spend on a screen to check their progress.

 
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Notifications

Deployment of notifications

The process of designing Away was an incredibly valuable experience for my team. It was our first experience working as a team, and turning an idea into a fully functional prototype. We gained a lot of valuable knowledge about research methodologies, interview protocols, staying organized as a team, designing for Android vs. iOS, and developing a style guide from scratch. For me, I will use what I have learned and the new skills I’ve acquired

 

Notifications

Deployment of notifications

The process of designing Away was an incredibly valuable experience for my team. It was our first experience working as a team, and turning an idea into a fully functional prototype. We gained a lot of valuable knowledge about research methodologies, interview protocols, staying organized as a team, designing for Android vs. iOS, and developing a style guide from scratch. For me, I will use what I have learned and the new skills I’ve acquired

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Takeaways

Learning on the job

As my first design sprint on a team of 3, the takeaways from this project were invaluable. Working on a specific area of a product’s design was challenging, especially with a week-long timeline. I took on the role of Sprint Master to keep my team on track. During the week I realized that forcing myself out of my comfort zone during a project about embracing the uncomfortable was the best thing I could have done. I was able to fully empathize with our target users along the way, as well as Nod’s message that these uncomfortable moments will