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Bridge

Bridging language barriers for meaningful travel

Project Type: User Research, App Design

Time: March 2020 - April 2020

Role: Designer, Researcher

Skills: User Research, Wireframing, Prototyping

Tools: Adobe Creative Suite

Overview

For my final project, I ended up creating an app for young travelers to communicate and meet up with one another, regardless of their native language. I named it ‘Bridge’, which might be a bit heavy-handed, but I felt it could be used as a tool to ‘bridge’ the differences between travelers, hence the name would be fitting. I gave the app the tagline ‘Bridging language barriers for meaningful travel’ to reiterate that the purpose of the app is for communication meant to improve the travel experience.

Initial Overview

For my final design project, I was initially planning to create a product related to travel, specifically for students. However, with the current state of travel being uncertain due to the coronavirus, I thought that my user research would end up skewed. So, I decided to pivot and focus on something I was still interested in, but wouldn't be changing any time soon: language. Specifically, my idea was to come up with a solution for quick or 'survival' language skills, when you need to communicate in a short amount of time. I didn't want to recreate another type of language learning app, because I didn't want my solution to focus on long-term language learning, but only immediate needs. Therefore, this was something that I had to keep in mind during the ideation process to make sure my ideas were innovative and not derivative of other products.

Project Beginning

So getting right into the process, this project has seen a few different iterations and my final product is fairly different from my original intent. As I explained, in my proposal I intended to solve the problem of helping people that speak different languages to communicate within a short time frame. Basically, as opposed to a traditional language learning experience, I was seeking to create something that was more immediate and actionable.

Initial Project Proposal

Here is my initial project proposal from our first week of work: 

 

For my design project, I want to focus on the problem of how people communicate, specifically when there is a language barrier. There are many reasons for people to learn a new language, whether that be for travel, work, friends, or pop culture. Specifically, I intend to focus on a solution that will help people short term (ex. Basic phrases taught at the last minute). I plan to conduct research regarding others’ experiences with travel and language learning. I will start out by sending out a basic survey (question brainstorming below). Based on my findings, I will conduct interviews, create personas, and experience maps. Hopefully, this will reveal barriers to the process, and common frustrations that users experience. From there, I will begin ideation with the crazy 8 processes and continue to refine my ideas. Potential solutions could include mobile applications, virtual or in-person services, or maybe even immersive experiences.

Initial Proposed Schedule

With a tight project timeline of 5/6 weeks, it was important for me to stay on track and hold myself accountable for making significant progress towards my final product. Here is my original timeline of when I planned to complete my research and ideation.

Week 1 : March 11 - March 18

Week 3 : March 25 - April 1

  • Territory Map

  • Introductory Research

    • Mind Mapping​

    • Competitive Analysis/Examples

    • Brainstorm and test survey

    • Research - find readings on memory, language processing, etc.

  • Additional audience feedback

  • Research/Design process summary

  • Refine iteration of the design

  • Additional Research

Week 4 : April 1 - April 8

Week 2 : March 18 - March 25

  • Low-level fidelity design concept prototypes

  • Co-creation and participatory design as appropriate

  • Additional Research

    • Send out the survey

    • Revise questions based on feedback

    • Interview at least 3 people

    • Create 3 personas

    • Experience Map

    • Find themes

    • Insight Statements

    • Problem/Solution Framing

    • Ideation - crazy 8s

    • Scenarios

    • Storyboard

    • Cultural Probe?

  • Mid to high-level prototypes

  • Refine project name, look, feel

Week 5 : April 8 - April 16

  • Final Class Presentation (!!!)

Week 6 : April 16 - April 22

  • Process book

  • Revisions based on feedback, additional process reflection

So this was my plan! I was excited to get started and learn more about this subject since I’ve always been curious about language. As the first part of my project, I needed to gather solid research to fully understand the problem.

Week 1 : Introductory Research

It was finally time to get started! This week was a bit chaotic because I had to move out of my university housing to move home and quarantine, but at least once I was home I found that I had plenty of time to research! My timeline already changed a bit from what I had originally predicted due to the move, but I decided that I would solve this issue by making sure to do more work the next week and get back on track. During this process, I kept the question in mind...

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Research Overview

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Research Overview: Part 1

With my head in this problem space, I jumped right into the problem and did a lot of reading and competitive research, and I sent out a survey, and I even started interviewing some friends about their experiences with dealing with a language gap while traveling. Based on this information I created some personas and experience maps, and then I did a crazy 8 ideation session, and then I further refined 2 of my ideas, finally landing on the idea of an app that would allow the user to build up a prerecorded phrasebook that they could then kind of cobble together into what they wanted to say.

Mind Mapping

For our first assignment, we were to create a draft of a territory map. Since I wasn't entirely clear on what this meant, I decided to start things off with a simple mind map so that I could visualize all of the possible aspects that would impact the project.

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Competitive Analysis

After finishing up my mind map, I felt like I had a rough idea of the different components I would be dealing with. Next up, I wanted to do some research on other competitors to see how they were managing all these aspects. Based on my research I came up with this list of products:

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I already had experience with a few of these, and one thing I wanted to make sure I kept in mind was that I would be creating an app for short-term solutions rather than long-term language learning since that is what many focus on.

 

From this list, Google Translate was probably the closest to what I was thinking of, as it's for immediate translation. However, I knew that I wanted to go beyond simple translation somehow. HelloTalk was also a bit different because it has a social aspect, where users learn a language by messaging native speakers as opposed to simple memorization.

Brainstorming Survey

Next, I started to brainstorm what kind of questions I could ask in a survey to get meaningful information from potential users. I started coming up with different questions, mostly related to the experience of learning languages.

Questions  

  • How many languages do you speak - where did you learn them?

  • Have you ever taken any formal language lessons? For how long? How much did you retain?

  • Have you ever taken any self-initiated language lessons? How consistent are you with them?

  • What apps have you used?

  • What reasons would you want to learn a new language (top 3) (ex. Travel, a friend that speaks it, enjoy pop culture, etc.)

  • What language would you most like to learn and why?

Readings

Next up, I wanted to do some readings to see if there was anything I should be looking for specifically about the language learning experience (memory, language processing, etc). I mostly read about the science behind language learning, and it was pretty easy to get lost in a rabbit hole of articles since I found them pretty interesting. Here are some:

Week 1 Meeting

At this point, it was time for our first virtual class meeting to discuss our ideas. Going into it, I had some questions, and I was curious if anybody had any ideas as to a cultural probe I could do. For example, I wanted feedback on these ideas:

  • Have people complete a week of 5-minute lessons, report back on the experience?

  • Draw what you visualize as the experience of learning a new language? (might reveal user frustrations?)

Week 1 Meeting Feedback

During the class, I wrote down some notes about my feedback so I could refer to it later since I wanted to make sure I remembered everything said. Here is what I recorded:

  • Focus more on immediate/basic needs

  • Only need a few things

  • Sarah - other alphabets could be an issue

  • What's the bare minimum needed to get by in another country?

  • Katie - Used Duolingo before going to Brazil, but it didn't teach her slang or cultural differences which she thinks would have been helpful

  • A place to document these 'unofficial' aspects of learning a language/culture

  • What concerns are you dealing with?

  • Systems map to show relationships, get others aligned with space you're working with

Week 2 : Continued Research

For the next week, my goal was to knock out a lot of my research and to come up with some ideas for a solution. I wanted to start out with drafting my territory map, and also refine and send out my survey before ideation.

Territory Map Draft

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More Survey Brainstorming

I also kept thinking about what I would want to ask in my survey:

Draft Questions  

  • How many languages do you speak - where did you learn them?

  • Have you ever taken any formal language lessons? For how long? How much did you retain?

  • Have you ever taken any self-initiated language lessons? How consistent are you with them?

  • What apps have you used?

  • What reasons would you want to learn a new language (top 3) (ex. Travel, a friend that speaks it, enjoy pop culture, etc.)

  • What language would you most like to learn and why?

I ended up making my brother take the survey as a trial, and it didn't take too long so I moved ahead with the following questions:

Final Survey Questions  

  • How many languages do you speak?

  • What languages do you speak?

  • Where did you learn the languages you speak?

  • Have you ever taken any formal language lessons? (ex. Language classes in high school)

  • What languages did you learn?

  • How long did you take these lessons?

  • How much do you remember from these lessons?

  • Have you ever taken any self-initiated language lessons? (ex. Duolingo)

  • What languages did you learn?

  • What did you use to learn them?

  • How consistent with the lessons were you?

  • Why did you want to learn a new language?

  • If you could speak any language right now, which one would it be and why?

  • What do you think is the hardest aspect of learning a new language?

  • What is the most important thing to learn when learning a new language? (ex.  Greetings, travel vocab, numbers, etc.)

  • Do you have any stories about a time you needed to know another language but didn't, and how you communicated without it?

  • Any other comments about your experiences with other languages?

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Screenshots of my survey in Google Forms

Survey Results

First, I sent out the survey to both Experience Design classes.

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After a few days, I reviewed the results and created a summary of my findings.

Survey Results

  • 50% of people only speak 1 language

  • Of all the people that speak more than 1 language, 100% say they learned it at home

  • 100% of people have taken some kind of formal language class in their life (average 3-4 years of lessons)

  • A majority of people remember vocab/how to speak basic sentences, but wouldn't consider themselves 'fluent'

  • 75% of people have taken a self-initiated language class (ex. Duolingo)

  • However, most people said they weren't very consistent with their lessons

  • Reasons people wanted to learn a new language:​​

    • Speak to a friend's parent​

    • Practice

    • Communicate with boyfriend's family

    • Communicate with other cultures

    • Skills for jobs

    • Travel

    • Study abroad

    • Requirement in school

  • What people think is the hardest part of learning a new language:

    • Finding time to study/being consistent​

    • Practicing without feeling self-conscious

    • Consistently speaking it

    • Practicing conversations

    • Apps teach you differently than how people actually speak

    • Nobody to practice with

    • Learning slang and conversational phrases

    • Grammar and syntax, especially if it's very different from your first language

    • Learning a new alphabet and the sounds of the letters

  • What people think is the most important thing to learn:

    • Greeting​

    • Basic common words

    • Speaking with native speakers

    • Understanding language structure

    • Verbal practice

    • Wayfinding/directions

    • Basic grammar

  • How have you communicated without speaking the same language?

    • Shrugging/awkward smiles​

    • Google Translate

    • Speaking slowly and pictures

    • Fake an accent

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Screenshots of my survey results in Google Forms

Revised Interview Questions

Based on the results of my survey, I revised the questions to prepare for my interviews.

Interview Questions  

  • What languages do you speak?

  • How did you learn these languages?

  • Have you ever taken any language lessons?

  • What did you use to learn the language?

  • Why did you want to learn those languages?

  • What's the hardest part of learning a new language?

  • What's the most important thing to learn from a new language?

Next is the notes I took during the interviews:

Interview 1

  • What languages do you speak?

    • English and Hebrew​

  • How did you learn these languages?

    • At home and at Hebrew school​

  • Have you ever taken any language lessons?

    • Yes​

  • What did you use to learn the language?

    • Lessons at school and Duolingo​

  • Why did you want to learn those languages?

    • I learned Hebrew for my Bat Mitzvah and I've been practicing it for a birthright trip as a refresher​

  • What's the hardest part of learning a new language?

    • New alphabet/pronunciation​

  • What's the most important thing to learn from a new language?

    • Directions, questions, money​

Interview 2

  • What languages do you speak?

    • English and a tiny bit of Spanish

  • How did you learn these languages?

    • At home and from my boyfriend

  • Have you ever taken any language lessons?

    • I took a little bit of Spanish in high school

  • What did you use to learn the language?

    • Classes with worksheets and practice, etc.

  • Why did you want to learn those languages?

    • In high school, it was a requirement, but now I'm learning more so I can communicate with my boyfriends's family

  • What's the hardest part of learning a new language?

    • Pronunciation​

  • What's the most important thing to learn from a new language?

    • Greetings and basic questions/answers

Interview 3

  • What languages do you speak?

    • Just English

  • How did you learn these languages?

    • At home

  • Have you ever taken any language lessons?

    • Yes, Korean

  • What did you use to learn the language?

    • Mostly YouTube videos

  • Why did you want to learn those languages?

    • I like k-dramas and I also want to travel to Korea someday

  • What's the hardest part of learning a new language?

    • The alphabet and how to make letters, and pronunciation

  • What's the most important thing to learn from a new language?

    • Asking if someone speaks English, please and thank you

Interview 4

  • What languages do you speak?

    • English and I've been learning Italian

  • How did you learn these languages?

    • I enrolled in Italian lessons

  • Have you ever taken any language lessons?

    • Yes

  • What did you use to learn the language?

    • Class lessons (worksheets, practice conversations, etc.)

  • Why did you want to learn those languages?

    • For a study abroad program I want to go on

  • What's the hardest part of learning a new language?

    • Just pronunciation and memorizing vocab

  • What's the most important thing to learn from a new language?

    • Food, money, directions

Personas

Next up, based on my interviews, I created four different personas of people that might use my potential solution.

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Experience Maps

After creating my personas, I created some simple experience maps to think about the users’ feelings and actions.

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Ideation

Finally, with a better understanding of the problem at hand, it was time to start thinking of solutions. I decided to do a crazy 8 just to get any ideas I had out, no matter how wild they might be.

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Original ideation

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Refined idea 1

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Refined idea 2

Idea

Based on my crazy 8, I decided on the idea of an app that would allow the user to build up a prerecorded phrasebook that they could then kind of cobble together into what they wanted to say.

At this point, it was time for our next class meeting and I wanted to get feedback on my ideas, and if people felt it would be plausible and useful.

Planning

I also started to draft out what problems I specifically wanted to solve and a list of features so that I could prioritize my design.