45 Connects App

During my Certificate in User Experience course in DCU, we were tasked with working on a case study from inception all the way through to user testing and prototyping. Below will display the workings of this project.

The Process

Introduction

Sean, an avid poker player is keen to help his mother, and others like her, to be able to play her usual card game of 45 while in a pandemic, that could also be used for those who could not make the journey to the games in the future.

 

For the full brief provided to us for the project, see here.

Approach

  • Semi-structured interviews, questionnaires, contextual enquiry.
  • Persona and storyboard
  • Journey map
  • Prototyping
  • Usability testing
  • Affinity mapping

Challenges

The demographic cited by stakeholders is that of the 50+ range, with difficulty arising when wanting to onboard them to new digital processes. The stakeholders also want to replicate the “magic” and feeling of playing the game in their local club to entice users to return for more play time.


Results

45 Connects users were able to play from the comfort of their own home, without compromising on the social connection they were so keen to maintain. Allowing users to stay connected but also  keep playing the game that initiated the friendships and groups in the first place.

Research

Research Objectives

Overall, the research objectives were to analyse the process involved in organising a game of 45.

To determine how to create the same positive emotive response without the need to meet in a physical environment.

Investigate claims made by stakeholders around the user demographic 

Research Methods

Semi-structured interviews  asking the user only a few pre-determined questions, allowing for other questions to develop as the interview flows. Trying to explore the deep-rooted needs of the users for the game as well as ironing out any unconfirmed claims made by the stakeholders.

Survey / Questionnaire  to allow for a larger sample size and aid in the discovery of themes arising from the answers, linking in with some of the findings from the interviews. Covering off some things like demographics, how often they play as well as their comfort levels with technology.

Contextual Inquiry  to allow for any information that the user may not be aware of such as interactions that they may do as “second nature” and not think to recall it in the context of interviews or questionnaires. It also allowed for an equal footing between the user and the researcher.


Findings

The findings from the above research allowed for a better insight into the target demographic/ the user.  With the social aspect coming up as a main area of focus, as well as having a routine to their calendar. Importance and willingness to learn new technologies arose with the motivation being found in the fact they can include users/players that cannot make it to the physical games anymore.

The findings were used to develop the following artifacts, which helped in bringing the target demo to “live” before moving into the development phases.

Persona
Customer Journey Map
Storyboard/ Scenario
Develop

Wireframes 

At this stage, the learnings from the research and above artifacts were used to begin developing wireframes.

In the early stages, the main focus was placed on the general interactions the user would have. How they’d log in, join a game, check their scores compared to their friends as well as get some help/tips.

Prototype 

Moving along, a higher fidelity prototype was developed with more visual elements put in place. 

This prototype would go on then to be tested with users to gauge their initial thoughts and to discover any pain points they may have.

The prototype itself aims to cover various aspects of user requirements, established in previously conducted, semi-structured interviews. The main features being tested are the gameplay itself, as this is the heart of the app, the reason to bring people on board. Then the prototype includes features such as a community chat section so that all users can keep in touch with their local club or further afield if they desire, a leader board section to gather information on who is leading the local community leader board as well as who’s on top over all in the country. Then other features included are things like a help section to allow for users to either contact support, learn about the game and how it is played and then the game rules if they’re new to 45

Testing

Due to covid restrictions, the method of Think Aloud  was used in order to test the prototype with a small sample of participants.

When it came to conducting the interview, Zoom was used in order to host the usability test due to its share screen functionality, video and voice chat as well as the option to record the session for post-test analysis. In order to allow the participants to test the prototype, it had been created and interactively designed linked using InVision, which allows for widespread sharing through a URL. Once the sessions had started, the link was shared and the previously defined tasks were relayed, one by one, to the participant to see how they interacted with the prototype to try and complete the task. After the session had finished the video taken from each meeting has been analysed with transcribing of important notes on each task for each user

Data Analysis

With the testing complete and also notes taken, the next step would be to analyse the qualitative data. To do so, the method of affinity diagrams has been used in order to help identify themes and commonalities across the 4 participants tests.

Findings & Limitations

Findings

Once notes were analyzed and themed using affinity mapping, the findings could be categorized to visual feedback or design implications. 

 

Within the first category, design implications, a commonality across all 4 tests was that of legibility and accessibility. Participants were quick to point out that although they liked the look of some elements, they found it difficult to read some of the text without the need to zoom in or move the device closer to their eyes. The same was apparent when in gameplay, with the cards themselves being an issue due to their size and also the proximity of them to each other.

The second category would be that of functional findings, those that either didn’t work or were not easily understood by the participants as well as elements that were easily interacted with. Some key points here was that the user didn’t always know at what stage they were at in the game and spent some time through trial and error trying to solve this.

Thirdly, there was a positive uptake in the option of a dark mode, as some had preference for darker screens that didn’t hurt their eyes when staring at it for long periods.

 

Discussion/Limitations

While the findings brought up some very important topics pertaining to accessibility as well as usability items. Due to limitations with not every part of the prototype being functional, it wasn’t possible to test out all functionalities to discover every possible pain point for the participants.

Also, having to do it in a remote setting became quite difficult with an older sample due to new technologies being used by them such as Zoom and screen sharing.

Another limitation to the testing is that due to needing to see what was on the users’ screens, they were testing the prototype through a web browser, simulating a mobile device. This becomes an apparent issue when the comment about visibility and legibility comes up by all participants, which is a valid discovery, just heightened with the use of a computer screen rather than the device itself as it was appearing even smaller than how it would on mobile devices.


Recommendations

Design Iteration

In terms of next steps on the app design process, taking a look at the themes and feedback from the testing allows for the implementation of key changes across the board.

In regards to the visual elements discovered; legibility is now being much more carefully considered to enable accessibility for all users. Schwarz (2019) discusses the importance of both font size but also contrast, with an in-depth look at a checklist to maximise accessibility based on the WCAG guidelines, within this a plugin, Stark. With the plugin installed, the legibility was checked against guidelines after increasing the type size and weight, with the following results


In regards to the functional elements discovered, the in-game elements that were mentioned across numerous participants have been looked at. These include the increasing of font sizes as before but also increasing the size of the cards to allow for better legibility but also providing more space to be able to touch the card you want. As well as this, giving a strong indication as to who is your player with the use of a highlighted box section, linking in with your profile avatar to clearly mark where you are.

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