I was really fortunate to have been invited by my friend to work on this little project of his to assist with both the visual and user experience of this iOS app. As many projects come about, this problem stemmed from a personal need that the founders of the app recognized as a lacking component through modern day communication.
While text based messaging has become second nature to the way we communicate on a daily basis, the experience of being able to communicate on a personal level was left to be desirable. The founders felt that the “lol’s” and emoji’s, simply couldn’t satisfy the desire to properly express themselves with close friends and family.
The great thing about apps is that you get to burn through iterations and quickly find what’s working and what isn’t working through various validation methods. The early versions of the concept enabled the user to add personalized content to their instant messaging conversations by quickly searching image databases and pushing content from the app directly to the messaging platform of choice.
As we came to realize through early alpha testing, pushing found content wasn’t necessarily the outcome we were looking for in terms of providing a proper personalized experience, so we began discussing and sketching out early ideas of using the idea of a #selfie and exploring the idea of facial expression to best convey that idea we were looking for. At this point, the problem had outgrown a personal need so we began looking outside our own circles and hoped to find some answers among the high school student community from different parts of the world.
We inquired with things like what their habits were, types of shared content, whether they shared selfie’s with friends or not etc. It gave us good insight into how the youth of today communicates with each other, and shed some light as to where potentially messaging was going.
As we kept exploring, we started to approach our deadline fairly quickly and decided to simplify the product and reach MVP. Our aim at the time was to deliver before Valentines Day for beta testing, with the desire to have it properly tested in real world situations before we committed to moving forward and submitting the product to the app store. This lead us to simplify the UI and put the theme based approach on hold, and deliver a more neutral approach that would be flexible to use in any situation for the person using it.
In the process of these changes, we realized that because this was an external application that allowed the user to populate content directly from the app to the messaging platform, it didn’t offer an easy way to do so at first in our first iterations. So as part of the MVP, we realized it was imperative to figure out the functionality of the keyboard feature that lowered the barrier for use by offering an easy to access repository of recent Stickr’s that the person previously created. Another aspect that we felt was also worthwhile in exploring was creating the delivered product as an animated gif to make the delivery a little more dynamic. The issue with this was that while animated gif’s can be funny, they’re only currently supported natively by iMessage. Other messaging platforms either don’t support the animation or simply will not allow the pasting of animated gif’s into their app as part of the proprietary.
The Outcome (so far…)
We began with searching for images and pushing content to messaging platforms, but later provided the opportunity to customize the content with animated selfies for sharing. Through the process, while we pivoted, the underlying form and functionality of the app remained; allowing us to make small changes that yielded the results that helped us reach MVP. As you can see, the shape of the frame and approach changed significantly from where we first started, but ultimately the goal was met in offering a method to provide a better form of personal expression by using a combination of animated selfies and text.
At the time of this entry, the app is currently being reviewed by the app store.
The app is currently listed on the iTunes App store! If you’re interested in having a go at it, please download it here!