Project 0 Google Now

My role
Ideation, User Research, User Testing, Strategy, Copywriting, Project Management, Art Direction, Video Editing
Tools used
Whiteboards, Slack, Google Docs, Illustrator, Premier
Timeline
15 weeks

Goals

Our approach to this project was to focus on expanding our UX process skills and project communication, following an agile method of working. We focused on continuing to ideate in new ways, understand our users, pitch and articulate our ideas to others and document our workflow. We read up on current and emerging technologies while looking for unmet user needs. Guiding our work was the desire to keep our project forward thinking, with flexible deliverables that continued to expand our thought process and workflow.

UX redesign and case study project

Why is Google Now for iOS the right platform? Connecting and working within the framework of Google gave us opportunities to connect with actionable data that could change how people live.

Research showed us that most users only use a few apps: 85% of app usage is only in about 3-5* apps and some pundits are even going so far as to predict the death of apps*. Machine learning is being employed by nearly every major platform with varying success.
We wanted to be part of creating and improving solutions that offered more than what a user could input.

Our work involved a multi-step approach to addressing some of the core user issues for Google Now on iOS

We took insights from repeated pain points discussed in user interviews and cross referenced those with the goals and use case scenarios of our personas. From that we brainstormed, developed, prototyped and tested ideas around onboarding, customization, and alternatives to the traditional screen-only interface. Along the journey we continually reached out for feedback from professionals in UX and digital design to help shape our process as well as ideas.

User research

We knew that in order to figure out how to narrow our scope we needed to talk to users to gain insights. Our goal is to ask open ended questions and walk away with new insights and ideas of who else we can talk to. In order to do this, we started researching how to talk to people in ways where they felt comfortable opening up and providing accurate information. We wanted to have a structure to our conversation, but stay flexible to encourage dialogue. Interviews with users validated the idea of enhancing an already existing platform that would help them organize their professional and personal goals in their day-to-day routine.

user PERSONAS

User testing

The first phase was mapping out user journeys, this allowed us to discover pain points and opportunities. We came up with multiple hypotheses of smaller solutions while keeping in mind the whole user journey. Seeking feedback along the way starting with surveys, interviews, paper prototyping and into digital user testing. Our talented team member Jenessa built the digital prototypes with Framer.

HEURISTIC ANALYSIS

We walked through the Google Now iOS onboarding process and the initial flow for first time use. We took screenshots of what we encountered and rated the experience based on the ten key principles of Nielsen’s Usability Heuristics.

USABILITY

Visibility of system status
Match between system and the real world
User control and freedom
Consistency and standards
Error prevention
Recognition rather than recall
Flexibility and efficiency of use
Aesthetic and minimalist design
Help users recognize, diagnose, and recover from errors

GRADING SCALE

0 = I don't agree that this is a usability problem at all
1 = Cosmetic problem only: need not be fixed unless extra time is available on project
2 = Minor usability problem: fixing this should be given low priority
3 = Major usability problem: important to fix, so should be given high priority
4 = Usability catastrophe: imperative to fix this before product can be released

Discussing pain points lead to brainstorming opportunities. We used our user's goals and personas to guide our development.

Customization

How do we give users the content they want as fast as possible? We want to provide them enough suggested categories to get them started, but not too many as to overwhelm them.

In refining our category selections we conducted paper card sorting and did outreach to get feedback from users about what made sense to include. During this process we learned that prescreening users is important for generating applicable feedback.

After brainstorming multiple scenarios we decided to focus on pushing users into a content feed as quickly as possible, while still giving them control to choose what they see. Creating a feed that fits users needs will ensure continuous returns that give the system feedback to further refine their feed.

Allowing users to give the system an idea of how important different categories are to them, with a sliding bar that determines the prevalence in feed.

Tag On

Users are currently not getting the option to customize their feed as quickly as they would like. Currently they open Google Now on iOS and it takes awhile for the custom feed to be enacted, and options are limited.

While thinking about customization we observed that users want to receive specific information within one topic, a user may not be interested in all sports, preferring to follow specific teams or players.

Providing a list of every interest a user could want to see would be overwhelming. So how do we make sure that we are providing content that fits our unique users? Adding an icon that is always present allows users to become comfortable with inputting specific fields of interest. Having the option of setting particular interests within the context of the content allows a natural flow of learning and information.

Icons

We wanted to create more space by adjusting the cards, Weather, Travel, and our implemented function of Tag On into icons. These icons are always located below the Google Search bar to allow a consistent resource spot for our users with economized space usage. Clicking on the weather would display the local weather information while clicking on the travel would display predictive travel assistance that Google Now already uses.

system feedback Pain Points

The current More Options Menu Icon is distracting and its function is not obvious enough for users.There is no easy way to give feedback to the system about what content a user may like or dislike (the system requires maneuvering your finger from tiny More Options Menu Icon, reading a somewhat lengthy dropdown list and a making selections).

We looked at the current More Options Menu Icon on content cards and talked about the importance of each of them to the user and the system:

We propose two main methods of “teaching” Google Now what content the user wants by adjusting the feedback to be more appropriate to the context of user journey by:

System feedback redesign

We decided to minimize what types of feedback would happen on the swiping, having multiple options was difficult for dexterity (replicating the More Options Menu Icon in a NUI was not possible). When users become more comfortable using pressure point based gestures this would be an area that we could revisit in further iterations.We were surprised to get repeated feedback from users that they did not understand or enjoy a More Options Menu Icon on the cards in the feed, so we removed it entirely from the card content.

We think that the More Options Menu Icon is important to give the system feedback but we decided to only keep it on the article and to change the options.

One of the critical areas we heard about from users was that the lengthy list in the More Options Menu Icon dropdown was too much to read, and the differences between the questions was difficult to decipher (such as “don’t show me content like this” and “don’t show me content from this source”). Some of the options were pretty unnecessary and redundant such as “Edit URL” “Copy URL”, so we adjusted the options within the dropdown significantly.

Onboarding Current pain points

Currently the process of onboarding is lengthy, after which users are pushed into a generic feed. The onboarding information is sometimes confusing, including static illustrations that don’t show how to use the information or how to interact with it.

How do we provide an easy discovery process for users that is tiered and presented in a way that is appropriate?

Onboarding redesign

Through subtle animations and branded colors integrated into the feed we can orient users to Google Now’s main functions. Peeks of functionality through using subtle animations to attract the attention of users.

With our users in mind we made the decision to use integrated, natural language to guide users to take full advantage of provided features.    

We included ‘peeks’ of functionality through in-feed animations (such as orienting users on how to swipe content).We tried adding a pulsing “G” interspersed within the feed (kind of an onboarding entity) to call out functions to users. When the pulsing G was on a content card users thought that it was sponsored content. Our solution was to include the pulsing G only on onboarding cards and not on content cards.

Our hypothesis is that the onboarding process would not include pop ups but would include specific cards integrated within the feed. The spaces in between cards create a neutral teaching space for written information or suggestions.

Everything should be clickable within the onboarding and there should be an option offered to learn more.

A full personality in onboarding was not well received in interviews with users. They responded better to a more neutral, information delivery approach.

Outcome of research and prototyping

We mapped out an average day for our main persona. We identified areas where she would likely interact with her phone, pinpointing opportunities and pain points. We noticed that she is constantly multitasking, which is an area where voice user interface could be a hands free helpful assistant. Google Now’s existing predictive technology that uses machine learning to provide relevant content and updates can be extended to offer smart, customized, in-context suggestions. We took a day-in-the-life approach to showcase the possible VUI and artificial intelligence possibilities of Google Now. The resulting video shows interaction with the prototype in a relatable visual narrative.We settled on a few core areas to feature more fully. We targeted the in-between minutes, where she is trying to squeeze in a few more things on her to-do list. Those moments happen at home, in the office and on her commute. The video highlights the real benefits to users, and includes some detailed information about the task flow.

We thought about several phrasing options that the persona could input information into the VUI system in a way that would be natural and plausible for the system to understand. We know users are still getting used to VUI’s and don’t have the same level of confidence as they do with GUI’s so we combined those elements for many of the VUI tasks. Providing the persona with VUI feedback as well as contextually relevant GUI confirmations.

At home device connectivity is quickly approaching a reality and we wanted to incorporate “hands free” appropriate experiences. We got feedback from a professional working on the Amazon Echo about our script and what would be necessary for a Google product VUI on iOS, which helped us keep in mind that a wake word is likely to be necessary. It is difficult for us to know exact details about privacy and legal restrictions that would affect design for a cross-platform integration, but we kept in mind that our design ideas are contingent upon those issues.

Challenges faced during the project

The hard part of an open ended project is not getting lost. Throughout the project we sought continual feedback from professionals and professors. User testing was extremely helpful in keeping us focused in making the right decisions for this project.

Examples of Google updates during our process

Technology is moving at such a rapid rate that it will be a continual challenge to stay ahead of the curve. One of the most interesting (and at times disheartening) issues we ran into during the course of the project was that many of the design solutions we were coming to were simultaneously being enacted in Google Now iOS updates.

Conclusion

There may not be one path to follow when working on a UX project. What may be right for one project, will not work for every project. During the work we did we got a chance to grow our library of research and UX process tools. Interviews with working professionals and users gave us incredible insights and often caused us to go back to square one to rethink our previous conclusions. Overall, this project allowed us to think about how to apply the greatest amount of return with minimal user input.

Student project in collaboration with the talented Caitlin Esworthy and Jenessa Johnson.