The Serious Type (TST) was originally a platform that empowered adolescents to improve the world through creative self-expression. Our team was tasked with supporting our client's new vision of connecting creatives through collaborative work while still uplifting youth through authentic expression.
[This project was a proposal presented to the client.]
Research: Theresa Hoffman (lead), Clarissa Hyun (lead), Dan Xu, Xinyue Zuo, Qian Yi, Tomomi Summers, Julie Mei.
Collaborated with the UX Design and Product teams.
August 2022 – October 2023 (3 months)
Apprentice User Researcher
Nikki Beinstein, via Tech Fleet Professional Association
Collaborative work has been widely researched in organizational environments, where diverse perspectives are helpful for solving complex problems. In addition, effective team collaboration improves employee motivation and satisfaction, highlighting its importance for organizations. However, collaborative problems often arise – poor communication or lack of trust are examples of factors that commonly occur.
We identified a user need for transparent, effective communication when working on collaborative projects. The new TST platform aims to address this need by becoming a community-focused production company, with an emphasis on supporting connections and engagement between creatives. Modeling best practices for creative collaboration can be one way to teach young artists how to communicate updates during projects.
Nikki, our client, initially wanted to continue TST as an improved social media platform for youth. Two weeks into our project, she came to us with a vision of improving creative collaboration through a mentorship-focused community where experienced artists could model their project process. Given our limited time of 6 weeks, our team decided to narrow our project scope to maximize our chances of creating a preliminary MVP. We used convenience sampling with our client's network to recruit our participants. Our research focuses on adult creatives who already collaborate on projects, but are relatively new to using online platforms.
To understand the current landscape of collaborative tools, the research and design teams collaborated on a competitive analysis of 13 indirect competitors (collaboration, activism, and fundraising sites).
Organizational messaging platforms and social media platforms are useful tools to share updates on artistic projects, but there is no product that supports creatives in modeling ongoing collaboration.
In addition, some creatives may specialize in offline work, so existing tools don't provide the same dynamic as offline meetups. When using another digital platform, creatives hope to collaborate with others both in person and offline.
When we discussed our plan to conduct interviews, Nikki voiced her hesitation about investing more time into research. She mentioned that previous team had already conducted interviews and deployed surveys. In response, our team explained that since she had changed her primary user group and product direction, we felt it was best to conduct discovery research to understand this product space. In following weeks, our objective was to show how research positively impacts product development.
After learning more about the problem space and identifying common frustrations with collaborative projects, we wanted to speak with representative users and support the findings from secondary research. Our team split into two groups to develop a survey and interview script to qualitatively and quantitatively address our research goals.
Throughout the project, I had brainstormed questions about the collaborative project experience that I wanted to ask our participants. To kick off our interview script writing, I organized my notes into 3 main categories. Our team then prioritized questions to include in our final script.
We used convenience sampling to recruit our participants. Each team member posted the survey link on personal social media sites. In total, we spoke to n = 5 participates in remote, moderated interviews that were 45 to 60 minutes long. Each interview had one interviewer, one notetaker, and one timekeeper.
Each team of 3 affinity mapped their interviews in a shared FigJam file. I added quotes and insights from the 2 interviews that I participated in into the shared FigJam. From the affinity map, our team created 3 key insights that were shared with the Design team.
I collaborated with a partner to clean, analyze, and visualize our data in Google Sheets. 82.9% (34 of 41 respondents) report that they participate in collaborative projects, with varying frequencies, highlighting the importance of improving the current process.
Our survey showed that creatives like collaborative projects, even if they often run into significant challenges along the way. Overall, the data aligned with our interview insights and initial assumptions. Our presentation slide deck shows our complete survey findings.
We worked together with the Design team to update our primary user persona with the interview insights. this artifact helped our three teams (Research, Design, and Product) build alignment on the needs and pain points of our representative user, Anita. Our client's positive response to the persona confirmed that we were designing for the right audience.
Now that we clarified who we're designing for and what problems they have with creative team projects, our team brainstormed "how might we" statements together. We prioritized two needs to address: the desire for transparency during projects, and the desire to find like-minded collaborators.
Help Anita document her project's milestones and find potential collaborators whose values align with her work?
When we handed off our research insights to the design team, our next steps weren't clearly defined. The Research and Product teams ended up making task flows based off of the preliminary screens that the Design team showed us. However, during our weekly meeting, the teams realized that we had significant overlaps between existing flows. As a result, multiple flows (including mine) weren't included in our final proposal.
During our last week, the research team worked together to compile all our scripts, survey questions, FigJam files, and other artifacts into a summary document for following teams. It was my first time documenting research for others. I added relevant links to the final Links Database, and contributed to the “what went well” and “what we would change” sections.
Our final project proposal was a project documentation platform where users can post about their ongoing work. The platforms supports text and image uploads, and is structured like social media sites so that creatives can gain exposure on their work. To emphasize transparency, there are options to show the project's status (e.g., "in progress", "completed"). Healthy collaboration is encouraged by adding "tags" to show project collaborators. Also, commenting and sharing options give creatives a chance to network and find new friends, both local and remote.
With our shortened timeframe of 6 weeks, we didn't have sufficient time to recruit and speak to more participants. I would suggest continuing research with representative users to better understand their needs. In my opinion, concept testing the idea of sharing creative work is essential so that future teams can evaluate our current proposed designs.