Parallel is a comprehensive community led app and social media platform designed for resource and information sharing on topics that matter most. This product works to efficiently educate and organize with like minded folks.
As the sole contributor to this project, I developed the project from scratch and built it up into a refined product that is usable, useful, and desirable. I created the complete brand’s look and feel and visual design elements, as well as conducted a series of research methods, user flows, wireframes, and rapid prototype for mobile. This is my individual work that I created for an assignment through Designlab’s UX Academy.
2020 was a historic year for activism, not only in the U.S. but in countries all over the world. There are surging movements of activism calling for social and environmental change, and many of these calls to action take place online. With many states experiencing spikes in COVID-19 and many people actively social distancing, online activism and communication emerged as a crucial tool in organizing.
With the rise of digital activism and the internet making it easier than ever to organize social movements today, it comes as a surprise that when I search for an app to assist in community organizing no existing app in the market suffice.
Design a community led app that allows users to post and share content, events and polls – as well as connect and organize with local and global organizations.
Create an identifiable brand and logo to differentiate from future or potential competitors.
Parallel is a scalable, community-curated platform that connects people with opportunities to learn with and from each other, on topics ranging from local to ongoing global issues.
What do users really need in a community led app? To better serve the users, I looked into mobile app development trends. I conducted thorough research to understand how competitors are displaying information and keeping the user engaged. Once I understood the main limitations of using social media apps for digital activism, I could then understand the missing gaps. Often, when using social media, important information becomes obscured, overlooked or forgotten due to algorithms or over saturation of random content. Potentially, a user would have to dig through multiple resources to eventually find the information they need, but still would not really know of the validity of the resource.
I spoke with five participants to better answer what matters most to people when talking about pressing global and local issues. All participants were between the ages of 27 - 36, and are active within their community from a level of very involved to somewhat involved. Interviews with the participants revealed that users mainly utilize social media to share information about important global and local issues with their friends and families. Some participants like to be informed about what’s going on globally, and find that being able to easily discover and share resources are important to them. Most mentioned that the issue with being socially active on social media is that it can be interpreted as a performative act rather than a real way to intentionally give back or support a cause. During the interviews participants were very eager to share their personal experiences with activism and open to sharing information on the non-profits they follow.
Based on the research we could determine the users main motivations, pain points, and goals when connecting on important global and local matters. To pinpoint these needs, I set up two user persona profiles to represent the main types of people that could be potential users for the app.
When thinking about designing a content sharing platform, the first thing that comes to mind is the risk of it being over saturated by irrelevant content or being controlled by algorithms. What if I designed a platform that filtered content according to its importance given within the community – But then I thought.. how would that work? How would the community collectively give specific content importance? That’s where the idea of gamification comes in, not only will having a points system within the app help to rank content but it will also allow the users to be part of the decision-making process, giving them an incentive for using the app. To implement this ranking system, we would need a community feed to give space for the content that the community cares about most.
To begin formulating a community led app that would keep users engaged and important information at the forefront I created an app map. The map works to illustrate what a user would see when opening the app and how the information would guide them towards setting up their profile, engaging with the community, and potentially contributing to an existing cause.
I created three main user flows to represent the choices the user would be faced with while using the app. The main user flow illustrates a typical interaction a user would have within the app. The second and third flows shows a mid to high level amount of engagement starting from posting content or an event to donating to an organization and acquiring points.
A mid-fidelity rapid prototype was made to test the usability of the app. The main goal was to determine if users could successfully complete onboarding, navigate, understand the features of the app, and enjoy the app enough to become a potential user. I also wanted to explore any areas of difficulty when completing the main user flow. Some questions we needed to answer – Was the point system clear understand? Would the points system for this app be a consistent motivator for using the the app? What will motivate users to explore through the action center and its resources to then eventually donate or contribute to a cause?
To answer these questions I conducted a usability test with six participants. Each study was conducted with a rapid remote testing app that directed them to complete specific tasks. The remote testing app recorded the amount of clicks and time to complete each task, as well as if the participate veared off the suggested path for completing the task. Everyone was able to rate the level of difficult or clarity for each task and in the end they were able to comment on any major difficulties they had while going through the features.
Fortunately all six participants were able to complete the tasks, but some took a bit longer and clicked around a lot more than others. Everyone reported the experience was clear although finding where the ‘Engagement points’ was not as intuitive. Some mentioned how having a community feed could potentially turn off some users who do not wish to know about a specific topic. Overall the study was a success with only a minimal amount of changes to be made.
Next steps moving forward would be reiterating on the wireframe designs to enhance the functionality of the app. Add a settings icon to the main nav to allow users to modify their preferences for the community feed. Create a series on onboarding slides to teach users how to use the features. Create more buttons for options rather than drop downs.
The keywords that came to mind when creating the brand's identity were Friendly, Approachable, Inclusive, Action, Community, Informative, Current, Reliable, Playful, Smart.
Based off these keywords I began searching for images that would inspire me - I put together an inspirational mood board on Pinterest with bright and playful colors, minimal logos, and illustrations to visualize the personality. I felt it was important to incorporate a variety of icons to represent the different global and local issues, the icons also serve as a way to guide the user in the right direction, to visually express an idea and to enhance the aesthetic appeal of the app. I chose bright and playful colors to make serious or tough topics easy to digest and fun to learn about. A variety of rounded font for a Friendly and Approachable feel. The main reason behind the name ‘Parallel’ was for its literal meaning, which is to be aligned and to work in tandem - this concept fit perfectly with the intention of the app as it is a platform where people can work together with their community to make it a difference.
It felt great to work on a project that could potentially solve the issue behind misinformation or over saturation of irrelevant content due to algorithms. It also has the potential to make a difference by providing users with a space that creates opportunities for greater and more organized involvement surrounding digital activism.
The most challenging aspect of this project was defining the potential user and deeply understanding the problem I was trying to solve. If I could go back I would spend more time conducting market research on different social media apps and websites to understand what motivates users to engage with the app and encourage them to post or share information. It takes a lot of research to understand the landscape and potential user’s needs on this kind of platform.
Another learning curve I experienced was designing mobile friendly and intuitive components. Conducting research on current mobile app trends helped me to become familiar with how to simplify element for mobile. Moving forward, my next steps are to do a few more rounds of product testing and making iterations based on that feedback to deliver a completely seamless and delightful app experience.