During a 3-week sprint, I was part of a team that conducted a UX consultation that included user research, usability testing, information architecture and a visual redesign for The Inccubator, an inclusive multicultural media & social networking platform.
The Inccubator started as a digital magazine. Over time it evolved into a social networking platform that highlights content from various cultures all in one place. From the Incc's content writers to the users that utilize the platform itself, the Incc's overall goal is to centralize original content from underrepresented communities that would otherwise be buried from the other major social media websites. As a user, you can network from a cultural, business, and creative aspect all in one community. Content creators can even make a viable income from the Inccubator by being "empowered" by other users who want to support them by paying for their exclusive content directly.
The Inccubator team had been working on a social media website that the team felt was ready for beta testing. Before they launched, they were at a point where they wanted a team to look over the site, focusing on the user experience. After an initial overview of the site, we were confronted with an ambitious website in the features and functions it wanted to have. The site's vision and intention were there; the challenge would be organizing the content to help the user interact with the website and engage in this online community.
After the three-week design sprint, we delivered a design package, which included a high-fidelity prototype that focused heavily on the website’s navigation structure, as well as an in-depth research package.
To figure out where we could provide the most impact, we decided that this project would rely heavily on the amount of research we would do from the start. During an initial meeting with the client, we asked pertinent questions that helped give us a better idea on what the overall goal of the site and what makes this site different than any other social media site.
We decided that gathering user research from current users and users not familiar with the website would give us important insight into where we should concentrate as a team. The team drafted surveys to distribute and scheduled phone interviews with users familiar with the site.
We also wanted to get unbiased information, so I led usability testing with users who had never used the website before and had no affiliation with the client. Simple tasks were given to the users to test some functionality of the website. At the end of the tests, I interviewed the users to get their thoughts and impressions of the website.
Once we conducted all of the interviews, we organized the content during an Affinity Mapping session to highlight any trends the team should keep in mind. After we were done there were a few topics that stood out.
Based on the data that we received from user interviews and our survey, we created 3 personas. Our three personas include the Business Professional, the Content Creator, and the Cultural Explorer.
Users need a more intuitive way to explore and engage with content on the Inccubator so that they can connect with other users and learn about different cultures.
By refocusing the Inccubator website to have simple, cohesive navigation and a consistent content structure, we will make engaging on the Inccubator website an informative and collaborative experience.
A significant component of our UX consultation was to address some of the information architecture challenges. The overall takeaway of our research was that users found the site not intuitive and challenging to navigate. The guiding design choice behind the proposed site map was to separate the content channels and content feed. This would allow users to realize the site's purpose as a social media platform and provide a space for the content channels and the Inccubator to show their unique content. It was vital for us to keep all of the content from the original Inccubator in the reorganized site, so our main goal was not to change the content but to make it easier to find and use.
With the site navigation reorganized, we identified three areas of opportunity that we felt would significantly enhance the site and address some of the website's challenges.
With our areas of focus established, I began building medium-fidelity wireframes based on our sketches, the findings from our current state usability tests and user interviews. We used this prototype to test the new site's navigability and the user's perception of the site's intent.
After testing the prototype, we increased the fidelity to include color and more visual elements with the feedback in mind from the medium-fidelity takeaways. Below are the three main opportunities we developed upon:
User's Landing Page
Content Channel Page
During the three-week design sprint, the team and I focused our energy on parts of the website that would benefit the most from a UX consultation. Working on building a social media platform is a massive task, so there were some things that we weren't able to address during the duration of the project. If we had more time, these are a few things that we would have liked to address:
At a follow-up meeting with our client, we found out they are already working with developers to implement some of our changes and recommendations. We understand that not all of our recommendations will make it into the Inccubator at launch, but we believe that we were successful in creating intuitive navigation and in providing valuable insights into the user experience.
Check out the prototype in its current state
© RENE VAZQUEZ 2021 All Rights Reserved