In 2003, I took a “scrapbooking” class. Scrapbooking involves putting photos onto pages in a themed book with embellishments and commentary. Creating these memory artifacts was enjoyable, and the books I produced are cherished by the people I made them for.
This experience stuck with me because in 2018 I find myself questioning popular “memory keeping” practices. Where we should be memory keeping, we are instead “posting” “sharing” and “engaging” with social networks and digital platforms that are not designed for healthy memory keeping.
To learn about the idea of memory keeping, I interviewed five people with questions like “How do you keep memories?” and “What is the most valuable type of memory?”. There is an intergenerational aspect to memory keeping, so I asked questions like “does anyone have a responsibility to preserve your legacy?” and “what are reasons people do not speak more with elders?”.
Common answers about the importance of memory keeping were that it enables us to learn, craft identity, and connect with others. There was uncertainty about the value of the tools and artifacts respondents use to augment their memories. I believe this is because the tools we use to augment our brain’s memory are not designed as memory keeping tools. They are designed foremost to stimulate engagement with the tool itself or the network it is built upon. For something as important as memory keeping, it is surprising that we rig together a set of social networks, cloud storage, messaging apps, and media production tools.
I used these takeaways to create a user journey map that starts with expecting a memorable experience and moves through creating memory artifacts, retrieving them, and dealing with the memory artifacts once the primary memory keeper has passed away.
Next, I examined the tools people use on the journey. I found the tools contained the right features, but they were in the wrong place, used awkward copy, were insensitive, and at times produced embarrassing results. An example of this is Facebook’s “DELETE AFTER DEATH” button. A common feature was the ability to auto-generate a “scrapbook” with user’s content. This often took the form of a slideshow, but it only took a small mistake for the magic to disappear. For example, a slideshow produced by my iphone photos app was enjoyable until it began showing text heavy screenshots I captured for work. This showed me people want to automate the production of digital “scrapbooks” that augment memory keeping, but they need to be able to command change in whatever is produced.
At this point I had an understanding of user’s sentiment about memory keeping and the digital tools that augment it. I used this understanding to create a new task flow for addressing the photos and videos users created on their phone. The task flow allows users to address and react to their content without the bias present when posting online. My expectation was this would empower users to act on their content faster, more often, and more authentically. The benefits would be a decluttered phone, and more valuable interactions with digital content.
I had a vision of how the main screen should look that was based on Tinder. This was because Tinder takes something we expect to be time consuming (finding matches), and puts it in an interface where users are comfortable speeding up the process. To avoid being stuck in a local maximum, I forced myself to sketch the same screens in many versions. This was helpful when producing wireframes because I had a variety of features and styles to pull from.
I created two wireframe styles of the app. One used swiping, the other used button pushing to complete tasks. After receiving critiques on the wireframe, I learned users preferred buttons. Additionally, I learned the features and information on some screens caused cognitive overload. With this in mind, I used the button style to produce an Invision prototype. Because the prototype would not draw real content from a users phone, I created it to answer the questions:
Does the design communicate app purpose and functionality?
Do people find value in this type of app?
I gathered three subjects for usability testing. I asked them about their initial impression off the app and its functionality. I observed them using the app while they shared their thoughts out loud. It became clear the initial screen did not communicate the value of the app. I wanted users to know they could declutter their phone and have more authentic interactions with their content, but the only way they could learn this was by navigating through all the screens. This was unrealistic to expect people to explore the entire app before forming expectations and making value judgments.
I incorporated insights from critiques and usability testing to create a second prototype. The biggest change was creating a home screen that was different from the screen that surfaces content. This is where I could communicate the app’s value. In some places where the task flow did not match user expectations, I did not make changes. The initial cognitive dissonance is worth causing in order to communicate the app’s approach to creating joy from digital content. For example, when users clicked “SHARE” they expected to post the file to social media. In the Content Therapy app “SHARE” only enables you to share privately and directly with people.
While developing the Content Therapy app, I uncovered various aspects of memory keeping that could benefit from UX research and human centered design. To keep my design cohesive, I have not tried to incorporate all of my ideas, but I believe my discontent with existing tools will motivate me to continue to research and design solutions for healthy memory keeping practices.