Role: Lead Designer, Writer
Duration: Two months.
Responsibilities: User research, wireframing, prototyping, usability study.
Gemsbox is a bookmarking app that allows users save articles and webpages for offline reading, track, organize and set reminders to improve reading habits. This project was inspired by one of many first hand experiences with data loss while using the now defunct app Gemsmark.
Gemsmark was useful for saving and storing ephemeral content within its app, however there was no functionality for users to control this data or export content to external storage.
- Design a visually appealing yet minimal interface to allow users focus on their content and still keep the flow engaging.
Create a functionality that allows users control their data.
Since the primary goal for this redesign was to solve a flaw with the former (Gemsmark) design, my initial design process sought to propose multiple, simple and efficient solutions for users to externally store their own data or content.
I proposed intergrating a backup storage to automatically store urls and webpages as they saved content from the internet.
A few ideas were ruled out after the brainstorming session, as an underlying goal of efficiency was to provide a solution that required miminal interaction with third party platforms.
Design Perspective & Assumptions
Just for this project, I decided to embrace personal perspectives to improve the design process and also listed assumptions. Both processes allowed me to be more aware of implicit bias that could seep into the design.
I additionally went beyond my personal experience to ask questions about users, issues that may arise, and ways to troubleshoot and solve.
Product Goals: How will Gemsbox get audience attention and retention ?
Users: Who is our audience? (Behavioral Archetypes, personas, etc.) Are there niche or unique archetypes to look out for?
User Goals: What goals will the users want to accomplish when using the app and how will Gembox help them?
Added Features: How will Gemsbox standout from other bookmarking apps and plugins out there?
User Research (Summary)
One interesting observation in the process of user research for this project was that sometimes personal experiences and assumptions do help the project! As mentioned before, usually, ideating in UX Design requires that you put user needs front and center which, of course, should always be so, however, infusing personal experiences can augument the process before a usability study.
In that sometimes a designer’s unique experiences could turn out to be a common experience. Particulalry in Nadine’s case who was able to articulate in depth on a pain point:
For Gemsbox, I considered two types of users:
- Users who already consistenly read and would like to maintain their reading habit.
- Users who don’t and would like to build a reading habit.
Both types of users share what I eventually classified as retention. Another question I then considered and researched on was what created a pleasurable reading experience ?
I adopted insights from traditional publishing: Paperbacks and e-books with one consistent type and miniminal options to reduce distraction.
I decided to keep interactive elements to a subtle degree.
How will Gemsbox get audience attention and retention ?
I looked into already existing websites and apps that provide bookmarking services. Of all 12, Liner and Pocket were the only product that offered an archiving feature along with a basic bookmarking functionality. Pocket being more widely known stood out as a direct competitor with its “permanent library,” feature, it however operates with a low level efficiency by allowing users to only organize content with tags. The tagging function is also shared amongst other platforms.
Majority of the features between these competitiors and Gemsbox were very similar, however the main differences that will serve as Gemsbox’s unique propositions are:
– Automated back-up storage and exporting funtion vs internal storage.
– Organizing by categories, Shelves, with enhanced searching function vs searching by tags.
– Reduced clutter: just you and the page.
I went through a design sprint from creating paper wireframes to high fidelity prototypes (since a framework through Gemsark was already mapped out) to create fully functional design.
I adopted insights from user reasearch.
I decided to keep user options and the interface as minimal and efficient as possible for Gemsbox to fulfill its other goal of providing an experience that encourages consistent reading.
User Testing & Observation
For this project, I interviewed a sample of four participants when conducting research during the first sprint cycle.
Apps as Organizational Tools
Tools that organize content and resources gleaned from the internet is necessary and 100% of the participants interviewed agreed. They stated that they use at least one app to organize events, data, or something as basic as to-do-lists daily.
"I use letterboxd for instance and the tumblr app because I like being able to keep track and view the films I've seen, and also plan what to see in the future."
A Deeper Understanding
The presence of data/content online today is endless. And there have been corresponding apps built to help people organize more. However 75% of participants noted they still struggled with navigating and keeping track of their encounters and would like to initiate better habits around skimming the internet.
"I still keep tons of tabs open which makes for a pressured environment when I work. I try to use an open google doc tab to save links but I usually just forget them, even when i need to refrence these things."
Usability Study: Findings.
Light and Dark ModeReading and Categories Screen.
Gemsmark Interactive Prototype
My key takeaway from designing Gemsbox is that an expanded design thinking process can create solutions to problems outside considerations of just designing for user experience and interaction.