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The potential of the project-focused tool, mimicking in-person collaboration experience

Loading screen of Dart — product by Slack

Hypothesis

Teammates working remotely on a common project need a way to communicate in real time using multiple methods of communication at the same time (camera, screensharing, filesharing, drawing pad) in order to exchange ideas quickly and accurately and create a personal connection with their teammates.

Opportunity

Professionals already use Slack as a group messaging tool to communicate during projects however, there is an opportunity to create a project-based video and screensharing product to expand collaboration on a platform they already know and love, with low barrier for entry, and from multiple device types. In our research, text-only communication is insufficient and teammates need collaboration tools that mimic in-person behavior and capabilities in order to efficiently communicate.

Problem Statement

Users working on projects in teams need a tool combining collaborative features to help them solidity team bonds, effectively convey information and deliver higher quality projects faster.

1. Competitive and comparative analysis

Heuristic evaluation of Slack’s competitors

Competitors

  1. Cisco Spark: https://www.ciscospark.com/
  2. Appear.in: https://appear.in/

3. Google Hangouts: https://hangouts.google.com/

Comparison

Slack (https://slack.com/)

Key takeaways:

The new Webex tool, Cisco Spark, was the closest we had to a real competitor. Spark has many of the same features and is positioning itself as a project tool rather than a conference or networking tool.

All the other competitors we reviewed (including the original Slack product) had video, voice, and chat capabilities but required integrations with other tools to have any file sharing or calendar functionality.

Call quality was a huge issue with most competitors, especially if used behind a firewall. It is very important to maintain a good connection and, if a call is dropped, error messaging is essential.

2. Heuristic evaluation of Slack

Nielsen Norman Group usability heuristics

Key findings

The system keeps users informed about what’s going on in the application through appropriate feedback for most of the existing features
Slack follows real-world conventions, making information appear in a natural and logical order
The application provides support and clear emergency functions (exits, undo, and redo). Easy to locate search bar with task-oriented help
Error prevention is provided to users via form validation, undo functions, confirming messages. Error recovery is explained in plain language, precisely indicates the problem
Moderate support for advanced users is provided by several shortcuts
Aesthetic and interactive design (hover effect, tooltips, reactions)

3. User research

During screener surveys our team recruited 14 participants (8 males and 6 females, ages 25 to 45) with professional backgrounds in IT, Design, Art, Product and Project Management. We determined our target audience as professionals who work on projects in teams.

Open-ended questions lead to conversations, that helped to determine users’ past and present experiences, pain points and goals.

100% of users thought that face to face talking (in person, phone, or over video) was the MOST effective form of communication

43% rated the latest experience with professional text-based messaging tool as satisfactory

57% stated that productivity will increase with the use of videochat and screensharing

“We used video conference for regular standup and team meetings with remote members. Good and efficient experience.”

“Video presents a richer stream of info, hot n cold media — fast to process.”

“It’s instantaneous, a picture worth a thousand words.”

Key findings:

• Users mostly use Slack, skype, email and other text-messaging and video tools on their desktop computers while working with their teams in a project.

• They are not happy about their past experiences while collaborating with their teams.

• Users think the most productive tools are videochat and instant screensharing.

• Users seek for a centralized collaboration tool that would unite the most effective features in its software.

4. User personas

Based on our research key findings and user types we were able to create 2 user personas: primary and secondary.

Primary persona

Anton, 25. Full-stack developer based in Russia.

Anton, 25 is our primary persona and a point of reference throughout our prototyping and design process. Based on Anton’s story his main frustrations are: poor internet connection, time difference and inability to work on files simultaneously with the other team members. Anton’s goals include creating an app and becoming a lead developer in his company.

Secondary persona

Selina, 24. Project manager in a Chicago firm.

Selina, 24 is a project manager in Chicago tech firm. Her main pain points include: inability to locate past conversations and files, saving all call notes with recordings and keeping shared documents organized. Selina’s goals are to check in with her teams on everyday basis and keep projects on time.

5. Solution

Looking though the prism of our user personas and key findings from the user research our team was able to come up with the solution and select features from the numerous perspectives and list of must, should, could and won’t-haves.

Solution

Dart is a solution for users who need a project tool to mimic the in-person collaboration experience while working remotely.

Features

We prioritized the features for the new product according to our users’ needs and frustrations to make sure we address the problem of combining collaborative tools in one to bring teams together and effectively convey information to deliver higher quality projects faster.

6. Platform of choice

Our team chose web browser client (web app) for Dart initial platform release because we want to provide users with flexibility to log into the system from whatever computer they want without being forced to download a native app.

Video conference call on Dart.

7. Wireframes

During initial iterations of the wireframes our team determined the structure and features’ placement according to the hierarchy of our users’ needs and goals.

Further usability testing revealed inconvenience of the elements (files and members), inconsistency of the icons (add, back icons on files and members tabs) and difficulty in recognizing several feature icons (screensharing, record). After changing functionality, adding and replacing icons we were able to create new set of wireframes that was ready for new usability testing that i will speak about below.

8. Usability testing

We conducted 10 usability tests throughout all the design and prototyping process via Guerrilla testing method — rapid, low-cost method of quickly capturing user feedback. Testing resulted in completion of any given task and icon recognition and elements placement.

9 of 10 users were able to successfully locate buttons and features

10 of 10 participants reported intuitive and simple navigation and clear understanding of the current app location

9. Prototype

10. Next steps

  1. Web app improvements (voice recognition transcription of calls; integrated scheduling, reminders, synced team calendars ; integrations with third party tools)

2. Native applications for OSX, Windows, iOS & Android, WatchOS

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