Concept Presentation

Reaching the concept presentation milestone was surreal and great leap forward for all working on their major projects. Nothing like a deadline to get you to put your thoughts down on paper without the luxury of time to procrastinate or put off making decisions.

We had the added pressure of having an opportunity to present our concepts to industry. A timely step in the project to see if we can articulate our thinking and also hear outsider opinions on our thoughts.

I presented each concept on a concept board created in Illustrator. Following in the style I chose for my research report it would display the problem statement, a storyboard of it in practice and a list of features.

Concept #1.0 Book me in


When i’m on the move or it is late in the evening I want to be able to book a hair appointment so I can save time while still ensuring I get that same personal service as if I was to call the business.

In this concept I was keen to show how extending or augmenting the existing messenger apps will allow businesses and consumers connect on a more personal manner. The messaging model would be extended and supported with a chat bot for the business which could handle reservations and payments at any time of the day.

For both parties engaged on the platform there is an ongoing customer journey trail. This can benefit both as previous experiences can easily be referenced, images and videos can boost the experience and the customer may feel more inclined to leave more honest feedback. All in the hope that the business and customer relationship evolves over time.

Concept #2.0 Group-ease


When I’m in a large social group or managing a team sport I want to be able to keep the decisions being made in our chat our apps so I can keep everyone informed and reduce my time spent in external apps or services

The insight and driving force behind this concept was several conversations with different people on how they use multiple social messaging apps and channels to arrange or organise social events or sports teams.

In this concept I was looking at how I could augment existing messaging apps with tools or services that could take the hassle out of group booking. Taking inspiration from forums, group messaging platforms and existing team platforms there were a few tools which were obvious to have. Group polling, payments and bookings to sample just a few.

Where I felt there was opportunity for innovation was how multiple chat conversations tend to be around one topic. For instance in a tag rugby example there can be one chat group for admin, one chat group for an upcoming event and one chat group for the weekly matches. Conversations and decisions get fragmented very quickly. Each chat group serving it’s purpose but in the grand scheme of things information was getting lost or distributed inefficiently. I was hoping to tackle this by using channels and sub chat groups. A splinter conversation could take place within a main channel but it could be collapsed or ignored if you weren’t interested.

Concept #3.0 Chatizen


When I’m managing an organisation that deals with the public daily I want to be able to offer a solution that is most comfortable and accessible to them so I can reduce costs and increase the efficiency of my team

In the final concept I presented I wanted to look at opportunity from the business perspective first as opposed to the consumer. In this concept I was inspired by some insights during my research phase about how complex forms, public organisations and slow responses when dealing with these organisations could all potentially be solved if you could just text them.

I really want to look further in to this – how could you tackle registration forms, notifications and queue management through chat messaging. I devised a few high level solutions which I believe were tackling these. Of the ones that I drafted I am most eager to explore the ‘egg timer’ idea further. This is drawn from the experience through chat that you are never sure if the other person is respond or not. From a business perspective this is really important as you don’t want to waste or lose valuable resources trying to help people who aren’t actually there. This idea is wrapped up in an egg timer whereby when a response is sent you have a limited amount of time after you have last typed or interacted with the app before it puts you back in the queue. This can help both parties as I believe there is a desire for an asynchronous interaction as consumers are busy multitasking and the business may not quite have the answer right away.

Next Steps

I am really happy and confident in how I have developed these initial concepts. Each one is driven by a clear insight. Each one aims to tackle and solve the problem at hand.

With the feedback received during the presentation it is clear I won’t be taking just one concept forward. I am likely going to cherry pick a few of the key features from each. The challenge here is not to dilute the solution or muddy the waters but to really push to ensure the solution answers a real need and solves a real problem.

To solve this there is really only one method – testing and validation. For my next steps I will take these out in to the wild and see where it goes from there.

Beginning to frame my Design Principles

As we move from the research phase to concept development I am keen to take the opportunity to work through a few processes. I started by framing my design challenge as I have always felt it helps focus my thoughts. With a design challenge/problem in place the next logical step for me is to define some design principles. Using the IDEO design kit approach and inspiration from an early comment by Chris Messina, I was drawn to the following statement,

“How high we deliver convenience, personalisation and decision support while our customers are on the go with a limited attention span”

Like the image I have chosen to accompany this blog post I like how with the clouds you can start to see clarity and can begin to focus on the destination. The statement above encapsulates the following key points which are the beginning thoughts of my design principles;


The solution must work for the user.


The solution must feel familiar and be customisable.

Decision Support

It should help with solving problems, not create them.

On the Go

It must be mobile.

Limited attention span

It should be asynchronous in nature and not require the full attention of the user.

I suspect I will write and rewrite these many times over the course of the project but at this moment I hold strongly to the structure and ambition as it stands.

100 things every designer needs to know about people

I love this book. I recommend every designer read this. Not only is it a well researched and documented book, it is put together in such an easy to digest format. It doesn’t baffle you with hard facts and science – you can pick it up and learn something new every time.

I started my major project with a point of ensuring I would use this book as a tool in my research and concept development. I took time today to go through a few sections that I felt would benefit my design thinking. I studied the section, brainstormed out some ideas inspired by it and set myself a few guidelines to move forward with.

Sketch book
I have pulled out here a few of those which I believe will be the biggest influence on how I move forward.

People scan screens based on past experience and expectations

I must ensure to adhere to existing chat paradigms. How and where I place UI items must be grounded in existing UI patterns. This has already been seen as an issue during the quick prototypes I carried out. The structured responses in Facebook’s messenger are problematic – they are a new form of interaction and for me they do break the chat medium in an unnatural manner.

People care about time more than money

People value time and if the product or service I design can ‘sell time’ then I believe I am on to a winner. There was also a point raised in the book about the benefits of progressive disclosure. If you can hold back necessary information until required then it can help with on boarding the user.

People create mental models

Once I am in a position to design the product or service with a particular demographic in mind I need to ensure I understand all their shared mental models. What kind of mental models do people have around SMS, messaging or even speaking to bots or computers? How can use this to support my design decisions.

100 things every designer should know about people covers much mush more than I described above. My focus has been on understanding peoples mental models, their motivations and how they make decisions.

As I said, i’d encourage every designer to read this. So what are you waiting for? You can get it here on Amazon… Go go go!

Jobs to be done


I first heard about Jobs to be done as an alternative to user stories as a method of defining deliverables at Defuse 2015 conference. Emma Meehan presented how the team at intercom use Jobs to be done to make better design decisions.

Intercom are probably one of the most high profile advocates of this method with their own ebook available on this topic but it was a method they learnt from the Rewired group ( )

One of the fellow architects of JTBD, Clay Christensen has said,

“In hindsight the job to be done is usually as obvious as the air we breathe. Once they are known, what to improve (and not to improve) is just as obvious.”

The biggest distinguishing factor here is that approach to describing a tool, service or method as a “job”. I won’t even attempt to explain what Job stories are or how effective they are. I have already mentioned some key names and influencers in this area who have kindly documented and shared their experiences. In this blog post I hope to summarise how I plan to use Job stories in my major project.

Key Takeaways

After spending some time reading the Intercom eBook and watching a video by Sian Townsend entitle, “Jobs to be Done: from Doubter to Believer by Sian Townsend at Front 2016 in Salt Lake City, Utah” available here.

There are a couple of key takeaways I have picked up. In summary these would be;

Takeaway 1 – The Job to be done timeline

As mentioned above the fundamentals of Job stories is understanding the concept that people hire your product or service to get a job done.

Once your mind switches to this method of thinking and you begin to really look at how people currently get jobs done you are already opening up to this new method of thinking.

How do I apply this to my project? If for instance I hypothesise that people will book a hair appointment with a messenger app as they find it more convenient, more appropriate and a better solution I have to ask more than why? If the persons goal is to “get a new hair style” then the jobs to achieve this starts much earlier than just booking the appointment. I have to breakdown all the jobs along the journey. As a researcher and designer you can get to understand this full journey through the JBTD interview. When you document and understand this it is referred to as the Timeline.


More on this can be read here.

When I define the high level job I am hoping to tackle I aim to complete a series of JBTD interviews to understand the full timeline.

Takeaway 2 – The Job Story

Job Stories are one element of the Jobs to be Done framework. The belief here is that user stories are not effective or realistic ways to define features.

Alan Klements medium post sums up the issue with user stories in this nice graphic:

“the problem with user stories is that it’s too many assumptions and doesn’t acknowledge causality.”

Basically there is no room to ask why? The job story is all about context and causality. When you structure the job story as ,

“When …, I want to…, So I can…”

It puts the focus on the motivations of the user and drives the reaction or change of consequence in using the job. One of the biggest changes here is that there is no persona or user attributes mentioned. This is another big feature of Jobs to be done and Paul Adams has written extensively on why personas no longer work.

How we accidentally invented Job Stories

In my major project I hope to push my design solutions forward by focusing on the motivations, causalities and anxieties. If I do reach a point of looking at features of the product I hope to be able to use job stories to describe each feature.

Takeaway 3 – Observation

There is a nice “6 step guide” to determining a Job story and can be used to help you think innovatively in your area. These are as follows;

1. Start with a high level job
2. identify a smaller job
3. Observe how people solve the problem currently
4. Interview
5. Come up with a Job Story, or Job Stories, that investigate the causality, anxieties, and motivations of what they do now.
6. Create a solution

One of the key steps here I believe as a designer lies in the observation stage. How do people currently get the job done? What are the substitutes or in other words your competition? What I like about the thinking here is that your job could be replaced with something that you traditionally wouldn’t even consider in the same area, never mind even user story.

There is a case study referenced over and over again around JBTD and it involves a milkshake. It explains how they discovered for a popular fast food company that people at 8am in the morning were using milkshakes as a job to fill hunger on their commute. Now this may seem surprising and i’ll leave all the magic and intrigue when you read the case study yourself. What I found interesting here is the realisation that they were now competing with other alternatives (sometimes healthy) like a banana, coffee, donuts, breakfast cereals, etc etc. It was winning because it had ease of convenience of storage in a cup holder, a straw for non messy consumption and it was very filling.

Only through observation was such a result discovered. I will be taking this onboard as I move forward with my major project. I have always valued good solid user research and I am eager to focus this research around a particular use case or job!

As I mentioned in the opening of this blog post, this is by no means a full understanding of JBTD. I would encourage you all to read and consume all of the links and articles mentioned here. To get started you should visit the main site for more resources, case studies and experiences shared.

Experience Prototype – Version 0.2

I quickly moved on from the first prototype to start thinking about what would be valuable to test in the second iteration of the prototype. Using the creative thinking design method cards I pulled together the following assumptions to test.

  1. How successful are the structured responses which Facebook messenger can offer?
  2. What do users think of interacting with a business in this manner?

Dreaming up a business

Joe's Wing Palace

To test these assumptions I had to think of a business which could be used for this experiment. With my fondness for chicken wings I quickly created a new Facebook page for ‘Joe’s Wing Palace’ – a restaurant that solely focused on delivering the best chicken wings in Dublin 🙂

I found a really great service called ChatFuel that allows you to build up Facebook messenger chat flows. The really great thing about this service is to ability to integrate much richer media like images, links, maps, etc. So the whole conversation is that bit richer for the user.

Let’s make a reservation and learn…

I setup a test for my user group to find Joe’s Wing Palace in Facebook messenger and to make a reservation. I was keen to see how they interacted with the UI, how they found the experience of interacting with a business and what opportunities or challenges did they see.

The tests were carried out over a few days and I picked up the following big insights.

Structured responses failed

This was the most surprising insight of all the testing. Thinking back on it I don’t know if it was because of the previous test I carried out or if it was people’s natural instinct to just chat to the bot. The majority of users (at least 75%) initially responded to the first interaction by not using the button UI. Luckily the system was setup to capture this and the user did not know any difference to complete the reservation.

Paper Trail

When I spoke to Michael Owen Liston he had mentioned a really key insight he picked up in his project. That for businesses there is an ‘explicit paper trail of intention’. Which for me was most obvious in this task. Through Facebook messenger I could see each and every conversation in real time of when a user was speaking to the bot. You could see what interactions they took, what questions they asked and how they went reached their goal (or not in some cases). There is a huge opportunity here for businesses to work closer with their customers.

Users wanted more

The majority of the users I tested with got very excited with the potential of this UI. In the post experiment interviews they were keen to share what else they would like to see,

This is Awesome. It would be great if you could share the conversation with someone else. I would like to setup an event for the booking and message it to my friends

You can see the test version of this app here:


Prototyping Conversational UI – v 0.1

I have committed to build up a range of experience prototypes throughout my major project and this week I began the first of these prototypes. After a great interview with Michael Owen Liston he spoke about how he used TextIt for his major project with refugees in Denmark. I won’t do his project any justice in this quick blog post so I would encourage you to read more about it here

Eating the Elephant

I hate business clichés as much as the next person but I learnt a valuable lesson this week. I knew what I wanted to test with this first prototype – The assumption that people instinctively know how to chat with a bot and also know what a bot is.

However I got carried away and tried to design the context in which this would make sense. Would I be a business? Would I be an AI assistant? Would I be a service? Would I work in a group chat? Would it be one to one interaction? I got bogged down in the details and technical challenge each of these questions brought about and lost a couple of days trying to answer these. Number one issue here being my assumption that I could pick up a new tool like TextIt and just get working with it. I was at this point beginning to lose time and focus on my initial question.

Learning Curve

Another lesson learnt is to not under estimate the time required to pick up a new tool like Textit and start working with it quickly. I will say that the service is easy to use, straightforward to get a test up and running and has an immediate impact on seeing it’s application. Where it gets tricky is twofold – One to figure out the integration with Facebook Messenger and second is to design a scenario that makes sense to the user.

I won’t bore you with the details of how to integrate it successfully with Facebook messenger. More so as there is a pretty decent post here about to do it. The one section it took me time to figure out was that for each user you wish to test with you need to set them up as a ‘Tester’ in your Facebook developer portal. This is assuming you have not had the app published for public consumption by Facebook. This requires submission for approval by Facebook and in the context of my fake business it didn’t make sense to do.

Questions to answer

Textit is a service to allow you to build complex flow’s which a user can respond to through multiple channels – SMS, FB, Telegram etc

In order to start answering my initial assumptions I designed a flow which would question a user on their previous knowledge or experience with chat bots. The flow is built up in a series of questions that the user answers with ‘YES’, ‘NO’ or free text responses.

Release the bots!

I sent out the this initial prototype to 10 users for testing. The feedback and engagement was overwhelmingly positive. With only one failed test (the user was unable to access the bot due to geo-location reasons) I had some very quick and early insights.

In answering the question – How would you feel about interacting with a chat bot, I had several responses along these lines:

“I would rather talk to a human. I feel like they could answer my question better…”

There was a clear hesitation about the quality of response one would get with talking to a bot.

However many users were equally impressed with the convenience, speed and supposed accuracy of the chat bot.

In the post experiment interviews conducted I was able to gather some really valuable insights. People were about to imagine the context in which this UI would be successful;

Speed of access to a response is the biggest advantage. Most phone calls for example you have to listen, press this, that and the other key, wait 10 mins to be connected to someone etc. I find that really hard with (a) how busy I am and (b) kids killing each other in the background. With a text type service I can deal with it whilst I’m doing another task and it doesn’t matter where I am. If it’s a really noisy place I don’t have to worry about back ground noise interrupting the call and if it’s a really quiet place (cinema) then I don’t have to worry about me being quiet.

You can view the prototype below

Talking to industry – Emmet Connolly

My secondary research to date has been very focused on reading blog posts, medium articles and twitter comments around conversational commerce. So it was with some excitement that I was able to line up an interview with one of those that i’d been following for some time.

I had an opportunity to speak to the super smart and extremely generous Emmet Connolly head of digital product design at intercom. I was really interested in his view as he has spoken on numerous occasions about the power of conversational UI in this landscape. His blog post on Principles of Bot design  is also hugely informed think piece. Here are a few of the areas covered in our chat.

Micro Interactions

We started by discussing and reviewing the landscape of apps in this space – quartz news app, peach app, WeChat and Facebook messenger to name just a few. It was here we the conversation moved on to how different each of these apps have approached this same UI pattern.

The micro interactions were really the defining difference – Peach has it’s magic words, Quartz uses structured responses with emoji’s and WeChat has developed a whole new UI pattern with dropdown menu’s present onscreen. It’s not clear what is more successful but Emmet is sure that some form of structured response is definitely required. The affordances it offers the user are more successful in a better user experience.


We also discussed the appropriateness of conversational UI. As a business you need to think about where and when to use this form of interaction design. For instance Emmet questioned the use of conversational UI when a user would traditionally be browsing shelves of a store – let’s take fashion for instance. In this case the more appropriate mode of interaction is a mobile website where the user has time to click around, compare and come to a conclusion through their own decision making methods.

A hugely fruitful conversation with Emmet and much more insights gained than can be shared here in this short post.

User Centred Design Canvas & Major Project Idea Iteration 0.1

Scrolling through my twitter feed recently I stumbled upon a new tool for user experience designers called the “User Centred Design Canvas”. Had it been another time I may have swiped on by but after our recent module on Social Entrepreneurship at the Smurfit Business School something piqued my interest. I am also at a point where I felt I needed to start defining my project idea. I was on the search for some tool to help me get their. To some respect it did and let me explain how.

During our Entrepreneurship module we had the opportunity to put a business idea through the Lean Business Canvas which is an adaptation of the Business Model canvas. This tool or methodology is favoured by startups who wish to start defining business goals quickly and action them. These are all extensions of the original ‘Business Plans’ but are much quicker and dirtier to get you moving. I really liked it and pushed our team to put our Environmental project through some tough questions we hadn’t considered previously.

UCDC Canvas

So back to today and the User Centred Design Canvas. This is a natural extension of the Lean Canvas created by designers Alina Prelicz and Lezek Zawadski. From their site they describe the canvas as;

USER CENTERED DESIGN CANVAS was created out of need for an easy and effective tool facilitating user experience design process. Heavily based on user-centered approach and inspired by other great tools such as Business Model Canvas or Lean Canvas, the tool enables a comprehensive analysis of users’ and business’ main goals.

As I mentioned I was struggling to define my project. I knew my general focus was going to be around chatbots and/or conversational commerce. I wanted to see if I could put this loose concept through this model and see what would come out.

Although I know the method should be reserved for when you have completed user research or have a business/product idea. I thought it would be a useful exercise to see what I could tease out of my idea at this stage.

The principal is straight forward and I won’t go in to much detail here as it can be read in much more detail on their site or look at this use case here on UX Mag.

To summarise though – you start with your product/idea and you bring it through a set of questions to see if you have considered various elements to your product, with the ultimate hope that you can frame a unique value proposition.

The key takeaways for my project idea are:

  • The idea needs to be focused around an existing platform like Facebook Messenger, WhatsApp or Slack
  • The idea will consider the motivations of the user – are they using this potential service just because it is new?
  • The idea cannot be complicated or make the task harder in any way
  • Potential solutions and design considerations would be to look at Google Cards, Card carousels and WeChat implementations
  • The service must meet the users where they are at now

These all may be fairly obvious but it has helped me frame my project idea to it’s first iteration. It goes;

This is an opportunity to design a solution that can bring existing services or businesses to where their customers are now – social messaging apps.

As I said – This is version 0.1 but we got to start somewhere… right?

Major Project – Planning underway

We have received the brief and key milestone dates for the major project. As with all projects the first step is to start interrogating the key requirements and identifying what tasks are priority.

I spent some time to setup a project management tool (I can’t help it!) and to stick with something familiar I choose The benefits of this PM software are documented well online but I like the following about it:

  • It’s so intuitive to use
  • You can setup task lists easily which can have tasks and subtasks
  • You can assign milestones to a date
  • It allows you to setup dependencies amongst tasks

The project will be broken down in to the following phases:

  • Identification.
  • Investigation
  • Conceptualisation
  • Develop and Evaluate
  • Deliver and Evaluate
  • Display

Finalised Kits – Our EEK Service is complete

eek is an educational kit and digital platform that focuses on bringing awareness to environmental concerns like Air, Water, Soil & Waste.

This would be delivered in schools through do-it-yourself projects and engaging digital and classroom based activities.

The programme is designed to link in with the existing curriculum across Science, Geography, Mathematics & Art.

Schools would receive 3 kits in total, filled with fun activities and DIY projects.

Pupils are able capture their progress online and these can be viewed by their parents and the rest of the community in a secure environment.