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ESTEEM

An application designed to connect parents to each other in authentic and genuine ways, with an emphasis on open mindedness and tolerance.

Case Study || 2020

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The Problem

For at least the past 6 years, major news sources such as The Washington Post, USA Today, and The New York Times have reported on the magnitude of parental loneliness and the difficulties in forming new friendships as a parent. The transition into parenthood is a significant, life-altering event without much research given to this stage and associated loneliness. Loneliness in mothers has adverse effects on children, and is positively affected by having large support networks.

The Solution

Esteem is a friendship-finding application for parents that focuses on fostering genuine connections between parents, within a community of users who are celebrated for their diversity in parenting choices. 

My Role

Sole Product Designer
  • Heuristic Analysis
  • Surveys
  • Interviews
  • Affinity Mapping
  • Empathy Mapping
  • Personas
  • Ideation
  • Information Architecture 
  • Sketching
  • User Flows
  • Wireframes
  • Visual Design
  • Prototyping 
  • Usability Testing

My Growth

I learned how a few rounds of testing can point out glaring errors and fixes. I learned that what appears obvious to me, can be completely overlooked by users. I learned that user flows are valuable tools for organizing complex features and interactions. And despite having almost no visual design experience, I learned the power of Sketch through persistence and grit. 

Heuristic Analysis

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Only three existing competitor apps were available to analyze for visibility of system status, user control and freedom, flexibility and efficiency of use, and help and documentation. Each one of the applications inspected are less than three years old, indicating the growing need for a solution to the problem space.

Screener Surveys

The main goals of the screener surveys were to identify the breadth of loneliness in parents and the challenges and sources of loneliness. 

 

The survey consisted of seven questions: two scale questions; one focused on frequency of obstacles to forming parent friendships and one focused on frequency of loneliness as a parent. Other questions identified current methods used for friendships, desires to form new friendships, types of challenges, etc. 

 

After interpreting data from the 58 responses received, the results were dramatic. Roughly 44% of users expressed having a deep need to form new parent friendships or being intimate by the process. Survey takers indicated that the top three challenges to forming parent friendships were: scheduling/lack of time, connecting as autonomous adults, or demographic differences.

Interviews

Any survey participant who selected a statistically significant rating on the scales for severity of loneliness, needing more friends, or being intimidated by the process of finding new friends were sought after. Five interviews were conducted with parents between the ages of 36 and 53 years old. Their children’s ages ranged between the ages of 7 months old and 22 years old. This diversity in both parent and child age allowed for a greater diversity of the parenting spectrum to be explored.
Image by John-Mark Smith

The same lifestyle, the same values, aren’t always easy to find.

Image by Juliane Liebermann

I would never be friends with somebody that was intolerant.

Image by Kelly Sikkema

People give me a hard time about the choices I’m making for my own child.

Affinity & Empathy Mapping

Four main themes emerged from interview synthesis: judgment from other parents based on unique needs, differences in parent age, scheduling difficulties, and lacking a genuine connection with parent friends.

Personas

How Might We Questions

How might we help users feel safe in communicating their unique parenting needs? (Old)

How might we encourage users to find value in friendships with differing parenting philosophies? (Extreme)

How might we give users confidence in their parenting choices? (Overwhelmed)

Ideation

I began the ideation process by searching for a way to streamline and speed up the process of finding authentic connections, while also clearly identifying and indicating users who are open-minded and nonjudgmental. As I brainstormed for ways to cultivate open-mindedness in parenting, the idea for a stories feature rose to the top. 
 
The concept is simple, yet deceivingly complex. Users are given an opportunity to write about a parenting choice they feel adamant about. But in order to do so, they must also write about the challenges of that decision.

Having our users confess the pros and cons of their parenting choices accomplishes several user goals:

1

The author begins to consider the other side of their decision, decreasing their “all or nothing” perspective and fertilizing seeds for open-mindedness.
The reader gains confidence in their own parenting choices, as they recognize there are successes and struggles with every parenting decision.

2

3

Our app begins to cultivate a community of tolerant and judgment-free parents, thereby giving our users what they truly want.

User Flows

After exploring user stories and organizing content through site mapping, four critical red routes emerged, requiring me to flesh out complex user flows. 
 
The profile setup flow, would condense a wealth of user information down to five simple screens that you’ll get a glimpse of later. This particular flow was essential for both gathering information to inform friend-finding algorithms, as well as immediately demonstrating to our users that Esteem understands the immense diversity in parenting.

Sketching

Here is the beginning of the design evolution for my screens. Great emphasis was given to user onboarding as well as a few features. Specific user capabilities for the Stories feature were also explored.

Guerilla Usability Testing

With specific goals in mind, I conducted usability testing on my sketches with five participants. Several common themes and insights emerged. 
 
Although the setup user flow was a necessary step for gathering massive quantities of information on the user, the process was intimidating for participants. Special considerations were given to reducing cognitive load including: clustering and condensing options, adjusting layout, and focusing on the power of whitespace. 
 
Another consistent piece of feedback I received was the importance of user control and freedom to ensure privacy of information every step of the way. I began exploring possibilities for creating a sense of trust from the user, through in-text links and CTAs addressing privacy.

Wireframing