We learned and established a number of things through our initial research activities.
Throughout the process we struggled with articulating what we were trying to achieve when talking about our design to individuals unfamiliar with the space.
We found that people were so used to current digital conventions that it was tough for us to communicate our proposal. We acknowledge that if we were better able to convey our platform, we could have created better questions to find more beneficial insights.
With these discoveries and insights, we established three design goals:
- We wanted to create a conversational tool that was non-linear, mirroring in-person conversations.
- We wanted to create something with a clear and coherent visual language.
- We wanted to provide users a workspace where everybody's notes are visible, supporting a collaborative, mutually-built base of knowledge.
After coming up with some more developed concepts we presented them to Ahmed Ansari, a doctorate student at Carnegie Mellon's School of Design, and had a comprehensive discussion about the dynamics of digital conversation.
We weighed the positive and negative aspects of having text show in real-time on the screen as it is typed (as was implemented in Google Wave) versus having a dedicated submit button where the user can compose their thoughts before sending the finalized message. Live text increases wariness, mirroring the wariness of in-person speech, where every word put down is perceived by the audience. People would be less articulate without a composition space separated from the space for submissions. A compose window is a thought aid, a materialization of thought. It is helpful to allow phrasings to be developed and enables reflection.
A possible downside of the greater surveyability of digital conversations (as written correspondence suffers the same fate) is that the luxury of time provided by static, visible words invites over-analysis. It is unclear how that might be avoided, but it is an interesting point nonetheless.
We spoke about how more-nuanced non-verbal communication might be included, possibly involving the typeface changing to evoke inflections / intonations. Such forms could be parameterized to explicit and measurable changes in verbal dictation / video of the speaker.
We spoke about the usefulness of having the entire conversation surveyable, and how it might be explorable after-the-fact, for analysis.
Both during and after our research stage, our team took part in numerous sessions where we discussed the platform we wanted to create.
These sessions took place in front of whiteboards and large pieces of paper. They included lists of potential functionality and sketched out mockups. Below are results of these sessions, followed by the multiple iterations of wireframes.