CAPSTONE PROJECT WITH BLOOMBERG
For our Capstone Project, my team designed Bloomberg Connect, an iOS application that provides Bloomberg employees frictionless access to people while on the go.
As part of the Master of Human-Computer Interaction program, I completed this eight-month long capstone project with Bloomberg. My team was tasked with radically rethinking the calendaring and scheduling system at Bloomberg, a global leader in financial news and software.
The project was divided up into 2 phases: Research and Design. During the Research phase, which lasted from January to April, we conducted research, synthesized our data, and extracted findings. From April to August, we generated & tested concepts and engaged in an iterative design process to refine our strongest solution.
We conducted research both to learn about the calendaring and scheduling tools available and to understand the role that the calendar plays for Bloomberg employees. During the research phase, we conducted literature reviews, competitive analyses, subject matter expert interviews, and contextual inquiries. We also developed and used a new method, sensory association, which helped us gain a deeper understanding of the emotions surrounding scheduling at Bloomberg than traditional methods allowed.
We observed a strong culture of transparency at Bloomberg, which is exemplified by the fact that all employees have public calendars. However, we found that existing tools do not meet the needs of the transparent and fast-paced workflow.
SYNTHESIZING THE DATA & EXTRACTING FINDINGS
Once we gathered all of our data, we built comprehensive models and affinity diagrams to make sense of it all.
Below is our tension map, which helped us visualize the different desires, feelings, and overall opinions that employees have at Bloomberg.
From our models and maps, we extracted the following:
- Information about people, rooms, and available free time is scattered, which leads to an inefficient workflow.
- Simple tasks are hard to do from a mobile device, so people have to wait to complete tasks when they return to their desks.
- People have their own workarounds and ways of using their calendar. This creates clutter on the calendar, which leads to misunderstandings.
- People don't release rooms when their plans change, so others waste time looking for conference rooms.
We found that problems such as these culminate in a larger problem: people do not trust the system. This lack of trust leads to wasted resources and directly defeats the purpose of transparency, which is an integral part of Bloomberg's culture.
We began our summer design phase by generating ideas for improving workflow, scheduling, and overall well-being for employees at Bloomberg. We created storyboards for our strongest ideas and tested these concepts using the speed dating method.
From this testing, we found an opportunity to create a new mobile solution, as the existing mobile application was not meeting employees' needs. We generated design principles to guide our work:
- Make it actionable
- Prioritize relevant information
- Keep it open and transparent
- Leverage the mobile context
We also knew that our solution should consolidate all of the information and functionality that employees need in order to complete scheduling tasks on the go. Otherwise, the these interactions would be time-consuming and frustrating.
CREATING BLOOMBERG CONNECT
After exploring possible concepts, we decided to create an app that helps employees accomplish three main goals:
- Organize the cluttered calendar
- React to changes as they happen
- Find a place to meet
In order to support those needs, we developed eight features. Our goal was to seamlessly integrate these features in a single application so employees can find the information they need without disrupting their workflow.
We created five iterations: one paper prototype, three medium-fidelity interactive prototypes (created with Axure), and one high-fidelity interactive prototype (created with Axure and Sketch). For each iteration, we tested with at least five participants. We traveled to New York to test three of our versions (we were able to use Bloomberg's state-of-the-art Usability Lab), and we tested the other two versions with classmates and business professionals in Pittsburgh.
DESIGNING THE INTERACTIONS
During the iterative design process, we made changes to our features based on the results of our user tests. To give you a better sense of our process, I have outlined the pivotal changes we made for two of our eight features: Following a Meeting and the Notification Screen.
DESIGNING THE INTERACTIONS: FOLLOWING A MEETING
We created the Follow feature in order to declutter the calendar. With this feature, employees can keep track of events on their own calendars without misleading their coworkers about where they will be at a given time.
We started by creating hidden calendars. With this feature, employees can create custom calendars and decide if they want these calendars to be visible to other employees or not. When they receive a meeting invitation, they can choose to add the meeting to a hidden calendar if they dont want others to see it. In testing, we found that participants were confused by the concept of hidden calendars. They also weren't sure who the "hidden" applied to.
In our next iteration, we tried to make the functionality more clear to employees. For every calendar event, employees could choose to either "show time as busy" or "show time as free." We found that people were still confused by this concept. They were not sure how the two options would look when other employees viewed their schedule. Many participants also didn't notice this feature, as it was hidden in a screen with many meeting options. Further, participants were confused because the system allowed them to decline an event but still show time as busy.
To address these concerns, we created the "follow" button. Because it was large and grouped with other meeting response options, participants noticed it. Many participants were already familiar with the concept of "following" something (from Twitter and elsewhere), so they were able to predict what the feature would do. Overall, this button received positive feedback.
While participants had no problem following a meeting that they were invited to, they were confused about what would happen if they followed a meeting that they were creating. They weren't sure if this "Add me as a follower" option would apply to all meeting invitees or just themselves.
In response to this feedback, we moved the option to follow a meeting to the personal preferences section of the New Appointment screen and updated the wording. When we tested this iteration, participants understood that this option would only apply to their own calendars.
DESIGNING THE INTERACTIONS: NOTIFICATION SCREEN
We created a notification screen so employees can find all of their meeting invitations and updates in one place. With the current system, they receive meeting invitations in e-mails, but these messages disappear after employees respond to them. This can make it hard to keep track of meetings. Also, because employees receive so many meeting-related emails (for meeting updates, reminders, and invitations), it can be overwhelming for them to stay on top of their meeting-related information.
Participants responded well to our first iteration, which was a list of notifications. They liked having all of their notifications in a single place. However, we noticed that it still took a lot of time for them to navigate to the meeting page and respond to the notification.
To make it faster for employees to respond to notifications, we created an actionable notification feed. We hoped that by speeding up the response process, we would encourage employees to actively manage their calendars and respond to all meeting invitations. Though participants responded well to this feature, they did not like that responding to a notification made it disappear.
In our final version, we created a "replied" tab so employees can easily reference the invitations they have responded to.