App with chatbot as reading companion for delinquent teenagers
Time: September to December 2020
Tasks: User research, experience strategy, information architecture, interaction design
Tools: AdobeXD, Notion, Miro
- Martin — Product manager
- Ramona — Product Manager
- Christine — UX/UI Designer (LinkedIn)
How might we help teenagers finish their reading assignment with the least possible effort, while also igniting the joy of reading in them?
In this project I worked for KonTEXT, a reading project for delinquent teenagers. Teens who are sentenced to reading a certain number of pages come to KonTEXT for supervision and guidance. They regularly meet with mentors who reflect with them on the book they read and on their lives. However, many teenagers struggle to finish their reading assignment. Therefore, KonTEXT wants to help the youths by giving them a reading companion on their phone in the shape of an Android app with a chatbot.
First, we needed to get to know our users to understand what was keeping them from finishing their reading assignments on time. So we conducted interviews with 6 people who had either recently finished their reading assignment or were still working on it.
We wanted to find out about the problems they had with reading, as well as strategies they used to master the challenge and things that motivated them.
Main takeaways from user interviews
- 4 of 6 participants had no problems getting started with reading
- 5 of 6 made some kind of plan for reading (by defining a time in their day where they would read or by setting a goal of a certain number of pages per day)
- 3 of 6 said the motivation was not important, because they were forced to read and just had to accept it
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What helped these youths succeed was the fact that they actively organised their reading and that they accepted they had to do it. None of the youths we interviewed had major problems with reading, some of them even enjoyed reading in their free time before the assignment. We were surprised by that, because our team members who were also mentors for KonTEXT assured us that many of their mentees had grave problems.
To understand if the teenagers we interviewed were just outliers, we wanted to talk to some youths who actually struggled with the program. But most of them were unwilling to speak to us, even when we offered a reward. The ones who agreed to meet with us didn’t show up for their appointments. So we decided to interview the mentors at KonTEXT instead.
From the results we could see that the youths we interviewed had not been representative of our user group. Most teenagers actually disliked reading and were not at all motivated.
We wanted to find out how many of the mentees had problems with reading, what kinds of problems they had and which strategies and tools they used to succeed.
Main takeaways from mentor interviews
- Motivation is often named as the biggest problem: Reading is perceived as a punishment for their crimes and so they reject it
- Many teenagers lack the organisational skills to plan their day and their reading, which is exacerbated by stress
- Since only 25% of teenagers had big problems with the assignment, we would take into account the other user group as well: People that don’t struggle a lot, but could use some extra motivation and organisation tips
To put a face to our research results, I created personas for the two user groups. I wanted us to keep in mind the needs of users struggling with the reading assignment and those who were (mostly) taking it in stride.
Main takeaways from personas
- Motivation: Users need to see their progress and get encouragement to stay motivated.
- Organization: Users need help with organizing their reading, so they can finish their assignment on time.
- Strategies: Users need tips to approach reading more strategically, so they can read effectively.
We understood that the app needed to give personalized tips to be helpful to both user groups. The level of support it offers needs to be adjustable. We decided to manage that in part with the chatbot, that would be able to give personalized advice.
We then utilized user stories, user flows and journey maps to define the features of the app.
The main features of the app would be:
- A chatbot that motivated users and gives tips
- Reading tools that provided aid while reading
- Statistics that help track the reading progress
- A reading plan to stay organised
- And an activities section that allowed users to dive deeper into the topics of their book