As part of our UXT personal project, I chose my experience as a parent receiving school news as my ‘real world’ problem. I have a 9 year old attending primary school and I personally found the experience keeping up with her school news rather frustrating. I was curious to find out if other parents from the same school also share a similar view. I also made inquiries to parents from other schools to see if this issue is not unique to one school. Following this I did some research on what other school apps are in the market and did some competitor analysis.
Historically school news was just A4 paper handouts that the students took home. The advent of these school apps means that most of the information that would otherwise be printouts are now served into the apps instead. It’s important to note, however, that only the delivery method has changed as the old paradigm of creating these news via a word processor still remains.
Some early research and findings:
•There are two popular apps that are in use for Australian schools: School ENews and Skool Bag
•Both apps serve content in PDF format
•Both apps are available as smart phone and tablet versions; iOS and Android
•Permission forms are sent to the app as pdf documents, requiring user to download, print, sign, scan and return to the school (not through the app)
•Payment method is done through most school’s website. The apps don’t have an integrated payment function
My hypothesis problem statement:
A primary school parent who feels overwhelmed about finding relevant news, needs to find specific information about her daughter’s schooling but faces information overload.
Quantitative data research
To gather some early insights and validate the hypothesis, I conducted an online survey among 40+ parents through Google forms. In the sample pool, mums and dads that participated were chosen from these backgrounds: Single parents, stay home parents, working parents, and parents with kids attending private or public schools.
Some of the questions asked in my survey were:
How do you currently receive school news? Select all that applies:
Are you satisfied with the way you are currently receiving the school news?
Do you currently receive all your school news via a single source?
Would you prefer to receive all your child’s school news via a single source (Ie: a mobile app)?
Would you like the ability to authorise permission slips via the app (as opposed to currently signing the A4 forms)?
The survey ran for two weeks and I encouraged the participants to add any additional comments to the mix. This is what I found out:
•Almost 66% of respondents are between 'seldom and sometimes satisfied' with the way they're receiving school news
•Only 10% of respondents are highly satisfied with the way they’re receiving school news
•83.2% of respondents receive school news via a single source (Ie: a mobile app)
•97% of respondents would like the ability to make payment to school fees via the app
Most parents prefer to prioritise school news that relate to their children first. They find general difficulty in navigating through the trove of school news on a weekly basis. This issue is exacerbated mainly by how the news is delivered to them: List view containing links with PDF attachments to be viewed on mobile devices. Single source channel is preferred as it negates the need to consolidate information from various sources.
For the 1:1 user interviews I picked participants using the same criteria as the quantitative data research. Some of the questions asked:
How do you currently receive your school news? Why this method?
How do you interpret or process news from multiple channels? Can you describe this?
What news is important to you as related to your children? Can you cite or show me an example?
What I found out:
•Most parents are unanimous that the current app does a poor job in delivering relevant news
•‘Hunting’ for news is common practice for most parents
•Parents sometimes rely on other parents as an easier way to receive school news
•Some parents wanted the app to be another formal way of communicating with the teacher and school
•Some parents want the children’s school reports to be shared and viewed via the app (with the ability to facilitate feedback with the teacher)
•Some parents want the news to be able to sync seamlessly with their calendar
•Most parents are unanimous on wanting the ability to authorise school activities and pay via the app
•With the current payment system, the records of payment made is consolidated manually by the school. Sometimes payment records are missed and parents are notified despite paying, leading to disputes
•Some parents stopped reading the school app because they don’t enjoy the experience
•Lack of resources and unfamiliarity with new technology are some of the biggest challenges they face
•Daily challenges in collating and coordinating news from various sources
•Administration demands (like consolidating payment receivables) is laborious and manual, leading to human error
Insights & affinity mapping
I created clusters from the insights and made an affinity map. From the clusters I managed to form these top five insights:
As a parent I need news that’s only relevant to my children so that I know what needs organising for school
As a parent I need a way to sync school events into my calendar so that I action anything relating to the events, be reminded and be better organised
As a parent I need a more efficient way of authorising and paying for school events so that my children don’t miss out on events and avoid future disputes with the school
As a parent I need the school news format to be device friendly so that I have a better experience reading it
As a parent I need the school news to be organised clearly so that I don’t miss important announcements
After establishing the insights, I created a persona - Sofia, a married, working mother of two school-aged children:
A small brand exercise
I really wanted to flex some of my branding experience into this and came up with a few working titles before setting on ’SchoolAppy’. I wanted to treat this as much as possible like a ‘real’ project and it’s important to have a unique name (that can be registered with a dot.com). I registered schoolappy.com and sketched out some ideas before deciding on illustrating an owl as the brand mark. I chose the owl as a symbol of learning as well as a playful icon to give the app more warmth. ’SchoolAppy’ is also a play on ‘school happy’ as I want to channel a positive experience for the parents digesting the news. I also created a simple colour system and typography for the project.
The prototype: What’s the idea?
What I learned (and made into an MVP):
•Parents surveyed generally like the overall idea of existing school news app
•What they found was the current content on these apps appeared ‘clumsy’
•Pinching and zooming the screen as a result of embedded pdfs as news content is very frustrating
•No search function because of the lack of meta data (as a result of embedding pdfs) limits the utility of the app
•Ability to authorise and pay for activities and fees is a must for most parents
Armed with the survey results, insights and the persona, I set off to build the prototype. First up, the user flow design. One of the issues raised by some of the parents is the lack of security measures not on the current apps. Anyone can sign up to the apps and this concern is even more pronounced if the new app has the ability to authorise permission slips. I did some research on some onboarding experience by other apps and adapted a few key principles into the wireframes.
But first the user flow:
Then came the wireframes:
And finally, the prototype:
Guerrilla tests: 1st round user testing
I approached a few parents during the morning school drop and conducted some guerrilla testing on the prototype.
Some parents were confused with the onboarding process. Originally, I wanted a two-step verification process where the user is verified against the school’s registrar before the app grants permission. I saw this as an email verification link that the user had to activate after initially entering his or her email and school selection. The argument against this flow was that some users aren’t sure what to do next, despite additional instructions informing the user to check their email for a confirmation. This also causes the user to leave the app environment, launch the email app and find the email link. I had the opportunity to co-design a couple of ideas and settled on an SMS token system frequently used by banks.
The second iteration was also made to the authorisation process. The earlier version just had the function of authorising the form but questions were raised on why there wasn’t an additional acknowledgment screen as well as the user receiving a copy of the authority. Another user also requested that a function for sending a copy to another address be made.
Registration flow V1: The original flow had the app sending a confirmation email after completing the first registration screen. The user had to leave the app, launch email and click on the link for verification. Once this is complete, the user goes back to the app and logs in.
Registration flow V2: The second iteration incorporates a verification token code via SMS. The SMS message appears as a pop up in-app after the user enters his or her mobile number. The user's mobile number will register with the school's database and the system will generate a token for the final registration stage. Tapping on the text message pop up will take the user to the message and code retrieval. The user then enters the code for the final verification process and the handshake is complete.
2nd round User testing
I presented the concepts to some previous participants as well as new participants and this is what I found out:
•Two-step authentication with mobile number request and verification code was well received
•Parents felt more comforted with that added security
•Parents found the reading experience more positive as a result of not having to pinch and zoom content
•Parents like the authorisation process to include the added function of sending the copy of the authorised permission form back to the user
•Having a function to indicate that payment has been made also serve as an added reminder the event has been actioned
•Parents like the ability to sync news to their calendar
•A search function is important as the user can revisit past news
Observations & Conclusion
The idea for this project came about during several conversations with parents at my local school. While some of us are very involved with our children’s school, the rest are unfamiliar with the ins and outs of day-to-day behind the scene planning of activities. The function of the school news should bypass these knowledge gaps and provide parents information on what’s happening with their children’s school. While it’s not intentional, the experience of reading and receiving school news in its current format has bothered some parents including me for a while. I would like the opportunity to refine and perhaps approach the department of education to co-develop the idea further.