Project Orion

 
 
Empower college students to achieve ordinary and extraordinary things in life

Lead UX designer (Jun 2015--Apr 2016)  |  Microsoft Outlook  |  Creative Direction: Britta Burlin

This is an unapologetic long post for an incubation experiment that eventually became an iOS app. I defined the product vision for a saturated productivity market. I started by identifying the core problems--with our talented UX researchers--and tested designs with students at various universities. To streamline the workflow with engineers, I crafted many, many quick and dirty prototypes--using Principle--for internal discussions and usability studies. I also introduced Zeplin.io so that the triad of program managers, engineers, and designers could move fast with real-time feedback.

It was an intense project that I'm proud to have been part of and collaborated with a strong cast of teammates. Most of all, it was satisfying to craft a solution that students resonated with so strongly. 

*Currently in limited release at some colleges

 
 Take notes and remember things--important ones and even the fun stuff--with a flexible system. Drag notes onto the calendar to add a reminder.

Take notes and remember things--important ones and even the fun stuff--with a flexible system. Drag notes onto the calendar to add a reminder.

 
 
Orion-problem
 

THE BIG IDEA

Orion helps college students keep track of their intentions and goals—big and small, short and long-term.
 

"Time" was the original name of the app

 
 

 Conducting usability studies with college students in Dallas, Texas

Conducting usability studies with college students in Dallas, Texas

 

RESEARCH 

We tested our designs with college students--both tech and non-tech savvy--across the US. I loved working so closely with researchers and especially with program managers and engineers this early in the product development stage. It translated to designs that were led by user insights.

 

USER

We bet small and big on design concepts. I built prototypes for students to use to give us direct feedback on. One of my favorite moments was to have the students construct their own solutions--like a lego--with different pieces of my designs. We learned a great deal on what mattered to them and how they talked about their solutions. 

By understanding what students cared about the most, the team iterated with velocity on key aspects of the feedback. It also helped the multidisciplinary team to be on the same page for the core design.

 
 Detailed feedback from students at user studies allowed us to understand what worked or failed

Detailed feedback from students at user studies allowed us to understand what worked or failed

 I interviewed students to learn when their most stressful moments to know where to focus the design

I interviewed students to learn when their most stressful moments to know where to focus the design

 I illustrated pieces such as this to see what resonated with students at the base level

I illustrated pieces such as this to see what resonated with students at the base level


Does this already exist? I would pay money to use this right now.
— College for Creative Studies student

This is absolutely fantastic. This is just all the info I want
— University of Washington student

 

PRINCIPLES

 
 

 
 

INSIGHTS

The magic formula was to make productivity not feel like a chore for students.

The challenge was designing a flexible solution for productivity when personal habits vary greatly from person to person. We devoted a ton of energy to figure out the nuances between to-do's that had no deadlines and ones that were required to be finished by a certain time and date.

 
 

 

CONFLICT

Deciding on a navigation model for a user to go from notes to a calendar divided the team. Another contentious points was how much UI lived on the surface in order for task completions. These designs (above) capture a snippet of the iterations and Principle prototypes that were heavily discussed to land on direction. I powered through these challenging times by sharing multiple solutions to show which design worked well to solve the actual pain points.

 
 
 An example of how notes are designed to handle the different information types

An example of how notes are designed to handle the different information types

 
 Actions that help users complete their to-do's--one of my favorite aspects of the design

Actions that help users complete their to-do's--one of my favorite aspects of the design

 
 

We learned how important a desktop companion was needed from usability studies. From a high level understanding, mobile was for on-the-go note creation and notifications while the desktop was for heavy lifting to get work done.

In order to focus and finish the mobile designs, another designer took over the desktop responsibilities. We partnered closely by chatting about our concerns and focuses in the mornings so our designs would be work in perfect cohesion. It was a smooth process where we brainstormed and made impact by quickly prototyping with Principle.

 
 

 
 

RESULTS

Orion is currently in limited release with a few colleges. It will be a wide release iOS product--under a different name--in the near future.

 
 
 

REFLECTIONS

Our goal was to empower students for their academic and personal pursuits--a massive undertaking. Taking a step back to not boil the entire ocean was not always easy in practice. Because productivity was so personal for our users and everyone on the team, the prototypes and user feedback was invaluable for moving forward.

Knowing whether to speed things up (do work), slow down (elaborate), or meet (make a decision) was essential for making a product from the ground up with velocity.