Gather is a cloud storage solution that gathers all your data, links and notes in one location and offers simplified, yet powerful organizational capabilities.
My role: UX Research, UX Design, Visual Design, Branding.
Deliverables: User Surveys, Competitive Analysis, User Personas, User Stories & Flows, Wireframes, Usability Testing, High Fidelity Mockups, More Testing, Prototype, More testing. Lots of Testing!
Tools Used: Figma, Photoshop, Illustrator, InVision, UsabilityHub, Draw.io, Pen & Paper.
Come up with an idea for a new cloud storage service to target an untapped market.
Research indicated that most people already use cloud storage services, with the vast majority using more than just one. How to find an untapped market then?
My research exposed two main frustrations with currently available options:
The problem: how to increase and consolidate functionalities, while improving organization?
Create an app that takes the basic functionalities of the most commonly used apps and combine them into one option for all kinds of data!
Gather offers storage for all file types (docs, links, notes, etc..) with advanced sharing capabilities that allow for “publishing” data publicly .
There is also the capability to organize data into “projects” without changing their stored location.
Document “snapshots” address the desire for version control.
In order to gain better insight into user behavior, preferences and frustrations, I conducted an online survey utilizing google forms.
Though this survey was mostly instended to gain insight into general usage, I also proposed some of the features I had been originally envisioning and it emerged that these features weren’t really a priority.
It seemed users wanted to resolve frustrations with current options more than they wanted new features.
User Survey Insights:
More detailed analysis from my survey can be found: here
After performing some initial broad research, I narrowed the competitors that I wanted to analyze more closely down to Google Drive, Pinterest and Dropbox.
Results of my analysis:
Google Drive: dominates the cloud storage landscape. It offers a lot of functionality especially for creating content. Though it seems to have a minimal interface, with very few design elements, the interface is very cluttered and confusing with way too much going on. Moreover, users tend to use separate applications, like Kep for notetaking and Photos for images. These types of data are not integrated with the other content. Also, organization and display of data are not intuitive.
Dropbox: focuses on uploading and storing content. Though they recently introduced Paper, to compete with Google’s content creation functionalities, they are known for storage and better organization. While dropbox has a far more intuitive interface and organization system, it doesn’t have the added functionality that Google offers and it’s quite expensive if you want to add more than a minimal amount of content.
Pinterest: differs from Google Drive and Dropbox in that its focus is on linking to “found” content. It is used primarily for bookmarking images on websites, to be used for inspiration and reference. It has limited organizational capabilities and doesn’t offer storage solutions for uploaded files or content creation.
More detailed analysis from my competitive and SWOT analysis can be found: here
From my analysis, three types of users emerged:
Persona #1: Steve - programmer "I don't want to have to talk to anyone"
He currently uses Google Drive and Keep for both work and home. He does a lot of collaboration with co-workers, but not in person if he can help it. He would like better collaboration capabilities like group sharing.
Can’t easily tell what files are shared with who. Hates having to interact with people to ask them to do something related to a shared file or folder. Can’t easily give notes or comments.
Persona #2: Kendall - blogger “I have way too many apps and don’t know what is where”
She currently uses Google Drive, dropbox, keep, pinterest, pocket and evernote both professionally and personally. There is a lot of overlap between her personal and professional life and she needs to access everything from everywhere. She wants all her data in one place and ORGANIZED!
She hates having to jump between platforms to find files or share with people or the public. Most of the apps she uses have a very confusing interface. She can’t easily tell what she has shared with who and who has access to what.
Persona #3: Jennifer - professor “I wish I had an administrator at home”
She uses Google Drive, Dropbox and Apple iCloud for both work and home. Collaboration is an important feature for her professionally and personally for her joint household. She loves having an administrator at work who keeps everything organized and would like some project management functionality for her household.
Her personal documents are unorganized and all over the place. She just doesn’t have time to keep track of everything. Wishes everything were in one place and she had more controls over sharing and organizing.
With these personas in mind, I compiled a list of User Stories to determine the types of tasks that would be included in this product. High and medium priority tasks that define the minimum viable product (MVP) are:
Full list of user stories available: here
Based on my low and high priority user stories, I created user flows for the MVP. Starting with sketches:
and moved on to draw.io for final flows:
Using my content strategy document and sitemap as a guide, I began sketching wireframes for each user flow:
Early wireframe sketches: here
Seeing everything mapped out visually, encouraged me to make some structural changes in order to facilitate better organizational possibilities.
This led to an early set of digital wireframes, created in Figma.
Preliminary digital wireframes: here
I imported my wireframes into inVision to create a lo-fidelity prototype for testing. I conducted a series of Usability Tests utilizing the prototype and a test script.
Tests were conducted both in person and remotely, using zoom. Feedback indicated that a few changes, predominantly to naming and language, should be made.
Summary of findings from preliminary Usability Testing: here
Step 1: Logo and Style
After making many lists and brainstorming a number of ideas, I decided on the name “Gather.” The fact that gather was a verb rather than a noun suggested taking action.
It also has an implied social component, an opportunity to share.
In order to minimize clutter and to present a feeling of ease and order, I chose a very minimal and clean style.
Full Branding Summary: here
With the name settled and good sense of the “feel”, I moved on to sketching for a logo:
All sketches, mind maps and brainstorming lists: here
Preference tests for my initial digital designs indicated that I was going a little too “crafty” or “heavy” in my design and this did not align with the branding goal of minimal and modern.
More iterations and testing, led me to a final, streamlined logo and style:
Step 2: Style Guide
My style guide details all design choices including typography, color palettes and iconography. Again, the basis of my design was keeping everything as clean, simple and minimal as possible. The interface is mostly white and grey, with little pops of soft tertiary color when accentuation is needed.
I used three sans-serif font families, for a clean, modern and geometric look and feel.
I used many icons from the open-source icon set ion icons, with a few modifications where lines needed to be simpler and cleaner.
Full Style Guide: here
Applying the principles of my style guide to the wireframes I generated initial screen mockups.
Desktop Screens v01:
Mobile Screens v01:
Using usabilityhub.com and slack, I conducted a series of preference tests on my early mock-ups.
Which mobile toolbar is most effective and gives sufficient information?
The most popular choice was B. Users indicated that they did not need to be reminded on every screen which app they are using, and keeping the toolbar simple and less cluttered is more effective.
At the very top of the screen, which design is best for indicating the chosen filter?
Though A. was my original design, B. was chosen by 100% of my test participants.
Which bottom navigation for mobile is most effective?
The majority of users chose C, indicating that the orange button stood out more and distinguished it from the other options, which are essentially about location rather than action.
Takeaway: These preference tests were a valuable lesson in the delicate balancing act of keeping things simple, while also providing sufficient information and cues.
The results of my preference testing, along with some suggestions from senior designers led to a second round of mockups. Below are just some of the implemented adjustments.
Progression of mobile bottom sheet (and icons/folders.)
Originally, I was trying to offer too many options on my bottom sheet. I wanted maximum functionality. But, tests showed that users had trouble finding what they were looking for. I had too many options and I was also not leaving enough room around the different options.
I decided to stick strictly to the “Miller’s Law” recommendation of +/- 5 items at a time and reduce some immediate functionality, in favor of clarity. I also created a larger sheet for more “breathing room.”
Progression of desktop “create” menu:
I decided to similarly reduce the options on my desktop menu.
Again, it was a decision to sacrifice some immediate functionality in order to minimize cognitive overload.
With these design changes applied to my prototype, I went into a final round of Usability Testing. Though all participants generally found it pretty straightforward to perform the requested tasks. The patterns that warranted some revision were:
Through many hours and iterations, there were valuable lessons learned at every step in the process. Some key takeaways: