My role: product design, ideation
With 50% of the world’s population with a mobile subscription, mobile is the most pervasive computer platform. However, development for these platforms is still a long process, taking days, months, or even years to create a product. How can we leverage the mobile computing phenomenon to encourage creation and ideation on a much wider scale, allowing people to create their own social networks? We already see this happening in various Facebook groups, where users enact their own rules surrounding what content is and is not appropriate to post. What if they had the option to further customize the way they collected this information?
Inspired by hypercard, as well as drag-and-drop website builders like Weebly, we decided to create a tool that would allow anyone to create or customize their own app through dragging and dropping behaviors into a card. Behaviors are anything that a user can interact with to feed the app data, while cards are simply a defined area on which the behaviors are placed. Cards with similar layouts of behaviors are in the same stack.
Our first idea was to allow users to attach behaviors to messages—an area of tech that is naturally rich in personal content. However, this relied on attaching to existing messenger platforms (before iOS allowed Messenger apps) and it limited the scope of communication as well as the scope of how content could be displayed. It didn't give the amount of freedom or agency to the user as we wanted because it was still constrained to the Messenger app and its format.
This led to our second idea, which used a 3-step process to set up a stack. This followed design patterns that we're all used to seeing—fill out a form and the product is quickly created for you. However, while testing this out with friends, we realized that it still felt a bit clunky. If we think about the social media created today—the proliferation of memes and other quick forms of content—it makes sense to have an interface that conforms to that. Having three separate screens full of forms and toggles made it feel less exciting.
We then landed on this much simpler workflow. The behaviors are added to the card as they add the first piece of content. This allows them to see their content immediately, but also give enough information to the app for it to know how to work the following cards in the stack. It also gets rid of almost all forms, bringing in direct manipulation instead. This allows users to feel more in control over the content they're adding to the card.
Creating the first card defines what the format of all the other cards in the stack will look like. You drag and drop behaviors and/or content into the card, then post it. Users can then post more cards in the stack by substituting the content from the original card with their own.
This workflow allows the user to define the template at the same time as creating the first post in the stack. There’s no unnecessary checklists or forms to fill out before getting directly to the content.
We created a working prototype (no longer working) that we spread among our friends for them to try out. Here are some examples of stacks: