PROBLEM: How to proactively help men who do not want, or think they need mental health support?
SOLUTION: Create a platform for men to socialise and set group health, fitness and work goals.
During the UX course we teamed up with developers for a Hackathon to assist a new NGO, MAN.ORG, in their work to proactively prevent suicide in men. Male suicide rates are alarming high, in Australia the number of male suicides is 3 times higher in males than females. Statistically an Australian commits suicide every 3 hours.
Many NGOs are tackling this issue, but very few initiatives are taking a proactive stance. MAN.ORG believes that this preventative approach could be effective and were given two days to create a working prototype that could help them perform this work.
Right away we identified some major hurdles:
With only 48 hours to deliver a prototype there was no time for extensive research. Our approach was to identify the most effective programs currently in place and see if there was a way we can augment them digitally.
This lead us to the ‘Men’s Shed’ programs which have proven to be effective and bringing men together to support and assist each other.
This is further supported by our research into the concept of ‘The Third Place’ coined by sociologist Ray Oldenburg. The ‘Third Place’ refers to a space that is not the home and not work, but a place where people can be social and feel safe to pursue community building activities. This sort of space has proven to be effective for improving community bonds and mental health.
Our solution was to create a web app that allowed men to form groups and set team goals and events. A strong sense of camaraderie has seen many men through their darkest hours and we believe that it can work effectively here.
Being a web app it is also more easily accessible, and we believe that encouraging men to support each other would be more effective than prompting a man individually. Men are also quite task and goal orientated which we think this leverages quite well.
The ‘Third Place’ app will be a platform that men can come together to set goals and support each other. It is a positive and safe space, where the focus is not on preventing depression, but to help each other be the best version of themselves.
The platform is designed for men to organize into small close knit groups, they will be someone designated as the administrator and they will have access to a dashboard that will allow them to set group goals and events.
Each member will also have their own control panel to monitor their goal progress and active events or challenges. We also added a self reporting feature where they can update how their feeling in the 3 core areas of fitness, mental health and professional goals. These values are the three pillars that MAN.ORG would like to focus on so this ties the platform to their organisation very well.
The key to this self reporting though is that the results are only for the user to see and no one else. Instead the figures contribute to an overall group score so people can see how the group is doing as a whole.
What this means is that users don’t have to feel pressured or be singled, but at the same time can make any issues known so that it can be addressed.
As it is a hack-a-thon project we weren’t able to test this solution, but it was well received by Man.org and we would like to think that if implemented this has the potential to improve the lives of the men of who use it.
Use the link below for a copy of our presentation
Problem: How to Monetise Medium when users don’t want to pay for online content?
Solution: Grow the user base by improving service and build trust through a transparent donation model, then develop a revenue stream through educational products and services.
MEDIUM, an online publishing platform founded by Evan Williams has a problem. Like Twitter, which Williams also played a key role in developing, Medium is very popular and has millions of users.. however it does not have a monetizing strategy and is in danger of being unsustainable.
After a brief experiment with branded content and native advertising, the executive team decided that the approach was not in line with the values of the platform.
Our brief was to develop a monetizing strategy for Medium, one that was also true to their core values.
Monetizing online written content has been a problem that many established publishers have struggled with for a decade, and we only had 3 weeks to come up with a solution.
No one wants to pay
One of the key pillar of the Internet is that information should be freely accessible to everyone. For content producers that means that charging people for online content, particularly written content, is going to be difficult. Despite people understanding that paying ensures quality, it is not something the majority of the people wants to do.
We sourced and arranged interviews with numerous Medium users as well as sent out an online survey to gain as much insight as we could. In particular we were looking for people who have written blogs on Medium as we hypothesize that people most likely to pay to use Medium would be those that were most active on the platform, or at the very least what solution or feature we add would have to be implemented by them.
A key insight we uncovered was that users were struggling to find good articles after reading the initial one that brought them onto the platform. Without being able to retain readers it was certainly not justifiable to charge them to use the service.
Aside from user interviews we also looked into a number of articles, industry reports and reputable blogs concerning online publishing, as well as exploring some analytics around Medium’s online presence and usage.
The research revealed some glimmer of hope for Medium’s monetization. As much as people were resistant to the paying for content, there was also a clear growing appreciation for quality. In a landscape saturated with biased reporting, clickbait, fake news and branded content, there was a real desire for a trustworthy platform.
There was a real opportunity for Medium to grow. Positioning itself between social media and an established publisher, Medium could leverage the strengths of both. It just had to find a way to sustain that growth and find a workable revenue stream.
Online publishers have tried various payment models over the years, subscriptions, paywalls, freemium were the usual approaches but one company had an intriguing new model – micro payments. Instead of monthly subscriptions users can pay a tiny amount for each article they read, and via the platform had access to a large number of publishers’ exclusive contents, without having to commit to multiple subscriptions.
I arranged a phone interview with Adam Mather, Senior Vice President of Product to get his expertise on the online publishing market. His insights was invaluable in understanding the market and demographic of people who were serious about online content.
From all the research I created 3 personas (scholar, seeker and surfer) to reflect the main types of users on the Medium platform. Each one had a distinct level of engagement and different needs. What they had in common was an appreciation for Medium’s core values and ease of use.
These personas gave us a focus point in our solution ideation. What would work for them? How do we turn the casual 'surfer' into an interested 'seeker' and finally into a devoted 'scholar'?
In a surprising development, about a week into the start of the project Medium launched their Subscription model. At $5 a month users would have access to exclusive content and features. The public reception was mixed.
This was somewhat a vindicating moment for our team as it confirmed much of what our research was suggesting. Also quite a number of new features listed were things that we identified as needing improvement and have offered similar solutions.
Better Article Search
We decided that we needed to streamline Medium’s interface and introduce features like human curated reading lists, to allow users to continuously read one article after another in order to help them stay hooked on the platform.
The ability for users to create and share their own reading lists also meant that people who weren’t confident riders could still actively contribute to the medium community by curating content for others to appreciate.
We also made a ‘recommendation’ that all the proposed new features in the subscription model be made freely available.
To keep true to Medium’s values we realized that we really needed to employ a donation model, one that has been used successfully on Wikipedia and The Guardian.
Not everyone will donate of course, however with industry standard subscription rate being 3-5% we felt it was not a bad compromise, particularly considering that it proves to user that Medium was committed to it’s vision and values.
The key to success here would be tone, transparency and timing. Techniques like running donation campaigns during peak user periods or during major news event have produced good results for the Guardian, but ultimately it is about building trust between the users and the platform. It’s about laying a solid foundation to grow.
One of the main reasons why people use Medium is to seek out content for their education and development. Whilst we feel that people would not pay for medium’s written content, it is very possible they will pay for courses, events, key speakers and other types of content that can be perceived as a self improvement or perhaps even as a tax deduction. This is a recommendation we would greatly encourage Medium to explore if it wants to generate revenue more actively.
For a PDF of our final presentation please see the link below:
PROBLEM: How to make a traditional Food publisher more competitive in the online space?
SOLUTION: Apply a mobile first approach to redesign the website, grow social media enagement with a dedicated community manager and explore innovative omni channel marketing strategies.
Smudge Publications are award winning food and travel publishers. They bring an authentic knowledgeable voice to the food scene and produce wonderful books that have done well in Australia and overseas.
In 2015 they went online with Smudge Eats, a website to showcase restaurants and recipes for people to know what is popular and trending. Unfortunately they enter a space that is dominated by many established players and they found it challenging to grow their online presence.
So, the question is
‘How do we improve Smudge Eats’ online presence, brand and social media engagement?’
Our first task was a thorough audit of their website and social media platforms. The results revealed that most of the issues could be addressed simply by following standard best practice with backend data management and e-commerce design, but other issues would require a major adjustment to the information architecture.
On social media the situation was a little bit better, the Smudge Team have a good eye for photography so their content looked fantastic, the drawback was that they weren’t able to effectively engage their audience and lead them to use the website.
We were able to arrange extensive interviews with the stakeholders and a couple of the café owners listed in the books, as well as a number of website users. Our priority here was to understand how the business was operating and identify any issues that needed immediate improvement.
A picture quickly emerged of a very warm and friendly relationship between the publishers and the venue owners. The businesses are happy with the way they are being represented and are proud of their involvement. However there were key communication issues that needed to be addressed, particularly concerning promotional campaigns and events.
During the course of project Smudge ran a campaign to promote their new Specialty Coffee book. Some cafes did very well during the campaign, whilst others were not even aware that it was taking place. There were also supply chain issues with some cafes receiving the promotional materials very late and weren't able to coordinate an effective marketing campaign.
Another key finding was in observing how people were using the website, we validated many of our suspicion that the layout could be great improved, especially with the search function. People were confused and had difficulty finding specific items they were looking for. Though the recipe section did quite well.
You can see the website yourself here
We wanted to focus on understanding the key behind the success of other food directory websites. We looked in particular at Urbanlist and Broadsheet, who are virtually neck and neck in their market dominance.
We examined their websites and social media to pick out strengths and weaknesses, we researched the company’s history and founder interviews for key lessons that we can apply to help reshape Smudge and we also examined their analytics to understand their user patterns.
One of the key insight was the importance of social media. People rarely go straight to the website, but rather make their way there after being prompted by content that interests them.
The websites themselves are organised better than Smudge, but also have room for improvements too. If Smudge can offer a faster, more refined experience they might be able to do really well here.
Below is a graph illustrating the user traffic. It is clear that Smudge has a lot of room to grow.
As we consolidated our research we were able to start prototyping our solutions. We redesigned the website with mobile in mind as we discovered that over 50% of traffic was coming from mobile, and this was a key strength Smudge’s competitors had over them.
Then we went through the process of paper prototyping, then wireframes and finally with a
hi-fidelity mock up for our presentation. Running tests with users, re-iterating and refining as we go.
After 3 weeks of research we concluded that we needed to address not only the website, but the social media presence too. We presented Smudge with a three stage solution:
Community Manager – this could be done immediately without any technical upgrade. A community manager is essentially a more proactive social media manager.
Their task is to represent the company in it’s interaction with their social media user base, as well as coordinating and driving promotional campaigns.
Mobile First Redesign – Smudge had a limited budget so we had to look at using templates and plugins rather than going the Bespoke website route.
Nevertheless there are many great options that will serve the purpose well until more funds become available.
With the information architecture it was obvious that we would start by having a geo-specific landing page, so users can only see content relevant to their city.
Beyond that it was essentially simplifying the various types of content to create a more refined experience as well designing more seamless cross-selling avenues for their books.
Omni-Channel – Smudge has made some inroads into the Asian market, tapping in the coffee boom that’s happening right across the continent.
To help them make a real impact in this crowded market we explored some more innovative marketing strategies, particularly around QR codes which are very popular in China and will likely increase in popularity here in Australia in a few years.
This part of the solution is mostly speculative as it is beyond the scope of the brief, but we felt it was such a massive opportunity that it was worth investigating.
To see the slides of our official presentation please select the link below. Please