Céline Thibault

Researcher/UX Designer, Realme Social App

Researcher & UX Designer, Realme Social App

Realme is a hidden world layered over the real world. It's an interactive mobile app that helps teens build courage to say how they really feel by giving them an anonymous and super-local space to share among peers.

Talking with Teens

Designers, Misty Nickle, Philip Koske, and I began our work by interviewing 15 teens in Austin, Texas, to understand what it's like to be a teen today and how social media plays a role in their lives. Teens are facing the same challenges we did when we were in high school. They are in a new place with new rules, trying to fit in but also carve out their own identity. They're stuck between the adult world and child's world and no matter which way they go–they're wrong.

Layer social media over that. Social media has done so much good–opening teens up to a broader world. It also helps them stay in touch with friends and family. Unfortunately, social media also complicates things. Teenagers are expected to participate 24/7 and they're hyper-aware that the decisions they make, because of social media’s permanence and publicness, can follow them around indefinitely. They are using the same tools adults are using–this is not the kid version, and they're having to manage their identities.

Being a Teen, Right Now

Teens are hacking digital tools to create space for safe emotional exploration but those tools are still falling short. Patterns emerged across their stories and work arounds and provided insights into the challenges they're facing. Insights translated into design implications. We articulated a clear problem and value statement from our insights and used the design implications to guide our next step, ideation.

Ideation, Protoyping & Usability Testing

We began broadly, hand drawing over 150 initial concepts based on the stories that resonated with us. Some were physical products, some events, others were digital services. We filtered them through the design implications and refined the ideas that rose to the top. Then we crafted scenarios to place teens at the center of the concept. How would they use this thing? And what value would they receive from using it?

We completed two rounds of usability tests using paper prototypes. We sat down with teens and gave them a goal to accomplish. Our job was to observe their experience as they externalized what they saw and perceived. Our aim was to document critical failures in functionality and to test whether or not the value was achieved.

Our first round yielded multiple failures and brought us back to the drawing board. We iterated on the design twice before our second round of testing. The initial round also brought up questions of participation–will teens actually use Realme?

Our second round of testing was totally different. Dani, a sophomore at a local high school said, "You can use this to talk freely and you don't have to worry." She told us she'd use it to connect with people at school that she didn't normally talk to. The value was there. Now it was time to refine the visual design.

Prototype I

Walk through Jane's experience as she creates a realme and posts it at school. One of the teens we interviewed told us a story about changing friend groups in high school. It wasn't a choice to leave the first group–they sort of nudged her out, but in the end–she connected with a great group of friends. In this prototype Jane leaves an anonymous message for her first group of friends.

Feature Flow I

You can follow the same flow on the graphic below.


We piloted Realme in 4 schools: on UT's campus and in 3 high schools. Our aim for the UT pilot was to test if someone would engage with an anonymous prompt. We had 63 people go through a painstaking process of texting a code to a sticker, receiving a url, going to that url, reading the other posts, and figuring out how to post themselves. We were shocked that 35% of the visitors actually posted. This proved that young people would actually use Realme. Some posts toyed around with humor while others were more of a release–college students sharing things they might not tell a friend.

Our pilot at the high schools was designed to test if teens would not only post to an anonymous sticker but we also wanted to test how an emotional prompt would affect the nature of their post. The stickers read, "I feel _____", "I am _____", "I think ____". They proved, whether good or bad, that emotional prompts to evoke emotional contribution.

Journey Map

We utilized a journey map to layer all 4 pilots and to visualize what we learned. Journey maps are sense-making tools to help you articulate your product or service's emotional experience. Our journey map, created by Misty Nickle, helped us understand that despite having countless exit points, teens and college students are still very interested in a product like Realme, and that–the area we want to focus on testing in our next pilot revolves around the participatory middle and the end state.

Next Steps

Realme was created by myself, Misty Nickle, Philip Koske, and Seph Reed. We'll be building out the native mobile app in Summer 2016 and piloting in 3 Austin high schools in the fall. Want to get in touch? Email realmechat@gmail.com.