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.