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Concept Explorations

One of my favorite parts of being a product designer is exploring new concepts and working with clients to realize a shared vision – straddling the threshold between "what is" and "what could be".  It's messy, at times scary, and always satisfying.  The vast majority of concepts never make it off the whiteboard or sketchbook, so it's a rare treat to showcase some of them here.  This is a collection of the most resonant ideas to surface from a client engagement with a major greeting card manufacturer.

 


VERSATUNER

After much discussion around how to offer card customization while still respecting the expertise of those who marry art to verse, we arrived here.  

This feature would allow the user to select from a limited sub-set of verse options — pre-approved by client SMEs to properly align with the associated card art — using a dynamic slider with two appropriate adjectives.  The adjectives can vary, depending upon the nature of the verse options associated with a particular card.

This exploration paradigm can also be expanded to the card browse experience, where there is only one verse option for each card the slider would dynamically change the cards served up for browsing and selection.

 

WINGMAN

Never miss an anniversary, birthday, or mother’s day again and send an awesome card quickly to that special someone in your life. Easily enter or import events into app, and receive notification two weeks before the event to send a card.  Once you are ready to send a card the simple UI will give you cards to choose from that meet your needs without having to hunt.  You also have the option to pre-select and customize cards, and “queue them up” ahead of time for each recipient — the system will still notify you two weeks in advance, but all you need do is review the card and confirm delivery.  

SUIT UP

As the target audience for this app is primarily men, the overall style of this app would have a slightly higher level of polish - a black-tie version of the core app experience, if you will.

BUILT FOR SPEED

This app is all about making the user look like a rock-star with minimal effort. Concise questions will quickly guide the user through tasks like adding a recipient or choosing the ideal card.

LESS IS MORE

Personalization and customization would be minimal, compared to the core app experience, with standard personal message inclusion, and the improved sender-signature feature.

REMINDERS & NOTIFICATIONS

These would be tied to events or reminders the user adds to the app manually or import from other sources (Facebook, iCal, etc). This app would override standard notification protocols for the device, setting an alert two weeks before an event or important date to ensure ample time for printing and delivery after submission.

 

CYRANOTE

Those who are familiar with the legend of Cyrano De Bergerac know that there are two types of people in the world — those who always know what to say and those who struggle to find the words that capture what they’re feeling.  

Do you always feel like you are struggling to tell that special someone how you feel, but the right words elude you like a needle in a haystack?  Cyranote to the rescue!  Simply enter a few words that describe what you want to convey and the app will do its magic, delivering verse options that eloquently capture your true feelings.  And no one needs to hide in any bushes.

Cyranote’s “fuzzy-logic” search engine helps it determine the best verse options based on the criteria you provide.  The more the user provides, the better the result. Once the user has chosen a suitably resonant verse, (s)he can “send” it to any of the affiliated apps.  The capabilities of each app will determine how the verse is received — one app may simply display a selection of card art that matches that verse, while another may give the user the option to create a fully custom card.

 

The above concepts were part of a larger workshop and subsequent presentation to client leadership.  As part of the story, I crafted this depiction of where the different ideas would live within the client's device ecosystem, to help with context.  The two axes represent specific speculative aspects of the user experience – how easy or hard it would be for a user to accomplish core tasks, and the amount of time those tasks would typically take.


CARD GENERATOR

This experience is all about gathering data from the user, and the people in their social network, to dynamically create compelling “starter” cards from relevant postings and images.

We are focusing on Facebook initially, as this is the most common nexus for connections, photo-sharing, and digital relationships, but can incorporate other services like Twitter, Tumblr, Instagram, Flickr, etc, as we move forward with the feature-set.

The goal is to serve up a set of auto-generated cards, based on a logical application of relevant Facebook content into the most appropriate card framework, allowing the user to send a custom card experience with little or no fuss.

 

USER DASHBOARD

The hub of the experience, this is the 20,000ft view of the events in the user’s social network.  Connecting to Facebook grants the app access to the user’s content, friends list and events.  Important dates tied to Facebook friends are highlighted on the monthly calendar feed at the top (along with major holidays and any events from the user’s iCal, such as an anniversary.

The lists at the bottom are linked, and adapt to each others’ selected state. 

For example, if the user selects “anniversary”, the friends list will automatically scroll to and select the person the user is in a relationship with on Facebook.  The friends list is also multi-select, allowing the user to send a card that consists of content related to all selected users.

 

CONTENT SELECTION

Once the user chooses one or more friends and/or an occasion, the app will serve up both the user’s content and any content related to the chosen friend.  The app can also pre-highlight or “suggest” certain content elements based on their relevance to the relationship or the occasion (e.g. pictures of the user and friend together, winter pictures for the holidays, pictures of the friend with his/her kids for mothers/fathers day, etc.)

The user can select as many content elements as they wish, and the app will make determinations as to which card formats/layouts are presented on the subsequent screen.  There may be a need to limi the number of selections, based on how the card frameworks are being managed. 

 

CARD OPTIONS

After a brief intermission for some “behind-the-curtain” magic, the user is presented with X number of card options, which can vary in both size and form-factor (folded/flat, rect/sq, gatefold, accordion, etc.)  The number and style of cards presented are determined by the framework engine analyzing the volume and mix of content selected, and making decisions around optimal layout solutions.  If the user alters the selected content load, the card options dynamically change as well.

The user can fully manipulate each card in digital space (zoom, rotate, open, etc.) before making their final selection.

 

LIVE PREVIEW+TWEAK

Once the user selects a card from the presented options, they will have a nearly 100% complete card.  In theory, the user could send the card as-is by clicking SIGN & SEND.

As with the card options view, the user can fully manipulate each card in digital space (zoom, rotate, open, etc.).  The top menu and card-tweak option areas are collapsible to make more room to view the card as large as possible on the tablet screen.

The tweak options provide quick and easy access to a handful of enhancements for the chosen card.  Additionally, the user can tap-hold on the card to re-arrange the placement of content on the card (similar to how users re-arrange app icons on iOS.