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A product designed for event attendees to have a better networking experience.  

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Timeline: Dec. 2019 to Feb. 2020
Tools: Google Doc, Miro, Photoshop, Illustrator, Figma

My role 

As the sole designer of this project, I conducted UX research and user interviews, and developed empathy maps, personas, storyboards, journey maps, wire flows, wireframes, style guides, UIs, and interactive prototypes

Problem

Networking plays a big role in conference events and tradeshows, but excessive social interaction can be physically and mentally exhausting for anyone. Many people describe business networking as draining, saying it sometimes robs them of the energy they need to work on actual business. There should be a better way for people to network easily and efficiently. 

Hypothesis (HMW)

  • ...recommend attendees to connect with each other based on their needs and interests

  • ...assist attendees to make a plan and arrange their time better for the event  

  • ...help attendees follow up with new contacts and build up relationships after the event  

Solution

Netlink allows users to plan their event schedule before the event date(s), makes recommendations for people to connect based on the information provided, and also enables them to make quick notes about their conversations to help users step out of their comfort zone and make the most out of the event.  

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- Secondary research
- Competitive Analysis
- User interviews

- Problem statement 

- HMW statement

- Affinity map

- Empathy map
- Personas
- Journey map

- User stories
- MVP (value proposition)
- User flows 

- Wireframe
- Wire flow 

- Mood board
- Style guide

- High fidelity prototype 

- Usability testing

  & design critique
- Takeaways

Process 

Now, I would like to show my design process steps

STEP 1. Research

Networking is especially important for promoting oneself or the business of a company. At the beginning of my journey, I was not sure what's the best way to connect people at work or networking events. I did secondary research to learn about how people network with each other. I realized face-to-face meetings lead to stronger, more meaningful business relationships, although there are also people who prefer to connect virtually. 

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"85% people build stronger,

more meaningful business relationships during  in-person business meetings

and conferences."

                                                           

                                                       

Forbes.com

"85% of positions are filled through networking."

               

                             

Hubspot.com

"The business deal close rate for face to face meetings is 40%." 

Virgin.com

Despite the importance of in-person networking for building up a professional network, there are still many people that mentioned they never attend or they don't like to attend networking events. They feel uncomfortable and not confident about networking. According to research papers, 30% to 50% of the population has some degree of introversion. It's harder for many to reach out to people, especially in public. 

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I also conducted a competitive analysis on a few networking apps to understand: ​
 

  • how people connect by using their products 

  • pros and cons of existing products 

  • how these apps can be applied to professional event networking 

  

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After this initial research, I designed a screening survey and conducted user interviews to know what obstacles can prevent people from making new connections. Here are some quotes from interviews I conducted with 8 people, each person being interview for 30-40 mins.​

"It's hard to remember all the conversations I had. It's a lot of work to follow up with so many new contacts after CES." 

"It's hard to fit in since they are all in their 50s and are married with kids. I have nothing in common to talk about"   

                           

"Sometimes I don't feel people want to talk. I embarrassed  myself reaching out to them " 

                           

"The worse situation is when we have nothing much to talk about but I also feel awkward leaving right away. 

"I don't feel comfortable reaching out to people I don't know"             

                                             

                           

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STEP 2. Synthesize research

I created an affinity map to help me extract essential points from the notes taken in interviews. I arranged the problems into categories, and here is what I learned:

  1. People feel uncomfortable reaching out while there is a chance to be rejected

  2. It’s tough to identify who can potentially benefit each other during the event. 

  3. It’s not easy to find a good topic/interests to talk about 

  4. It’s hard for people to remember all conversations they have with new contacts and follow up on time. 

  5. Everyone’s schedule is packed. Time and space are limited during events 

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To better understand the thoughts, feelings, pain points, and goals I've collected from interviews, I created empathy maps.                     I then used all the data I have and created a persona to represent the needs of my users, and the features they may like to help solve their problems.

persona of Netlink users

I also created a journey map that helps me follow the users, including before, during, and after the event.  

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STEP 3. Design (Ideation & Prototyping)

After discovering potential problems by creating a journey map, I created user stories and started to draw sketches to generate ideas and solutions for the problems I discovered. I took these ideas back to my users and asked them how they will rate each idea.

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I put all the possible solutions in a value proposition based on the score to define my MVP. Those features are selected based on feasibility and how much they helped my users boost self-confidence. I also created initial user flows to help me understand how users can complete the key tasks, and how to organize the content. 

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MVP

In the next step, I drew sketches on red routes and conducted 5 guerrilla usability tests in a coffee shop. My goal is to get quick user feedback and see if people can understand the ideas and the steps easily. These are what I learned:

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  • The event schedule is useful when it's a big event. On the other hand, it will not be necessary If the event is small. 

  • Creating small groups is good for introverts but needs to be in private mode. 

  • The community page can be created to use the same mechanism of creating an event. (Thanks to the feedback from a software engineer.) 

 

Based on the feedback, I redefined the problem to make it clear that the product will be focusing on enhancing people's networking experience for attending conferences and trade shows. I then went back to researching the event planning industry and interviewed 5 event planners, and also created an empathy map (see details) and a user persona for an event planner. 

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The benefit of including an event planner as a stakeholder is that event attendees will be able to access a database of user-profiles and event agendas before the events start. Users can plan ahead which is aligned with our previous plan. Our business model is more clear, too. We will be selling our product to event planners to achieve their goals of engaging their attendees

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Based on the above updates, I developed low fidelity wireframes and held a round of user testing for potential users. I also combined the wireframes and the wire flows to create wire flows for all tasks.  

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Landing experiece

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Arranging event schdule
Arranging event schdule

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Connect experiecne-1

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Landing experiece

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STEP 4. Evaluation

 In order to validate the design by real users, I conducted 2 rounds of usability testings. Users are asked to complete tasks while I observed them remotely and saw where they encounter problems and experience confusion.

Main Findings

 

  • Users have limited amounts of processing ability, and if the product provides too much information at once, it might overwhelm the users and make them abandon the task. 

  • Data collection is more important than I thought since it helps calculate ROI and measure the success of the event. On the other hand, the design needs to give users options to opt-out for data collection because of privacy concerns.  

  • Design related to Information architecture. Users will not send an invite for an appointment without asking/messaging the other person first. 

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 Here are some of the changes I made according to user feedback:

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Before 

After

- Prefilling forms for users
- Only keep necessary columns.

- Mark some columns as optional

- There are too many columns that need to be filled out on the same page

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Before 

- Data provided in paragraphs is not easy converted to useful data directly for analysis 

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After

- Providing keywords for users to choose from instead of asking them to write descriptions

Before 

After

- Move the schedule button to the message page  

- Users will not send an invite for an appointment without asking/ messaging the other person first. 

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To deliver engaging and unique user experiences to my users, I evaluated my design based on the IOS guideline (HIG) as well.

Before 

After

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- Changed the format of the hints  

- Enabled the clear button. 

- Suggested contents shows as buttons 

Before 

After

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- All segments are equal in width

- Segmented Controls are not

equal in width

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Before 

After

-  To scan a tag, an iOS device simply is within close proximity of the tag. It doesn't need to actually touch the tag.

- Users were requested to press a

button to scan the QR code

Main features of the final design

Matching with recommended contacts

Find your match with ONE click!

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You can send a message or add a note to a contact 

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See your potential matches and get ready to connect! 

In a hurry? Use the default template to expedite the messaging process. 

You can also schedule a time and place to meet!

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Arranging schedule 

Connecting contacts onsite

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You can add a session you are interested in, and also arrange a meeting with someone at the event to your schedule. 

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Check who else is interested in the same session.

Want to connect with someone you meet onsite? 

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You can scan a QR code on a badge or scan a business card.

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Check event agenda 

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Reaching out to the community 

Favorite features of event planners 

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Social media handles

Future events promotion

Sponsorship contents 

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Find topics you are interested in and join the group conversation!

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Create a public/private group and invite people to join!

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Below is the interactive prototype of Netlink:

At last, I want to share my mood board which I used to define my ideas and set the tone of this project.

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To create a unified look for this project, I also designed a style guide and updated it consistently until I finished it.

 

I chose teal to be the primary color since teal combines the calming properties of blue with the renewal qualities of green. It is a revitalizing and rejuvenating color that also represents open communication and clarity of thought. 

I also use the orange color which falls opposite of teal on the color wheel which makes them the perfect color pair. 
​I chose a gray color to be the secondary color. I want the design to look clean but with enough highlights to allow users to read the content easily. 


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Takeaways

  • The design should minimize cognitive load. Most users have limited amounts of processing ability, giving too much information at once might overwhelm the users and make them abandon the task. 

  • The event planners also use other systems to manage registration, sponsorship, and more. It would be great if the design can integrate these systems into the admin system later.    

  • The color tones of the product should be able to adjust based on the branding of the event or host. The next step of the development will include developing a few different color scheme combinations that can be used to match any brand/events.  

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