Olive Branch is a communication tool that makes it easier for loved ones to reach out to each other after a conflict.
The desire for human connection is a core human need. However, when couples fight, that empathic connection to each other is temporarily lost which can lead to a further breakdown in communication. While most market offerings attempt to directly resolve the conflict, our team was curious about how effective communication techniques can help couples stay in connection with one another in these moments of disconnection. Our hypothesis, inspired by Marshall Rosenberg’s Nonviolent Communication, is that helping couples re-establish an empathic connection to one another first would help them reconcile more effectively.
Our Problem Statement
How might we help couples re-establish an empathic connection with one another after a conflict, so that they can communicate more effectively towards resolution?
As our research relied on participants speaking openly about this topic, our team utilized qualitative research methods to learn how users cope after a fight. We conducted 10 user interviews and generated the following key insights:
1. We validated our problem space:
- Fights are followed by a short breakdown in communication.
- People are highly motivated to eliminate these uncomfortable moments and to start the reconciliation process.
2. Partners are emotionally disconnected from one another after a fight
- Participants described feeling “angry”, “frustrated”, and a sense of “hopelessness” toward their partners.
3. People lack the emotional bandwidth to effectively resolve the issue and have a productive conversation with their partner immediately after a conflict.
4. People tend to seek support from 3rd parties (e.g. experienced friends, parents).
5. One partner needs to take the initiative to jump-start the reconciliation process. This doesn’t always go as planned, especially if both people haven’t had adequate time to “cool off”.
Explanation of the Solution
To solve these user pain points, we developed Olive Branch, a web-based app that allows users to deliver compassionate messages to their partners after a fight. Users provide their basic information, upload their favorite photo as a couple, and record a voice memo for their partner. Users then can preview a personalized “Olive Branch” message before sending this to their partner as a text message or multimedia message.
The outcome of Olive Branch is not about encouraging partners to respond. Rather, the aim is to remind the users (and their partners) of the commitment and trust embedded in their relationship. By restoring their emotional connection to one another, couples are more likely to start communicating and taking a step towards reconciliation.
Lofi & Hifi Mockups
Iterative Design Learnings
Lo-fi prototype testing revealed that users felt overwhelmed by the amount of information on key screens. As our team refined our design, we kept this feedback in mind and strived to develop a minimalistic and relaxing user experience.
High-level journey of a request
Users navigate through the app in a linear way, providing content such as photos and audio which can be sent to their partners via SMS/MMS.
What was the hardest part of development?
- Deciding on the tech stack based on the timeline and technical scope of the product
- iPhones not being able to natively play mp3 files directly on messaging app
Does your app have any scaling issues?
- Cost of maintaining an app with MMS features.
- Since we focused on creating a web-based application, we need to make our application accessible on different devices through responsive design.
What are some key takeaways?
- Don’t be married to a singular vision for implementation, because chances are that you’ll have to make multiple pivots and changes along the way.
Our team will continue to improve our product’s design and usability based on the user feedback that we gathered when testing our product. Our priority is to implement a responsive design so users can access Olive Branch across different devices. Next, we plan on addressing usability issues such as adding a “back” button and allowing users to verify the information they provided. As we continue to improve our user experience, we intend on developing additional features that will allow our users to customize their Olive Branch and create more impactful messages.
Product Manager Learnings:
I learned the value of not jumping directly into solutions and really taking the time to adequately explore the problem space. This allowed us to hone in our problem and focus on doing one thing really well instead of trying to mediocrely fix every aspect of a vague problem.
I learned that by involving different functions early in my design process, the team would benefit from a shared understanding of design intentions and constraints. As a result, we were able to communicate very efficiently.
I learned how to simplify and manage our technical scope by focusing on our product’s core features and building from there.
I learned about the roles of a Product Manager and Designer and how their roles integrated with the development lifecycle as well as my developer role.
I also learned how to better gauge time estimation for tasks and to implement new technologies quickly.
Full Team Learning
Before Co.lab, each member of our team worked solely within their discipline and never collaborated in a cross-functional team. Our experience of transitioning from siloed work to being a part of a multidisciplinary team was like changing from driving in a straight line to switching lanes against incoming traffic.
Collectively, we learned that constant over-communication is key to working in a collaborative environment. Individually, we also gained valuable insight and deepened our understanding of one another’s roles and responsibilities.