COLAB5 - WEB APP

Team Amplifyy

A centralized platform for users to access relevant resources to support the AAPI community.

Product Process

Background

Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders have a deep-rooted history of being subjected to racism, prejudice, and violence. According to the Center for the Study of Hate and Extremism, violence against AAPIs in major U.S. cities increased by 169% in the first quarter of 2021. Amongst this, women reported hate incidents 2.3 times more than men (Stop AAPI Hate National Report, 2021). In Canada, over 1,150 cases of racist attacks have been reported since March 2020 (Fight COVID-19 Racism, 2021).

Now, more than ever, it is crucial to amplify the voices of AAPIs. Despite an unprecedented surge in awareness campaigns, fundraisers, and articles combating against anti-Asian hate crimes, a significant gap remains in bridging information silos across disparate sources. Additionally, there is a need to establish a central source of truth for AAPIs and allies to quickly and effectively find the resources they need to take action.

Given the aforementioned issues, the main question we aim to answer is:

“How might we show information that resonates with the Asian American and Pacific Islander community so that we can empower them to easily and quickly make actionable choices to inspire positive impact?”


User Discovery Process

During our discovery process, we leveraged both primary and secondary research to understand the AAPI media consumption landscape. Through user interviews (n = 8), a survey (n = 47), and user empathy maps, we discovered that our users are typically between ages 21-39, tech-savvy, and tend to read and trust news from online sources, including major news media outlets (e.g. CNN, NBC News), social media (e.g. Instagram, Twitter), AAPI websites (e.g. Next Shark, Cold Tea Collective), and more. Specifically, these users can be categorized into two main segments:

1. Compliant Challenger:

Individuals who passively consume information through social media channels. Despite being aware of ongoing social injustices against the AAPI community, they feel overwhelmed by constant negativity within the media landscape. This results in a sense of burnout and helplessness, preventing them from actively reading the news. These individuals seek for simple and intuitive ways to stay informed on the latest AAPI news.



2. Active Advocate:

Individuals who actively consume AAPI-related information and seek credible resources (e.g. AAPI news outlets, academic articles) to validate information. These individuals have high self and social awareness. They take action by sharing AAPI information and resources, initiating conversations within their social circle, or providing monetary contributions to AAPI campaigns.



Landing on the Solution

Initially, our team envisioned a mobile application that provided spotlights for AAPI businesses. By introducing a platform to showcase positivity in local AAPI communities, it would enable users to feel less overwhelmed by negative news and contribute to promoting AAPI achievements, culture, and heritage.

First Pivot:

Through conducting a competitive analysis on existing neighbourhood applications, we realized that it would be challenging to differentiate our product from established incumbents like Yelp within the six-week timeframe. Therefore, we pivoted our solution to a mobile news application that aggregates relevant information to support the AAPI community. This would be done through 1) introducing a curated news feed for users based on their unique interests, and 2) creating a resources catalogue that would provide a collection of links that contribute to supporting, educating, and donating to local AAPI causes.

Second Pivot: 

Two weeks before the end of the program, one of our developers rolled off the project due to personal health issues. Consequently, we were heavily impacted from a resourcing and timeline standpoint. To address these challenges, our team pivoted from a native mobile application to a mobile-first web application. Ultimately, this enabled us to play to our strengths, contain our product scope, and develop a robust MVP by the end of the program.


Design and UX Process

Amplifyy was built on the key design principles of inclusivity and accessibility, as we aspire for users to feel safe and confident when using our product. To achieve this, we considered:

  1. Ease of navigation: We wanted to simplify as much as possible the user experience of navigating and accessing relevant information, including a collection of resources to support the AAPI community.
  2. Minimalist interface: We strived for a minimalistic UI and UX for enhanced readability. This resulted in a black and white UI with colour accents on key information (e.g. tags, headings, call-to-actions).
  3. Vibrant and professional branding: Based on initial survey results, 72% of participants are Millennials or Gen Z. Therefore, to appeal to this demographic, we positioned our product as a modern, serious, and trustworthy platform.

Throughout the design and testing phases, we went through numerous iterations. The following diagram illustrates our process:


From Pain Point to Solution

The following diagram summarizes how we addressed user pain points by converting them into product features:

The Solution: Introducing Amplifyy

Amplifyy is a mobile-first web application that provides relevant information and resources to support the AAPI community. The front-end was built using ReactJS and MaterialUI, and the back-end was built using ExpressJS and PostgressSQL for our database. Additionally, we leveraged Contextual Web Search API to return search queries for the AAPI community.



There are four key features in our product launch:

  1. Onboarding new users: A personable introduction that welcomes users to the application and prompts them to select their favorite topics. 
  2. Curated news feed: Upon choosing interests, users will be presented with a personalized news feed with relevant articles that relate to their topics. This includes article titles, recency, source, bookmark, and estimated reading time.
  3. Single article views: Users can click into specific articles of interest directly in the application. This built-in article view also enables users to share or save specific articles.
  4. Resources catalogue: To provide users with a collection of resources that support the AAPI community, we also built a list of carefully curated resources that enable users to take action. These include AAPI fundraisers, health and wellbeing, film and literature, and more.


Step 1: Choose Topics

Step 2: View Curated News Feed

Step 3: Read Articles

Step 4: Access Resources Catalogue


Achievements:

Initially, our goal was to reach 75% positive ratings in these areas: Informative, Actionable, and Helpful. Based on our high fidelity user testing (n = 9) results in Maze, we achieved the following metrics:

  • Total Recommendation Score: 100% (users who would recommend this product to a friend)
  • Average Informative Score: 92% (how valuable users found the aggregated news feed to be)
  • Average Actionable Score: 92% (how quick and convenient it was for users to find relevant resources)
  • Average Helpful Score: 91% (how useful and good users felt overall when using the product)
  • Average Misclick Score: 2.4% (average percentage of clicks outside Maze hotspots)


Moreover, we also received the following feedback when we asked users if they would use the product:

  • "Yes! This app is very simple, elegant, and straightforward to use. A variety of topics is covered and users can easily personalize their news feed by selecting/filtering the topics that interest them the most!”
  • "I would recommend it to a friend who's interested in being more involved and informed in the AAPI community. I like that you can customize your dashboard to see topics you're interested in, and the list of resources are helpful as it can be difficult to vet resources online."
  • "Yea, since I can't think of any other AAPI-specific platforms, other than just twitter/instagram hashtags.”



What’s Next?

Looking ahead, our team plans on further enhancing our product by refining the news feed and aggregated news sources, extending the resources catalogue, and introducing additional features such as a discover section. Our goal is to scale our product to more users and make an impact in the AAPI community by creating a platform for individuals to listen, learn, and educate themselves on the diverse culture of AAPIs.


Learnings

PM's Learnings:

Michelle Chen

  • I learned how to drive the overall product vision and strategy from idea to execution.
  • I learned how to conduct agile sprint planning, story pointing, and feature prioritization for a mobile-first web application.
  • I learned to leverage quantitative and qualitative data to derive both implicit and explicit user needs, converting them into compelling user stories that fuel our product features.

Designer's Learnings:

Gerald Tung

  • I learned how much iteration goes into an end-to-end project. From discovering our problem space, to user stories, designs and final development.
  • I’ve also learned to focus more on the learnings discovered through the research and discovery phase, rather than the final deliverable.
  • I learned the value of collaboration. Bouncing off ideas and asking for my team’s input definitely helped us create designs which align best with our problem space and proposed solution.

Developer's Learnings:

Traci Hudgins

  • Simple & immediate communication is always better. It’s easy to get lost in the weeds of things that happen in different languages that make a change easier or harder to implement.  I found it way more effective to just quickly assess whether it was an easy or complex change and if it was still feasible. 
  • Mapping out your entire product development backlog makes it easier to appropriately plan sprints. I definitely got behind by not reaching for enough in the earlier sprints while we were still finalizing our solution.
  • I learned about the importance of timing myself. I now keep a pomodoro timer up with labels so I can better gauge how long things take to implement. It is more helpful in sprint planning to be able to realistically timebox tasks in a given sprint.

Developer's Learnings:

Full Team Learning

  • Collectively, our team learned to be realistic with our product scope to develop a MVP. Initially, we had ambitious goals for what we could deliver by the end of this program. After numerous pivots, we identified the importance of being pragmatic with our estimates by focusing on core user pain points.
  • We also learned the significance of frequent and transparent communication via asynchronous daily stand-ups in Slack, recurring and ad-hoc check-ins, and weekly sprint planning sessions. These strategies enabled us to reduce miscommunication, streamline product direction, and align on overall expectations.
  • Lastly, we learned the importance of onboarding all team members to the problem space early on in the program. This would equip everyone with sufficient context to provide informed opinions, and it would extend the timeline for team members to brainstorm, develop, and iterate on a robust solution.