Taskly facilitates teacher collaboration, communication, ideation and creation. It allows teachers to work together with their colleagues on an ongoing basis - sharing ideas, scheduling face to face meetings, and keeping an open archive of resources at their disposal.
Teachers have a crazy number of things to do in a limited time each day. The most important of these is is coming up with effective ways to engage students in learning, something that unfortunately at times gets relegated to the back burner.
I designed Taskly as part of a user experience course through Career Foundry. I worked independently, with support from my mentor. The goal was to design a project management application that solved a problem for a specific population of users that was viable from a business perspective.
Understanding the Competition & Defining Business Objectives
I started with a content analysis of two of Taskly’s competitors, Basecamp and Asana. This helped me to understand how industry professionals were approaching the challenging task of facilitating online communication and collaboration. I followed it up with a competitive analysis to begin to understand my competitor’s take on the market. I used this information to draw up SMART goals and formulate my business objectives.
The first thing I wanted to figure out was whether teachers would be interested in an application for collaboration and creation and if so, what sorts of features would make the process easier for them. Through a Typeform survey I was able to determine if they already used any sort of collaboration or project management tool, whether they thought it would be useful, and if they were to use one what they would like it to do for them.
Most teachers I surveyed said they would be open to the idea. They could use help organizing individual and department tasks, scheduling meetings, communicating with parents, sharing resources, sharing student progress, and connecting with one another.
Many of the aforementioned tasks can be accomplished with a project management application. However, if we start getting into communicating with parents or integrating student grades, things could get a little more complicated. While parent communication and grades are important (and I can see how it would be great to have one application that does everything!) I decided to stick to tweaking rather than adding to my original MVP. I did this for two reasons. First, I wanted to keep the application simple to use and easy to build. Second, I wanted to keep the focus of the application on collaboration, communication and creation.
Talking with Teachers
While insights from the survey provided a good jumping-off point, I wanted to talk with teachers and see what they were having difficulties with. I was curious about what they wanted to know, do and feel. A couple themes emerged: communication and time.
A day in the life of a teacher can be hectic. Often they go from class to class and meeting to meeting with little time to reflect or follow up on either. Finding time to meet with colleagues who have differing schedules is a challenge.
Email is another pain point. Some are cc-ed everything under the sun while others find they are left out of the loop because they are not cc-ed in. Then there is the constant searching for documents that have been shared through email and determining if they’re the correct version.
I learned that teachers want to create better learning environments for their students. They’d like to know what their colleagues are doing that works. They’d like to work more efficiently. And, like most of us, they’d like to feel like what they are doing is making an impact.
The User's Journey
Creating a customer experience map helped me to identify potential touchpoints people may have while using Taskly and at which interactions they may feel highs and lows allowing me to focus on improving the key moments.
Using the information from my interviews, I defined several user groups with varying needs within my initial population — department leaders, administrators and the largest group, teachers. Across all three groups, the main concerns were: the ability to communicate with colleagues, to track and complete tasks, and having time to plan together.
With my personas in place, I redefined my MVP and began thinking about what sort of business model would work for this population of users. I kept coming back to this idea of early adoption of small groups of teachers that later spreads to departments and is potentially adopted by an individual school.
Now that I knew the purpose of Taskly, it was time to design the outline of the application. I made a rough outline of Taskly’s navigational structure, and tested it with a few users using a card sort. I wanted to see if the word choice and structure made sense to people. Some parts did. Some didn’t. So, I made some changes. I had to remind myself to keep it simple.
As I began writing the content I was thinking about how I wanted teachers to feel when they used the site. I wanted the wording to be approachable, friendly, non-intimidating, and informal. I purposely left out educational jargon that often pervades educational products. I wanted teachers to feel like I knew them a bit — where they are coming from, what their pain points are, and what they want to accomplish. I wanted it to be different…a tool not built for administrators but for teachers…not built for testing but for collaboration…not built for monitoring people but for meeting them where they are.
Starting with mobile, I designed three versions of Taskly — mobile, tablet and desktop. I began with rough sketches, which I refined into paper wireframes. I then used those initial wireframes as a starting point for the digital design in Sketch. Below are the mobile sketches for adding a task.
Testing with Paper Prototypes
After many revisions of the prototypes I was ready to start testing them out with users. I administered two tests. The first with paper prototypes and the second digital, using InVision. I wanted to see how people were able to navigate the site, which interactions they found easy, and which they struggled with.
Mapping User Flows
While by organizing the user journeys for the test, I identified some inconsistencies and errors I had missed on digital version of the prototype. This helped me to answer my own question, which was why was I testing with paper prototypes when I’d already made the digital interactions in InVision? Now I know. Through each I was able to observe the same interactions from a distinct perspective. (Although, next time I’ll test the paper prototypes before I build the digital wireframes.)
User Interface Design
Once I had made corrections based on the results of my user testing I was ready to begin breathing some life into my black and white prototype. I carefully selected the color scheme and typography. Then I compiled a style guide for Taskly using visual hierarchy to emphasize important actions users may want to take and allowing them to find what they are looking for more easily.
Since this was to be a responsive application, I designed for mobile first. Below is a prototype of two user flows, adding a task and starting a conversation.
Add a Task
Post a Message
As the design went from low fidelity to high, it became slightly more simplified and streamlined. Each redesign forced me to reconsider how each user action was connected to the next and to make small tweaks to refine those interactions. Here's a snapshot part of the process - from first digital iteration to final UI.
Landing Page Design
The landing pages for the application were the last thing I designed. I spent some time reviewing similar services to see how they presented their offerings and what was effective. Keeping users in mind, I wrote several versions of the copy. I also gave a lot of thought to the pricing structure, as I know that teachers do not have a lot of expendable income and of the little they do have, they have likely already invested a fair chunk of it in resources for student learning. You can view the interactive prototype of the desktop version on InVision.
Results and Reflections
In classrooms all over the world, teachers are still using task management and document sharing software that has been designed for business men and women. There still doesn’t exist a software that is designed specifically for teachers to communicate and collaborate. As such, Taskly currently has no direct competitors. Moreover, the smart education market is predicted to grow by more than 500 billion in the next 2-3 years.
Once on the market, Taskly would do well to target early adopters and get as much feedback from them as possible. One probable growth scenario would be the early adoption by small groups of teachers that spreads to departments and is potentially adopted by individual schools and later whole school districts.
To measure the success of Taskly in enabling teachers to collaborate and create resources for learning, I would track a number of metrics. One metric would be the amount of time spent using the application. Another would be the number of colleagues they collaborate with. Finally, we could measure the number of documents users are sharing. Additionally it would be interesting to see, whether teachers are promoting the application to their colleagues and whether they have more time for innovation in the classroom.