Problem
You are busy with daily life and remind yourself to contact a friend whom you haven’t spoken to in awhile, yet you forget because you are so busy. Weeks pass and in the midst of doing work you remember that you have not contacted this person or heard from them in a long time. At this point, you realize you have neglected this relationship and wish to maintain it better in the future.
Goals
We wanted to create a tool that enabled users to easily understand their interaction behavior via a visual representation of their interactions, and thus help them better maintain neglected relationships. Our solution was to create an app for the mobile phone, as it is one of the main devices used to communicate with others. Additionally, we could use the technology of the mobile phone to visualize historical data of all interactions, aside from face to face meetings.
Method
User analysis & research: Two thirds of social media users state the major reason they use social media is to stay in touch with current friends and family members, while half of users use it for connecting with old friends they lost touch with. These results suggest that users are already struggling to maintain relationships with people in their network before joining social media websites. So how can people better manage their relationships?
Information architecture: Our main goal was to create a visual representation of the user and their contacts in a way that showed the distance between an icon representing the user and the contact as a representation of the time passed since the last interaction. The further the icons were from each other, the increased need to interact with them to bring them closer to you (in the interface and literally). The second goal was to display a historical interaction log between the user and the contacts. The last goal was to enable users to easily get in touch with their contacts.
Wire-framing & Prototyping: Our first prototype was developed to see if users understood the visualization presented to them and the first stage of interaction with the app. Paper sketches of the screens were designed and photographed to be used in POP (a mobile app prototyping tool). The photographed screens were then used in the initial wire frame.
Usability evaluations: We conducted three usability evaluations: user testing, heuristic evaluations, and an online survey.
User testing: Our usability test with users included observation during exploratory and tasks oriented exercises, followed by a survey.  The prototype was enabled on a smartphone (through POP prototyping tool) which provided a better base for touchscreen interaction and gestures. In this way a user could better experience how the app should work on a phone and experience gestures that can not be easily understood with paper prototypes. This was especially important for ReConnect’s main screen whereby a user should be able to understand how to navigate the main screen (with pinch and pull gestures) without explanation.
Heuristic evaluations: We had two expert evaluator groups, whereby we presented our first prototype used for the first evaluation, along with updated screen designs addressing the implications for ReConnect based on the results of the first evaluation. We gained feedback pertaining to learn-ability, ease of use, effectiveness, flexibility, and user interface design.
Online survey: Before developing our second prototype, we needed more user feedback to establish if the ideas we had in mind to implement would be feasible solutions to the complex screen showing social interactions in relation to historical interactions and physical distance between the icons. The survey contained four proposed versions of this screen and participants were asked to select preferences in terms of understandability. They were asked to select which images they did not understand and explain why.
Results
ReConnect displays a visualization of a user’s interactions, which is supposed to help the user becomes aware of who they have been in contact with over periods of time. As a result of our 1st evaluation, 86% of our tested users claimed ReConnect helped them become aware of their neglected relationships, yet the visualization screen was not understood. Further our third evaluation revealed that this screen was not understood by 44% of our survey participants.
Lessons
For this project, we had an idea to show a representational screen of social relationships comprising of circles (small and big) at certain distances from the center icon representing the user. We thought this would be easily understood, but found out it was not through usability evaluations. The screen also included a rather unfamiliar interaction – both which should have been addressed in the evaluations. It would have been useful to have users involved in the design process from the beginning - with a design thinking workshop, a focus group, and some interviews. 

Recorded user test. 

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