Free Space

It’s hard to plan a meeting with more than two people. Schedules don’t line up, and it can take forever to find common availability. This is the problem my partner and I were trying to solve.

The result: Free Space, a quick way to find a time to meet.
Contributor / Role
Christopher Clarke / Developer
Graham Connell / User Research, UI Design
Project Type
Personal Project
Timeline
2 Months (1-2 Days/Week)

Process

Empathize: Interviews
Define: Personas, Affinity mapping, Empathy Mapping, Competitive Analysis
Ideate: Brainstorming, Low fidelity prototypes, User Feedback
Prototype: User Flow, Sketches, High Fidelity Prototype
Test: Usability Testing
Two phones displaying scheduling app

Research

I spoke with 10 people, to get a sense of how they currently plan meetings, be it a casual meeting, or for school or work. It became clear that people either went back and forth via messaging or used Doodle to pick a time.

I conducted competitive analysis on Doodle and a few other meeting planning tools to see how they solved for picking a time, and what features they had. I found most tools either just used a poll to pick from a few finite options, or they would schedule according to one person’s calendar. Neither of these options solved the problem we were trying to tackle, so we knew we had something.

Through the interviews, I also identified two groups of people: the leader, and the attendees. The leader takes charge and follows up with everyone to make sure the meeting happens. The attendees range from highly involved to being difficult to communicate with.

We learned that our tool would have to prioritize speed and ease of entry, so it wouldn’t get ignored by attendees and save group leaders time.

Prototype and Testing

We went through a few rounds of prototypes to narrow down our design focus and feature set.

First, we conducted a low-fidelity test to validate that we had come up with the right feature set and to find sensible defaults. Testing revealed that we had included all the main details, but someone suggested a way to quickly get everyone to fill it out when a group is formed (e.g. during class when a group project is started). We added a QR code after the meeting is created, so there would be an easy way to plan the meeting right away.

Phone displaying scheduling web-app mockupPhone displaying scheduling web-app mockupPhone displaying scheduling web-app mockup
Low Fidelity Prototype

The next problem we had to tackle was the availability entry screen. As a mobile-first product, we had to find a way to display 24 hours' worth of availability on a small screen. We identified two methods; the first is similar to how calendars work with vertical blocks, the other had an infinite slider for each day. Testing the two options made it obvious that the calendar method was much preferred because it was familiar. I referenced Google’s material design spec to figure out the spacing of the hours.

Below are the prototypes for the time entry.

Finally, we built a high-fidelity prototype and went through testing. Users really liked the interactions and knew exactly how to use the product with no instructions, so we considered that a job well done.

Phone displaying scheduling web-appPhone displaying scheduling web-appPhone displaying scheduling web-app
High Fidelity Prototype

What I learned

I learned about the importance of scheduling and organizing a team (even if it’s just 2 people). The main issue with this project was scheduling meetings. Having two people work in their free time between school and jobs makes for a slow-moving project. We could have benefitted from regularly scheduled meetings, and keeping a shared document with project timelines. Too bad we hadn’t built Free Space yet, it would have been useful for us! I became much more fluent in the tools and language to discuss the product with users and a team through this project.

This was my very first UX project, so I was learning on the job in both research and prototyping. The biggest issue came around setting expectations at the beginning of interviews and prototyping sessions. I didn’t do a good enough job telling people what the goals were and what we needed from them. I now have a much better handle on how to kick things off for user testing and how to get people to feel comfortable speaking candidly about my designs.

It was exciting showing people work-in-progress designs and just getting to talk about the process. Though I was the only designer on the project, having another contributor to bounce ideas off and to talk about the little details was really exciting for me and allowed for a better design. Teamwork rules!

Results

This project is meant to be built at some point, but my development chops aren’t up to scratch to build something like this and both my partner and I are busy with finishing up school.

Regardless, here is a video runnning through the product.

(I’ll update this if we get Free Space built at some point)
HomeProjectsBlogAbout