Project Overview
Case Study
Freelance can be hard and ambiguous..

A highly saturated market pushes creatives away from getting started on the right path, there are also many unknown variables such as instability and miscommunication that further deter them from jumping into the field.

Parallel aims to tackle that issue by introducing the concept of mutual accountability within collaboration. With the ability for creatives to freely express themselves, the app enables discoverability like never before to find the right creative for the right clients.
Roles: UX/UI Design, User Research, Usability Testing, Prototyping, Branding, Marketing

Project Type: Solo Capstone Project 

Tools: Figma, InVision, UX Check, WCAG Accessibility Checker, CSS Viewer

Timeline: 10 Weeks

Platform: iOS/Android/Desktop Web

Early Stage Struggles

Freelancers, especially those starting out in the field have expressed dissatisfaction and discomfort with the setup process, making it a difficult field to make a living out of.

With the lack of a standardized method, freelancers find it difficult to engage the client into the creative process which brings about difficulties when trying to communicate with them and setting expectations to both themselves and the clients.

How might we help new creative freelancers effectively communicate their credibility and expectations with their clients in the pursuit of meeting their creative visions?
Angled Collaboration, Anytime. Anywhere.

Introducing Parallel, a new way to collaborate for freelancers and clients with a focus on mutual accountability.

High Fidelity Prototype
The Impact of Clear Communication

The product of this project comes as a new way to collaborate both flexibly and intuitively.

To fully understand both sides of the same coin, Parallel aims to bridge the gap between creatives and their clients by clearing up the ambiguity of expectations and help both sides fully comprehend their responsibilities in a meaningful collaboration experience.

One of the biggest measures of success of this product would be decreased friction between clients and creatives throughout an improvement in successful project conversions while using the app. As more creatives use the app over time, I also aim to further expand the project to capture talent for clients with different budget constraints, creatives visions and business goals.

Approaching the Problem
The Structure

Approaching this project, I wanted to make sure I was aligning my designs and values to solve problems for real humans. By leveraging the design thinking approach, I structured this exploration to maintain a focus on designing a human-centered solution that is not only economically viable and technologically feasible but also ultimately desirable in addressing my user's needs.

Discover

Diving into the problem space, I first needed to figure out the root cause of the problems in the freelance space..

Industry Struggles
Through some secondary research I found out that the two main issues that arose were..
I then had to make a few assumptions about my users and figure out how best I can tackle this with a clear hypothesis..
Hypothesis
I believe that designing an expressive and communicative platform for new creative freelancers will achieve improved communication between the creatives and their clients. I will know this is true when I see that freelancers are able to freely communicate their creative process and set expectations for their clients, leading to an increase in the percentage of successful jobs and continued partnerships.
Assumptions
  • Lacking industry knowledge - Clients lack industry knowledge and thus are not capable at fully describing their intentions and expectations
  • No standardized method of starting - With low barriers of entry, creatives starting in freelance find it difficult figuring out how to start
  • Lack of homogenized integration system - Unlike regular post-secondary institutions, media schools do not have a standardized means of integrating freelance education into their curriculum and students are left to discover the space on their own.
Define

To truly understand my users, I wanted to get personal with them. Despite coming from a creative background, I wanted to see their struggles through their own stories..

Real Struggles
Understanding Humans
I conducted five one-on-one interviews with users over Zoom and in-person in order to further my understanding of being a new creative within the freelance space. The participants had to meet certain criteria in order to participate:
  • Be pursuing or have recently graduated from a post-secondary institution in creative arts and media.
  • Have shown interest in the past or present in pursuing freelance as more than just a hobby.
  • Have come in contact with clients in the past in regard to freelance work.
  • Have tried to pursue freelance work during times of unemployment.
Dig deeper: User interviews ↗
Key Insights Themes
Affinity Mapping
Through my interviews, I was able to synthesize my findings into 3 distinct themes. With that, I chose to pursue the path of 'communication' as the thematic focus of this project.
Themes
Developing a User Persona

As a result, Chloe Huỳnh was created. She stands as a reliable representation of my key user group of my product; providing consistency to the audience my solution aims to target.

User Persona
Chloe's Experience

To develop a stronger foundation, I created a user experience map, visualizing an an end-to-end experience than an average young creative goes through in order to accomplish their goal of communicating with their clients.

User Experience Map
Ideate
User Stories

Having gotten a better understanding of my primary users, I began to author user stories that reflect on possible features and functions that my design solution may encompass. I did this to fully ideate and exhaust as many options as I could before narrowing them down to functional epics.

Ultimately, the 4 epics I arrived at were..

Setting Expectations for Clients
Educating Clients on Industry Practices
Dig deeper: User stories and epics ↗
Showcasing a creative profile
Building an expressive creative profile
Chosen Core Epic - Building an expressive creative profile

From there, I decided to go with the following encompassing epic and brainstormed more possible functionalities by ideating more user stories within it...

Chosen Core Epic
Task Flow Diagram

By curating a task flow diagram, I then wanted to visually showcase the journey my primary user would take through using my product.

Task Flow Diagram
Design and Testing
Sketching
Exploratory Sketches
With the task flow diagram informing me of my screens, I then set out to ideate further and sketch possible screens that my product could take; focusing primarily on functionality rather than aesthetics.
Solution Sketches
Consolidating my exploratory sketches, I then combined them to make solution sketches to explore before implementing them into a functional prototype.
Prototyping
Initial Mid-Fidelity Prototype - V. 1
Through those solution sketches, I created my first prototype; focusing mainly on functionality and brainstorming possible ideas for more advanced interactions. This was also a point where I also explored possible branding moments with the tone and visual style of my product.
Mid Fi Banner 1

User Testing

10 one-on-one user tests were performed both over Zoom and Discord (video call) that informed me of changes to be made within the first and second prototypes.

This happened in two stages where each stage led to an improved iteration of my initial prototype as shown below.

dig deeper: user test sessions ↗
User Test 1
User Testing Round 1
These tests were to check the interactive experience, usability and heuristics of the Parallel Initial Prototype. All tests took place between March 1st - 3rd, 2022 over video calls.

4 user tests were done with the BrainStation class members with 1 test being with a past user interviewee. I did this to test usability issues through the eyes of a UX student with some insights from the user base as a tiebreaker.

Overall the tests conducted went smoothly and each user was able to complete the entire flow with minimal breaks and stoppages. The linear nature of the flow, along with a strong mental model made the process seem intuitive and predictable.
Revised Mid-Fidelity Prototype - V. 2
With the feedback obtained from the first usability test, I went ahead to make some revisions on my initial prototype.
Mid Fi Banner 2
User Test 2
User Testing Round 2
These tests were to check the interactive experience and communicated purpose of the Parallel revised prototype. All tests took place on March 4th - 5th, 2022 over video calls.

4 user tests were done with past user interviewees and creative students/graduates with 1 BrainStation UX student from class.

A lot of users this time wanted to have a full gallery integration with the system. More specific feedback was provided on the navigation of the onboarding process and some on informational hierarchy.
Revised Mid-Fidelity Prototype - V. 3
With the feedback obtained from the first usability test, I went ahead to make some revisions on my revised prototype.
Mid Fi Banner 3
Deliver and Refine

Branding

Wordmark Explorations

When coming up with a name for my product, I stopped and asked myself

"How would describe the state where clients and creatives are working together?" 

With that, the words/phrases 'Collaboration' , ' In Sync' and 'Mirrored' came to mind. Ideating further, I look over to a trusty online thesaurus and came to partnership, alliance, collusion, and parallel and that's when it hit me: 

When clients and creatives are seeing eye to eye, they are in parallels of one another.

Through that realization, I then started to generate possible iterations of my wordmark.

Wordmark Explorations
Moodboard and UI Inspiration

After two rounds of testing and generating multiple iterations for our designs, we are finally at the point where we can experiment with the visual identity of our product.

More importantly, this marks the beginning of a segment of this exploration within this project that focuses on curating a visual identity for our users. For this exploration, I focused on building a consistent moodboard that resonated with focus, balance and connection while also exploring existing application trends and patterns to create a consistent experience.

Moodboard
UI Inspiration board
Typography

After curating a more contemporary-stationary style for my product, I wanted to choose a typeface that closely matches that tone. With that, I went with Neue Montreal as my primary font and Lora as a secondary to highlight key aspects of my product.

Typefaces
Colour and Accessibility

From my moodboard, I extracted key colours that would match my product's tone in order to create a cohesive experience. For my product, I wanted to go with a slightly playful desaturated look and feel that communicated focus, balance and connection.

View high fidelity Prototype
Parallel - Ready for launch! 🚀

Aside from having a high-fidelity version of my application, I also explored possible mobile and browser web versions of a marketing site that serves as one of the first points of interaction for my potential users.

Unlimited Collaboration Anywhere, Anytime 🏃

Exploring possibilities on other platforms as well, I believe that Parallel would excel on a browser-based platform where it is not only convenient for the new budding creatives but also for the modest entrepreneurs as well.

Laptop Mockup
Reflections and Future Thinking
Key Learnings
So what did I actually learn? 
Ambiguity and Mindset

Prior to tackling these 10 weeks of this capstone project, my method of problem solving has always been a linear path. However, through multiple iterations and ideation within the UX Design process, it has opened up many pathways in how I see the world through an ambiguous approach. While the goal may be the same at the end of the day, there are infinite possibilities in how we can solve a problem in our short but endlessly meaningful lives.

Adapting an MVP (Minimum Viable Product) mindset was also a key skill I was able to take on during the bootcamp as it helped me generate a quick feedback loop to always be refining on my ideas. Moreover, the value of feedback as never been so great and I owe it all to my peers at the BrainStation UX cohort who have carried a critical eye throughout all my projects.
Net Steps and Future
How high can I go?
Having only 10 weeks to undertake this project, I am saddened but optimistic of the future. This only marks the beginning of a lifelong exploration and when given the time and opportunity I would love to explore:
  • The other half of the Equation - Developer user flows for the client and further researching and understanding their needs to build new functions.
  • Continued Testing - Conduct more user tests on the
    high-fidelity prototypes and understand more mental models.
  • Time for a Mascot - Make specialized graphics and motifs to further strengthen my product image and branding.
Sources and External Links