NCP Connect

The Project

For: Carnegie Technologies

Request: Design a consumer app that fixes common internet connectivity issues with Carnegie’s network technology.

My role: UX designer for the project. The UX team lead helped me with design reviews and stakeholder meetings. Another designer did the initial stakeholder interviews, user interviews, and early wireframes.

Background

Typically, the NCP suite is sold to mobile network operators and large enterprises to help them improve their users’ mobile experience. There are several components to the platform, notably:

  • Connection Management: avoid getting stuck on slow or unstable Wi-Fi networks
  • Link Aggregation: combine Wi-Fi and cellular networks for faster speeds
  • Gapless Handover: intelligently transition between Wi-Fi and cellular to avoid interruptions

The team wanted to explore opportunities to now offer this technology directly to consumers, in the form of a native iOS and Android app.

User Interviews

Initially, the product team wanted to focus on a specific problem scenario: dropped calls on voice and video calling apps (like FaceTime, Skype, Zoom, etc.) during transitions between Wi-Fi and cellular networks.

To get a better understanding of this problem, another UX designer, Nathan, conducted 5 user interviews. Here are some of the overall insights we gathered from these interviews:

Personas

I felt we had enough research to start creating personas to represent different potential user groups. Based on the user interviews, I broke down the users into 3 different groups.

The one thing that stood out was how people with different data plans acted differently. If someone has a small data plan, they don’t want to waste any of it to save a little inconvenience. However, someone with an unlimited data plan wouldn’t care if they used extra data to improve their experience.

Design Goals

Based on direction from the product team, I began exploring how we could use our existing technology to solve the following problems for users:

  • Dropped calls on voice & video apps
  • Getting stuck on slow or unstable Wi-Fi

The technology mostly works in the background to solve these 2 problems. So the important questions to consider when building this app were:

  • How can we explain to the user how the technology works?
  • How should the first time experience flow work?
  • How do we show value to the user, after they install the app? How do they know it’s working properly and helping them?
  • What does the user care about when they open the app later?
  • What level of freedom / options do we want to offer the user?

First Prototype

Now, I started building a high-fidelity prototype for the app, holding regular design reviews with engineering and product, and quickly iterating on feedback from the team.

We ended up shelving the “preventing dropped calls” feature for the MVP, and focused on preventing users from getting stuck on slow or unstable Wi-Fi.

User Testing

Now that we felt we were in a decent place to move forward, I pushed for the team to run user testing with our prototype. After comparing various options, we decided to run 3 remote user tests with UserTesting.com.

Goals:

  • Determine if users understand the value the app provides
  • Discover any usability issues in the interface
  • Determine if users find an app like this useful

We screened for users who had experienced specific problems with Wi-Fi on their phone. I watched the user testing videos and compiled a report outlining specific recommendations to address issues.

Results

  • Overall, users seemed to have a good first impression of the app’s design and understood the “sticky Wi-Fi” problem.
  • However, there were some confusion about what the app actually does and there are some UI usability issues we should fix.

Recommendations

  • Have a clear one-line explanation of what the app does for the first screen
  • Reword some explanations and menus, as some were unclear to users
  • Add a “call to action” button in the empty state in Wifi favorites, since all users tried to tap the star with the plus sign.

Research Survey

Before moving forward with software development of the application, the product team wanted more data to validate the business case.

We decided to run a survey to understand what problems users currently experience with internet connectivity on their mobile phones. I did my best to keep out leading questions and “would you” questions, as these types of questions will only bias the results.

This was our survey plan. We would reach out to 100 random users through a service called Pollfish.

Here are some of the major takeaways from the survey results.

Our main takeaway from the results was that inconsistent Wi-Fi connnections were the most common issues with users. Another interesting result was that Android users tended to be more frustrated by this problem, and they experienced it more frequently.

Implementation & Iteration

The project was approved to move forward to the development stage, however, the team wanted to take an iterative approach to building out features and release an MVP as quickly as possible.

We had to decide what features to cut to shorten the development timeframe.

Proposed MVP 1

  • Keep onboarding flow
  • Keep permissions flow
  • Simplify interface into a simple on/off switch

After consulting with the team, they wanted to move as fast as possible, so to cut down on UI work, I created an alternative prototype that could be built using native UI building blocks without any custom UI development work.

Proposed MVP 2

  • Keep onboarding flow
  • Keep permissions flow
  • Simplify interface into native UI building blocks - like toggles, cells, tabs, etc.

As the development team worked in agile sprints to build the MVP, I supported them by providing assets, answering questions, and quickly iterating on the design based on technical constraints. “Handoff” is not a one-time event, but a continuous process requiring input from product, design, and engineering.