RECORDLY: THE ESSENTIAL JOURNALIST TOOL

Overview

My team worked with Recordly, a start up founded by four communication major students from the University of Missouri-Columbia. They created initial designs for a cross-platform thats assists journalist with recording and transcribing interviews through automated speech-to-text technology, IBM Watson. We conducted extensive research on their current mobile designs and provided new designs for smart watch wear.

Client
Role

UX Research, Strategy and Design

Timeline

3 weeks

Tools

Sketch
Axure RP
POP by Marvel
InVision

THE BRIEF

The Recordly client was interested in further developing their recording and transcription application that was conceived over the last year. They currently had an interactive prototype for a few of the key areas of the application, such as voice recording and viewing a transcription; however, these areas required user testing and additional research.

For three weeks, my team performed usability testing and additional user research on the existing prototype and new functionality recommendations for both the mobile and smartwatch app. We provided enhanced information architecture artifacts, along with wireframes and an interactive prototype that made Recordly an exceptional recording tool for any user.

UNDERSTANDING OUR STAKEHOLDERS' MAIN DRIVERS

Our team understood the mission of Recordly based on personal experiences with manually transcribing user interviews for UX research. In our initial kick-off with the primary Recordly stakeholder, we wanted to get the ball rolling. Their team shared existing artifacts available, including domain research and an existing interactive prototype. Recordly saw their greatest differentiator as offering a better automated transcription services at lower costs.

Recordly's original screens prior to DESIGNATION.

Even with our prepared questions, we were still unable to understand the company’s true drivers moving forward. It was clear that we needed more insights into the areas our team could provide the highest value. We scheduled meetings with the Chief Technical Officer and Head of Design. Our hope was to better understand the current state of the company’s strategic direction.

Having prior extensive client management experience, I understood the preparation needed for these meetings. We had specific information we aimed to learn from each stakeholder as summarized below.

The stakeholders reiterated their interest in end user feedback on the existing prototype. Also, there were new areas of interest that they wanted us to research, including transcript payments and on-boarding.

Understanding the stakeholder goals, we assessed the optimal direction for Recordly. Three primary goals became clear for us to move forward:

User testing needed for existing prototype.  Recordly integrated features believed to be highly valuable needs for journalist. The proposed features and current workflow warranted feedback from potential users.
Recordly needs increased qualitative field research for interviewing. It was important to validate the interviewing process of journalists. We needed to answer more than only the question of whether Recordly saved its users time in interviewing and publishing work.
Understand potential users outside of journalism for Recordly. Recordly research artifacts identified their interest in learning if Recordly could be of value to other professional areas such as medical and research.

RESEARCH & STRATEGY

With goals cleared, research was the next step for our team. Our research efforts included user interviews, domain research, and additional competitor analysis. The team delegated efforts to create the formal research plan and confirm scheduling of participants.

For this project, I increased my responsibilities with the formal documentation of the research plan. My primary responsibility was to create the content for various sections outlined. (i.e. purpose, objectives, assumptions and research questions). As the primary owner, I ensured our deliverables provided clear insights and consistency across all sections. From our insights gathered, we defined our research questions and objectives:

  1. Who are the intended users for Recordly’s various platforms?
  2. Why and how are potential users currently sharing transcriptions?
  3. What are the primary needs from an instant transcribing service across industries?
  4. What are the current frustrations with automated transcribing and call recording services? This includes pricing, functionality, and transcription accuracy.
  5. What are the users’ current frustrations when personally transcribing?
  6. What are the current processes and tools used by potentials users to record and transcribe interviews?

In addition to the research plan, we conducted a call recording competitor analysis. The Recordly team expressed this as a high area of interest for our team.

The diagram above shows the four direct competitors identified with call recording for Recordly. In particular, the RecorderGear represented the handheld recorders on the market. A key takeaway from our analysis showed there were very few mobile platforms offering both call and voice recording functions.

From our competitor analysis, we learned that there were not any current single mobile applications supporting both call recording and standard voice recording features. Also, we learned that most of the call recording applications did offer usage fees compared to the general voice recording applications.  These applications also used third party services to conduct the recordings which Recordly needed to consider when implementing call recording functionality.

User interviews were pivotal in understanding the direction taken with goals and research questions. From speaking with journalists we learned that every journalist had the same goal of creating the most genuine and comforting environment with for their interviewee. After journalists completed interviewing their interview, we learned the process used to pull their stories would differ.

Here is one of the journalist we interviewed. We quickly learned the unexpected schedule of journalists and typically had to do many of the interviewing remotely.

The individuals we spoke with gave us a better understanding of how Recordly currently met their needs. Moreover, we received insights on the beginning-to-end process for journalists creating stories.

Journalists typically interview, analyze, then use important findings to write stories.  They all incorporated a variety of tools such as audio recorders, mobile recording apps, and hand notes.
Full transcriptions are not that important.  Interviews surprised us by saying there wasn’t always a need for transcriptions when publishing. Sometimes only recordings and notes were needed.
Manual transcribing takes an extensive amount of time.  It absorbs time from other high priority responsibilities.
Journalists using automated transcription services need them to be 95% accurate or else they’re useless.
Me and my team member James Niekamp are tirelessly reviewing insights pulled from our interviews and tests.

DESIGNING WITH CONSTRAINTS

With such a large amount of data from our interviews, it was time to synthesize our insights and determine our new direction. It was during this time where the team had differences on the priority of accuracy with IBM Watson. IBM Watson provided Recordly a way to offer their automated transcription services at a lower cost with higher accuracy than many competitors.  It was important to ensure Recordly met the expectations of potential users with automated transcription services. If users had a negative experience, this feature alone deterred users from returning back.

Our team completed several tests using audio recordings for interviews with IBM Watson services. Our findings showed that IBM Watson provided only 40 - 80% accuracy. We agreed with this conclusion; however, we shared differences on how to design with this constraint. I believed it was better to continue moving forward with this an important insight and work with Recordly to determine next steps. Part of the team believed it was more important to recommend Recordly completely reconsider auto transcription services offered in the tool.

Our team moved forward presenting all insights, including those from our IBM Watson testing. We agreed with the client to continue with designs that included transcription with IBM Watson.

THE RECORDLY USER AND JOURNEY

Aside from the question of IBM Watson, we wanted to have a clearer understanding of our user. Is Recordly for every journalist? Defining a user persona helped Recordly understand their niche market within journalism. Our interview participants included researchers, freelance journalists, and television and print reporters. There were a few key takeaways gathered from our interviews.

Based on these insights, we envisioned the Recordly primary user as “the strained journalist,” Allen. Allen seeks the most important information—“money quotes” and may or may not have identified them during the interview. In some cases, he needs to quickly review the interview recording and find quotes for his analysis to create compelling stories.

We believed there was more about Allen that could demonstrate his mental model with interviewing. This helped the client understand the different stages of activities we learned journalists underwent. Our team knew providing a journey map allowed us to represent the two scenarios we identified with Allen and similar journalists.

"I tend to transcribe the entire interview. You never know what you might need."
- Tahairah, Freelance Journalist
"I constantly hearing for things that make my brain go, PING!"
- Sally, Newspaper Reporter
"I'll only transcribe the parts that I know I'll use in my story."
- Ryan, Freelance Journalist

Our data showed that users spent time on activities or events occurring “before”, “during”, and “after” the interview. These created two typical processes:

For both processes, we evaluated the pain points and level of happiness during each step of the journalist interviewing process. By creating a user persona, we understood who we envisioned Recordly for. The journey map helped us understand the pain points for the journalist. These pain points presented the areas of improvement for Allen’s interviewing process.

We needed to clearly define success for the users. With various steps for users within the interviewing process, we wanted to keep in mind where the pain points of the users were; but also where Recordly could be optimized within the process. The Recordly team believed their transcription service was their greatest asset; we identified a problem larger than that to solve:

Journalists pull important quotes from interviews so they can tell honest and compelling stories. How can we help them capture the most important information from their interviews with accuracy? How can we help them find the information that they captured with speed?

This provided a path for our team to explore various design concepts that encompassed the entire interview process. Recordly is the solution to help users find interview information; even when they were unsure what they were looking for. In addition, this messaging helped vocalize the opportunities we saw for Recordly and journalists.

CONCEPT IDEATION AND TESTING

With our problem statement defined, we were ready to put pen to paper with our design concepts. We decided to split up to develop divergent concepts, which allowed us to have a good amount of variations test with users. Once we developed three optimal concepts, we tested them to receive insights and feedback on how best to move forward with Recordly.

Before we split up to work on our individual concepts, we created a set of principles that helped to keep us aligned with the ultimate design goals we envisioned for Recordly.

These principles guided our designs to ensure we created concepts that were straightforward, efficient, and seamlessly integrated into both identified user processes.

Using 6-8-5 sketching, we came up with potential concepts that we thought could address the problem identified by users. We discussed the concepts sketched after each round. We found our concepts were very divergent and they addressed different pain points identified across the entire interview process.

Three concepts survived our thorough feedback discussion. We proceeded with these prototype concepts for further development. The concepts did not focus on the same areas of the interviewing process. Instead, we relied on user testing to guide us with the higher-value concept.

Prototype #1:  Preplanning Segments

I created this concept keeping in mind the "pre-interview" process. Users can pre-plan interview recording segments based on discussion themes or questions. The user may move through segments in the default order or jump around as needed while recording. The prototype offered automatic transcriptions for individual recorded segments and complete recording. This design allows the user to set up pre-defined topics for an organized recording and efficient review after the interview.

Pre-plan interview segments based on topics or questions.
While interviewing, the user can move through segments to organize recording.
Transcriptions are available for individual segments or entire recording.
Begin new recordings from saved pre-planned segments.


Prototype #2: Remote Timestamps

This concept focuses on processes during interviews. Users can use a writing pen or Apple Watch application to record timestamps during an interview along with audio recording. The timestamps captured are organized within the audio recording file. This remote design creates a less-distracting experience for the user while interviewing. For testing purposes, we provide test participants a pen to imagine the mental model of pressing a device to capture the timestamps. For testing the watch remote concept, we instructed users to tap their wrist whenever they wanted to capture a timestamp. Although these weren't ideal methods, it helped us assess the user's mental model with both concepts.

Keeps the timestamp action to one hand for minimal distractions.
Using a smartwatch is for the user who is taking minimum notes and relying on devices for capture notes.
Organized audio recording timestamps, including the full recording for post interview review.
User can transcribe individual timestamps and/or the full recording.


Prototype #3: Searching and Highlighting Transcripts

This concept focuses on the post-interview process. The user sees a preview of an automated transcription with the option to buy a full version to ensure accuracy. After the interview records, the user has various features to make the transcription review process easier. The user has keyword and timestamp search capabilities, and advanced highlighting options for efficient note capturing.

Users can preview the transcript prior to purchasing for accuracy verification.
Easy search available with keywords and timestamps for purchased transcriptions.
Organized audio recording timestamps, including the full recording for post interview review.

User testing was the only way to understand how our concepts measured against journalists’ true needs while interviewing people. Users had a neutral response to my concept of preplanned segments. Test results showed that users believed this concept was a great way to prepare for interviews.

With that said, users were not sure how practical it was during an actual interview. Also, users thought it would be ideal for longer in-person interviews.

Overall key insights from all of the concepts testing:

As much as I wanted to continue with prototype 1, it was clear from user feedback it had a greater chance to disrupt the natural flow of an interview. We decided as team to continue without the pre-planning segment in its entirety.

FINALIZING A SINGLE PROTOTYPE 

From testing, we understood the strengths and weaknesses of our proposed concepts. We focused on enhancing the remote time stamps via the apple watch and new recording and transcription capabilities. I focused my design efforts on two areas of the application that both the Recordly client and users mentioned as an important component of interviewing: active call and voice recording.

Our testing feedback provided a significant amount of data to support that helped our designs for the new Recordly. Next, it was important to return to users to understand the success of the redesigned prototype. We wanted to focus our feedback on:

With this round of tests, we realized we needed to rework the navigation, because I noticed users having a difficult time moving between new and saved recordings. I  began exploring alternative navigation options and even referred back to competitors Dragon Dictation and Evernote. With our quest to streamline Recordly in mind, I designed a bottom navigation bar to improve these areas of function. This new feature still warranted user testing for feedback.

From test results, users expressed satisfaction with the prototype. They felt the call recording was very useful and ability to preview the transcription was impressive.  Users enjoyed the ease of capturing timestamps during the interview but expressed the need of a better search function to review them. The bottom navigation had positive reviews and it was suggested to hide when actively recording to avoid mistaken taps.

The users we spoke with did a fair amount of phone and in-person interviews. The new Recordly design provided users with easy toggle between the two primary functions.

On-boarding was a critical component for the call recording functionality. It required multiple actions from the user outside of the application. With returning users in mind, the design and functionality needed to be comprehensive but not intrusive.

The active call recording function initiates from the Recordly app and uses a third party toll free number to record the call on the phone app.

The voice recording function allowed the user to have three easy and primary CTAs. With three separate buttons, the user could pause, create timestamps, and end recordings. The design provided better visibility to the action needed in case the user was not holding the device.

WRAPPING UP RECORDLY

We provided a new interactive prototype along with annotations and next step recommendations to our Recordly client. New functionality such as advanced highlighting features were noted with recommendations in the deliverables.

There's still much more to see in our Recordly prototype. Click below to see the complete interactive prototype.

Our next step recommendation for the Recordly team included:

CONCLUSION

Throughout this project I learned the importance of adequately on-boarding for users. When you are introducing new or unfamiliar concepts, it is important to set users up for a successful experience. It was evident through user feedback and the number of design iterations of the on-boarding section, that users will not spend much time with on-boarding. As a designer, I will strive to design on-boarding experiences that are comprehensive, concise, and adaptable for both new and returning users.