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Mission Control

Collaboration with a fellow UX Designer to create an app to educate and delight middle school students on NASA/JPL missions. Using Design Thinking we created a prototype with market research, competitive analysis, user interviews, and testing multiple iterations. Adobe XD x NASA/JPL Creative Jam design sprint completed in one week. 

Middle school students in the US and UK are more likely to aspire to be social media Influencers than pursue a career in space exploration. Mission Control will be an age-appropriate tablet app that is fun and interactive.  

Role:

  • Co-User Experience Designer

  • User Interface Designer

  • Co-Researcher

Tools used:

  • Pen and paper

  • Adobe XD

Mission Control Home Screen mockup on a tablet

Time Management & Planning

With only one week to complete the project we immediately created a schedule in Adobe XD to ensure we met our goals. We listed the tasks needed to have a successful high-fidelity prototype and divided them up. This way we both knew what the other was working on remotely and did not have to worry about tasks being duplicated (wasting precious time). Our methods proved successful and we were able to test and iterate multiple times before submitting our project a day early.

Day 1-2: 

Day 3: 

Day 4: 

Day 5: 

Day 6: 

Research; Market, Competive   Analysis, User Interviews, Artboard Creation

Persona, User Tasks & Flows, Low-Fi Prototype Testing

Finalize Style, Content, High-Fidelity Prototype 

High-Fidelity Prototype Testing, Feedback Implemented 

Finalize design, Quick Test, Submit Project

Image by Jeremy Perkins
Image by Jeremy Perkins

INTO THE UNKNOWN 

Image by Jeremy Perkins

Market Research

Middle School students are faced with a new set of pressures transitioning from Elementary school. Not yet teenagers, but no longer wanting to be treated like little kids. With more extracurricular activities available to them their interests will be developed. Yet at the same time, the social pressure to fit in is increased. Social media apps lead the in both most downloaded and screen time, contributing to social pressures. 

Top 3 Most Used Apps:

  1. TikTok* 

  2. YouTube

  3. Roblox

*Although there are age restrictions on some social media apps, preteens can still gain access.

Competitive Analysis

7 educational Space apps for iPad were analyzed, as well as related websites.

 

Key Takeaways: 

  • Not interactive or fun

  • Content is too young, "kiddie"

  • The target audience is too mature

  • Complicated material not explained well

  • Too focused on one aspect of space

For our target audience, content needs to be engaging, interactive, and fun. Complicated material needs to be explained in a way that respects their intelligence without being too kiddie or mature.  

User Interviews

Based on our limited time, three interviews were conducted with our target audience by my teammate and I. A teacher was interviewed for insights into the psychology and behavior of middle school students.

Key Takeaways: 

  • Must be interactive

  • Fun games

  • Engaging videos

  • Age-appropriate

  • Easy to navigate

  • Gamification: ranks

  • Personalization

 

Specific Content:

  • Space (of course)

  • Past, Present, Future

  • What are things made of

  • Celestial Calendar

Research
Image by Jeremy Perkins

PRIMARY PERSONA

Screenshot of a persona breakdown for a Mission Control user
Image by Jeremy Perkins

PREPARING FOR LIFT-OFF...

Based on our brief and user interviews we zeroed in on the primary features that we could accomplish in the week. Continuing our collaboration in AdobeXD made it easy for us to keep each other up to date. In addition, we created "sticky notes" that would stand out against our data and the growing number of screens I was creating. 

Screenshot of working doc discussing possible features, content, and wishlist items
Image by Jake Weirick
Mission Control Lo-Fi Universe Screen

I created a quick low-fidelity prototype that my teammate tested to validate our ideas and flows. With feedback in hand, I began to create more detailed layouts, UI elements, and additional recommended screens. My teammate searched for appropriate, open-source images for our app. We knew in a time crunch creating images was not reasonable. 

Low-Fidelity Universe Screen

My teammate also provided content (I occasionally simplified terms). She created an Artboard with each section labled. Having all the information in one AdobeXD document made it extremely efficient for me to drop this information right into the corresponding wireframe. It was a tremendous time saver. If at all possible I try to avoid Lorem Ipsum. 

High fidelity prototype screen of the Universe page of Mission Control

High-Fidelity Universe Screen

Low to High Fidelity
Image by Jake Weirick

SEATTLE, WE HAVE A PROBLEM

User Testing
Image by Jake Weirick
Image by Jake Weirick

Following testing, in our daily check-in, my teammate informed me of the feedback. The overall design was well-received, but just one thing...

"How do I go back.."

The importance of testing can not be overstated. Without this feedback, our design would not have become as intuitive and user-friendly as it is now.

High fidelity prototype screen of the Planets page of Mission Control

Where's the Navigation?!?

No Longer Lost in Space

I quickly fixed our navigation problems by adding a menu overlay to every screen. Back buttons were also added to easily return to previous content. Those combined with in-page buttons created a level of access where all features can be reached with minimal clicks or interactions.

 

We quickly retested with the updated prototype and success! After we both looked it over and agreed it was ready the project was submitted. 

Click to PLAY Mission Control's Navigation Walkthrough

Prototype Walkthrough
Image by Kai Pilger

This project was my first collaboration with someone I had never met. Before starting, we had one video call to get to know each other and understand the other's process. Throughout the project, we kept communication open and clear. Having someone to bounce ideas off of, keep biases in check, and share the workload created a space for us to thrive as a team. We all bring our lifetime of experience to our work and it was truly an honor to work with Anna.

FUTURE EXPLORATIONS

After some time to reflect on the process and design, there was one feature that I regretted not spending more time on before submitting. That feature was the idea of a Student Space Ambassador achievement. In our research, it was found that social media apps dominated the world of preteens. In a study, it was found that U.S. children were more likely to aspire to be an influencer, than an astronaut. For those reasons creating the ability for our users to "rank up" and become informational influencers would be a great way for students to get personally involved and work towards an achievement.

Click to PLAY Mission Control's Ranks & Profile

Once unlocked, Student Space Ambassadors could create content that is shared on the app. This could be a video DIY project or a talk on their favorite space subject.

Future Iterations
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