“Entrepreneurship is like sailing, it’s fun at first, but soon you don’t see the shore anymore, and then a storm comes, and the uncertainty turns into fear, it’s trial and error but you might really mess it up.”
This is how Juan, CEO of the start-up Anemo, expressed himself during our first meeting, as we were co-building a User Journey. He was using this sailing metaphor to describe his own entrepreneurial adventure and the one he was imagining for the users he was targeting: they would be highly skilled migrants, or as he called them at other times, extrapreneurs. They therefore risked going through the same difficulties as he did upon his arrival in France. This is the assumption we were given to verify through our User Research.
Anemo is a very young start-up that offers a hybrid learning service (in person and remotely) of Cultural Intelligence, also called CQ. Intercultural skills, which are varied and together form Cultural Intelligence, allow to better communicate, work or sympathize with people from different backgrounds, avoiding cultural shocks. Anemo’s team has developed a Cultural Intelligence test to adapt the contents of their micro-lessons to the student’s level. With all of this in mind, we had to create an MVP.
Anemo’s goal for this project was to show the seriousness of their test, which had been scientifically developed through research, but it also was to offer an engaging and attractive experience. It was necessary to ensure that the student does not abandon his learning along the way, and that he finds the time to follow his courses. The idea was also to promote diversity, not only as a moral force, but also as an asset that brings value to any company.
The people we interviewed all corresponded to the persona that Anemo wanted to target: the famous higly-skilled migrants mentioned above, with an entrepreneurial project. We therefore interviewed six persons, whose contact details were provided to us by Anemo.
We were a team of two UX/UI Designers, Diego Arizcorreta and myself, and we worked remotely. We shared all the roles and collaborated on Zoom, Mural, Figma and Google Slides. The only moment we didn’t split roles was during the secondary research, when I was in charge of the design inspirations, while Diego was in charge of the Market Research. When designing the interface on Figma, we split up the screens, always keeping an eye on what the other was creating, to maintain consistency between screens. The use of a backlog placed directly on our Figma board, after the Usability Tests, helped us a lot to divide the tasks and to move forward quickly during the last straight line. We spent a few hours defining together the priorities of the backlog, but this time was not wasted because it allowed us to take into account the results of the usability tests rigorously, and to obtain a solution that was considered very complete by the Anemo team.
Scope & Constraints
We had two weeks to complete this project. Our main constraint was the existing graphic charter, which we had to respect. Our first feeling was that we would have liked to choose our own typography and colors, to visually create a more symbolic link with our subject, thanks to the use of a moodboard, and we would also have liked to choose a more modern and discreet typography. However, the Desirability Tests we conducted revealed that users’ feelings corresponded very closely to Anemo’s brand attributes : diversity, humanity and knowledge.
The Problem Statement
After the How Might We workshop we animated with the Anemo team during our kick-off meeting, our research came to feed our problem statement with the problems encountered by the users. We kept in mind the results of the workshop anyway, to aim for an ideal balance between Anemo’s needs and those of their users.
The How Might We of the kick-off meeting was as follows:
“How Might We reveal the full potential of a user and make it reality by providing him an engaging and human learning environment?”
And the one we came up with after our research was:
“An enthusiastic but stressed young extrapreneur needs a way to develop her intercultural competencies because french administration rejects her again and again for not speaking french, and every procedure is very complex and almost impossible to carry out alone.
We will know that we reached our goal if she succeeds in creating a viable extrapreneurial project in France and feels better emotionally.”
Who was involved in identifying the problem?
Our kick-off meeting was composed of an interview, and then three workshops : building a User Journey “as is”, How Might We and a Problem Statement. This program was too ambitious and we had to stop after the How Might We. These workshops allowed Anemo’s team to better understand their own expectations, which made them much clearer to us. This way, they were able to check if their ideas were aligned. These activities and the discussion around them immediately established trust between Anemo’s team and our team. As the results of this workshop were based on assumptions, we still had to verify them, but since Juan and his collaborators were all extrapreneurs, their assumptions turned out to be quite right. It still was useful to confirm that they were, and the interviews uncovered many details concerning the needs of their users, which gave us many ideas for our design.
Users & Audience
The users we interviewed remotely were all potential future users who knew about Anemo.
Helena, 25 years old, Portuguese, was a Project Manager,
Nica, 26 years old, Filipino, was a Facilitator for students,
Priya, 29 years old, Indian, was Yoga coach,
John, 34 years old, Filipino and Australian, was studying for a Business Master’s degree,
Ibrahim, Guinean, 40 years old, was the CEO of an e-learning application.
Our interviews revealed that the great enthusiasm of most extrapreneurs quickly collapses when they are confronted with both to the language barrier, because French is very difficult to learn, and to the fact that many French people refuse to communicate in English, because they often do not speak it well enough, and therefore they are completely closed to exchanging with the migrants, even if said migrants make the effort to speak English, a language that is not necessarily their own. At the bakery, at the police station, at the CAF, the reaction is often the same, a sometimes very marked refusal to communicate and to help the person, even if it means asking them to go out and seek help elsewhere.
Helena told us that during her first appointment at the CAF, she was kicked out because the woman receiving her didn’t want to speak English, and Helena ended up, in tears at the exit of the building. She had to come back later accompanied by an interpreter. Something similar happened to John. He wanted to file a complaint for the theft of his bag, and the police officers did not speak English, so they refused his complaint. John had to go to three different police stations to finally find an English-speaking policeman who agreed to receive his complaint. It seemed to him that his rights didn’t matter if he hadn’t made the effort to learn French. It is therefore not only a language barrier, but above all a culture shock, because this propensity to refuse any exchange, sometimes violently, just because it is in English, is not a universal reaction.
Another major pain point for extrapreneurs is the complexity of administrative procedures in France, the difficulty of choosing one’s status as an entrepreneur among the various choices that exist, and the fact that it is hard to find reliable information on this subject. This difficulty was obviously less heavy for people who already spoke French.
It seemed important to us to take into account the fact that a migrant’s emotional state can be altered by the financial or administrative difficulties he or she may encounter upon arrival in France. While some are disturbed by the conditions of the global pandemic, others are shocked by the moments when they experience racism to an extent they could not have imagined, and most feel isolated and strongly desire to be able to meet people and feel a human connection, and the mutual help that friends or a community could provide.
The second part of our interview was about e-learning, and the main pain point, which was predictable but more accurately verified, was that users need to be able to successfully integrate their learning into an often busy schedule. Some believe that the ideal times for their five minutes lessons are in the morning at breakfast and in the evening before going to bed. Others think that it would be better for this training, given that it is professional, to take place during their working hours.
When downloading our data, we chose an Affinity Diagram because we thought it was a good idea to categorize thoroughly the different problems that extrapreneurs could encounter. We then created as many sub-categories as there were recurring topics between users, to obtain keywords and make our results easily usable and searchable throughout our work. We then conducted a dot-voting session to agree on the issues and topics to be addressed.
Before this dot-voting, we created a new User Journey as is, this time based on User Research, and we could observe that the result was quite close to what Anemo’s team had told us. Indeed, having experienced the arrival in France both as an expatriate and extrapreneur, they told us a real anecdote, which was very similar to the anecdotes told to us by the users. In both cases, the user was first full of hope, then faced the harsh reality of the French administration rejecting him with hardness and moral violence, and he found no other solution than to ask a friend to help him to access what was his right as a human being, whether he spoke French or not. Both were emotional roller coasters, with great disappointment, great distress, and great relief when a friend came to help them with their problem.
We had a little bit of doubt when we created this user journey a second time, but we did it anyway because we felt it was important not to be biased by the assumptions on which the first user journey was based, and this was very beneficial to our empathy work. It was interesting for us to realize that empathy, in the primary sense of the word, is not just a step in the Design Thinking Method, it is a way of delving into the user’s mind and imagining as much as possible the emotions they may feel when they encounter difficulties. The user journey is therefore not a detail in this process, as it allows us to put words on each emotion experienced by the user and to visualize the extreme feelings caused by the problem we are trying to solve.
Although Anemo had already created a persona based on research, we created a new one that matched the profile of the extrapreneurs who were going to be the first users of the MVP.
We knew that the persona is a tool that is increasingly discussed and whose use may seem useless to some, but we chose to continue with our maximum empathy and we chose a real quote that highlighted the great enthusiasm that animates an extrapreneur. The persona allows, beyond the representation of the user, to summarize in an effective and usable way the frustrations we are trying to respond to, the beliefs we were trying to encourage or invalidate to allow the user to move forward, and the motivations and goals we had to keep in mind and try to protect from the vagaries of reality.
How Might We & Ideation
It’s always nice to discover again and again the power of the “How Might We” tool. We each created five of them and then put them all together and removed the ones that were repeating themselves. This was the ideal preparation for our ideation session, during which we first used the Worst Ideas method, with a group of four passionate UX/UI Designers, Kulikova Anna, Victoria Malon Pierre, Guerri Amel and Lina_, and then the Crazy Eights method, with Thibault Dequeker, a senior UX Designer friend who kindly offered us his presence and ideas.
For the feature prioritization we used the very efficient Moscow Method, which we customized a bit because we wanted to use it to present our ideas to the Anemo team. So we organized our post-its by screens, so that Anemo’s team could visualize the user’s path from screen to screen, before the wireframe step, in the Must Have part.
Thibault’s ideas were very elaborate, so we included them in the Should Have part and they will certainly inspire Anemo later on.
Mid-Fidelity & Usability Testing
Here is our Mid-Fidelity prototype, which we used for our 6 usability tests. As for the interviews, the users were also real future users of Anemo and corresponded to our persona.
The findings of the usability tests were particularly rich, not only because as good juniors we had made many mistakes, but also because users were full of ideas to improve our solution. I will only mention a few of the results here.
Following the tests, so in the high-fidelity prototype, we enriched the onboarding scroll to make it more representative of the app’s content. We changed a lot of micro-interactions that were problematic, for example we allowed to skip the test earlier, from the “Take the test” screen, although this link only leads to a grayed out version of the Homepage and to a button explaining that you have to finish the test first (we had to respect a strong wish of the Anemo team : not to give access to the app until the test is done, because the personalization of the experience was important). The purpose of this grey screen was to show the richness of the Homepage’s contents and to avoid to lose the user when faced with the complexity of the test. However, we had our doubts about this because it’s a bit frustrating to make these clicks for nothing, but it’s perhaps just as frustrating to do a test without having the slightest idea of what to expect afterwards.
We polished the UX Writing in several places to make the navigation clearer and more attractive, for example, we introduced the CQ Test better.
We removed circles for the selection of test answers because they were too small for the users’ fingers, and too close together.
We reorganized the scientific contents in a more logical way, without removing them even if they were a bit long, because it was important for Anemo’s team to explain their research around the test. We consider, even after completing the high-fidelity prototype, that more information architecture could have greatly improved this problem, if we had had more time.
The most interesting idea we got from a user was to completely reorganize the curated resources, which were supposed to offer fun content on French culture. We then presented it by category, into several sliders, which made the content offer much clearer, and the Homepage much more attractive.
We also realized that we had completely overlooked a very important thing: the idea of a community, which was supposed to meet the needs of extrapreneurs who felt isolated, was missing from our prototype. So we added an extra slider on the Homepage, allowing to discover the profiles of other students, their photo, their job, a fun fact about them… This also justified the existence of Lea’s profile, which otherwise would have been useless. As Anemo’s team does not wish to set up a chat at the moment, communication is made possible by the presence of the e-mail address on the profile.
Finally, we made the contents of the Discover page more pragmatic, so that it is understandable that the search field makes it possible to find the information needed on the spot, thus making everyday life in another country easier.
Here is our high-fidelity prototype. Please feel free to navigate and discover all the corrections we applied after the tests.
Outcomes and lessons
We deeply enjoyed working on such a fascinating, original and socially engaged project. It was very easy to be passionate about it, when we imagined how much it could change our society, on so many levels. We were extremely grateful too towards Anemo’s team, because they let us completely free and really trusted us. At first, they only wanted us to work on the test, but when we offered to create a more complete MVP, they were happy and enthusiastic and were completely open-minded and very receptive of the needs of their users. This is why I wanted to give them special thanks.
I evoked several times in this article what I would have liked to develop if I had more time. There are two things that I think I really should do in the future : use a backlog, as we did, but from the very beginning, even before any idea of feature comes up. I think creating a list of very important ideas, like the community idea, would be very useful so as not to forget anything during the low-fidelity and mid-fidelity phase. And my second lesson concerns the UX Strategy. We decided to start our high-fidelity prototype too late in the second week. We could have guessed that we might encounter some problems on the road (Anemo users were not available on the day of the interviews), we were too optimistic, and this made us rush very much in the end. Next time, when possible, I would like to plan to start the high-fidelity prototype earlier, just in case, and if there’s still time in the end, it’s always possible to rework the wireframes as much as you want to get an even better result. Or to prepare a great presentation on Google Slides!