Written by  Claire Barrett UX/UI Designer at Mubaloo

The background of Talk Assist:

Talk Assist was one of Mubaloo’s first ever app creations — developed back in 2012. The idea was simple; create an app that utilises iOS’ text to speech engine that would help people who have speech disorders. After being released into the App Store in 2012, it was an early success with a healthy amount of downloads. Fast forward 6 years and the app was all but forgotten about. Then in early 2018 Mubaloo received a number of emails from users who had been using the app for years but had found that it no longer worked on current OS updates. We decided it was time to give the app a well deserved UX and UI makeover and create some added functionality to bring even more value to the users.

 

 

The problem

As an internal project, we had no budget for extensive user research to help guide us, and so I used what limited information we already had to hand. Namely; the feedback from the users we had received, competitive analysis of current speech assistance apps, current iOS tech capabilities & limitations, and my own expertise in user experience and design.

From the received feedback we learnt that although the app had performed well functionally, it could do with some added customisation to help users feel like it was really speaking for them. One key example was from a mother whose little girl used the app. The app uses the default iOS voice, and although it helped her communicate clearly, the standard voice of ‘Daniel’ (which is an adult male) didn’t help her feel connected to the voice she was using.

Other limitations of the app included:

  • Saved phrases getting lost in a lengthy ‘favourites’ list
  • No way of raising attention before speaking
  • The slow speaking rate
  • No independent volume controls within the app

As an app that is often used by children to help them with a problem that can be frustrating and upsetting I also wanted to use visual design to give the app some personality something that would be friendly, welcoming and easy to use. And the biggest challenge of all, adding extra functionality without making the app too complicated to use.

The solution

The current app only had a couple of features that expanded on the ability to speak typed text. These were a ‘history’ list showing previously typed phrases, and a ‘favourites’ list which gave the user the ability to save any of the phrases from the history list.

I liked the simplicity of this, and it seemed popular with users. I also didn’t want to change the app’s current features too drastically — forcing existing users to relearn a feature they are already accustomed to should be avoided at all costs. Instead, based on the feedback we received and the underlying market research I did, I created a number of new features within the app to complement this core functionality:

  • A voice library with multiple genders and languages to let users customise the app
  • Folder creation within the saved phrases section so users can better organise their most used phrases
  • The ability to change the speed of the speaking voice
  • The ability to change the volume of the speaking voice independently within the app
  • An attention bell to the help the user gain attention before speaking
  • Clearing text input as soon as it has spoken, making things quicker for the ‘pro’ users

Creating the look and feel

This is where the project got fun! I wanted to give the app a friendly, welcoming feel as I knew the users were often children who were struggling with a disability that was at times, frustrating.

I decided to create some fun on-boarding screens using custom illustrations to teach users about the new features and also give the app some character.

I chose a colour scheme based on fresh blues, turquoises and white; in part to give it an updated, modern feel. But also because these colours are thought to promote calm and aid concentration.

 

Conclusion

For this project, it was necessary for me to create an app that was user-friendly, accessible, customisable and ultimately helpful in aiding people with speech disorders.

Without the detailed user research that we would typically undertake during client projects, it was unfamiliar territory for me to design the UX and UI without any real insight. With the limited feedback, we had from users I‘ve designed an app that ticks the boxes in terms of our own objectives, and I’m thrilled with how it functions and looks.

Our next step in the Talk Assist journey will be testing the app with real users and validating that some of the qualities previously mentioned have been successfully achieved. For future iterations of the product, I’d love to work alongside some users with speech disorders to see how we could develop the app further to help them in their day-to-day.

 

Orriginally posted in Medium.