Megaphone Magazine Mobile App - Pre-Launch User Test

Client: Denim & Steel and Megaphone Magazine

Product: Mobile Application

Background: Megaphone Magazine is a not-for-profit social enterprise that empowers Vancouver's at-risk population through commerce. Magazines are produced at a fixed cost and sold to the vendor, who turns around and sells it to his or her customer base for cash at a reasonable markup. Vendors keep all of the revenue they make from their sales.

The growing ubiquity of credit and debit cards caused a decrease in sales for the vendors. Megaphone received a grant to develop a mobile application which would allow regular buyers to purchase magazines using their credit card without bypassing the vendor.

Denim & Steel asked the researcher to conduct the first round of user testing on the mobile application prototype with limited financial resources as is typical for non-profits.

Objective: Ensure that the Megaphone mobile application will work and be understood by magazine buyers, magazine vendors, and Megaphone administrators upon first use.

Research Process: A temporary lab was created in the Megaphone Magazine offices using a quiet meeting space, a simple hand-held voice recorder, and Reflector to mirror and record the actions taken on the app. A fake credit card was also used to assist in setting up the app for each participant.

The researcher instructed Megaphone administrators on who to recruit, how many of each, and how to schedule them. Buyers were qualified by having a smart phone and being regular buyers of the magazine. Megaphone was allowed to use its best judgement on who to recruit as vendors and admins could be anyone employed by Megaphone who would be likely to edit information on the backend or deliver payments to vendors.

Each testing session was viewed as a multi-step process -

  1. Buyers - Setting up the app for payments, then buying a magazine, then editing an order, and confirming payment
  2. Vendors - Recording the transaction number and then getting paid by an administrator
  3. Administrators - Paying a vendor and then editing vendor information for the app

Participants were asked to go through each step in the sequence and the researcher and the developers watched as they succeeded and struggled with the process.

Outcome: Most of the problems found with the app were minor, but one interaction stood out as a potential fault in what was considered a critical point in the purchase process - the confirmation screen. One user swept past the confirmation screen without event realizing it. While researcher suggested an overlay, Denim & Steel went a very large step further. They created a benign disruption by turning half the screen upside down. This created enough cognitive dissonance to catch the user's attention and prevent a reflexive dismissal of the confirmation screen and helped maintain personal space between the vendor and the buyer.

Before and after rendering of the Megaphone Magazine cashless payment mobile application.

Before and after rendering of the Megaphone Magazine cashless payment mobile application.

Another insight from the user test was the need to train the vendors to act as an ad hoc help desk for the buyers when they use the app. Suggested subjects included:

  • What is an app? What kind of phones does it work on?

  • How do you get the app?

  • Credit cards vs. debit cards

  • Phone etiquette and personal space

  • How is the service fee calculated and who does it go to?

  • What to do if the customer skips the transaction screen?

"Denim & Steel Interactive turned to Lauren to run our user testing sessions for the Megaphone App. Though we often do user testing internally, we wanted an additional degree of certainty that we had properly tested and validated the app’s design. Lauren’s professional manner and ease of collaboration made the process easy. Her final report both gave assurance to Megaphone of the app’s quality and helped us identify areas for optimization that led to truly novel solutions we would not have otherwise explored. On the next project where we need a higher benchmark for research, we’ll be calling Lauren in." 
Todd Sieling, Co-Founder of Denim & Steel

Accessible Research Presentation at Style & Class