Cooper, Augmedix and Google Glass: No Real Estate? No Problem

Interaction designers today are really good at designing screens. Designing for Google Glass took us out of that comfort zone, and in some ways back to the basics. It reminded us of that truism that the raw building blocks of user experience are not screens—they are experiences.

Google Glass is in many ways not ready for prime time, but makes perfect sense for certain specialized applications, like what Augmedix has envisioned for doctors, who need to capture and reference key information while keeping their full attention on patients. Hands-free operation is one of the key strengths of today’s iteration of Glass. Medicine is particularly rich with hands-free mission critical use cases, and Augmedix is taking the first step down that path. Others are imagining similar applications for Glass, such as for first responders in emergency situations.

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Cooper helps Chefs Feed launch new social features

Who do you trust for food advice? Review sites like Yelp are bloated and contain a cacophony of opinions. Others just aggregate shallow star ratings. Reviewers often have tastes and preferences that might not match your own. And even if you find a good restaurant, how do you know what is the best thing on the menu?

The idea behind Chefs Feed is that the best food advice comes from experts – professional chefs, and friends with discerning taste.


Currently available in nine US cities, the app doesn’t just tell you where to go, but also what to order, providing an insider’s look at each city’s eateries.

When Chefs Feed approached Cooper, the startup was about to make a big leap. Lots of people were downloading the app, but its functionality was limited to a few features like reading and bookmarking chefs’ reviews. With the user base expanding quickly, Chefs Feed needed a blueprint for making the app a platform for interaction between chefs and foodies. The app also needed features to help friends trade dish recommendations and share their passion for food. In short, the app was to get social.

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HealthRally Gives You the Nudge You Need to Change Your Habits

Untitled-3.pngMost of us need an extra little boost (or nudge, or shove) to reach a goal. We can’t do everything alone, and our friends and families can be powerful support systems. The strength of these relationships is at the core of why we love HealthRally. They offer an intriguing new way for friends and family to motivate each other to reach important goals with rewards. You can post a goal and ask friends to support you along the way. Or, friends can proactively post a reward to encourage you to stick to a goal. For instance, if you want to lose a few pounds, I could offer a shopping trip for a new outfit in your new size as motivation to keep trying to lose weight.

We are thrilled to be working with HealthRally through our partnership with Rock Health, offering design mentoring and training to Rock Health’s start-ups. HealthRally is passionate, focused, and mission-driven, and 2012 is shaping up to be a great year for the company. Here are excerpts of a conversation with CEO & Co-founder Zack Lynch about what makes HealthRally so great.

What was the inspiration for creating HealthRally?

You, us and them. Anyone who has ever needed some extra motivation to help reach a goal. Whether it’s losing weight, getting better grades, taking medication, or running a marathon, it’s hard to stay motivated every day. So we created HealthRally as a way to bring your friends and family together to cheer you on, motivate you, and celebrate your success.

How will you know you’ve succeeded?

We are already succeeding. Our beta service launched in January and people are changing their lives, friends and family are motivating each other, and people are reaching goals with amazing rewards.

What do you do when you and your team need inspiration?

We go for a brisk walk up Potrero Hill and take in the view over San Francisco. We get energized thinking about all the innovation and passion occurring right in sight. Then, we hike over to Mr & Mrs Miscellaneous, a Dog Patch must, to reward ourselves with some very tasty ice cream.

What have you learned about human behavior through the process of creating HealthRally?

People really do want to see one another to succeed! They’ll do anything for each other, from cooking healthy meals to going on walks, as well as putting money on the line to help motivate one another to reach goals.

How are you using design to motivate people?

User experience is everything. Each element, from sign up through motivating your friends, each process must convey a sense of ease, fun, trust, and accomplishment. For example, to improve our sign up process, we designed a way for people to build their rally even if they weren’t signed in. This makes the initial product interaction easier and helps people play with our motivation service faster than if we required a lot of info right up front.

How is HealthRally different than other motivation and behaviorial change services out there?

Only HealthRally lets friends and family motivate each other with real money. We do this in a fun and social way to make sure that everyone is involved. We also designed a service called RallyCoach, which monitors the motivational momentum and nudges people to share experiences and motivate each other. We are seeing are amazing results!

Tell us about how you’ve been working with Cooper to evolve your product.

Cooper immediately seized on the opportunity to evolve the initial customer experience with a deeper sense of emotional relevance. We walked through the users mindsets and redesigned landing pages to highlight the sense of support and gratitude people can have from using our product.

What’s your next big hurdle?

Taking advantage of the opportunities in front of us and new ones that continue to arise. Startups are built with great people, so attracting and retaining the best team will continue to be a major focus of our internal efforts.

What goals do you have for HealthRally this year?

Grow! We just signed a deal to be the “at home” version for a new reality weight loss TV series on NBC in Chicago called “Put Your Money Where Your Mouth Is” where contestants get paid to lose weight. We want to go national with the show as it gets adopted in new markets, building out brand relationships to complement the rewards being given by friends and family.

What are you most proud of about HealthRally?

Making a service that helps people get excited about and energized to support one another, no matter what it takes.

If HealthRally won a (pretend) award, what would it be?

The Healthy Human Award given out to companies that inspire millions to get and stay healthy!
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Vote for the TaskRabbit iPhone app!

Last summer, Cooper partnered with TaskRabbit and Pivotal Labs to design their new iPhone app. The app works with their service to help people who need help with simple tasks—anything from walking the dog, standing in line at the DMV, or moving furniture—with “Rabbits,” a network of background-checked and pre-approved individuals who have the skills and time available to complete tasks.

The TaskRabbit iPhone app has been nominated for the 2011 Crunchies and the 2012 IxDA awards. This week, you can vote for the app in both awards and check out the other nominations.

The TaskRabbit project

Posting a Task is super easy

The TaskRabbit service is continuing to expand in new cities, including Austin, and we’re excited to see their service evolve and grow. Congratulations to Leah Busque for her nomination as Founder of the Year in the Crunchies also.

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Cooper helps Streetline launch smart parking app Parker

parker
Credits: Faith Bolliger, Golden Krishna, Peter Duyan, Jayson McCauliff, Suzy Thompson, Nick Myers

If you own a car in a city like San Francisco, you’ve probably experienced that particular mix of rage and despair as you drive around your block for the umpteenth time, looking for a parking space. Maybe you’ve even thought to yourself, “There has got to be a better way!” as you finally bumper car park along the curb blocks from home. Thanks to the folks at Streetline, there is a better way.

Streetline worked with Cooper to create Parker, an app for iPhone and Android that helps drivers easily locate and pay for available parking. When we began, Streetline was an early-stage start-up operating under intense pressure to deliver to market. We worked closely with their developers to bring predictability and order to a process that is wasteful (of resources and time) in addition to being stressful.

Big congratulations to the Parker team for shipping an amazing product &emdash; and securing an additional round of funding!

Get Parker in the App Store, and learn more about our work with Streetline in our case study. Speaking of parking, you can even auction off your spot with Parking Auction. Read More

Cooper helps TaskRabbit design new iPhone app for help with chores

TaskRabbit’s service connects people who want help with simple tasks—anything from walking the dog, standing in line at the DMV, or moving furniture—with “Rabbits,” a network of background-checked and pre-approved individuals who have the skills and time available to complete tasks.

TaskRabbit
With a design ideal for mobile task posting, the app provides a simple, seamless process for securing extra help.

Cooper designers collaborated closely with developers at Pivotal and the TaskRabbit team to design a user experience specifically optimized for busy, on-the-go people, offering timely help for folks with unfinished errands or other tasks. With just a spin of the wheel and a few taps, the app enables a task to be posted on the TaskRabbit service network in a matter of seconds with minimal, if any, typing.

TaskRabbit
Credits: Faith Bolliger, Jim Dibble, Glen Davis, Tim McCoy and Nick Myers.

TaskRabbit, has more than 1,500 runners in San Francisco, Boston, Los Angeles, and Orange County fulfilling up to 3,000 tasks per month and they just opened the service in New York City.

Congratulations to the TaskRabbit team, as the new app release has been featured on Mashable, TechCrunch, and Forbes and has received great reviews.

Download TaskRabbit at the App Store and start getting stuff done! Read More

Cooper’s new partnership with Rock Health!

We are thrilled to announce that Cooper will be partnering with Rock Health to provide design consultation and education for their inaugural class of health care startups. Cooper designers have always been keenly interested in design for healthcare environments, and Rock Health is the first seed-accelerator exclusively for health startups! It aims to provide an ecosystem in which these startups can succeed, including mentorship in tackling design challenges. Announced this year at SxSW by the CTO of the White House, Aneesh Chopra, the startups are backed by companies such as Mayo Clinic, Harvard Medical School, and Nike. Rock Health co-founder Halle Tecco and a a passionate team have assembled a fabulous group of mentors and partners who will guide the start ups. Over the next few months, Cooper’s team lead by Susan Dybbs will be providing a crash course in design research, interaction design, visual design and hands-on mentoring. We’re super-excited to get started, so stay tuned for more posts on our Rock Health workshops. Read More

The Drawing Board: Smart Checks

Here at Cooper, we find that looking at the world from the perspective of people and their goals causes us to notice a lot of bad interactions in our daily lives. We can’t help but pick up a whiteboard marker to scribble out a better idea. We put together “The Drawing Board”, a series of narrated sideshows, to showcase some of this thinking.

Almost everyone enjoys a great meal out with friends, but splitting the bill can be unnecessarily complicated. In this Drawing Board, Cooper designers turn their attentions to the way groups of people pay the check while dining out.


Credits: Greg Schuler, Peter Duyan , Bo Ah Kwon , Suzy Thompson and Chris Noessel.

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More, better, faster: UX design for startups

Startups don’t have capital to burn or luxurious schedules for big-design-up-front. But unless your idea is by-and-for-engineers, design isn’t something you want to skip on your way to market. For a startup, design may mean the difference between simply shipping, and taking the market by storm. But with tight budgets, and aggressive timelines, how to include design and get the best value for the investment?

Eric Ries proposes a cyclical model for development in a startup: Build > Measure > Learn (repeat). Lots of smart people think he’s onto something. While Ries coined this model to explain how developers work in a lean way, the same model can be applied to design, only our “build” uses different tools, and the work products are at a different fidelity, but it’s still build. Our hypothesis is made manifest and testable.

In a recent Lean UX workshop hosted by the fantastic Janice Fraser (Luxr) and Cooper’s own Tim McCoy and Suzy Thompson (also of Cooper) suggested that the cycle was right, but that it begins in the wrong place. She suggested Learn > Build > Measure (repeat).

learn_build_measure.png

I buy it. After years of starting projects off with research (as little as a couple of hours in some cases) I’ve seen the power of starting off informed. Framing the problem before you start solving it is not only wise, but major opportunities for innovation often arise before anyone proposes a design solution.

So we have a cycle of Learn > Build > Measure (repeat). For a startup we can’t afford weeks of research, with the developers on the bench waiting for the voice of the user with thoughtful diagrams and artful persona back-stories. We need full-speed-ahead; design can’t afford to be the slow kid or the bottleneck.

Faster

How fast can we run the cycle? I’d suggest that design can run at a sustained pace of 3 days for a complete cycle. I don’t think you could do useful design faster. We often take 5 days for a cycle where we have time and budget, but 3 days is about the fastest you’d productively move. It bears noting that it takes a remarkably agile client to keep up with a 3 day cycle. Early stage startups with focused stakeholders and unlimited access to users for testing are the most likely to keep up with this pace. Larger enterprises benefit from a slower 5 day cycle.

cycle1.png

Once we get the upfront work of personas and high-level scenarios done, cycles take on a regular pattern.

cycle2.png

What do we get? Speed and low waste. We iterate quickly, with a 3 day cycle time we get moving quickly, we get rapid insights up front, ideas almost immediately up on the board, and pixel proofs within 24 hours. Sure they’re rough, but we don’t need high fidelity to test if the direction works, if users and stakeholders are getting what they need. All we need is something that gets the idea across. We’ll refine as we get deeper. And because we’re not letting design get too far out before getting it in front of users we’re keeping waste to a minimum. Our ideas will be tested early and often. We can throw out what isn’t working after a low amount of investment and focus our time on what is.

At this point the major win for startups is speed; design is incorporated without slowing things down. We also reap huge benefits from operating with such a low waste level. Days and dollars are spent building and refining the solutions that are most promising. But speed has a downside, we have little time to solve more complex problems. This may result in grabbing for obvious or standard patterns where a more thoughtful innovative approach might ultimately yield a better product. Also, design is an iterative process, the rapid cycles may seem like iteration, but the speed leaves little opportunity to revisit or reject and rework something. The first solution may easily end up the final solution. This may be acceptable for some projects, but when a startup is striving to innovate, it’s not enough to be first, you really need to deliver better.

More, better

There’s a way to supercharge this process in a way that produces predictably better solutions, and more of them. Add a second interaction designer. Pair design transforms the equation, from pure speed, into rapid insight that one designer with twice the time couldn’t produce. It’s not a case of twice as much in the same amount of time, speed isn’t increased, we’ve already maximized that. What we’re maximizing now is the quality. Two designers working together, paired in the right way delivers more, and better design.

pair_cycle.png

The way we do pair design it’s not just any two designers locked in a room, struggling to wrestle the marker away from one another to prove how much better their idea is. We pair two interaction designers to maximize on the energy in polarity. We divide and conquer. One takes takes on the assertive role, the other the reflective. One takes on the drawings and interface, the other the patterns and words. One dives into details, the other keeps the big picture. One presents, the other captures. Through pairing and focusing on polarized responsibilities, we increase the value of the thinking and the product.

Let’s start with the first cycle:

Learn

While interviewing users and stakeholders we’ve got two observers, two sets of ears, two perspectives on what was learned. Our understanding is richer, fuller and more complex than any single practitioner could bring.

Build (personas/scenarios/early sketches)

One of our pair takes on the role of generating ideas, proposing solutions, getting something onto the board. The other is a dedicated thought partner. They hold back, poke holes, prompt, help evolve the ideas while they’re still forming. It’s a period of intense, rapid iteration. Roles can and do swap. We go wide, exploring much more quickly than a single designer could. Bad ideas are killed earlier. We develop clarity more quickly. We’re more confident of our decisions and more articulate about our reasons because they already went through the crucible of our partner.

Build (pixels and patterns)

Our pair differentiates further. One jumps into putting the ideas into pixels, the other into articulating the patterns that underlie the design decisions. Each works from the earlier design work, but refines it in very different ways. As we push our design though increasingly detailed scenarios it evolves. The two different approaches helps us triangulate on places where the design fails, and helps to identify fresh new opportunities. Two brains churning on the material coming from different directions, forces us to see more objectively, we can’t remain blind to the ideas we love that should be thrown out. The paired design team acts as an editorial cross-check on the thinking of the other. A single designer would be forced to choose between pixels or patterns, or struggle to articulate both poorly.

Measure (stakeholder/user feedback)

Pair designers divide up the work, focusing on a single aspect, presenting or capturing. One walks users through the flow, the other observes and captures notes. It doesn’t matter who’s doing what but each role is dedicated and focused. One designer would struggle to demo the design and really notice how users’ actions diverged from their verbal feedback, often critical distinctions which when noticed strongly inform future design decisions. With a pair of designers we capture the feedback accurately. We also have two perspectives on each test. We are less prone to fall into our own bias because we’ve got someone to check us.

More, better, faster is an investment

By pairing designers, we gain tremendous advantages. You’re running a startup and it’s easy to buy the process of a speedy cycle. It’s simple math and it maximizes cash, with quick early results. At first the idea of pair design may seem like a hard thing to sell to your board or investors. “Twice the designers, huh? Can’t we just get one and do more cycles?” Sure, people do it every day. But one designer doesn’t make more, better. Even a rock-star designer can’t generate enough polarity to come close to the “more, better” brought by two damn good designers who know how to work together as a pair. You buy a pair, you get more design; not twice the volume, but twice the quality. This isn’t that fine-china sense of quality, but the kind of quality defined by pure raw goodness. It’s the quality of solutions that people fall in love with. It’s the ephemeral but very real sense when you first make contact with the product that someone really truly understands you. Not all problems need or deserve this level of attention. There’s many times when one designer may perfectly address the need.But when your startup wants to design more, better, faster, go all the way, invest in it. Expect faster, and demand more, better. Your investors will want it too.

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