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Background

During the height of the COVID-19 pandemic, nearly every social experience went digital. With the sudden demand for web-based communication, Zoom emerged as the primary video-conferencing platform on a global scale. Because of its widespread use, we wanted to explore the user experience and see if there were any potential areas for improvement.

My role

In addition to general group contribution and design, I was in charge of managing group communication and the team’s work sessions/meetings. I facilitated collaborative efforts, maintained records of our progress, and made sure the team established and met our goals.

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Zoom Redesign

A simplified, centralized, and personalized desktop experience.

conceptual design project

The Problem

Zoom users find themselves using external resources to manage and create their meetings because the current zoom desktop application doesn’t offer the necessary features to create a cohesive experience.

Solution Preview
An upgraded Zoom desktop application that enhances workflow and organization. A product that centralizes, simplifies, and personalizes the user experience:
  • Cohesive home page that notifies, labels, and displays upcoming meetings in real time
  • Adaptable calendar for easy navigation and organization of upcoming and future events
  • Customizable groups page to encourage togetherness with different communities
How it happened
1. Research

identifying areas of improvement

An analysis of Zoom’s competitors and thorough user research revealed potential areas of improvement and pain points in the digital experience.

Competitive Analysis

By looking at similar products, we noticed the user-friendly details that allowed the users to perform many external taks within the applications themselves. The observations would later contribute to the formation of our problem statement.

User Research
Survey

The Qualtrics survey included questions about Zoom’s feasibility, purposes of use, and how often users both schedule and participate in meetings. The survey received 80 responses, helping to solidify a target audience. We used this data to construct a general overview of the user experience.

Interviews

We conducted seven virtual user interviews. To align with our survey respondents, we interviewed people in academia to solidify our target audience and maintain consistency.

These were the key pain points that came up for all participants:

“They’re never in one place. I always have to dig through Canvas to find meeting links”

“It’s hard to remember and see when all my meetings are so I make the mistake of booking a time that’s inconvenient”

“The whole process of adding people bugs me because I have to leave Zoom and send an invitation elsewhere”

Synthesizing Research Data
Affinity Map

We used an affinity map to record our findings and organize our thoughts into specific categories and highlighted the points that recurred the most throughout our research. This helped us identify key takeaways and pain points, as well as other questions that we could refer back to as we began designing.

Research Insights

In conjunction with our problem statement and research data, we formulated a guiding question that would help lead us through our design process:

Project Goal

How might we create a Zoom experience that centralizes and simplifies the invitation process?

2. Ideation

Thinking through the possibilities

Utilizing the research, pain points, problem statement, and guiding question to begin imagining ways to address the users' concerns.

The Failed Attempt

*my sketches pictured second in the row

Inspired by our research insights, each member of the team came up with some sketches. We agreed on a couple of main features, like a nav bar with home, calendar, and contacts tabs. I took on redesigning the home and contacts page.

*my work pictured in last two columns

However, this initial direction would soon prove to over-complicate the problem we were looking to solve. Our rough first attempt did, however, give birth to more successful ideas later on in the process (like my far-from-intuituve contacts page that inspired the creation of my “sync” feature that made the final cut).

We initially used the sketches above to determine how we should move forward with the design. These features were comprised of numerous steps that were supposed to come together to create a cohesive experience. What we didn’t realize at the time was that we were all trying to incorporate all of our ideas at once: instead of simplifying the experience, we were actually making it more complicated. Because we didn’t recognize this issue at the start, we converted the sketches into a lo-fi prototype that would allow our team and test subjects to try out the basic functionality and flow of our ideas. While it did help us to better visualize our deisgn, again we saw that our ideas were not cohesive and actually worsened our users’ pain points. For example when designing the contacts page, my idea of adding contacts and syncing contact information across institutions was convoluted and messy, and we observed that our test users had difficulty comprehending the steps.

New sketches + low-fi design

After more discussion regarding the issues with the first attempt, my team and I returned to the sketching phase. In our second round of sketches we eliminated the “contact” system and simplified other features. For this iteration, I focused on the home page and reimagining a different way to address the contacts issue, which would later become known as the "sync" feature.

*my work shown in first sketch grouping

3. Mid-Fi

Testing and adapting the design

Following the completion of the lo-fi phase, our ideas started to take shape. During the mid-fi stage of the design process, we developed a more coherent design and made necessary changes and additions based on feedback gathered from user testing.

Now that we had established a clearer system to follow, my team and I were able to work on a more developed design. We came up with a preliminary design system to keep the interface consistent and to make sure our ideas would be cleary communicated during user testing.

I continued my work on the home page and focused on displaying all of the necessary information that users would need to optimize their time spent in the applicaiton. At the time, this included adding a button to the home page for our “sync” feature, which would allow users to sync their contacts from across different institutions (school, work, etc.). This would eliminate the need for a contacts page and creating a seamless and centralized experience. Additionally, we also created two different meeting functions to address both needs of planning for the future and having the ability to host quick and unplanned meetings.

User testing rounds one + two

After some refinement, we conducted two rounds of user testing on our mid-fi prototype to determine if our ideas and design were effective. Between our first and second tests, we updated our design system and addressed the first two issues shown below. Our second round inspired the creation of a “groups” feature and opportunity to provide a more personal user experience via customizaiton.

Users expressed confusion when asked how they would connect to the contact database of their workplace or school. Comments were also made on the button’s location, since it would not be used very often.

Many users still hesitated between the two buttons when asked in to either “start” a meeting or “plan” a meeting. Others commented on the length of the button labels.

Users were mostly dissatisfied with the amount of white space present throughout the interface. The lack of contrast was straining on the eye and the lack of decoration was seen as “generic” and “boring.”

User testing summary
4. Final Solution

Putting it all together

As the end of the six-week sprint drew near, it was time to translate all of our feedback and our mid-fi design into a final high-fidelity (hi-fi) prototype. This stage of the design process called us to be assertive and intentional with our design decisions to create the best experience possible for the user. Our solution creates a centralized, simplified, and personalized experience that allows the user to easily accomplish all of the necessary tasks within the application. For this stage, I prototyped the Groups page, Sync feature, and helped with the Home page.

Solution
Core Concepts
Updated Navigation Bar
Your Zoom essentials in one place
A new way to view your schedule
Building a stronger community
Key features for an upgraded desktop experience
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Centralized home dock + notifications

The most essential features and meeting information are immediately accessible on our revamped home page. Users can view and join their upcoming meetings, as well see any relevant meeting details, with ease. With our notification system, users are also alerted of upcoming meetings and after completing certain actions in real time. Additionally, users can now customize the background of their Zoom workspace.

Sync

The “Sync” feature gives the user the ability to sync to any of their active emails and institutions. This allows access to any meeting information or data from the desktop application, removing the need to retrieve links and acess Zoom elsewhere. After successfully syncing, users can easily add any relevant participants, as auto-suggest will activate once the user begins typing a matching email address or name from all synced platforms.

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Groups

The “Groups” page accomodates to the user’s need to create meetings with the same group of people. Users can create and customize group cards, contacts, and descriptions, as well as see the activity status of group members. Once created, users can type the official group name when creating meetings, making scheduling recurring or impromptu meetings quick and easy.

Process of scheduling a meeting

While the three original meeting options have been kept, users will no longer have to exit the application to invite participants. The addition of “Sync” and “Groups” allows the user to invite both individual participants by name and groups of people by an established group name. Meeting information and invites will be sent to the participants’ emails, as well as their own Zoom desktop applications through the notification system and their own upcoming meetings lists.

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Calendar

The “Calendar” page gives the user a large-scale visual representation of their meeting schedule for the month. Users can filter the calendar’s visible meetings by institution and access meeting details by clicking on each individual meeting bubble. Meeting hosts have the ability to edit their created meetings and update neeeded details, like adding participants or cancelling events. Additionally, users can create meetings directly from the Calendar page while viewing their own monthly schedule and availability to find the most opportune date and time.

5. Wrapping Up

Reflecting on the experience

At the end of the six weeks, my team and I prepared to present our work to our cohort, guests, and industry judges during our club’s Presentation Day. We had the opportunity to both share our design journey and learn from the approaches taken by our peers on their own projects.

Takeaways

Prior to working on this project, I had no knowledge of the world of UI/UX. So this entire process (the sprint model, desiging in a team, user testing, prototyping tools, etc.) was entirely new to me. It was challenging and demanding, but I was learning every single day. While I could go on about every little thing I learned, here are a few of the points that stuck with me the most:

  • the design process is not linear

  • user testing and feedback is the driving force behind design decisions

  • seeing your static designs come to life in the workable prototype is a magical experience

Moving forward

As mentioned earlier, my team members and I, along with the rest of our cohort, had the opportunity to present our work on our organization's Presentation Day. We were able to receive very insightful feedback and were awarded “Best Protoype” by industry judges invited to critique the cohort projects.

Due to time constraints, we were not able to implement or prototype all of our ideas (like designing for dark mode), but as a team we were more than satisfied with our exit point. If revisited, it would be interesting to see how this design would adapt to accomodate for mobile.

Thanks for reading!
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