ESLi Mobile App Hero Image
Project Overview
ESL Imprinted, or ESLi for short, is the brainchild of Libbie Hicks, a veteran ESL teacher with over 30 years experience. The company wants to expand their services in the digital market, specifically the Mobile-Assisted Language Learning (MALL) sphere. ESLi wants to start by offering its users a seamless auditory experience, since listening is a big part of their curriculum, along with an eventual student and teacher interaction through the app.
Since Libbie was a previous client of mine, she trusted me to conduct this analysis. I started by investigating if and how implementing this product would benefit her clients.
Challenge: Should ESLi upgrade their materials by incorporating a mobile app to better assist the user in their English language journey?
Goal: Understand the benefits of mobile technology in language learning and design a prototype tailored for ESLi's materials.
A more detailed outline of the project is in the brief.
• Determine target audience
• Understand the way mobile apps are used to teach/learn English as a second language
• Discover how mobile technology is used among the competition
• Understand the way users currently engage with other digital sources to learn English as a second language
• Determine what has successfully worked for users teaching/learning English as a second language
• There aren’t many ESL resources available for blank-slate or low-proficient beginners
• ESL teachers are looking for supplemental resources to help teach blank-slate/low beginners
• Students learning English as a second language are looking to other resources to help them better learn the language on their own
• Student users find it easy to learn ESL through mobile apps
• Teacher users don’t have the appropriate materials for blank-slate/low beginners
For the full scope of the steps, look here at the research plan.
An in-depth analysis of the market research can be seen here.
According to the research, students have become increasingly interested in the learning benefits of mobile apps. Mobile-Assisted Language Learning (or MALL) can not only enhance students' English ability but also increase their learning motivation.
I was surprised at what I found when researching the competition—while there are countless written materials, there aren't many mobile apps targeted specifically at ESL learners. For my analysis, I looked for mobile apps that had 1) extensive curriculum for learning English and 2) could be used on its own or as a companion. The closest competitor I found that fit this description was Rosetta Stone.
I conducted 2 different interviews: one for the teachers and another for students. Since my audience was specifically low-level English speakers, the latter was more challenging than expected.
I interviewed 3 teachers, all of whom had 10 or nearly that many years of experience teaching, and who also had some experience teaching low-level students.  What I wanted to learn from their perspective was how they incorporated digital media in their classes and if they could guess the overall digital IQ of their students. Here's what they reported:
1) All use some kind of digital resource outside of the course curriculum in their classes
2) All said most if not all of their students have a smartphone
It was really difficult to communicate with the students with this level of English, so I opted to talk to them together in a group setting and only asked them very basic questions. I started by asking them what kind of phone they used. They all showed me they used an iPhone. Then I asked them to tell me if they had any apps they used on their phone to help them with their English. All of them showed me more than one app they used to help them with their English.
Focus: I wanted to see if there was a pattern based on the type of apps on the students' phone or outside resources they used to help them with English.
Finding: 1) All of the students used some type of translator, specifically Google Translate, and 2) they all mentioned either YouTube or TV as another primary source to aid them in learning English.​​​​​​​
At this point I decided the scope of the project should first focus on the student user. I created a roadmap based on the student user and business goals, as mapped out in the diagram above. This is the roadmap I stuck to (for the most part) to keep me focused for the rest of the project.
I kept the sitemap pretty straightforward for this version of the project with room to grow. A more detailed overview is in the requirements document.
I needed to start sketching out my wireframes on paper before I could move to designing anything digital. What really helped me a lot was using stickie notes to distinguish between buttons and transitions from one screen to the next. This method really helped me visualize the basic structure of the app as I could easily move from screen to screen with the paper.
Lo-fi Wireframe Sketches
The mid-fidelity wireframes came together naturally. After consulting with Ms. Hicks on some of the pre-screening assessment screens, I was ready to start putting together the prototype for the next phase.
Prototype & Test
I was familiar with Invision's mobile testing feature so I opted to use it for the first user testing session. I also decided to keep the screens mid-fidelity for testing to 1) keep the users focused on the flow of the app and also 2) to be more efficient with my time.
Half of the tests were done remotely over video chat while the user shared their screen. Due to time constraints, the rest were self-administered using a questionnaire that could be filled out remotely. A more detailed review of the data is in the results spreadsheet.
Next Steps
The feedback I received from the testing participants was very positive. There were only a couple of screens that the users thought needed improvement in the form of clarification. I focused my design revisions and tweaks on these areas for the next phase.
1) The screens that many commented on were the assessment results; the consensus was to show more in-depth summary of their results.
2) Since there are in-app purchase options, users voiced needing more clarity on what they were being asked to buy based on their results.
There was a consistent brand in place, so I used these elements along with the author's illustrations to add dimension to the app.
Final Prototype
New User
Existing User
Audio Companion
Existing User

What went wrong?
Language barrier - The user interviews with the students were very limiting because of the language barrier. I was only able to get a very small sample of students, and I couldn't ask very in-depth questions. I plan on conducting more accurate user testing sessions in the second round of revisions.
What could I have done better?
Digging a bit deeper - I think I could have dug a bit deeper during the research phase, specifically on the existing English language materials. Education is a big market and during the research I felt somewhat overwhelmed. Still, I think I could have looked a little deeper to see what else is out there.
What did I learn?
Going from analog to digital - Since this was third case study and my first product created from scratch, I learned a whole lot! The biggest challenge was turning something analog that into a digital format, and then building the whole thing. 
Always thinking ahead - An important part of this experience was always thinking ahead and keeping the user in mind. The more I worked on the app, the more I realized how much thought had to go into the user's journey to make the experience seamless.

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