Can we enable users to continue interacting with a whiteboard on their mobile device?
It's a familiar scene - you've been hammering out great ideas on the whiteboard with your teammates. The meeting wraps up (or you're kicked out of the conference room), so you grab your phone and take a photo of the whiteboard. What happens next? The photo languishes on your phone, or at best gets attached to an email that nobody ever refers to again. Wouldn't it be better if your team could continue working on your whiteboard collaboration as an interactive document - text, drawings, and all?
I led the design of SMART InkScan, a mobile app that converts handwritten artifacts into digital SMART ink™. Users can begin brainstorming on a whiteboard or even the back of a napkin, and seamlessly continue working from their mobile device. For users with access to a SMART Board, SMART InkScan converts your photos into digital ink and sends them directly to a SMART Board, allowing teachers and students to continue working interactively with content.
I received a promotion and a company award for my work on this project.
- Role: Lead UX Designer
- Tools: Sketch, InVision, Zeplin, Confluence
- Timeline: June 2017 to February 2018
- Alison: Lead UX Designer
- Manat: Product Manager
- Jeff: Dev Manager
- Ram: Test Manager
- Serena: User Researcher
This was an interesting project that began with our remarkable digital SMART ink technology. We had several ideas about how the tech could be incorporated into a productivity-boosting app; my research drove the evolution of our ideas into a finished product.
The original idea was to use our tech to build a note-taking app for iPads. I examined the different markets and monetization opportunities for note-taking apps versus scanner apps. I analyzed the different features of the apps, as well as their audiences, market shares, and the total available market. My market research showed that scanner apps are much more successful than note-taking apps, and that apps for phones are more popular than those for tablets.
All signs from my analysis seemed to be pointing towards creating a scanner app for mobile devices. It's crowded app market, but our tech would let us offer something that none of the other apps had. InkScan would allow users to edit and alter the original document, not simply annotate on top of it.
Next, I worked with our User Researcher to determine existing user needs around scanner apps. I wanted to know more about why and how people use scanner apps. Specifically, I designed a survey to learn about how users annotate and share things, and how they interact with their scanned artifacts both in the app as well as post-capture.
271 participants filled out a screener about their scanner app use. Then 42 participants completed a more detailed survey, describing their most recent scanner app experience. These participants provided us with real life use cases and actual scanned artifacts. We showed them a demo of the digital ink technology that would allow them to continue to work with their original documents through our scanner app, and they evaluated its perceived usefulness. Some of their quotes are below.
I also dug into some of our company's earlier User Research regarding whiteboards. Those studies showed that the ability to continue whiteboard work was one of the top user needs. The desire to return to previous content was common. The users we had interviewed would create various unsatisfying "hacks" as a work-around. If we designed it correctly, InkScan would allow us to satisfy this unmet user need.
Unlike our other software products, InkScan was aimed for a general audience, not just education. As the design progressed, the aim stayed the same, but we discovered impactful ways to distinguish it from other scanner apps, while integrating it into our ecosystem in a unique way. If you do have access to a SMART Board, then you get bonus functionality and more ways to continue your work - not just on your mobile device, but also on the board.
Based on my analysis of our User Research, I determined that there are 4 types of artifacts that get scanned: printed documents, receipts, whiteboards, and handwritten notes. The printed artifacts have different user needs than the handwritten ones (for example, a printed document might require a signature, a handwritten note wouldn't need one), so I designed two different flows through the app, with specialized sets of tools.
My competitive analysis showed that an unmet need in the marketplace was the ability to easily create multi-page scanned documents. I wanted to meet this need, so that required more iterations of the user flow plus two different lobbies - one for all of the documents, and one for the individual pages of a multi-page document.
The design constraints for this project were challenging and fun. It was my first time designing a fully-fledged iOS app. I had to balance iOS design guidelines with SMART branding and the constraints of a very small screen size.
Marketing and Branding
As the design progressed, I also looked at marketing and sales, the best ways to market the app, how to set up the pricing structure, what to name it, and how we could market it without a dedicated marketing team. For this project, I was able leverage my experience running my own business, and doing scrappy, DIY marketing. Plus, my experience working in advertising gave me a unique perspective on how to approach app branding and promotion.
We used two main methods to test SMART InkScan before release - heuristic evaluations, and an internal beta release. The beta release provided extensive UX feedback, and uncovered several bugs for our developers to fix before the public release.
In less than 9 months, our small team created a mobile scanner app that offers the most useful features of other scanner apps including perspective correction, multi-image capture, numerous annotation options, and the ability to export as an image or pdf. Our version would be able to compete with the leading scanner apps in terms of functionality, and potentially surpass some in terms of the quality of the captures (cleaning up the captured image – cropping, perspective correction, contrast and color correction, removing glare, etc). Our key differentiator would be “digital ink” – the ability for the user to interact with the original document digitally, not just annotate on top of it.
We launched in February 2018. These are some of the first reviews we got in the app store.
Personal Growth and Recognition
In the process of working on this app, I got promoted to Senior UX Designer, and was presented with the President's Club Award - a semi-annual award that SMART gives out to a select number of employees. Below is the company's official description of the award:
The President's Club Award recognizes an employee who exhibits exceptional performance, exceeds job requirements, displays innovation / initiative with drive and positive influence and outcomes to our team and customers.