Across the Board – Zainab Aliyu
Across the Board

Personalized the dissemination of announcements to eradicate strenuous efforts of consumption

Flyer boards are an inefficient platform to present information to the collegiate community. Unfortunately, they are the main if not only method in academic buildings. Information presented on these boards is disorganized, outdated, and visually overwhelming. This leads to a general consensus that information on flyer boards are irrelevant, and thus not worth the strenuous attention. Consequently, the student population passes by without so much as a scan.

Across the Board is a personalized online platform in which users can tailor their interaction with flyer boards. With a focus on eradicating the strenuous efforts to read flyers by emphasizing individual interests and reliable maintenance, flyers become a relevant, efficient way to spread news.

Role Interaction design, visual design, user research

Contributors Lea Cody, Vivian Qiu, Zainab Aliyu

Given the problem space, the design initiative was to exemplify the relevance, organization, and maintenance of announcements, and to improve their effectiveness of being accessible by their intended audience.
Relevance & Organization How might we help viewers easily find events and news that are relevant to their interests?

The Discovery Feed can be customized to fit your interests in any given moment. With the option to sort, filter, and add interests, users are shown flyers that cater their wants, eliminating unwanted clutter. Users can also follow majors, organizations, or departments, allowing them to see flyers from posters that they are interested in.
Discovery feed
Accessibility How might we help posters (those who post) advertise events and news directly to their intended target audience?

When they post a flyer, they are able to input details, including date, time, cost, location, as well as interest tags. This metadata becomes searchable to viewers, allowing them to easily access information. Users can opt in to get mobile notifications on their phone anytime a new flyer matching their interests is posted, making Across the Board not just a destination to go to get relevant information as is a limitation of flyer boards of today, but a place that can actually bring relevant information to you.
Posting a new flyer
Maintenance How might we make it easier for moderators to seamlessly remove inactive flyers and take down flyers that violate the criteria for posting?

Once a flyer is posted, viewers are able to flag down and report flyers if they are violating any regulations, and moderators are able to view and quickly remove flyers that have been flagged. Flyers are immediately archived once the date and time has passed.
Reporting flyers
Moderator view
Across the Board is the result of an extensive two-month process of research, development, and iteration.

View Process
Project Scope To begin with, we agreed upon the boundaries of what things we planned to include in our research, and which things were beyond our scope.
The territory map served as a consensus artifact for our team.

The stakeholder map began with a team brainstorm of everyone we thought might provide us with insight into our project, or who might be affected by our research and design. This visual map includes key relationships between stakeholders.

Research Summary Through need-finding, developing personas, fly-on-the-wall observation, board monitoring, a survey, and interviews with flyer posters, readers, and board management, we were able to assess the current state of campus flyer boards. Because of the communicative nature of flyer boards, our main focus in research was understanding our users and finding ways to optimize information exchange. From our research, we wanted to see the way passersby absorb information and what factors add or detract from their participation. Considering that flyer board users are composed of both providers and viewers, our user-oriented research will be separated into two main subcategories, with data from two different groups of subjects. In addition to data acquired from users, our research will also document the methods (or lack thereof) of organization as well as the progression of the way information is posted.
‘Fly-on-the-wall’ observations were conducted to surveil the interaction between flyer boards and the public under an unaffected environment. There is a large disparity between the number of those who pass and the number of those who actually stop to look at the content of the boards. All-encompassing flyer boards seldom grab the attention of their demographic, while boards that target an audience are much more effective and are capable of holding said attention for a longer duration.

We identified significant locations on campus where flyer boards represented an extensive spectrum of individuals on campus. We catalogued the progression of these flyer boards over the span of two weeks by taking daily photos of each board and taking note of any changes including added flyers, removed flyers, ripped tabs, and expired flyers. We noticed various trends such as strategies posters used to grab attention, or periodic cleaning of the boards.

To help us understand the length of time it takes for a flyer to be noticed once posted, we created our own flyer with instructions to remove a tab once the flyer had been read. In order to go into further detail and determine which flyers were the most noticeable, we created three versions of the same flyer. A significant trend we noticed was that regardless of the size of the flyer, the version that featured black text on a white background had significantly more tabs removed than the colored flyers.

To survey a wide range of flyer board users, we created a questionnaire and published the link through social media to fellow CMU students. The people surveyed were able to pinpoint what they found wrong with flyer boards.

Insights From the research, it became clear that viewers tend to gravitate towards minimal collections of information, instead of large masses of content that prove to be daunting and often irrelevant. We found the problems of clutter, relevance, and low maintenance to be the most prominent among flyer boards on campus. Our research showed a need for a more sophisticated method of organization and hierarchy, as the subpar response to disorganized and outdated flyers is mitigated in niche environments. All-encompassing flyer boards seldom grab the attention of their demographic, while boards that target an audience such as design students are much more effective and are capable of holding said attention for a longer duration.
Organization— As a general trend, when the number of flyers increases, so does the disorder of the board overall. This clutter makes it nearly impossible to find specific flyers, or identify important information.
Relevance— Any member of the public can post a flyer for no cost other than that of printing. Due to the large variety of topics, not all the advertisements shown are appealing to viewers.
Accessibility— Those who post on boards use various different strategies (e.g. optimal placement in heavy trafficked areas, posting larger flyers, posting multiple flyers on the same board) in order to gain more publicity.
Maintenance — The boards are not maintained reliably, therefore many dates on the flyers have passed, cluttering the board. This increased clutter leads to an even harder ability to maintain the boards. It's a vicious cycle.
Personas Based on the research, we were able to conclude that the ineffectiveness of flyer boards affects almost all parties in the university. While and after analyzing my research findings and understanding the intentions and actions of each group, I developed three personas that would encompass our target groups.
Poster— Nick regularly uses flyer boards to advertise the events of his organization. He also uses Facebook as a means of advertising, and tries to use poster boards strategically to get more publicity. Nick needs to be able to advertise events and news directly to his intended target audience.
Viewer— Hannah wants to find out about news events that are happening on campus. She rarely takes the time to scan the boards, because it takes too long to find ones that interest her. Hannah needs to be able to easily find events and news that are relevant to her interests.
Moderator— Amy is a Poster Policy Administrator for CMU. Her duties include removing inactive flyers, removing flyers that don't meet the criteria for posting, and reporting all violations. Amy needs to be able to seamlessly remove inactive flyers and take down flyers that violate the criteria for posting.
User Flow In order to understand the stakeholders better, I mapped out the current flow of posters, viewers, and moderators, in order to better understand their current experience and interactions with flyer boards. I also wanted to better understand what motivated them.

Information Architecture Across the Board began with an architecture consisting of three primary user actions: post, view, and moderate.

Sketches & Ideation I began sketching and ideating on the interactions of posters, viewers, and moderators.

As it currently stands with flyer boards, viewer interaction is only prompted when a viewer is in the vicinity of a flyer board (whether through passing, or through actively seeking out a board to look at). Thus, participation on the viewer's end is limited and flyer boards are just a destination.
In order to increase participation, I thought about ways to prompt the viewer into being more active.

Wireframing With the initial wireframes, I wanted to put the main focus on the roles of the viewers and posters, while giving moderators a more passive role.
Posters are able to advertise directly to their intended audience by being able to add metadata (information such as date, time, and location, as well as interests). All of this metadata would be searchable by viewers.

Through the use of filtering, viewers are able to view flyers that pertain specifically to their interests. I started to explore how users would interact with being able to filter and search for flyers, as well as the interactions that would occur once viewers find a flyer that appeals to them.

Feedback & Iterating The findings from user tests helped inform the next design choices and further guide the direction of the product. With the prototypes, I conducted user tests with students and faculty that identified as posters and viewers of flyer boards. I used Axure, a prototyping application. From these tests, I was able to finds ways to iterate and improve on the prototype. I kept iterating and made sure that I was tackling the usability problems.
During the next phase of testing, I put initial visual and interaction decisions in front of users to get their feedback.

After some initial user testing, it was clear that the filtering section was found to be very useful by viewers. However, what I had not included in the initial prototype was an ability to try to search for posters and not just filter by interest, which several users had tried to do. I kept this in mind in the next iterations through the addition of a search bar.
HierarchyIn the first iteration, the hierarchy of the sidebar and header confused users, so in the next iteration, I prioritized the sidebar and pulled all the primary functionality there. Prioritizing the sidebar led to more design decisions; since there was now more information on the sidebar, I wanted to fix its position completely to the left and expand it's height from the top to the bottom so that there would be more space within the sidebar. I also added expandability and contractility to the sections within the sidebar, so that clutter could be reduced.

The user is able to like an event (subsequently saving it and adding it to their calendar), and follow the poster of the flyer. Further testing showed a need to be able to share the event as well, as a well as a need to further describe the event.
View Details In the first iteration, when a user clicked on a new flyer, the details for it came up on a new page.

The pop up page, though intuitive for users, wasn't practical when additional things needed to be added to the View Details page, due to the fixed scrolling.

To further reduce clutter, I added the affordance to be able to hide and show the sidebar. This would allow for fullscreen scrolling of the flyers, once the viewer has filtered as needed. I also separated the posting flyer action from the filtering action in order to increase clarity of user actions.
Readability During testing, some users questioned the readability of some sections and titles, and I rethought my initial decision to use capitalization in some sections, since it's harder for people to read capitals at first glance than lowercase letters. I brought this feedback on to later iterations.

Through additional testing with posters, viewers, and moderators, it became clear that moderating would need to be given a more active role. Originally, moderating was done through automatic actions; flyers are tagged with the date in which the flyer becomes irrelevant, and after that date, the flyer is automatically archived. However, users expressed the need of wanting to be able to report flyers that might have surpassed the system's rules due to things such as human error (for example, if the date of event was inputed incorrectly).
In the next iteration, users are able to report flyers that violate the criteria of posting. These reports are seen by moderators, who are able to take action.

Takeaways With this project, my personal goal was to improve my overall skills in research and understanding of the user, as well as to further develop my ability to engage users in a product. I keep going back to this project to reflect on areas in which I can improve. One of the aspects is the mobility, and given more time, I would explore the mobile aspect of this product more as it relates to users' interactions.