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Game Center

A multiplayer gaming app within Microsoft Teams to mitigate the effects of social isolation

Project: Microsoft Remote Hackathon

Role: Sprint facilitation, ideation, user stories, UI design, prototyping

Tools: Figma, Microsoft Teams

Timeline: 3 days

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01. Problem

THE 'NEW NORMAL'

In response to the COVID-19 pandemic, at least 4.7 million Canadians who weren't working from home had to start. According to a survey conducted by Vancouver-based polling company Research Co., 73% of the Canadians surveyed believe they will continue to work from home after the pandemic restrictions are lifted.

Over the next 3 days, we needed to create a digital prototype that would support a better Work From Home experience. 

02. Process

REFINING THE PROBLEM SPACE

To tackle this challenge, our team started by sharing our own experience of working from home. We were a team of 5 living in 3 different time zones with very different skillsets, but we were all under lockdown and feeling the WFH blues.

A quick search showed that we’re not alone. Even before COVID-19, loneliness and isolation have long been a concern for remote workers. A recent survey of 3,500 teleworkers found that 40% of remote workers struggled with communication and loneliness, and studies show that it’s a growing problem as millions of people adjust to working from home for hours on end (Buffer, 2020; HBR, 2020).

These are important metrics. Feelings of loneliness and isolation has a huge impact our mental health, and can negatively impact our ability and willingness to connect with those around us - including our colleagues.

Thus we arrived at our design challenge: How might we enhance the remote team-building experience to instill a sense of normalcy and human connection? 

HUMAN-CENTERED APPROACH

To create a people-centered solution, we aligned on who we were designing for. We used the research thus far to create a proto-persona, which helped us build empathy with our user to ultimately help him achieve his goals.

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DESIGN STRATEGY

After a group sketching session, we decided to build a ‘Game Center’ within the Microsoft Teams application. We focused on Teams for two reasons. First, it’s a wildly popular platform with more than 75 million daily active users (The Verge, 2020). Second, we wanted to make our solution more relatable for our stakeholders so that we may better align with their business goals.

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We then drafted a storyboard to visualize Jack’s journey and articulate his user flow. Following this, we created a series of user stories to build empathy with his needs and articulate the design requirements. 

INTERFACE DESIGN

We designed our solution as an extension of Microsoft Teams, so we adhered closely to Microsoft’s design guidelines. We explored some new ways that our solution might integrate with Teams’ existing interface and functionalities without being disruptive. I took the lead on designing user profile cards and the Game Center list view, while another designer (check out his work - he's awesome!) took the lead for the Teams View and the booking form. Still, it was very much a joint process and we checked in with one another regularly to share ideas and offer support. 

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03. Solution

HAPPY HOUR FOR REMOTE WORK

  • Improved people engagement & experience: Expands the Microsoft Teams ecosystem, delivering more value and variety to create a versatile platform

  • Potential integration of Microsoft's Xbox services: Attract new gamers and thrill loyal players, while offering rich experiences from existing resources

  • Rapid & cost-effective delivery within Microsoft Teams platform: Direct development and deployment in Teams, capturing existing users and utilizing the application's robust Developer Kit and AI solutions 

04. Evaluation

LEARNINGS & TAKEAWAYS

This was my first remote hackathon. Working with strangers and juggling time differences were challenging at times, but it was an incredibly fun and inspiring experience. It was also extra satisfying to know that our solution was responding to a timely challenge. 

It would have been great to do more in-depth user research and conduct usability tests to validate our solution, but I’m proud of what we managed to accomplish in such a short period. Even though it was a conceptual project, we should expect to see similar gaming applications within existing platforms as working from home becomes more common.