User Experience

Wordle - the speech-tracking app

When tasked with designing a tracking, self-quantifiable interface during my exchange term in Finland, my team and I turned to target communication barriers amongst foreign students.

The brief

During my exchange term in Finland, my final project in my HCI course involved conceptualizing and prototyping a self-quantifiable smart-watch application. The specifics were not given; it was up to us to come up with an interesting idea that tracked something about a user. As a team of four (Faisal El Hussein, Edward Brown, Luca Lüthi), we came up with a word-tracking application.

After opting out of a health-related app, we decided to focus on an education-centric application. Because the goal of a self-quantifiable application is to passively (or consciously) track habits to discern a pattern, we wanted to create something to encourage users to track something different, but useful in their everyday lives.

The problem statement

Design a smartwatch interface that collects information about a user’s speech habits, therefore allowing a discernible pattern to be observed and changed if so desired. (We did not have to build the actual application, but conceptualize the idea and design an auxiliary smartwatch application interface.)

How this app works:

  • Tracks unfavourable speech habits, such as filler words, profanity, or overused vocabulary.
  • Continually collects audio and sends it to the user’s phone, so that the word can be interpreted and tallied in the database.
  • Drunk mode can be activated for periods of casual speech, so the user can still wear his/her smartwatch without ruining statistics.

The research

When we were handed our project brief, we sat down together in Faisal's kitchen to brainstorm ideas of what we could work on. We created a comprehensive list, but creating an application to target an educational problem stood out to us primarily because we were foreign students in Finland who saw how language barriers could affect interactions. English was the primary communicative language, as well as the one everyone wanted to learn. Therefore, our project problem was heavily modelled after the needs of our friends.

We saw potential in our application being used in different contexts; we created a few personas and use cases to broaden our scope.

Will, 45, Manager
A 45 year-old manager who often gives presentations at work. He’s been told that he uses a lot of filler words when he loses his train of thought. Will wants to improve his articulation to increase his professionalism.

Sarah, 28, Office Worker
Sarah is a 28 year-old office worker who wants to reduce her slang usage at work. However, during a night out, she wants to be able to speak casually with her friends without ruining her statistics in the app.

Mikita, 21, International Student
Mikita is an international student from Japan who wants to develop his English-speaking skills. His vocabulary is limited and he finds himself using the same words all the time.

Our second iteration of mockups, created after undergoing various rounds of user testing and refinement. These mockups were used to create the Invision prototype used for the last round of testing.

User testing

We conducted 3 rounds of user testing, one after each iteration of wireframes and mockups (paper, high fidelity 1, high fidelity 2 & prototype). Of these rounds, we asked the user to perform 3 tasks and evaluated the ease of completion in regards to the existing interface.

We used Nielson's heuristics as an evaluation benchmark to score usability and to understand user needs.

For our last round of testing, we gathered quantifiable data. This was done by creating a questionnaire and sitting with our users as they tested the prototype and completed the survey. We listened to them talk through their process as well as why they gave certain scores.


This was an interesting assignment interpret and complete. I enjoyed working with my team and conducting the research and user tests to understand how we could design better for our audience. I had also never taken a usability course before, so I felt that I learned a fair bit.

However, there were timeline constraints due to this being a course project. If given more time, I would have definitely strengthened my logic flow and thought about the mobile app attachment as well. This, I felt, was a gaping hole in my thought process that made the project not as strong as it could be.