Whether you're here to read, write, or admire poetry, Pencrumbs is the place for you. With a constantly expanding library of poems past and present, there is something for everyone's inner poet to love! Writers can also harness the power of words through built-in suggestive and poetic structure tools to realize future masterpieces.
Feb 2020 - Mar 2020
Research & Discovery,
Info Architecture & Ideation,
Interactive Design & Testing,
Google Forms, Figma, UsabilityHub
Folks who love reading and writing poetry do not have a comprehensive and dedicated resource that helps them satisfy their cravings while guiding their writing process. Upon researching and discovering this issue, I implemented a rigorous ideation and information architecture process that involved competitive analysis, ideation, iterative testing coupled with visual design principles to develop a novel service to meet poets' wants and needs.
Pencrumbs was designed primarily for desktop devices with a mobile counterpart to provide poetic logophiles a platform for them to share their own poems while reading others' works. By blending complementary shades of purple and green with complementary serif and sans-serif typefaces, Pencrumbs invites users to feel the royalty, wisdom, and mystique of the poetic arts.
Based on a survey of 27 participants, 15 have used digital tools to help with their writing process. Of those 15, 80% write on their PCs while 20% use their phones. Folks use these tools for the following reasons:
Users expressed frustration in terms of getting distracted (100%), lack of robust editing features (40%), and sync and accessibility issues (26.7% each). They followed up stating they want a product with comprehensive editing tools and a mobile-friendly layout. Upon looking closely at what people enjoy reading and writing, a majority like blogs and stories, while other types weren't as popular. I saw an opportunity to zoom in on a specific literary type rather than directly compete with Medium.
Upon post-survey qualitative analysis via user interviews, I discovered that there is in fact a desire for a poetry-focused app. One person even said, "I wish poetry was more present in my life. I used to write poetry, read it a lot." This app could also stand out in that it would include more robust editing features including a thesaurus, rhyme scheming, and rhyme words to select.
Medium allows anyone to write about and publish whatever they choose while also being able to read and interact with other peoples' works. It provides curated content for each user and is displayed cleanly. Users can highlight passages and control how to view their content (text size, dark mode, etc). However, they have 2 free article views before being asked to subscribe for $5 per month. The login process is also inconvenient; after logging in with an email address, an email is sent with a link that must then be accessed to complete the login process. This creates extra work.
Tumblr is one of the oldest social networks and thus has a very wide audience and recognizable brand. Users can customize their feed's look, share and interact with content and users, post whatever they wish, and the onboarding process was quick. However, dashboard customization isn't as robust (dark mode appears to be the only option). It also suffers from technical issues and bugs frequently.
Facebook is the most dominant social media platform, and has become a method of registration for almost every web service. Users can create and follow groups and pages based on their own interests. Facebook also does frequent updates to maintain technical integrity. However, it can feel very bloated with all its available features (such as Market and Dating in recent months).
Poetreat is an app that helps users write poetry with rhyme schemes while also keeping a line-by-line word count. Users can set their own rhyme scheme and the app will provide rhyming words based on the scheme, and can share or export their work. The design is minimalistic so users can focus on writing. However, the app is unstable, typos aren't recognized, projects don't always save, and under the free version only 3 projects can be saved.
In order to keep the end user in mind it's important to humanize the research compiled thus far. Three distinct user personas were created to reflect that data as broadly and accurately as possible. This would allow us to see how broad we can go with this new service without losing sight of our target audience.
Age 26 | Trenton, NJ
Andy likes to read and occasionally write about trends in business and tech and plays friends in a few rounds of FIFA. Andy does a lot of writing and revising, from blog posts to business proposals and briefings. He feels he could get work done more efficiently if there was a tool with strong editing capabilities, a way to organize his thoughts, and cross-platform synchronization.
I take pride in helping businesses reach their desired goals.
Age 24 | New York, NY
Sylvia hopes to publish a poetry book and fulfill a childhood dream. To do this, she needs to stay sharp and motivated to improve her writing skills. Sylvia gains inspiration from other platforms like Twitter and Medium but wants to expand. She wants a centralized writing experience as opposed to googling writing exercises and using RhymeZone to find rhymes.
Through art we discover ourselves and uplift others!
Age 32 | New York, NY
Imani is looking for a service that can recognize her voice and translate it into text. On the flipside, if she has to do work or focus her attention elsewhere, she would like to be able to have her favorite articles and pieces read to her. Imani is confident in her writing but is always happy to challenge herself and grow. She isn't very much into poetry but is willing to indulge in it.
Knowledge is power, and literature helps us achieve that power.
It is now time to establish what the minimum viable product can or should do, and how those tasks get done. User stories lay out the what, and user flows map out the how. I created a list of twenty user stories that I felt were most important, with a focus on the most essential stories (e.g. start a new draft or resume an existing one, view featured pieces, establish rhyme schemes, bookmark pieces, etc.). The flows I crated integrated as many of my user stories as possible to test general functionality, while other stories would be implemented in future iterations.
Knowing now what this service should do and how it should be done, what should it look like? Before fleshing anything out, having a skeleton to work with is essential. I took pen to paper to brainstorm my vision for this app, then digitized it on Figma and tested its functionality. Given that 80% of survey participants during the research phase indicated they write on their PCs, I tested my desktop wireframes and made any applicable changes to the mobile version. I noted the following points of feedback from user testing:
While crafting user stories, I thought of possible brand names and settled on Pencrumbs. Poems are bits and pieces put together to form an expressive piece, and I wanted the name and logo to represent that. From the ideas I sketched I digitized a few of them, shown here:
I was drawn to the fountain pen tip logo and added a few dots to represent ‘crumbs’ falling from the pen. I had also decided a while back I wanted to use shades of purple as my primary color to capture the wisdom, magic, and royalty of the poetic process. Through much trial and error, I also established a complementary green color palette. I wanted my brand type to be serif, as this is typically associated with literature. I opted for Playfair Display. To complement this type, I used Lato, a sans-serif type to display preview text or supplementary information.
Time for a fresh coat of paint! I took my branding guide and applied it to my wireframes to create the first iterations of Pencrumbs’ final design. I received feedback from lead designers and mentors, which I then applied to further enhance my design. At this point, I was ready to put it to the test. In the spirit of maintaining consistency, I once again tested my desktop version to get feedback from users since this would be the more popular version. Overall, users enjoyed the look and feel of the app (especially the landing page). However, no design is perfect, as evidenced by the following feedback:
As a result of this feedback, the latest iteration of Pencrumbs was born.
Narrowing down my focus to a subset of literature was a gamble that seemed to pay off. In hindsight, it made more sense to do this rather than design another catch-all service in a space where so many others exist. It was more fruitful to explore a space that hasn’t been given enough attention, especially given the want was there. Spacing was tricky to nail throughout this project despite how confident I felt. I encouraged users to give their honest opinions of the layout to gain their insights about spacing, and they liked what they saw. I was originally adamant about using an analagous color palette but found myself struggling more. To solve this, I decided to go with a purple-green complementary palette which I felt worked much better.
There is plenty of room for improvement and expansion of this prototype to include some of the other core user stories drafted for this project. I would start with implementing the ability to clip or highlight certain lines of a post. That way, readers can build up a collection of inspiration, further customizing their experience. But, as it stands now, Pencrumbs accomplishes its primary goal of breaking into the poetry space and offering users a bold and reliable service in creating and satisfying their poetry wants and needs.