Maximo Riadigos

Uncovering the Future of Mobile Chat in Latin America

Head London is a design consultancy who set out to completely redesign MSNGR, the chat application from Myriad that functioned as service offered by the mobile operators to its customers to be a carrier specific chat. By breaking away from this structure, the challenge became How to create a compelling proposition for MSNGR for it to become a successful service (from a commercial and user adoption point of view) in an already cluttered market. What is the future of mobile chat?

SELECTING THE RIGHT RESEARCH METHODOLOGY

When considering how to develop the right proposition for MSNGR, it was clear that we needed to have a research method that allowed for the exploration of current behaviour and activity as well as a means for spotting future trends, something that is critical in the fast-moving world of mobile messaging.

Our primary research goals were defined as:

Gaining a richer understanding of how mobile messaging fit into people’s lives and social circles.

Understanding how identity, culture and personality affected their usage of mobile messaging and mobile behaviour in general.

Exploring whether our user was open to broadening the role, and context of use of their messaging apps i.e. revenue generation ideas.

We identified quickly that we needed to take a rich, qualitative approach which was ethnographic in nature. This was particularly key in order to properly understand any unique cultural contexts in Mexico and the rest of Latin America which might indicate MSNGR’s existing (and critical) strengths. In addition to an ethnographic approach, we wanted to capitalise on the opportunity to access mobile messaging users and quickly validate new thinking and ideas which could help shape MSNGR’s future direction. It was important to maximise the time with participants by testing their instinctive and un-biased reactions to various ideas.

Finally, it was clear that the ultimate aim was to inspire new thinking, generate new ideas and truly spark solutions to latent, previously unexpressed needs, not just to find out what people wanted and could verbally express. This combination of requirements led us to select a hybrid method we have termed the Field Studio.

AN INTRODUCTION TO THE FIELD STUDIO

The Field Studio is a rapid innovation process, designed to take us on a journey through our target user’s experiences and aspirations. Loosely-based on the Rapid Innovation models used by organisations like Google and Nokia, the Field Studio enables researchers, designers, developers and product owners to rapidly immerse, understand and ideate around their target consumer.

In attendance at a Field Studio would be the lead moderator, members of the design and development team as well as the product and business owners. Unlike other ethnographic methodologies, this approach encourages bigger teams in order to facilitate richer immersion and more diverse idea development.

The Field Studio is broken down into three core activities, conducted over a period of 5-days within each market.

The Ethnography & Culture Hunt focuses exclusively on observing and interacting with the participants and their locale, observing their mobile, social, visual and emotional culture.

These inputs are taken in to the Ideation, Validation & Iteration days where there is sharing on what has been observed. New and old ideas are reviewed and validated against the insights gained to select a few which can be quickly expressed as product diagrams, propositional statements or storyboards. These are then used as stimulus for co-creation sessions starting from late afternoon into evening.

By the final day, each Field Studio generates rich interaction with up to 16 participants and generally 50+ potential ideas which have been validated and evolved with the target users. These can then be qualified against business drivers, and refined down to a core set of highly desirable and feasible features for the product.

The plan considers carrying out 4 fields studio with Latin American population. Starting by focusing on the biggest current market for MSNGR: Mexico and Brazil.

In Mexico, we observed a strong need to enhance the functionality around group chat.

MEXICANS ARE PASSIONATE ABOUT THEIR SOCIAL CONNECTIONS
It was clear that all participants felt that their mobile messaging was about enhancing and enriching their existing real-world social connections. Almost all participants used groups in WhatsApp and Facebook, creating and maintaining multiple threads for family, school and university friends, and even work colleagues.

GROUP CHAT IS CURRENTLY A HUGE OPPORTUNITY AREA
The need for greater functionality and control around groups was the most compelling thread to emerge. Whilst current messaging platforms facilitate group chat, none were designed specifically for it. Participants expressed a number of frustrations as well as providing a number of interesting new feature sets.

THE IDEA OF SPENDING MONEY ON MOBILE WAS BROADLY REJECTED
Participants consistently rejected the idea of mobile spending on apps, games or in-app purchases. Whilst there was a cultural issue with carrying cash (security), participants were also reluctant to see their mobile as a solution to that. This was contradicted by some evidence in diary entries showing small game purchases, however in all cases, purchasing of apps and games was highly infrequent.

In Brazil, we uncovered new perspectives for chat content

BRAZILIANS ARE MAXIMISING THEIR INCREASED DISPOSABLE INCOME
Most of the participants we engaged with demonstrated habits which were indicative of a higher socio-economic status. They were working multiple jobs (and often studying) and were therefore open to spending money on better clothes, phones, electronics and social activities with friends.

PARTICIPANTS WERE OPEN TO DEALS, NEW INFORMATION & MARKETING COMMUNICATION IN GENERAL
It was clear that the Brazilian market has a much more open attitude to marketing from brands. Our participants expressed openness to hearing about offers, deals, new music, new films and similar. They had an expectation this information should be delivered by brands, but they were only likely to share if it fit their social context e.g. jokes, funny videos new music or games.

NETWORK CONSTRAINTS ENCOURAGE DUAL-SIM USAGE
Several participants had multiple SIM cards to communicate with friends or family out of state. Whilst this meant that they would need to switch phones, group chat provided a less hassle option. Several participants indicated features such as voice notes via WhatsApp were compelling and useful.

We observed a number of consistent sharing activities within group chat in both Mexico & Brazil

SHARING MUSIC VIA YOUTUBE
In Mexico we identified a strong desire to share music via chat and this was further evidenced in Brazil when it became clear that most music is shared via YouTube. A return examination of Mexico insights clarified that YouTube was the preferred music sharing medium there too.

MEMES, JOKES AND VISUAL MATERIAL WAS PREVALENT
There was a lot of material in the form of memes and videos which was observed as ‘doing the rounds’. Looking through a large number of participants messages, there was a lot of evidence of ‘forwarded’ images and rich media. For some participants, there were also forwarded text content such as jokes.

GROUPS ARE OFTEN USED FOR PLANNING AND CO-ORDINATING MEET-UPS FOR CINEMA, PARTIES & HOLIDAYS
Participants shared annecdotes of high volumes of messaging for planning Friday night activities. In both markets, Cinema emerged as the primary social activity for friends and family and trips would often be co-ordinated via group chat, although listings information would be obtained in person or via the web.

We have been able to outline a needs framework to group behavioural trends

CONNECTION
BELONG TO GROUPS
PRESERVE MY PHONE
ENTERTAIN ME
BE MONEY CONSCIOUS

Whilst exploring a range of new ideas and future directions for chat, it was clear that users expect some fundamental needs to be preserved, primary being the speed, flexibility and sanctity of chat itself.

These needs have been categorised into the groups shown on the right which
enable grounded approaches to defining how new solutions will work.

As well as these behavioural groups, there were a higher-level set of design
principles which have to be adhered to in order to respond to user’s expectations of reliable chat. These are:

• Fast, efficient chat comes first.
• Delight me with attention to detail.
• Be relentlessly reliable.
• Chat is about chemistry.
• Protect my privacy. Respect my privacy.
• WAP should be as good as Android for as many people as possible.
• Chat is best in a group.

Archetypes of propsective MSNGR consumers

The research enabled the qualification existing assumptions about MSNGR users and to outline who the target user should be going forward. The findings indicate that the focus of future developments should be young people between the ages of 18-30 from the mid socio-economic grouping.

The target user is further characterised by their engagement with technology and the facilitator role they will often play in their social circles.

As well as the target user, it was also possible to map the lowest common denominator for evaluating the usability of core elements of the product. This group are less likely to be leaders in adopting new features, however they act as core parts of friendship groups and as such will need to access and use any new functionality. These users will most likely remain on WAP and entry-level smartphones much longer than others.

WHAT NEXT?

The project is on-going, planning further Field Studios in Argentina and with Latin American diaspora population living in the US. The insights uncovered so far have defined the main concept that will be used as driver for further research and user engagement, exploring the future of mobile chat.

Maximo Riadigos

Head London

EDUCATION
2008-2010 Innovation Design Engineering MA and MSc,
Royal College of Art & Imperial College London. (London, United Kingdom).

1999-2004 Industrial Engineering,
Austral University. (Buenos Aires, Argentina).

Other:
2009-2010 Design London Fellow, Imperial College London (London, United Kingdom).
2007 Six Sigma: Green Belt, HSBC Group (Buenos Aires, Argentina).
2005 Product Design Short-course, Palermo University (Buenos Aires, Argentina).

PROFESSIONAL EXPERIENCE

Jan 2014 – to Date. UX Consultant, HEAD LONDON (London, UK).
Currently working as a UX consultant leading projects with various clients, carrying out research, concept exploration, interaction design, facilitation of workshops, etc. Head London is a dynamic digital agency in Central London, specialising in user centred design, user experience, multichannel strategy, leading-edge technology and well as service design.

2013. Research Associate, HELEN HAMLYN CENTRE FOR DESIGN (London, UK).
The Helen Hamlyn Centre for Design provides a focus for people-centred design research at the Royal College of Art in London. Its multi-disciplinary team of designers, engineers, architects, anthropologists and communication experts undertake practical research and projects with industry to advance an approach to design within the RCA that is people-centred and socially inclusive. It has a special focus divided into three Research Labs: Health Care & Patient Safety, Age & Ability and Work & City. As a Research Associate, I carried out the research and design for a project focused on improving medication compliance in cancer treatments through the implementation of mobile solutions.

2011 – 2012. Senior User Experience Consultant, ELECTRONIC INK (London, United Kingdom).
As senior consultant my responsibilities are to carry out contextual inquiries, user interviews, workshops and white-boarding sessions with the client; through these, identify design drivers and challenges, present them to clients and transform these into design solutions. Additionally, participate on scoping sessions for upcoming projects, and support the sales team creating approach documents and strategic content.
A representative example of my work was as lead design designer on a UX design project that is expected to revolutionize the trading platform for a major commodities trading company, by integrating all functional modules under consistent interaction models and by transforming user centred research insights into design solutions. Through the interviews we held with the users, I identified the main insights that worked as drivers for the general navigation model, which led to be the strongest selling point of the new system among the internal users.
I was also involved as lead design consultant in the developed of a risk reporting platform for a major financial bank that focuses on allowing Risk Officers to track down emerging risk and identify the risk drivers. The design I proposed was based on insights gathered during the research phase, where we understood the operational risk world and identified the underlying strategic needs of the users beyond the specific reports. This solution is estimated to save the client 150 million USD on capital reserves each year.

2009 Product Designer, INFLATE DESIGN LTD. (London, United Kingdom).
Summer internship working in various projects in product design and temporary
architecture installations for events and exhibitions of blue chip commercial brands. As such, my responsibilities were to translate the values of these brands into physical designs using inflatable aesthetics. I was in charge of developing client requirements from initial concepts to manufacture and final build, making sure the client was aligned in every decision. Due to the success of one of my designs, the client later on requested a full product range based on the same concept.

2007-2008 Industrial Designer, TATSA TRANSPORT DESIGN (Buenos Aires, Argentina).
I was responsible of applying design principles to all transport developments within a strongly engineering oriented company while dealing with strict manufacturing and work force budgets. Worked in the development of an Intercity bus and a front engine variation of the current urban bus, in charge of designing the plastic exteriors and their support structures, designing the internal distribution and pantographic doors to name a few.

ACHIEVEMENTS

2012 Keynote speaker at LFUPG on ‘Emotions and Design’.
2012 Faberge Big Egg Hunt, Elephant Family and Action for Children. Selected artist for a public art exhibition across different sites of London city which manage to raise more than 1 million pounds for their causes.
2010 D&AD student awards 2010. Awarded “Second Prize” for the DIY Kyoto 3D product design brief for the Phase project. Awarded “In Book” for the Seymour Powell product design brief for The Kitchen Times project.
2010 RCA Professor’s commendation for final degree project: Phase.
2010 Published in 1000 Product Designs by Eric Chan with Mymallow.
2006 Unilever Packaging Design Competition. (Buenos Aires, Argentina). Selected finalist with the “rayaknorr” project for best packaging in the “professionals” category.

Maximo graduated from the RCA in Innovation Design Engineering in 2010. He was born in Argentina where he studied for his first degree in Industrial Engineering from the Austral University. His interest in the user centred design process led him to work for an international innovation and user experience consultancy where he was involved in various ground-breaking projects, from investment banks to global environmental organisations. He is passionate about using design as a platform to improve people’s lives.

He has worked on healthcare projects to improve the treatment of breast cancer and medication compliance. And also contributed to various projects for startups and environmental NGOs. Maximo helped develop an award-winning, interactive art piece for the Fabergé Big Egg Hunt in 2012. The ‘Invisible Egg’ helped the event break a Guinness World Record.

Maximo Is currently leading the MSNGR project, and was part of it since the beginning, carrying out the research in Latin America, as well as the different workshop sessions to develop the concepts further, and currently still developing the project further. He is quite experiences in the area in subject, as evidenced by his CV.

Maximo has presented at the Life Examined Symposium by the Helen Hamlyn Centre for Design in 2013, as well as other lectures for specialised groups; such as: LFPG, or Tobias&Tobias.