Translation & Community Features |  Material Design | Mobile App

I was part of a team that worked on creating and integrating immersive language experiences into the already successful Duolingo application. The key features we explored were; on-site translation, virtual tutoring and classroom interaction and integrating the web versions “Club events” into the mobile application.

Duolingo is a language-learning platform that offers personalized lessons in over 37 different languages. Its language learners can track their progress, earn rewards, and practice reading, writing, speaking, listening and conversation with intelligent Chatbots. Their manifesto is summed up in these 3 pillars:

Language is a lifeline

Personalized Education

Making Learning Fun

Universally Accessible.

Duo The Owl And All Illustration © Duolingo

SO THEN, WHATS THE ISSUE?

Duolingo recognizes its limitations in providing users with conversational practice. Its voice recognition feature and AI chatbots fall short in providing users with the tools they need to reach oral proficiency. Duolingo wants to leverage community to create language immersive experiences that will ultimately help its users master fluency.

HOW DO OTHER

APPS MEASURE UP?

When it comes to language learning apps, there are a lot of options out there but where Duolingo outshines the rest is that it stays true to its mission of free learning for all. By using illustrations and a friendly tone, its interface is approachable and intuitive. Rival learning environments included online software Rosetta Stone, Babbel, and Busuu. We compared languages available, cost, accessibility, and features.

Duolingo

Free

37 Languages

300M Users

Rosetta Stone

$$$

24 Languages

200M Users

Memrise

$

19 Languages

35M Users

Babbel

$$

14 Languages

20M Users

Busuu

$$

12 Languages

80M Users

INTERVIEWS & RESEARCH

Using the script questions and structure we developed as a team, I interviewed two immigrants who had different motivations for learning a new language. I gathered information about their goals and took note of their cultural and demographic context, as well as their learning preferences and style. After gathering the necessary and relevant data, I was able to highlight the variety in user motivations, resources, and circumstances.

  • 90% of interviewees were uncomfortable with video chatting. We had to rethink our video chatting feature to just an audio/ text chat at first and maybe roll out at a later stage a "Marco Polo" type video feature.

  • A majority of language learners although appreciated the gamification of the app, lacked motivation over time. They admitted to needing the classroom environment which validated the addition of our community features.

  • Most apps available are lacking in immersion and a personal connection with the learner. The additional Classroom/ tutor feature and integration of the “clubs” would bridge this gap.

  • When considering a global audience as a whole, the majority use Android phones which lead to the decision to design in Material over HIG.

  • Revealed in our research, a staggering amount of users turned out to be refugees displaced in other countries. This is something we could not overlook and helped us form one of our key personas.

A PERSONAL TOUCH

Based on the research, three key personas were identified. This helped shape key features and designs.

Selda

"I was very alone. I had no community, but one educated person can make a whole family survive. Language is survival."

During the war in Syria, Selda immigrated with her three kids to Sweden. She was a doctor in Aleppo before the war but has been unable to land a job in her host country. Selda has begun to learn Swedish in order to improve her quality of life and ensure success for her children.

Needs

  • Safety/security for family

  • Social connection

  • Sense of belonging

  • Restoration of hope

Goals

  • Self-sufficiency

  • Build a trustworthy support system

  • Become fluent

  • Continued learning and personal evolution

Frustrations

  • No way of communication

  • Can't ask questions and can't understand the answers

  • Can't access support systems

  • Isolation

  • Hard to meet basic needs

Selda needs a better way to meet her basic needs through language acquisition because she wants to build a foundation that supports her family's growth and development into the future.

Duolingo's new contextual-translation and community features allow Selda to communicate immediately, bridging the gap between immediate needs and full immersion.

User flow

Selda needs a blanket. Faced with a language barrier - as basic a need as this will prove to be difficult if not impossible! Duolingo’s new translation feature will allow her to complete her task painlessly.

Watson

"I only really need to be able to read and translate, but I usually learn best when I teach."

Watson is a first-year Ph.D. student. He is excited about starting his program, but a little intimidated by his university's language requirement. He has to pass a Spanish exam in his second year and doesn't really know where to begin. His adviser, Dr. Jeeves, suggested Duolingo as a good place to start.

Needs

  • Competence is priority

  • Language learning must be efficient

  • Desires regular and consistent assessment

  • Feels that teaching is learning

Goals

  • Pass his university's language exam

  • Translate and read foreign texts for scholarship

  • Teach beginners to solidify the foundations of Spanish in his own mind

Frustrations

  • Prefers learning in the classroom to a mobile device

  • Finds that most language learning apps have little in the way of consistent and critical assessment

  • Hates feeling like he's wasting his time or not really learning something

Watson needs a better way to study for his university's language exam because the university does not currently provide funding or classroom support for graduate students in regard to language acquisition.

Duolingo's new tutoring feature allows Watson, an intermediate language learner, to mentor beginner learners in a quick, efficient, and online format.

User flow

Watson knows he learns best when he is teaching. By Utilizing Duolingo’s new tutoring feature he is able to enhance his own learning as well as volunteering his time to empower others.

Dora

“I'm really optimistic about learning another language, but the big thing is where do I start? I need guidance. I want to get by with basic language skills in a foreign country."

Barcelona-native Dora is a freelance writer and photographer who is preparing to embark on a one-month backpacking trip through France and Italy. She has been practicing French and Italian on Duolingo but is ready for a more immersive experience.

Needs

  • Independence

  • Quick and efficient learning

  • Security

  • Cultural engagement

Goals

  • To become conversational in French and Italian

  • Learn in a safe environment

  • To converse with native speakers

Frustrations

  • Feels dependent on others

  • Lacks the motivation to stick with one learning method

  • Has a desire to learn but feels that she has exhausted Duolingo’s potential

  • Unable to speak conversationally

Dora needs a better way to safely practice her French and Italian with other because she wants to speak conversationally, increasing her cultural immersion.

Acting as a bridge between on-boarding and fluency, Duolingo's mobile event system—through community-created events that focus on immersive experiences—allows Dora to safely communicate and meet up with others while traveling abroad.

User flow

Dora is about to embark on a trip of a lifetime. To increase her language competence she uses Duolingo’s integrated community feature to attend a nearby club.

New Features

On-site Translation

Classroom interaction

Club

Events

INFORMATION ARCHITECTURE

App-Map_2x.jpg

DESIGN PROCESS

We started out by mapping Duolingo’s existing structure and visually exploring the project brief and user needs.

Next we used the design studio process to develop initial sketches of all pages.

USER TESTING

Then we lead users through testing of each user flows to obtain feedback on their overall experience. There seemed to be some confusion around the "lessons" component of Watsons profile page and that there should be more information about the students progress. But mainly all users found that the large calendar view was confusing and resulted in us removing it completely from the design. This feedback was invaluable and was used to revise the prototype.

From the sketches I moved on to Wireframing and created the first Invision prototypes. I  implemented needed improvements, from our first batch of user testing and with this, conducted a second round of testing.

From wireframes, we moved to High Fidelity Mockups. Applied product branding, grid structure, typography, color schemes, and icons.