Literary Theory App Development
This project began with a hope to develop a Literary Theory App for undergraduate and graduate students in English. Some of my students identified that while a lot of resources are available on literary theory on the web, there is no single app that they could use to look up theory terms on their phones. I collaborated with three of my former students, all computer science majors, to see as to how we could develop a workable concept and a low and high fidelity prototype for a literary theory app for graduate and undergraduate English majors.
- Competitive Analysis
- Usability Testing
As a team we conducted a broad search for other competing apps on Literary Theory. While we did find some apps on philosophy and history, we did not find a single app that focused primarily on literary theory. This meant that if we could conceptualize and create our app, it could be the only one of its kind!
After conducting interviews with five potential users (all English majors) we created our primary persona, Jenny.
When Jenny studies for her classes, she often looks up literary theory terms online. But it takes a lot of effort sifting through a Google search to find a reliable explanation of the terms. Since Jenny needs a reliable and trustworthy app solution, we incorporated her needs into our design, especially with a focus on her context of use.
(Age: 27; Occupation: Graduate Student; Location: Denton, TX)
Jenny is a first year Ph.D student taking early graduate courses. Her studies involve a lot of complex reading and she often has to look up technical terms. This process involves searching the concepts online and then finding a reliable explanation. She wants an app that has curated terms, preferably by experts, where she can look up the basic definitions of theory terms along with further reading suggestions and, if possible, some video resources. She is a working graduate student, so she would not like to purchase a subscription but would be willing to pay a one-time affordable fee to use the app.
- Wants a curated app where she can find all possible theory terms and concepts with reliable explanations.
- Wants the app to be accessible and inexpensive.
- Wants the app to be regularly updated so that new terms/ concepts are added to the app.
- Does not like having to look up terms and then find out that they were not written by professionals.
- Does not like paying app subscriptions.
- Does not like flashy and disorienting phone apps.
Based on the persona we developed, we understood that our app needed to have a simple interface, especially focused on ease of use, and it needed to have credible definitions and explanations of terms with additional video resources on each topic. We also understood that Jenny does not have a lot of money, so the app either needed to be free or could involve a small one-time payment.
Keeping these insights in mind, we decided to create an app with a simple interface, a smooth account creation option, and with possibilities of searching the content in different ways. We also ensured to add a link in the app for Jenny and other users to suggest any terms/ concepts not included in the app. With this in mind, we included the following features in the wireframe:
- A Login page with several login options and an easy way to create an account.
- An interface that includes using the search bar or using the A-Z index at the bottom.
- We also decided to group all our entries into categories and then cross-linked them to major theorists in English studies.
- We also decided to embed video resources when available.
- Under each entry page, we also provided a link to suggest any terms/ concepts.
We tested the paper printouts of the wireframe with ten users. The users were pretty satisfied with the main aspects of the design but they also pointed out to some flaws.
- They thought that the “Category” button at the bottom was confusing, as it did not clarify that by “category” we meant different schools of literary theory.
- The single entry image gave them the impression that the definitions were going to be too short; they all wanted the definitions of theory terms to be fairly detailed.
- Majority of users also asked about the possibility of adding audio resources.
Overall, they were excited about the app and felt that it would be a great resource for them and for English majors all over the world.
Result and Retrospective
After the usability testing and after taking into account our internal discussions, we are currently working on developing a high fidelity prototype. In the meanwhile, I will start writing the content that would be added to the app and the team is getting ready to prepare and test the high fidelity prototype.