Where to begin with collecting memories and wisdom?

It must be an age thing. I’ve been asked TWICE in the last year to help define the scope of a digital product that aims to capture memories and wisdom.

In both cases, the idea was a response to the realisation that losing a loved one is one of life’s worst experiences. The loss may be sudden or gradual, but it is always dramatic and life-changing for those left behind. People want to tell stories about the loved one they’ve lost but, all too often, the material that helps to tell those stories is scattered and difficult to access. Over time, the memories of survivors fade too, and valuable personal or family histories become lost to future generations.

Clearly, this is a big subject, which can be approached from multiple directions. Fortunately, a number of insights helped to focus each team’s thinking. My favourites are:

  • Nobody wants to be forgotten.
  • Life should be celebrated, and people remembered the way they were (not just at end-of-life).
  • There is so much available today to help remember a loved one, but no easy way to organise and collaborate, to share the richest stories.
  • Many of us don’t have the time or strength to capture our wisdom/advice before it’s too late.

On both occasions, I used Google Ventures’ Sprint process to create a structure for early development. The founders played the role of Deciders, I was the Facilitator, and a range of (sometimes remote) experts chipped in as required.

The illustrations below come from both projects. I have also redacted any content that’s the founders’ intellectual property.

Day 1:

‘How might we?’  |  Choosing a customer  |  Diagramming the problem  |  Defining our big Sprint questions

We felt our priority had to be to get answers to the following questions:

  • Is this a good / big idea?
  • Who is this for?
  • What would they do with it?

Day 2:

Remixing  |  Capturing big brand ideas

Next, we looked at digital products that we admired and have experience of, including social media platforms, event listings sites, and entertainment providers, to see what we could learn about storing and sharing user-generated content:

Day 3:

Critiquing solutions  |  Heat mapping and voting  |  Storyboards  |  Wireframes

With the help of outside experts and freelancers, we highlighted the most interesting elements of the previous day’s idea-gathering and sketching exercises. And decided on the elements of our prototype. This formed the basis of a storyboard and early wireframes, shown below:

Day 4:

Building a prototype and crafting the proposition

After wireframing 3 possible user journeys for the app-based concept, I asked a visual designer to develop a look and feel, and then stitched together a prototype. The founder / decider took on the job of collecting assets, such as audio and images. He also wrote the introductory copy shown on the screens below, to communicate the proposition.

Day 5:

Testing the product and interviewing users

With the aid of a discussion guide, we interviewed a dozen potential users for the app-based concept, all aged 55+.

The look and feel (not shown here) drew a mixed response, and it was clear that the UX needed a lot more work.

However, we got clear and unambiguous answers to our big Sprint questions:

Is this a good / big idea? Yes, unquestionably. All found the idea engaging – some even had a glint in their eyes – and were sure they would use it.

Who is this for? A big group of people, united less by age than by attitude. The core audience seems to be aged 30+, with children. Which skews far younger than we were expecting.

What would they do with it? Almost all said they’d first use it to help older relatives capture their memories and wisdom. Once this was done, they’d consider using it to organise meaningful information about themselves.