Co-creating apps: Lessons from designing Motimator

The Mix Staff
Flipcharts from Motimator

Hi, I’m Andy, and I’m a volunteering Development manager at YouthNet, the digital information and support charity for young people.

My role during the c–creation of Motimator (a new app that aims to help motivate young people when faced with job search setbacks) was recruiting and supporting the young volunteers who worked on the project. I learnt a lot through the process and hope what I have to share might be useful to anybody else looking to co-create a digital product with stakeholders.

About the app

The young people we worked with told us that thinking about their career dream and big ambition sometimes felt like a very distant and far away. With this in mind Motimator was developed to break down that big dream into achievable tasks – making that big dream feel much closer and helping you get there along the way. It doesn’t even need to be a big dream, just something that may be a few steps down the line – like a job interview, or updating your CV, or picking yourself up after a recent setback, such as not hearing back after a job application.

The co-creation process: how we designed Motimator

In the co-creation sessions the young people created ‘personas’ – a technique that encourages young people to input their own hopes, fears, challenges and goals into these fictional personas. It de-personalises the process and can help young people solve problems for them, with digital solutions.

Over the course of three workshops, we built up the ideas with the young people; presenting them with different problems that needed solving – using our personas we added in additional motivations, and looked at motivational adverts and motivational people. We asked what the characteristics of these people and adverts are and pinned them down so we could work out how to make our app truly motivational.

The final session boiled down to creativity and practicality. Our volunteers were asked to finalise their app ideas into a digital product and pitch it to members of YouthNet and O2 staff. The winning app was Motimator. A great idea, practical enough to be made, useful enough to solve problems, and exciting to young people.

Keeping our volunteers engaged

Designing an app from start to finish can be grueling mentally – you spend a lot of time in uncertainty, trying to pin down workable ideas.

To keep them engaged (and keep their heads up) our volunteers were given opportunities to improve their workplace and digital skills throughout the project – as well as a special treat, Up at the O2, for the end of the project. We took them to Slough for an AppShed workshop, working on wireframes to create simple apps, as well as a Freeformers session that gave them basic coding skills and taught them how to create a website and create Facebook adverts. This was extremely effective in building their skills for developing their ideas into workable apps.

Five things to remember if you’re planning an app co-creation project

  1. Recognise and appreciate your young people’s contributions. We mined their minds for weeks, encouraging and asking for more and more creativity. That’s difficult for everyone sometimes and for the ideas to actually be made into a real-life app is something they should be proud of.
  2. Be sure to step back sometimes. As a project leader, it can sometimes feel that you need to step in and add your own thoughts, or encourage an idea down a certain path. Catch yourself when you’re doing this and step back. Allow the young people to solve problems on their own and as long as you’ve given the right approach, the ideas will come.
  3. The more ideas the better. It might take just a small spark from one crazy idea to get another idea really flowing and fleshed out. Encourage your group to think big and you’ll be rolling with them.
  4. Your workshops should feel techy – cool rooms, funky buildings, exciting spaces that breathe creativity and can get you and your group in the right frame of mind to create something, anything. We had the opportunity to use Telefonica Digital’s building and the volunteers loved it as it helped get their brains into tech-mode.
  5. Trust in the process. It might feel like you’re going way off tangent, but eventually you’ll bring it around – that’s all part of the journey. Trust in it and the young people, and you’ll get there.

To see more blogs and the research behind Motimator head over to the YouthNet Employability blog.


Published on 20-Nov-2014