I mentioned in my last post that we needed to really focus on grounding our idea in the people that would benefit from it. We decided that doing some market research would be a good first step.
We narrowed our search down to just mobile applications, as at this point our envisioned outcome was digital. We chose the apps based on popularity — as judged by the App Store — and split our categorisation into four: Gamified platforms, Flashcards and SRS, Social, Chatting & Listening, and finally Full language courses.
I then chose one from each category and analysed it further.
Duolingo is a language-learning web & mobile app that utilises gamification, such as gaining points and competing with friends to incentivise the learner. Although there is a competing system, there is a distinct lack of communication with real people. The main method of learning is by translation from one language to another, which is paired with some illustrations that lack in depth.
Quizlet is a web & mobile app that lets its users create customisable flashcards, where they can input words and their translations. It is not specifically a language learning platform, but a lot of its users learn languages with it. Similarly to Duolingo, you learn through direct translation, with the addition that you can upload your own images to help make the cards more memorable.
Chineasy was created with the purpose of teaching chinese characters to visual learners. This is based on the reasoning that the human brain is able to memorise information better if it is put into a visual context. The learner is taught characters through illustration, with the drawings correlating directly to the meaning. However, it doesn’t teach you how to use the words in sentences, or how to combine them with other characters.
HelloTalk is a language practice app — its core function not being to teach you a language, but rather to connect you with native speakers. It encourages conversation as its main feature, with in-chat tools to directly translate what the other person is saying, without having to exit the app to go to google translate. However, it doesn’t have any features in place to save new things that you learn, meaning they may get forgotten.
The market research combined with the questionnaire data we found from last week resulted in us drawing a few conclusions. First, in all the apps reviewed, Chineasy was the only one to make rich visual context a focal point. Meaningful visual context was highlighted as important in the questionnaire, so it’s notable that not many focus on this aspect.
Second, most of the apps do not have a save feature to help you easily retrieve what you just learnt. This was mentioned last week, specifically to say that there is a “lack of freedom in study material organisation & customisation”.
In hindsight we should have put more effort into analysing learning methods and tools that exist outside of the digital, or app, realm. I believe it would have given us more insight in what the actual gaps in the market are, and could have benefitted the uniqueness of our project.