Jasper Stephenson

UX engineer, friendly ghost.
Header image – Verbose: Designing a Language-Learning Tool for Self-Teachers

Verbose: Designing a Language-Learning Tool for Self-Teachers


Inspired by challenges I faced while teaching myself Japanese, I designed a concept tablet app to help self-teachers learn languages. Over the span of eight weeks, I conducted interviews, researched existing tools, mapped the service, iterated on screens, and shot and animated a demo video.

My first step was to define the needs of my users, so I reached out to language learners as well as language teachers for some interviews. It became clear that for self-teachers, most learning took place in the gaps between their day-to-day responsibilities, and that their learning styles and levels of dedication varied dramatically.

Frames from a few interviews I ran.
Frames from a few interviews I ran.

Next, I did some foundational research into the different kinds of tools available to language learners. Based on my interview results and other information I dug up through my research, I created a map to figure out how the tool I was designing would fit within the ecosystem.

Studying existing tools allowed me to piece together possible synergous relationships between them. For example, shared flash card sets work very well with an empowered search database, because sentence examples, related grammar, phrases, and more can be pulled from shared cards when a user searches.

Connecting the Dots

Now knowing what parts I wanted to include in the tool, I constructed a system map outlining how it all would fit together. Finally, the broad concepts coalesced into one cohesive idea and I could start thinking about screens and user flows.

My initial wireframes were based on several key pieces I knew the app needed. Many screens (such as one for multiplayer learning games and another for the tagging system) were laid out but not included in the eventual video prototype.

From there, I iterated on screen designs by putting in-progress mockups in front of learners who fit my personas and figuring out what interactions felt the most intuitive and engaging.

To make the app come alive, I brought my PSDs into After Effects and animated them to fit the story.

After finding a few friends who were willing to act for me, I put together the final video prototype demo that you can watch at the top of this post.

That's it for Verbose. 読んでくれてありがとう!