BRIEF – Expanding the service ecosystem in Dubai by means of a mobile interaction platform made in the UAE that will supersede currently preferred foreign apps in order to keep data inside the country.

PROJECT – Hadeel (= the sound of a bird in Arabic) is a project envisioning the future of mobile interactions. Our aim has been to take what has proofed to be working and further create new combinations by means of a component based development approach that allows for a multitude of integrated services in one platform. The aim was to provide a tool for messaging, voice and video calling, as well as media sharing as base for collaboration between people. After successfully building a solid mobile app for quick and easy communication, we further looked at how Hadeel can cater to business people – fostering internal collaboration and task management. As one of the few rapidly progressing cities in the world, Dubai is experiencing a progressive digital transformation being one of the leading service economies worldwide. With that in mind we have been focusing on small businesses and individual entrepreneurs trying to provide them with integrated payment services using a conversational UI as core for money exchange at ease. The leading vision of Hadeel has been to become the preferred choice in the UAE, making sure the data produced stays inside the country, therefore, catering to security measures controlled by the UAE.

TEAM –  Product Owner, 6 Software Engineers, Product Designer, Design Researcher
RESEARCH – When I took on the project it has already been 6 month in, there were lofty ideas and already committed code, yet the overall process seemed unstructured and adhoc. The team required me to help opening up again, taking a few steps back and see how I could apply Design Thinking to the current state of the project. I wanted to see whether the overall vision mapped onto the already existing scope of work and contents that got created, realising there was lots of imagination and storytelling yet to break down into smaller projects and features. As an experiment I planned an internal ideation workshop with the whole company. I presented the vision and initial brief, reflected on the current status of the app to then set the stage for brainstorm sessions in smaller groups. The aim was to quickly pull out new add-ons to the project as well as refining those features already announced. To consolidate ideas the groups were asked to sketch rough blueprints of their services in order to be able to draft initial user stories.
APPLICATION OVERVIEW – Inspired by the myriad of chat apps out there we have chosen to focus on the bare essentials of an every day collaboration tool. Benefiting from React-Native's concept of components, we are quick in building, iterating, and innovating across platforms adding new features with every sprint next to the daily bug fixing job.
CHAT & SHARE – Messaging and sharing various media using the internet connection of our smart phones has been around now for a couple of years heavily increasing the amount of data we produce together. For us however, it was a prerequisite when thinking about an ecosystems of services. Up to this point there hasn't been a well functioning free solution been created inside the UAE. You might think such goal might not be the biggest challenge as it has been done so many times before, it took however, ten developers for a year to develop something reliable to be build upon
GROUPS & CONTACTS – Catering for the general public and business people as well as providing a direct link to government entities has become a focus over the time of the project carefully considering the extremely multicultural context of over 80% expats living in Dubai. Therefore, group chats in this regard became an interesting point of discussion. How do you design a digital space in which a multitude of nationalities can smoothly communicate with each other? How can you help them? What open source technologies exist to assist us when exchanging syntax and sentiments?
COLLABORATION & TOOLS – How can the preferred communication app be the chosen one not just for a public audience, but also for business people in need for collaboration- and management tools? Which media is mostly shared, previewed, and archived how? And how do we create an integrated ecosystem of conversations and tools leveraging produced content? Questions, we brainstormed between data scientists, developers and designers to then try to map out by creating simple wireframes, sketch prototypes, and hi-fidelity prototypes that could go into production. We decided to simply separate the 'Threads View' between 'Public' and 'Business' thinking about various layouts that would visually enhance collaboration with colleagues and external stakeholders in a unified container allowing for categorisation and advanced admin settings. An integrated task manager with checklists and priorities supplemented by a calendar would be synced with all conversations to keep the user up-to-date with the pace of business.
LOCALISATION – Building a conversational UI in the middle east disclosed interesting facts about chat habits of the younger generation in Arabic speaking countries. Inventions of digital cultures such as 'Arabisi' in which the Latin script is used to write Arabic phonetics. Here, the Latin written script is extended by numbers that in form resemble letters of the Arabic script in order to cover the full spectrum. Research showed that the younger generation is increasingly using English or Arabisi to communicate as time is saved when chatting. However, it was required to localise the application, hence, implementing the Arabic script across all views to enabled or disabled. Being a European Designer, I was expecting tricky layout changes and typography alignments to match sizing and spacing used in the Latin version. Turns out, although, the Arabic script reads from right-to-left, people in the middle east are used to the same left-to-right alignment in terms of layout, i.e. in speech-bubbles or teasers.
WALLET – The metaphor of a wallet can be clearly understood as the place where we keep our money, store our Debit- and Credit Cards, as well as ID's. A physical object of high relevance linked to high stress in case of loss. Firstly, mobile payment increasingly becomes a thing across the globe with having WeChat Pay, Apple Pay, PayPal, or Mobile Pay as success story in Europe just to name a few. With international players spreading the market there is still to the current time no integrated mobile pay service in the GCC combining communication and monetary exchange in one solution. Whilst cash and coins are still prevalent, we see huge potential within small businesses, start-ups and young entrepreneurs as users for payments that can be done directly through a conversational UI or using an integrated wallet. By connecting your bank details to your Hadeel account we could leverage data to provide users expense tracking as well as statistics about their consumer behaviour.
BRANDING – Does branding need a human-centred design approach? When is something generic enough? When is it too edgy? Will people ever tell you the 'right' brand direction for your product or will you always be lost in subjectivity? Branding is a discipline mastered by the bold and daring in my opinion. Finding the right name fitting the context and its application by giving it a contemporary look and feel without being too loud has been a long iterative balance act between hours of sketching, proposing, questioning, nudging, eventually being bold enough to go with one direction paving our middle ground. This is the closer selection and few left overs after cleaning up the messy art boards.