Our goal for Challenge 10 is to iterate on a mobile app Artix that we designed to help friends share articles between different groups in the simplest way possible. We came up with this idea a few challenges ago, after realizing that our friends kept starting conversations with “I just read this awesome article — i’ll send it to you later — that raised these really interesting questions…”, but that actually sending those articles to one another in a tracked and cohesive manner was easier said than done. We’ve begun building an MVP, which allows interviewees to provide feedback on a tangible design, so our ‘fieldwork’ consisted of two separate paths: (1) examining existing methods of sharing articles, as well as (2) doing hands on market research in Harvard Square, asking as many people as we could (and as many different types of people) whether they identified with this problem in their daily lives and, if they did, how they currently address it and whether they would find an app like ours useful. Both paths led to some interesting and encouraging revelations.

First, we explored existing competitors. There is one direct competitor: Lynx, which advertises itself as an “easy, fun way to share and chat about links.” Lynx has a few similar features to Artix, but seems more centered around sharing articles and links with friends individually, rather than with groups as a whole. From a design perspective, Lynx also goes for a busier and more youthful and colorful interface, which is somewhat antithetical to our value prop of stripping everything away except the articles.

Instead, from both our online research and in-person conversations it appears that our biggest competitor is inertia. Most article-reading services (NYTimes, Apple News, Flipboard) make it extremely easy to share articles via buttons to copy the link to your clipboard, share directly via email, text message, as well as blast to a variety of social media apps. Many people use email lists to disseminate articles, or text links individually to friends. If they come across something they feel unusually moved by, they’ll share it more publicly on their Facebook profile or to Twitter. For those in the workplace, Slack was a solution mentioned by a young professional, and has the advantage of giving its users the flexibility of different channels to filter for different topics.

The main strength of these existing solutions are that we’ve already integrated their use into our daily lives, so problems with onboarding are completely bypassed: everyone has a phone, checks their email, and uses Messenger. On the other hand, articles can often get lost in the shuffle since people use these services for so many different purposes. A few people we spoke to mentioned how annoying it was to search through old emails and text threads for articles they vaguely remembered. Thus it appears that our biggest differentiator is our ability to strip away extraneous content and provide the user with simple lists of articles that had been shared with them, aggregated by group (and share articles with those groups in the same way). Interestingly, our research challenged our initial assumption that our value-add would be in simplifying the article sharing process. While people share and receive articles via a few disparate methods, from our field conversations it was unclear whether this feature alone would be enough to incentivize downloading a new app and creating a new habit. In contrast, the desire for aggregated reading lists was validated by not only their words, but also — and perhaps more importantly — by their current article finding/reading/sharing processes. Many of the people we interviewed (and we ourselves) use the ‘Article Saving’ services Instapaper and Pocket, as well as integrated reading lists such as the browser Safari’s built in Reading List. Our actionable goal moving forward with Challenge 10 will thus be to create an app with sleek and efficient group-based aggregated reading lists to make the process of sharing articles via Artix as simple possible.

We included a few relevant images about the article sharing alternatives below: