During the Design Project course, we created Uutiskylpy: a mobile app for refugees in Finland that teaches the Finnish language by using YLE’s Selkouutiset (simple language news). The initial goal of the project was to find new (young) audiences for YLE, with our project group taking the role of a startup. We started by researching a few user groups, to try and see which one had the most interesting problems that we could solve with YLE’s support. We quickly found that refugees were an interesting user group, because they run into a lot of problems in their daily life, and although they could benefit massively from local news and “cultural content” provided by YLE, they had trouble doing so.
Throughout the project, we went through an iterative design process in which we started by defining our target audience, before identifying their problems, and later solving their problems by applying user centered design methods. Initially, we generated a lot of different ideas, some of which were turned into low fidelity prototypes. Since the course was divided into bi-weekly “sprints”, we would often go and talk to the refugees to test our ideas with them. All of the ideas were attempts at solution to problems we found in the earlier user research: trouble finding a job, feeling disconnected from society, not being able to understand what’s going on around them, a lack of useful things to do, etc. After lots of testing prototypes and gathering feedback, our vision of an ideal product became clearer, and our prototypes became more defined. The most important problem to solve was the lack of Finnish language skills, and we saw an opportunity to combine that with YLE’s existing content.
The final product is a mobile app that uses YLE’s simple language news (selkouutiset) as its basis. We take video fragments about current news, and divide them into single sentence pieces. The user can watch, listen and read the Finnish content. The app provides smart ways of translating the content: the user can choose how much of the sentence needs to be translated in order for them to understand what’s being said. The app also gives information about the Finnish grammar and sentence structure, as compared to their native language, and quizzes the user on the content they just learned. This approach resembles “language immersion”, and its benefits are twofold: not only will the refugees learn the language, they will also be able to follow the news, which will speed up their integration into the Finnish society. After the design project course ended, two of the Uutiskylpy team members started master’s thesis internships related to the project; one of them is currently further developing Uutiskylpy at YLE.