Duolingo — improving language learning and the user’s experience

Our approach

  1. Discover — Thorough research exploring the brief.
  2. Define — Synthesising research into findings and the main problems.
  3. Develop — Ideating towards a solution for the problems.
  4. Deliver — Final design solution and future steps

The Brief

  • Users are unable to learn key sentences and word for particular contexts such as ‘going to the restaurant’ or ‘inviting a girl out to dinner’.
  • Users do not learn to understand cultural habits and behaviours.

Our roles

  • Interviewing
  • Persona creation
  • Information architecture alteration
  • Usability testing
  • Iterating high fidelity prototypes

Tools and software

1. Discover

  • Ability to choose a scene when learning
  • Pronunciation
  • Cultural Highlights
  • Find a native speaker

User Research

  • Users would like to be able to speak and communicate whilst abroad.
  • Users would like to learn to speak over any other skill.
  • Users want to learn and practice in contexts.
  • Users want to be able to chat with native speakers
  • Find Duolingo too easy and would like to be challenged
  • Want to learn about the culture

2. Define

This is Shelby:


  • Enable our users to practice speaking a language in different contexts
  • Create a learning experience that makes our users feel motivated to continue
  • Ensure our users are able to move at a pace that suits them
  • Immerse our users into the country’s cultural context
  • Enable users to start lessons at an appropriate level so that they do not feel like skipping

This is Stella:

  • Create an immersive learning experience with cultural insights and native speakers
  • Keep users from choosing to go to another language learning app
  • Incorporate a more academic approach to learning a new language
  • Make learning and memorising words more fun

Design Studio

  • A game / simulated experience to practice speaking in real situations
  • Finding an effective learning partner on the app — must have similar interests
  • Create history of language and culture section

3. Develop

Paper prototypes — game to practice speaking in real situations

  • Too many screens
  • Users got lost
  • The microphone and progress buttons were not clear

Low Fidelity — Finding an Effective Learning Partner

  • Confusing global navigation
  • Users would message a new buddy and not call
  • Prefer to play an interactive game
  • Would like more information about the buddy, level, interests and age

Information Architecture

Previous Information Architecture
  • Only 4 selective menus in the global navigation.
  • ‘Connect’ contains an existing function of “Friends” and a new function of connecting language exchange partners and tutors.
  • Notebook is a new function to keep track of progress, mistakes and vocabulary to remember.
Restructured Information Architecture

Mid-Fidelity Prototypes — game to practice speaking in real situations

  • Changed the context from ordering an ice cream to ordering a steak.
  • Combined the menu and the practice screens for a more comprehensive experience.
  • Link between microphone, practice ordering and menu unclear
  • Conversation dialog unclear
  • Unsure when to go to next page
  • ‘Finish’ button more dominant that ‘ready to practice with a buddy’
  • Unsure how scoring system worked

Mid-Fidelity Prototypes — finding a study buddy

  • Information Architecture iteration — clearer global navigation
  • Added compatibility, language level, interests and age
  • Remove call button
  • Header concealed
  • Users thought the names listed were suggested buddies/friends/tutors rather than current buddies/friends/tutors
  • Users tried to click on the names of current buddies instead of ‘add buddy’
  • Users wanted more info on tutor

‘A/B’ Testing

4. Deliver

Hi-Fidelity prototype link:


  • A more immersive learning experience for casual learners
  • Speaking practice with native speakers
  • Maintaining the appealing and enjoyable ethos of the platform whilst creating better experiences for both causal and serious users

Key Learnings

  • This was the first group project that we took on at General Assembly and it was a brilliant learning curve. We learnt to listen to everyones input and diplomatically make decisions based on logical insights. I thoroughly enjoyed the discussions we had to come to our final design decisions really delving deep into the problem and analysing the insights properly.
  • Rearrangement of Information Architecture through site maps was another enjoyable key learning that really helped shape our final designs.
  • The agile way of working amongst ourselves was so important to make sure we were on the right track and not wasting time at all times.

Future developments:

  • We would like to develop the placement test that a user must partake in prior to learning a language. We believe if this placement test is accurate, the user will not want to skip to higher levels, which would omit any frustrations that users had when unable to skip levels. This would need testing.




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