Redesigning Duolingo for Intermediate Language Learners
Roles: UX Designer, UI Designer
Tools: Duolingo’s Design System, Adobe Xd
Key Learning Opportunities: Designing components for an existing product
Disclaimer: This project was completed as a component of a design challenge for an application; Duolingo is not a client or employer in any way.
How might I implement a more inclusive entry point for Duolingo so that users of intermediate skill level turn to Duolingo as a resource to continue language-learning?
problem statement: placement tests miss the mark for a niche of language learners
Duolingo is a resource for users looking to learn a new language, but those who already have intermediate skills may find it limiting. To explore this further, I signed up for Duolingo as if I was a first-time user. Let’s take a look at what I will call the on-boarding process.
As soon as the user selects a language to learn, they’re prompted with two options: “New to Japanese? Start at the basics.” and “Already know some Japanese? Try this placement test.” I chose the latter option. The placement test takes about 10 minutes. Most questions require translations of simple sentences from Japanese to English. With minimal errors, I tested out of 10 skills. The user can then choose to test out of the remaining skills in batches.
These screenshots highlight Duolingo’s current onboarding process for users who already speak some Japanese.
The placement test and test-out options help beginners bypass simple skills like learning the alphabet, but already-intermediate language learners who are looking to continue practicing may desire more personalized placement tests. For example, a classmate of mine (with a Japanese mother) attended grade school in Japan, and while he can read all of the characters he learned, he can’t write them. Some people grow up hearing languages at home, but can’t form sentences themselves, even though they can understand the spoken language. Similarly, after I returned from a summer in Japan, my listening skills had improved greatly, but since I was no longer speaking every day, my speaking skills declined.
proposed solution: additional points of entry for intermediate speakers
If Duolingo offers additional points of entry for intermediate speakers, then they will cater to a niche of users who typically have to wade through repetitive skill levels. To do this, I envision a more detailed on-boarding/placement process that is tailored toward these intermediate learners. This would widen Duolingo’s user base by incentivizing users beyond the beginner level to turn to Duolingo as a language learning platform.
process: sketches, wireframes, prototypes
My processes begins in my sketchbook, which is mainly filled with writing and some simple sketches of user flows.
My next step was to create low-fidelity wireframes using Adobe Xd and link them together to get an idea of the flow of the interface.
Using the Duolingo design system, I created high-fidelity mockups and linked them together in Adobe Xd. This clickable prototype has several different paths in the user flow, demonstrating use cases for intermediate learners with or without previous coursework in the language.
The final step of the interaction incorporates Duolingo’s signature gamification element to gauge the user’s skill level on different components of fluency. Users self-report their skill level in a handful of categories to inform what kind of questions the user receives in the placement test. The categories are based on existing Duolingo skills and a few of my own ideas for essential fluency like “giving directions.”
The final prototype walks through two example user flows.
With this new on-boarding process concept, users are presented with a more accurate placement test so they can fast-forward through too-easy skills and get straight to lessons at a more appropriate level. With this concept, Duolingo targets a new niche of users: intermediate speakers. While Duolingo’s target audience are those hoping to learn languages, a lot of people get their start elsewhere, and are looking for fun, educational tools to help them maintain and grow their fluency. Adding more personalized entry-points for advanced learners makes Duolingo a prime platform to continue language education, whether you started learning in school, abroad, at home . . . or even if you started with Duolingo, and now desire more advanced practice.
things to consider
A few elements were crucial to consider during this quick redesign.
First is tone. Since the text on each screen is brief, it was important to capture Duolingo’s tone accurately, especially because this would be most user’s first interaction with the product. Some sentences went through several iterations to match the mentality of “making learning fun,” even when setting up a user for a placement test. For example, I spent time iterating on the phrases like “Show us what you know.” and “Nice! How many classes have you taken?” to keep the tone brief yet upbeat.
Something I would like to explore further is the algorithm that would make it possible to provide a more accurate placement test based on the user’s answers. While there are technical aspects that I don’t have a firm grasp of, it would be helpful to learn more about how to create a personalized experience for each user. It would also have been helpful to user test my solution and adjust based on feedback. However, based on the quick nature of this project, I wanted to focus on the UX/UI component of the design.