Let me introduce you to Michelle

Recently, I have taken the decision to read more. To make all of these new readings and books stick in my little brain, I started to create small side projects. You might see some of these in my Creativity Toolbox. I also searched for another experiment that could help me remember new knowledge. So, let me introduce you to Michelle. Michelle is a simple service that helps you to remind knowledge newly acquired. Give to Michelle what you want to learn and she (yes it’s a she) will make it stick into your head. And that in just seven days. Each day, you’ll receive a little email from Michelle. She asks you a question that you have prepared. For seven days, you have to answer to the same question until you memorize its answer.

It’s a she

Giving personality to a service

This service started with an other naming. I first called it «Learn in 7 days». Straight forward. I built a simple page about it with an explanation and a button. Done. But it felt really dry. Even I found it boring. And of course, the emails that I sent where boring too. So I changed the emails. I signed them with my name and didn’t just show the answer and the question. I added a little introduction text as if I would write to a friend. This lead me to the next iteration: giving more personality to the service. I decided to name the service with a real human name. So I could sign the emails not with my name, but with the name of the service. And still, the emails would feel personal and less boring. Here I was. I had to find a name. When I designed typefaces, I always gave them girl names. So it felt logical that this project would be a she too. I called it Michelle in the honor of our previous Campaign Manager in the Bern office of Enigma. She was the kind of girl that reminded you things. And you where just so happy to receive that reminder. Because it was the typical important stuff that you forgot. So here is Michelle. 
Once the service got a name, it made sense to play with this idea of personification. So, I prototyped a little video where I introduce Michelle to the users. I even added a public domain photo of a girl as the background image of the service landing page. And because you don’t see the face of the girl it gives to the whole service a sense of mystery. The final touch was the tagline. Because the service was a she, it was way easier to state the value of the service. I could just introduce Michelle by giving her job title. Meet Michele, your memory assistant.   
Now, the whole thing feels pretty personal and fun too. I’m quiet happy with this prototype. To me, the whole storytelling and naming part remains the main learning. When you have problems to make the value proposition of your product or service clear, start by giving it a person name. And then the rest unfolds. 

The technical making of

A simple prototyping exercice

I started this little side project after having read Matt Hartman articles «You Can Build Your Prototype Faster than You Think». I started to think about what I could build with already existing services like IFTTT or zapier. I tried a few thinks. Then I remembered another article about prototyping. This other article explained that most of the today services can be faked via simple emails. So I went on thinking about what I could do with simple automated emails. I tested a few things out with zapier. The problem is that I didn’t want to pay a monthly fee for just an experience. The automation possibilities of zapier are great but too limited for a service like Michelle. Finally, I went on with Mailchimp and its automation feature. With 30 bucks, as a one time fee, I can send about 1000 emails through the automation feature. Because Michelle sends seven emails, I could use it 141 times. It is enough for a prototype. The only thing that didn’t match with my initial plan was the subscription system. One email could subscribe once to the Mailchimp automated newsletter. That sucks because I planned to send the reminders over the course of a whole year. If it’s during a year, you might ask Michelle to remind you other things in the middle of the year. And then, Mailchimp would just change the question and answer instead of creating a second user. Therefore, I changed the initial one-year learning curve to one week. So that people are less eager to ask Michelle for help in the middle of the learning session.