MAYA Creates StoryCorps App to Capture the Wisdom of Humanity

March 25, 2015

PITTSBURGH, PA – March 25, 2015 – MAYA Design, a leading design consultancy and innovation lab, partnered with 2015 TED Prize-winner and StoryCorps founder Dave Isay to create an app that makes the StoryCorps interview experience accessible to everyone. Isay unveiled the new app at the 2015 TED Conference in Vancouver, BC on Tuesday, March 17.

“StoryCorps’ digital team had been working on a prototype version of the app throughout 2014 with support from the Knight Foundation. We had also been quietly testing a do-it-yourself StoryCorps interview platform for two years through our National Day of Listening,” said Dean Haddock, Director of Web and Information Technology at StoryCorps. “When the TED Prize was announced, we were extremely excited to be able to take this project to the next level and work with some of the best and brightest in the industry.”

For the first time, people will be empowered to record and preserve meaningful conversations about their lives using StoryCorps’ proven method of facilitating interviews. This mobile technology, with complementary website (StoryCorps.me) will expand StoryCorps’ reach globally to capture the wisdom and experiences of humanity. Users simply choose someone to interview, create a list of questions, record the conversation, and either upload it to the site to share socially or save it for private use.

“The StoryCorps interview encourages meaningful conversations. We’ve found a way to use technology to preserve an experience that is extremely personal, without being obtrusive,” said Greg Gibilisco, Director of Visual Design at MAYA. “Beyond the voice recording, we’ve built a platform for capturing and sharing stories for the world to enjoy.”

Once the TED prize was awarded in November 2014, StoryCorps sought a design firm that could capture the StoryCorps interview experience on a platform with mobile and web tie-ins, packaged in a user-focused and engaging design. MAYA was awarded the project in December, with approximately 12 weeks to deliver a product that would launch in conjunction with Isay’s presentation at the TED Conference.

“We’re honored to turn Dave Isay’s dream into a reality,” said MAYA’s President and CEO, Dutch MacDonald. “The success of this project was largely dependent on our ability to work side-by-side with the StoryCorps team and diminish the boundaries between client and vendor.”

To kick-off the project, MAYA facilitated a workshop with StoryCorps in the basement of the Anne Frank Museum in New York City, involving Isay and stakeholders from all areas of the organization. The group provided input and ideas around how the platform could look and function. At the end of this two-day session, the team was able to prioritize and select which features to include.

The team agreed on a mobile-first strategy, and used paper prototyping to conduct initial user tests. This helped to identify failure points early in the design process and allowed for multiple iterations to gather insight, test and refine. At the same time, MAYA’s engineering team built the technology infrastructure. This approach of simultaneously testing the UX and developing the platform enabled the team to ensure that they were building the right technology to support the needs of the user.

“Our design decisions are based on what we learned from users. Iterating allows us to fine-tune, but those choices were made from real-life observation and feedback,” Gibilisco said.

StoryCorps’ app is built on PhoneGap, an open source solution for building cross-platform mobile apps, which enabled MAYA to deploy the app to both iOS and Android platforms. The website was built using WordPress and will serve as a home for the recordings and also provide interviewing and editing resources. StoryCorps and 10up provided server support and load balancing.

“The collaboration among StoryCorps, MAYA and 10Up has been a huge effort in a very short time, but it’s also been a lot of fun,” Haddock said. “We hope that the platform and our passion for what it represents - deep listening and connecting with people - will help push us past this public beta launch and on to some exciting years ahead.”

The StoryCorps app is currently in available for download on the App Store and Google Play. StoryCorps will continue to monitor how people use the platform and expand the feature set.

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About MAYA Design
MAYA is a design consultancy and innovation lab located in Downtown Pittsburgh. For more than 25 years, MAYA has helped organizations grow and thrive by taming complexity®. We help clients harness the power of innovation by using human-centered design and an architectural approach to solve complex problems and build the connected world. Working at the intersection of information, technology and human experience, we develop forward-looking solutions in the service of people. For more information, please contact us.