DATE — MAY 2022
01 — Introduction
What is Trove?
Trove is an app that aims to help young heritage learners of minority and endangered languages reconnect with their culture with the goal of promoting and preserving these languages. Trove approaches language learning through a modern cultural lens, contributing to the democratization of minority language resources and fostering connections between natives and learners. 
This project received the MICA Leadership Award for Design For Change, the AIGA Flux Design Award, and the GDUSA American Graphic Design Award.
Why Trove?
Every two weeks, a language becomes extinct around the world. This means that 50 to 90 percent of them are predicted to disappear by the next century.
Growing up in a country as linguistically diverse as Spain – where I was taught a minority language in school – convinced me that there is value in preserving and promoting minority languages. Trove became the result of my thesis project while studying abroad at the Maryland Institute College of Art.
Problem ​​​​​​​
Problem statement
People who grew up disconnected from a culture in which a minority language is spoken have a hard time reconnecting with it, and need better access to language resources. If this problem isn't remedied, it will most certainly accelerate language extinction.
Initially a side project, The Preserved Dictionary allowed me to store and display documentation, sources, and other valuable materials relevant to my thesis. It's also a great way to learn about language preservation.
02 — Ideation
I conducted an audit of other language learning platforms and apps. I paid special attention to whether they offered courses in minority or endangered languages.
User research
In order to validate the problem, I aimed to understand it better by researching Trove's potential users. I had already identified heritage learners as my primary users, but conversations I had with learners or prospective learners of an endangered language revealed that endangered languages had a more extensive learner base than I thought.
Methods: Form-based surveys and one-on-one interviews. I then documented the results of all four interviews and synthesized the findings through affinity mapping using Miro.
1. Key facts extracted from interviews (Click to enlarge)
2. Synthesized and classified into categories (Click to enlarge)
Primary users
Learners with a familial connection to the language or heritage learners became my primary users because the language would be best preserved through them. If more heritage learners carried the language, the likelihood of the language becoming extinct would be a lot lower.
Secondary users
Secondary users, or conventional learners, are learners without a direct connection to an endangered language but are nonetheless interested in it. Perhaps the language piqued their interest, or they wanted to explore a new language family or maybe even contribute to its revitalization.
The research revealed that both groups had different goals but similar frustrations. When it came to learning a language, both groups struggled with finding resources and natives to converse with.
Primary user: the heritage learner (Click to enlarge)​​​​​​​
Secondary user: The non-native or curious learner (Click to enlarge)
The user research I conducted helped shape the structure of the app. Based on my findings, I came up with the following statement:
1. Overcoming roadblocks unique to learning an endangered language
The no. 1 concern among most learners was the lack of accessible resources. Hence, the app, above everything else, provides a space for learners to store and find minority and endangered language resources. This will not only improve the accessibility of these resources but, with time, will also turn the app into the go-to source for all things relating to endangered language learning. 
2. Language learning rooted in cultural awareness
Heritage learners value reconnecting with the culture of their parents, grandparents, or ancestors, while learners saw learning about the culture of the language they were trying to learn as something essential and indivisible from the process of language learning. That's why Trove places great importance on culture as part of a holistic learning experience for all learners.
3. Creating a personalized and inclusive experience for all learners
Many learners faced an isolated learning experience with no space for interaction with natives and other learners to practice with. The solution was to create a space, not only for the exchange of language resources, but also for connection and social learning. This, in turn, makes each learning journey unique. 

Information architecture of the app based on user research (Click to enlarge)

When deciding how to organize language resources within the app, I used card sorting to figure out how users would classify different types of resources. (Click to enlarge)
Visual design
Trove's visual design evolved quite a lot throughout the process. Thanks to user feedback garnered through two rounds of testing, I was able to iterate on the interface until it became usable, accessible, and visually attractive.
For instance, I initially chose a modern, condensed font as a way to set Trove's visual language apart from those of similar apps. However, after testing it with users, who perceived it as sharp and aggressive, I eventually selected a rounded serif font. This font resonated with users' with its more friendly and academic touch while remaining modern enough to appeal to young users.
Evolution of Trove's visual design based on user testing
Trove offers lessons in languages from all continents, provided and built by natives and paid/volunteer contributors.
The structure of the lessons is based on the learner's needs, which are selected during onboarding. A heritage learner might prioritize Family Matters over, say, Stories & Tales.
Trove integrates cultural context into each of its lessons while keeping them fun and engaging through media and gamification
Thanks to the card sorting exercise I previously conducted, I was able to design a space for users to contribute and find all kinds of language content in a way that made sense to them.
Round I
The first round of testing was conducted on mid-fidelity wireframes, when elements like fonts or colors hadn't been decided yet. The purpose was for users to get a feel of the navigation and the basic features. Participants were recruited in person and through forums, but the testing was done asynchronously through Maze.
This round helped define the direction of the visual design, and correct some minor errors that could potentially confuse users, such as making it clear when an area was clickable or not.
Round II
​​​​​​​​​​​​​​The second round of testing took place once the app was fully designed and all the features were finalized. It was conducted in person, and focused on obtaining in-depth quantitative data from users. I tested specific features (e.g. onboarding, lessons) and general accessibility. The participants were recruited in person and the prototype was shown to them on a real phone, which allowed for a more immersive experience.
This was the most significant round, as it helped identify three levels of errors (minor, critical) and their frequency. I also collected important qualitative feedback provided by users while playing around with the prototype.
& next steps
Designing Trove as my senior thesis project from start to finish was a culturally enriching experience and it amplified my interest in the intersection between culture, education, and technology. 
Although I presented my thesis project in May 2022, I would be lying if I claimed it was finished. There is still so much to explore in the world of endangered language education and preservation, and my ultimate goal is to turn what is currently a mere prototype into a real product. Here is how I would go about moving forward with it.
1. Designing a volunteer experience
Like any app starting from the ground up, Trove needs real content. I would be highly interested in creating a volunteer experience to allow native speakers of endangered languages or users interested to contribute to the mission of the app by helping create courses or gather resources in different languages.
2. Testing the effectiveness of content
There's never an end to iteration, especially when it comes to gauging the effectiveness of the content offered to learners.
3. Accessibility: partnering with schools and libraries
Trove needs to be a financially viable product without hindering users' ability to learn or access universally available content. The solution to this dilemma 
The app would also need to expand its features and capabilities to adapt to the changing needs of  its users.

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