“Let Them Sleep”, A Caring UX For Kicking Out Users in Midnight Work Calls

“Work call” culture has emerged as a way for creators of manga, illustrations, novels and more to talk while working through a dedicated communication app. This cultural phenomenon is already widely recognized among creators, but due to the coronavirus pandemic, the idea is branching into a whole new world of possibilities. In this interview, we asked Fumie Hino, designer of “mocri,” a service specializing in “work calls,” about the development of this cultural shift, alongside the trial and error experienced in building the service.

Fumie Hino
MIXI, Inc. Designer Portfolio / Twitter

Designer and illustrator. After graduating from art university, she joined mixi, Inc. in 2016 as a new graduate and worked as a UI/UX designer for the photobook and matching app services the company provided at the time. Currently, she is a member of the new business “mocri”, where she works on overarching design scenarios.

“Work call” culture grew from the idea that “working together boosts performance”

── First of all, what is a “work call” and how did it evolve?

Hino: “Work call” is a term first heard in the digital creator community around 2010. The process of drawing involves a lot of time-consuming and solitary work, including outlines, coloring and shading, and when working alone, it can seem like a daunting, endless task. I think this new culture has roots in creators who’ve experienced this feeling.

At the time, the most popular communication tool was Skype. It was free, and the term “work Skype” became very common.

Today, work styles have evolved significantly, and joining a call while even playing games or doing housework is definitely common. Our research shows that today, students study while jumping on calls with friends to boost collaboration and concentration. As the internet continues to develop and become even more ingrained in our daily lives, the cultural phenomenon of joining an online call while embracing other tasks has become commonplace in many walks of life.

I believe this “work call” culture has developed even further due to the coronavirus pandemic, which has prevented physical interaction in many instances. Work calls allow people to feel like they’re in the same room collaborating, despite the circumstances.

── Please tell us about the work call service that you and your team have developed, “mocri.”

Hino: Mocri is a tool that has many functions unique to work calls, including chat and a timer for allocating work time on different projects, in addition to standard voice call functionality. We’ve found a niche with creators, especially illustrators, manga artists and novelists.

Mocri was born in 2018 through the original product owner’s desire “to create a world where people can work together and have fun engaging tasks they may not enjoy alone”. While researching the means available to achieve this idea, we learned about the above-mentioned “work Skype” phenomenon in the creator community. This concept was very close to what the original product owner envisioned: “Working alone can be tough, but it gets easier when cooperating alongside others.” With this in mind, and building on the prevalent concept of work calls, mocri was born. I have been involved with the service as a designer since launch.

Four innovations in creating better, more effective work calls

1. Lowering the psychological hurdle for making a call

── There are many communication services out there, but what about mocri makes it more effective for work calls?

Hino: There are many different communication services around, but they all essentially require users to coordinate their schedules in advance. Our service is different in that users don’t have to worry about this. 

When we interviewed users, we discovered that the time it takes to begin a call is one issue on users’ minds. To start a call, users generally need to ask “Can I call you now?” and wait for the other party to respond. Then once confirmation is received, they call and wait for the other party to answer. Everything required a prolonged series of steps.

With mocri, none of these steps are needed to start a call. Calls take place in a “room” (free space) on mocri. Users can create a room and wait for the other party, then start talking as soon as they enter. The fact that users don’t have to consider each other’s precise schedule to get started has really made an impact.

Users creating a room and wait for other party to enter. Source:mocriサポート

Other issues encountered included users wanting to talk late at night, but being too cautious and thinking, “I want to talk now, but it might disturb someone,” causing them to end up not engaging in conversation. With mocri, even at times like these, a notification is sent when you enter a room, allowing users to make a call when the timing is right, without an appointment. Users don’t need to invite each other beforehand, lowering hesitation and the psychological hurdle. Our users are definitely taking advantage of this.

── I definitely understand – I’ve often felt very lucky when someone I wanted to talk to was online at the same time. This sort of free space where users can wait for their counterpart and then speak openly is similar to Clubhouse, which was popular a few years back.

Hino: It is similar in some ways, but I think the community is different. Our users are more prone to have conversations while drawing or playing games, while my impression of Clubhouse is more like a radio station featuring celebrities talking and others listening in.

When Clubhouse first appeared, I thought it might be a competitor, due to the similar nature of our service regarding voice calls, but in the end, it’s quite different from the world of work calls.

2. Proposing an outlook that matches the target audience

── Many creators value community. Was this a fact that you paid special attention to during development?

Hino: In the early days of mocri, we largely targeted people involved in creative work like manga drawing, so we created a dog character “Moku-chan” to help familiarize people with the service. Given our large number of users who draw or create art, we thought having an iconic character would boost general interest, and I think our branding using Moku-chan the dog from release has helped in this regard.

From a marketing perspective, we took the mitigated risk of choosing a manga page for our advertisements and announcements, instead of typical banner images. By using manga, we thought our service would have natural affinity with artists who create cartoons and pictures. I believe this has successfully helped people become more aware of mocri’s service.

Manga page introducing mocri, created by Fumie

3. Boosting synergy between work and communication

── Is there a certain function within mocri solely dedicated to work calls?

Hino: Yes. Mocri includes a timer function allowing users to practice the “Pomodoro Technique,” a well-known productivity-boosting method centered around 25-minute periods of concentration followed by 5-minute breaks. At mocri, this is called “Concentration Mode.”

── So this function allows users to exclusively concentrate on work, rather than just talk?

Hino: Yes, and this function has existed since the beginning as a feature focused on the importance of work calls within our service.

Recently, I have seen users with accounts for the purpose of studying on social media exchanging their mocri IDs, so it seems that people are also using mocri to help them concentrate on their studies. During the coronavirus pandemic, connecting online gave users the confidence to study together, even from home. I hope this will continue to lead to hard work and success.

4. Customizing functionality to complement users

── Did mocri have any features that were deemed a failure?

Hino: Yes, definitely. User research has shown that people are hesitant to enter a space where conversation has already started, because they are worried about interrupting. To solve this problem, we released a feature that allows users to listen in for one minute before entering a room.

Somewhat surprisingly, this was met with a storm of controversy. Opinions came from both sides, including positive comments like, “I was waiting for this feature!” claiming that this feature made it easier to invite others, while others were negative, such as, “This feature should be banned!” “I don’t like not knowing who is listening, even though I know only invitees can join” and “This means I have to be very careful, since anyone could be listening.”

── I can certainly understand both sides. How did mocri respond?

Hino: In the end, we settled on allowing each user to turn this feature on or off depending on their own preference. Although we conducted user interviews and tests well in advance, we still had this problem, which impressed upon me again the difficulty of UX design.

During development, we mainly conducted user interviews with people who were anxious about whether they would enter the conversation and interfere, so we were not able to reflect the opinions of those who were not so anxious. I regretted that I did not have enough understanding of our users, and this incident is something I won’t soon forget.

Consideration regarding “letting them sleep”

── Can you speak on any examples of mocri being used in unexpected ways?

Hino: Yes. Throughout our history, mocri started to be used by people outside the creative sphere. We were surprised to see a decent amount of housewives use mocri to talk while doing chores or taking care of their children. They wrote reviews recommending it to other housewives, because mocri allowed them to chat while accomplishing tasks at home. At the time I realized that some people use Twitter this way, too. Dealing with housework alone can be taxing, so having someone to talk to can be a great benefit. I felt the need for a platform mothers can use to encourage each other while working hard at home, where they can easily become isolated.

At the same time, some have responded to a mocri survey saying that they’re using the service to talk to each other while falling asleep. This was a quite unexpected use of our service: a platform for chatting until one or both parties fall asleep. Even if the purpose of a call isn’t necessarily to lull each other to sleep, many users seem to fall asleep easily when on a call. This prompted us to add a “let them sleep” feature to mocri.

── What does “let them sleep” mean in this context?

Hino: Specifically, if users notice that someone has fallen asleep during a call, they can let him or her out of the room. The room will be left behind with the sleeping member even after you leave…you can’t block the person, or wake up the person, and they might end up snoring in front of others who entered the room afterwards. The “let them sleep” function solves all of this.

When a user is let out of a room with the “let them sleep” function, a pop-up window will appear on the user’s screen saying, “You were sleeping, so we tucked you in for bed.” The soft phrase “let them sleep” has been well received with users since the release of this feature.

Although essentially the same idea, “kick out” or “ejection” sound too negative, which led us to the gentler term “let them sleep.” Our team is very careful regarding the phrasing we choose. A design change also meant users who fell asleep would see an illustration of Moku-chan sleeping, hopefully conveying that they weren’t kicked out with any negative intent.

── Please tell us about your hopes for mocri moving forward.

Hino: We hope that the culture of “work calls” becomes even more popular, and that more different people discover mocri. We have a firm foothold in the creative community, but I’m always looking forward to the next group of people who may discover our service.

As an example, now there are people who use mocri to communicate while lifting weights or during muscle training. It’s a joy to see new uses appear, and I look forward to what comes next. At the end of the day, if more people can work together and engage tasks more efficiently through our communication tool, I believe we can all reach new, untapped potential.

Special Thanks
mocri

Fumie’s Twitter:https://twitter.com/pinopo_

Written By

Arisa Nojima

Arisa is an editor at Spectrum Tokyo. After graduating from Massachusetts College of Art and Design, she worked for a game production company and a HR startup for designers before going independent in 2021. As a freelancer in the design community, she currently supports recruitment and writing at various companies. She loves radio and cats.

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