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Concept messaging client for AOL's Kids Online unit. Objectives were to keep the experience as simple as possible, while creating an environment that felt safe and welcoming, and full of energy. This was designed as a web-based client experience.

Roles: Concept, interaction and visual design.
Concept showing how a different wallpaper in the background could change the look and feel of the GUI. There would be a selection of wallpapers the user could choose from, and they would be encouraged to upload their own content.
For the first few sessions, there would be an automated help experience superimposed on the regular client experience.

Offline or pending buddies are to the far right. All buddies that are online are in the right-central column. To engage that buddy, the user would click on the icon and type a message. GUI elements resize and position themselves based on available space.
Starting a new IM with a buddy. The appearance of the ghosted chat bubble anticipates where the conversation will be displayed. The online buddy list doubles as an indicator for which chat is currently active.
Mock of the interface showing a navigation widget that links into the rest of the KOL/AOL properties. In order to keep the screen as uncluttered as possible, this main nav was, by default, tucked up beneath the top of the browser header.

This navigation bar would animate downwards on rollover.

If no longer in focus after a brief count, the navigation would animate back out of the way.
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Kids Online Messenger, KOL at AOL

Concept mocks for a messenger experience targeted at a younger audience. Although created in early 2008, many of the concepts here are still relevant. These mocks are a good catalyst for discussion.

I was responsible for all parts of the experience: concept, interaction and visual design.

Key challenges here were how to pare down a messaging experience to the bare essentials, and how to make the end-to-end experience as straightforward as possible.

My proposed solution eliminated user controlled windows, removing the cognitive overhead of Z-order and sizing. I also stripped out a lot of functionality available in 'adult' AIM, and simplified the experience to a handful of messaging, contact management and interface customization capabilities. I then designed a GUI that was friendly and fun, with an eye to keeping the learning curve as flat as possible.

Conceptually, this is my favorite project that I had the pleasure to work on while at AOL.

John Clarkson
UX Design Leader Aldie, VA