A social language learning experience powered by friendship and community support.


Chan Ik Chris Jung

My Role

UX Research
Product Design
Brand Design


September 11, 2023 - April 15, 2024
Bonobo is a social language learning experience powered by friendship and community support. People cite commitment issues rooted in isolation and lack of social context as the biggest obstacles while learning new languages in the online environment. Bonobo promotes personalized learning experiences with structured community support. Connect, collaborate, and share your experiences with your language buddies and the community at large for mutual growth and learning.


Around 90% of people fail to continue their second language learning in online environment.

Online language learning platforms has grown popular over promise of easy, convenient, and accessible learning experiences. However, the overall effectiveness remains inconclusive due to wildly conflicting opinions and testimonials. Learning new language is perceived as a challenging process that requires an effort and personal commitment. As someone who belongs to that 90% demographic while repeatedly failing to learn French using different online language services, I wanted to discover underlying pain points of other users and potential solutions to increase the chance of successful completion of language learning adventure.


Bridging the gap between in-person and online language learning experiences.

Bonobo is designed to transfer the social interaction aspect of in-person learning experiences to online environments. On Bonobo, users are encouraged to connect, collaborate, and share experiences with language buddies and community at large , creating a dynamic environment for mutual growth and learning.


Discovering the divide between user expectation and platform experience.

The objective of learning a new language is often tied to various social goals. Whether you’re aiming to advance your career or immerse yourself in a new culture, everything seems to be rooted in social and emotional connections with other people. The biggest question remains: Why do individuals with clear objectives give up on language learning? To uncover the gap between user needs and the online language learning experience, the following plan was devised.



Understanding the user base and their preferred learning experiences.


Understanding motivation and the decision-making process from learners and educators.


Examining biases and assumptions from datasets.


Finding converging point of all reseraches conducted.


Analyzing popular online language learning experiences and feature sets.


Establishing a foundation for design direction.
1. User preferences

Based on results gathered from 29 respondenents using Google Forms.


Think lack of personal motivation being an obstacle for new language learning.


Want to be part of decision-making process for their education. Remaining 38% took neutral position.


Want emphasis on cultural aspect in language learning.


Prefer environment that supports learning through social interaction.


Want social learning environment that supports more personalized learning and robust feedback.


Found quality of experience has the biggest impact on decision making process.

2. Decision Making Factors

Interview results based on five participants and one Teaching English to Speakers of Other Languages (TESOL) Professor from Sheridan College.

Balanced Approach

Finding the balance between convenience of online platforms and benefits of in-person social learning.

Social and Cultural Goals

Focus on achieving personalized social and cultural goals with new languages learning.

Group Dynamics

Learning in groups settings can influence people and act as postive reinforcement for motivation.


Making a commitment and willingness to take risks is a crucial part of a learning experience.

User Agency

Include users in decision-making process for their own education process for better participation.

3. Examining biases and assumptions


People may have formed unrealistic expectations based on marketing and skewed public perception.


People may overemphasize their own convenience over effectiveness of education.


People may be overestimating their own ability to continue learning in asynchronous environments.


People assume easier learning experience compared to traditional language learning method.
4. Converging point

Social Interaction

Strong recognition of social learning experiences is afforded by in-person learning.

Context Based Learning

The social context is a crucial part of the language learning process.

Group Experience

Collective group experiences may leave a bigger impression, which can lead to better engagement.

5. Opportunities gleaned

Removing Learning Barriers

Removing artificial roadblocks designed to funnel people into monetization features, disrupting immersion and study flow.

Feedback With Contexts

Pivot away from endless repetition and provide meaningful feedback or context based error correction.

Community Over Competition

Emphasize supportive community features over aggressive gamification features prioritizing competition.

6. Design direction

Personalized Learning Experience

Tailored language lessons and resources based on user progression for personalized learning experience.

Community Support

Focus on maintaining long-term engagement through community features that provide sense of belonging and support.


Bridging the gap between user needs and platform experience.

The proposed language learning platform focuses on building confidence through individual and group activities augmented by community support system, meaningful and non-intrusive gamification that reflects growth, and transferring community support aspect of in-person learning to online environment.

User Flow

A straightforward user flow was created to map out the content and features needed to demonstrate the community focused language learning platform.

User Journey Map & System Map

User journey map added simplified step by step process of potential user actions and their emotional responsese to highlight potential gap in design. System map was created to explore the technical feasibility and available options for the proposed language learning platform.

Conceptual Prototype

A conceptual design prototype was produced to explore the feasibility of feature sets and layouts for the proposed online learning platform. Some of the ideas explored, such as creating a custom avatar to visualize user progression and growth, were deemed too time-consuming and complex given the project’s scope and timeframe.

Mid fidelity Protype

The iterative prototype process continued, resulting in a refined version based on the initial concept work. This iteration specifically emphasized detailed steps to showcase the platform’s use case and most importantly, the emotional journey of the user.

User Testing 1
Testers pointed out the scope of the project is rather large, and some features are too complex.
Testers suggested focusing the design effort on a few key features that can highlight the core concept of the platform.
User Testing 2
Testers suggested optimizing information flow for enhanced user experience that provides relevant context.
Testers suggested functionality to save shared resources to personal collections for study references.
Visual Design

The visual design process underwent a series of refinement processes, with numerous feedback sessions received from potential user bases. Bootstrap 5 was selected as the foundational design system due to its highly customizable and robust component libraries, which facilitated rapid iterative prototyping. Additionally, alongside traditional style guide exploration, a visual identity in the form of a mascot named Bo was developed. Bo is fun and inquisitive in nature, representing the core message of community learning, support, and growth.


Introducing Bonobo, a social language learning experience.

Bonobo is designed to transfer the social interaction aspect of in-person learning experiences to online environments. On Bonobo, users are encouraged to connect, collaborate, and share experiences with language buddies and community at large, creating a dynamic environment for mutual growth and learning.

Feature Highlights
Study Buddies with common goals

Your buddies are always one click away. Learn, support, and grow together.

See how your buddies are doing with their language learning adventure. Positive peer pressure can be a great motivator.

Personalized Approach

Recommend user created resource collections to develop skill sets complimentary to personal goal.

Resource suggestions based on predetermined interests and overall lesson progression.

Language Learning Adventure

Easy to comprehend core objectives matching user needs. Simplified and meaningful gamification targeting milestone achievments.

Visualized progression tracking with individual lesson highlights.

Overview with Context

Customizable overview of activities with balanced feedback to aid users.

Detailed summary for each lessons with achievments and recommended resources.

Community Contributions

No need to go anywhere else for help. Share resources to help each other’s language learning.

Save shared resources to different collections as study references. It can be shared with others just like a playlist.

What's Next?


Seamless support Integration

More holistic integration of community support such as mentorship and collaborative features.


Refining community contributions

Community driven resource database that integrates different user collections to enhance language learning experiences.


Fully utilize benefits of in-person interactions.
  • Like many others, I grew accustomed to the convenience of online environments. Yet, as I engaged in face-to-face interactions, I discovered that personal and group dynamics in physical spaces offer unique opportunities for additional inspirations. Being present in the same space can make all the difference.
Stay focused on achieving your core vision.
  • During the development stage, I struggled to refine the scope of the project. While some of the initial insights gathered and planned features seemed promising in theory, they became a catalyst for feature bloat. Fortunately, I was able to maintain the integrity of core ideas with helpful feedback and advice from other designers. Good ideas sometimes don’t work out and you should always prioritize your core concept.

Thank you for reading my case study. Be sure to check out my other work.