Maajoin Mobile App

Helping language learners find conversation partners

Hillary is a creative spirit that brings a fresh perspective to everything she does.

 She’s relentless in her approach to finding the best way to tell the most compelling customer story. She’s thoughtful and deliberate in her work, which shines through. One stakeholder shared ‘this is the best copy we’ve ever produced.’”

Tracey C.

Former client


Hi there, I’m Hillary Bassett Ross.

Writer | Designer | UX Professional | Storyteller

Kinetic Pencil is my digital consultancy, named for my creative spirit⁠—a kinetic energy waiting to take form.


App content design and UX design

Project context

Maajoin was a conversation partner matching app helping language learners grow their conversation skills. It focused on helping users find conversation partners and build community through live events. 

My role

I completed content design and UX design for this consumer app, working with the team from inception all the way until design handoff. Unfortunately the team disbanded and the project was never developed or published.

What does maajoin mean?

Built in Thailand and designed to be a nod to the culture, the word “maajoin” is a Thai term that denotes creating connection and fostering friendship. The development team was adamant about maintaining the term, namely due to its inclusion of the English term, “join.” 

This was against my professional recommendation; my point of view was that the brand would create confusion, and would become problematic when localizing into other languages.

My scope across the end-to-end process

This graphic helps clarify how my role related to the overall end-to-end process. Where some elements were out of my scope on the original process, I’ve included a point-of-view to demonstrate my thought process.

The key problem to solve

“How can we encourage language-learning beyond the classroom environment?”

Key project challenges

  • Creating an experience that would inspire users to maintain consistent engagement
  • Scaling for multiple languages
  • Building a safe space for users (especially women) to meet others

Content design nuances

  • Similar to a dating app, but *not*

The uncanny similarity to dating apps helped users understand how the app worked, but I placed a special focus on avoiding terms that could imply dating or exclusivity. For example, I intentionally avoided terms like “matches” or “partner.”

  • Socializing was central 

During a concept validation exercise, there was a consistent theme that surprised all of us: 7 out of the 8 individuals interviewed all cited their intrigue around how this would improve their social life. Where the classroom environment provided the opportunity to meet people, this app was viewed as both improving language skills and offering a social opportunity. As a result, we incorporated this feedback more deeply throughout the app experience.

Customer Avatar

Paige, female

Age 28 | Originally from Australia, living in Thailand

Native English speaker wanting conversation practice in German.

Paige is a digital nomad living in Chiang Mai, about to move to Germany. She loves to meet as many people as she can while living abroad as an expat. She can’t wait to hear others’ travel stories and learn new insights and tips. She is a freelancer and always works remotely. Digital experiences tie her to what’s going on in the world, how she connects with others, and how she learns. She listens to podcasts and NPR, and uses apps like Babble, Meetup, and Bumble.

App purpose

Similar to a dating app but for conversation partners, maajoin helped create in-person connections for language learning. Users could find one-on-one partners, create groups, or join live events.

App audience

A key differentiator with this app as compared to traditional language-learning contexts is that the audience was predominately expats, long-term travelers, digital nomads, and backpackers. As a result of these individuals being outside their country of origin, most were looking to broaden their social connections. This discovery surfaced through the product validation stage, providing incredible insight that informed the overall experience.

User’s Needs

  • To review potential partners to find matches
  • To find multiple conversation partners
  • To meet others and make more local connections

User’s desire

  • To find new people to hang out with (primary)
  • To improve language abilities (secondary)

How the user’s needs and desires informed the content design

When we learned that the main driver related to broadening the user’s social base, we changed the original concept entirely. Originally, we believed that the value in the app was around how well users could be matched up based upon interests. But actually, users just wanted to make more friends in the other culture, so they weren’t as interested in finding perfect compatibility. 

We shifted the experience to surface social compatibility over the nitty-gritty  language-learning goals. We offered the ability to create and join groups and to attend live events. Together, it became a social platform geared around cultural exchange. 

Additionally, special focus was placed around safety and helping females feel comfortable using the app.

Content Design Solutions

Setting the tone

As a consumer app that encouraged meeting other users, the tone needed to be casual, friendly, and conversational. Text throughout the app helped users feel comfortable, welcome, and safe. Terms like “conversation friends” were deliberately included to help foster the friendly nature of the experience, and to subtly train the mind away from dating app associations. 

Visuals over words

The site content was mindfully crafted to avoid words where visuals could work. This allowed information to be gleaned quickly, and helped sidestep the challenge of varying text length upon localization. 

      • Flags were used to denote languages. 
      • The universal language learning scale (A1, A2, B1, etc.) helped demonstrate level of proficiency
      • Icons indicated social interests

Socializing as top priority

The user research phase surfaced the predominant interest in using this app as a means to broaden the social sphere. This was not something we originally assumed, but given the unique context–where users were living outside their country of origin–it quickly made sense. 

All references to dating were avoided, and a casual, conversational tone was used throughout. This insight also encouraged the app offerings to include groups and live events to foster friendship and connection. 

Usability Testing

While this project did not undergo traditional user testing, we shared the mockups to gain feedback from potential users. A few things that surfaced:

  • While the language-learning scale was helpful, it wasn’t necessarily relevant to the language partner as he/she/they were a native speaker; it was helpful to weed out absolute beginners, because that would make the conversation feel more like teaching vs. a conversation. The team explored only allowing those B1 or higher to join, but that idea was ultimately tossed aside, and the scale remained to help users determine fit. 
  • The British flag felt more universal to English learners, though Canadians and Americans had hesitation in agreeing it was the right choice for the interface (!). 
  • The original term for events was “meetups.” “Meetups” was originally chosen because it was a common term for people coming together for a live experience. It seemed to create confusion for the users because it was too similar to groups. Changing the name to “events” made it very clear. 
  • Women showed a much stronger interest than men; it was anticipated that the user base would be 65-75% female.

Information Architecture

Project Takeaways

While this project never came to actual fruition, it was an incredible example of how user research is imperative in the product development process. Key insights such as the focus on the social aspect dramatically shifted the overall experience.

Additionally, we also would never have assumed that the user base would be predominately female, and given the nature of the experience, creating a safe environment for expats and digital nomads became the key focus of the app.