Eric Boggs, Dave Gottlieb, Eli Robinson, & Callen Thompson
Inspiration and Insights
Our group’s research focuses on seniors and the topic of Aging in Place. We’ve performed multiple stages of research, including contextual inquiries with seniors who use computing technology at home, interviews with experts on the subject of seniors, and two styles of cultural probes, one written and the other photography based, with both seniors and Baby Boomers. Our secondary research throughout the process has been pivotal in understanding what is and isn’t available or working well in this particular field, and helped us determine what insights we were having that were original. Through our synthesis and ideation period we generated 300 business ideas and presented on three of them three weeks ago. Following the presentation we pursued one of the concepts we presented, a concept of crowd sourcing solutions with Baby Boomers to tackle some of the wicked problems that they are most invested in resolving, like environmental issues. By creating a customer journey and touch points map of this idea we could see holes in the concept and realized that we were no longer working with a believable scenario of a user for the service we were designing.
Throughout this time period we were receiving responses to the two cultural probes that we sent out during our research phase. We noticed three very prevalent themes through the process, which greatly informed us:
1. Both boomers and seniors feel a strong bond to staying connected to their families, particularly their grandkids. We witnessed many seniors who use email and Facebook exclusively to see photographs of their family. Both groups sense of community and communication with family and friends helps motivate them, keep them happy, and ultimately alive and healthy.
2. Even the most technologically savvy of the participants struggled to return the photographic scavenger hunt through email. For some, the obstacle of finding their digital camera and getting it to turn on was enough of a roadblock as to stop participation, but for most, the challenge of getting the pictures off of their phone or camera, into an email, and adding text required extreme dedication that left many of them annoyed with us.
3. Almost everyone’s favorite room was the living room, where they described sitting and relaxing.
Due to these insights, the presentation idea we’d considered to be least interesting became the most, especially after creating a customer journey and touch points map. We want to create a mobile, visually simple app that facilitates family sharing and connection through whatever media an individual might use. We picture an analog aspect to this site that may involve book printing and cards, bolstered by an easily reachable customer support service. In reference to the third insight, we’re calling it “Den.”
Our goal is to give people a platform to share personal stories, photographs, and information with their families directly, allowing them to be more connected and open. Den connects families in a feed that’s exclusive to the group, allowing a degree of casualness and familiarity that is missing in most online networks. Den uses many of the successes of Instagram and Pinterest in its layout, but facilitates intimacy rather than publicity. A favorite recipe, story, photo, or letter highlighting special moments in a family members’ life can develop a connection. Additionally, a funny story about what happened at the grocery store this morning and the comments that follow are an essential part of creating personal knowledge and friendship. Den is a medium for families to get to know and help each other wherever they are, and whatever level of technical confidence they have.
Because Den is a feed that contains text, photo, video, and audio clips that update as they’re added, there is an element of surprise and fun, creating anticipation from the users. As a mobile app, Den fits seamlessly into the lives of the younger generations that the seniors are particularly interested in keeping up with. Many seniors we witnessed are leapfrogging 20 years of technology and going straight from a landline phone and large, slow, heavy desktop computers used for word processing, to a wi-fi enabled smartphone or tablet. Den recognizes the necessity of ease in photo sharing and is built accordingly. Den inspires seniors to get into the mix through prompts that target the entire family, whether generated from the app or by the family.
Den will be an app. At this stage of anyone could download it and we will scale accordingly.
From the start, Den is different than typical apps. When a new member joins, they receive an email explaining to them how the services work and allowing them to mail personal postcards to family members to invite them. An invitation with instructions is created for those recipients; for example the first user invites their grandmother to join the app through a card she receives by snail mail, generated by Den. Users who prefer email would receive one. We consider it essential for Den to have abundant customer service support that works across all platforms of comfort including phone calls, live chat, email or printed tutorials.
As the new user arrives, she sees pictures of what her niece cooked for dinner in another city, a video clip of her cousin’s kids dancing, and a joke that her 8 year old grandson has just made-up and posted. She can comment on any of these on the app thru text, audio, photo, video, calling them directly, or sending them a physical card. If an individual or family chooses to, they can use random prompts of questions or assignments to share, generated by Den. They will have the option to receive weekly or monthly summaries of family activity via email. Once a relationship is established, she will see that they have the option to create digital and physical photo albums and other memorabilia through the service with the material that is being exchanged.
We recognize that the service we are describing has many elements, which would require exceptional work on our part. At this stage of the process, we have no way of knowing the feasibility of the design, and are rather being guided by imagination and the needs we witnessed in the design stage.
We have identified a number of websites as potential competitors for our service and will work to differentiate ourselves. We are comfortable with adapting Den to meet the needs of particular users, for example, people staying in a certain wing of a hospital or in a particular residential unit. It is important to us to provide a service that meets needs of older members of society that will improve their happiness and wellbeing. To do this successfully, the service must work across multiple platforms and be user friendly. It must respect the busy lives that people have at any age and allow them to connect with one another despite schedules. We don’t believe that any of the sites we are considering competition have achieved these essential design qualities.
We plan to do a great deal of user testing and prototyping in the next Quarter to evaluate the essential components of the service and to reflect users’ needs. Prototyping will inform our design further and ensure we are providing something that serves to benefit its users.