News and blog posts from our students and faculty

Category Archives: Interaction Design

Creating the right pilot: Trust your gut, focus on the ideal

This week I waited for my recordable greeting card to come in the mail. Anticipating that the idea was to establish a conversation with individuals, via a pen pal type situation, recording reactions and reflections that were then sent back to the first user, then to another individual to reflect or react to by recording a verbal message.  I would then use contextual inquiry to identify if this back and forth conversation (revolving around the stigma of mental illness) was helpful for the initial user in disseminating the stigma that they had to keep their condition a secret, and to be more comfortable speaking out and owning their condition, because they were at least virtually interacting with others that could identify with their emotional state on a personal level.

Unfortunately, the card did not come in, but during this time of waiting for the card to come in the mail, I was challenged with the opportunity to take a step back and ask if this was really the correct way to pilot my ideal final product. Which is a 2 week trial pack of a mood disorder medication, which included recorded stories of others who have similar conditions and how they deal with emotion, medicaiton, and manage self care. As of now I can only equate my final ideal product to the idea to those voice recorded Hallmark story books, where a child can be told a bedtime story by a loved one who may live across the country.

Yet as I was waiting for my order to come in, to pilot my idea, I had in the back of my mind that this is not the correct pilot, I just felt it in my gut. My ideal end product is actually not necessarily a back and forth conversation as the initial pilot would suggest, but a book of real people with real stories about how they felt and dealt with issues surrounding their life before a diagnosis. Then how they felt and managed getting a diagnosis, being prescribed medication, and how they felt with the idea that they may have to maintain a medication regimen perhaps for the rest of their life.

I did not believe in my first pilot idea, so I went with my gut and started gathering stories, from real people in their own words. That is what I wanted in the first place and admittedly should have spent the past week gathering these stories.

The past being the past it, was time to get to work. I created a script of questions and recruited 2 individuals to interview and record in order to deliver these stories to someone who may be hesitant to seek help, whether by stigma or general fear of a diagnosis that required them to potentially take a medication that helped them reach self-care in the long term, possibly for the rest of their lives.

This is what I did today. Surprisingly people who suffer from a mood disorder (bipolar spectrum or depression) understand what the condition is like and are more than willing to share their own stories if it has the potential to help release the stigma of being the odd man out, or the damaged ones, as well as put them at ease about the idea of having to be medicated in the long term in order to reach the goal in life they seek.

I also learned the importance of getting this information out of the computer and on to the “wall”. The wall being a place where you can visualize your journey and ideas, inspirations and wishes that you can physically look at and see on a daily basis. This allows you to be able to see where you have been, where you are going, and where you want to be. To iterate, and I acknowledge I should have done this sooner. I should have trusted my gut.

Out of respect of the two individuals I will not post the recordings until next week when I am able to edit down to the core ideals I am initially going to pilot, to a new “patient” with the same hope that it will aid in creating a virtual bond with my recorded individuals and their experiences in hopes that the stigma of being judged as the damaged one, as well as the realization that it is ok, and rather normal, often rather necessary, to seek aid of a medication regimen is not weird, or uncommon.

My pilot has changed. I now have the necessary stories/tools to relay to someone who may be feeling like they are “not normal”, but being not normal is actually ok with the appropriate treatment. Some of the greatest minds of our time have been “not normal”, and have gone on to make a true effect on changing the world.

I truly was fascinated and inspired by hearing others give their trust and conviction in helping others by revealing their personal information on tape. I appreciate the community that is willing to speak out about 1 in 4 people you may walk past on the streets where you live each day that manage and thrive some sort of mood disorder, but still having a program to not only reflect on their own actions themselves, but also be the crafters of some of the most insightful realizations about the world we live in at the same time.

Posted in Classes, Creativity, Design Education, Design Research, Interaction Design, Motivation, Portfolio, Reflection, UX For Good | Leave a comment

Pilot testing phase 1

At this point in the process of product development, we are able now to release a few pilot tests of rough prototypes and monitor the results in order to use the information gathered to make our final product the best user experience it can be.

The hierarchy of what my products realities are that: recovery (or stability) from a mental illness cannot solely depend on medication alone. There also needs to be a support system in place for the patient to guide them through the journey and recognize intervention points when and if the patient is having a rough time or is falling off the path to stability.

This being a hypothesis derived from the last 16 weeks of research (contextual inquiry, interviews, and secondary research) led me to beginning my first pilot, focussing on simplicity and human connection.

Please keep talking
Pilot 1

Value proposition of the pilot is:

Helps an individual connect with other that are “like them” and reduces personal stigma.

The pilot could be something like:

A recordable greeting card that is mailed to an individual newly diagnosed with a “mood disorder”. The card includes a story of an individuals experiences and where that person is in their diagnosis (newly diagnosed individuals will receive stories of how people dealt with hearing their diagnosis, and how they are attempting to manage self care, individuals that are further along in their diagnosis will receive stories from others on how they deal with issues such as the stigma or the diagnosis in everyday life, as well as how they deal with medications and self care).

Inside the card there is a prompt and instructions on how the user can record their own story about how they are dealing with issues surrounding their personal diagnosis. And how to put the card in the pre-posted envelope and mail it back (to me). 

For this pilot I would act as an intermediary and the letter would come to me, which then I would vet and then phase 2 would begin. A back and forth communication between chosen individuals would be under my control for this piloting stage.  

The next person that receives the card would be farther along in their diagnosis, and would be prompted to listen to the recorded story in the card, then record over it with either a positive message on how they identify with the story that was told, or a similar story about themselves.

They would then mail it back to me, I would vet it, and then pass it back to the first user. 

This would continue always with the same first time user, but received back with a different story/reflection from a new individual. Again this would be mailed back to me for the cycle to continue. 

Less like a pen-pal but more like remote group therapy. 

The cycle of mailing back and forth would last at least 4 cycles, and then I would collect feedback from the initial user. 

I would need people who:

Have been newly diagnosed with a mood disorder, have been diagnosed with a mood disorder but are reluctant to seek out a support group, and a group of individuals that are farther along in their recovery.

They would interact with the pilot by:

  • Receiving the package in the mail.
  • Opening the package to find a recordable greeting card with a pre-posted/labeled envelope.
  • Instructions on the front of the card will introduce the narrative they are about to hear and instruct the user on how to play the recorded story of an individual dealing with a point in their diagnosis (content is currently in the works).
  • After listening to the story, the user is instructed to follow the printed instructions, with a prompt to get them started, on how to record their own story about their diagnosis.
  • The user is then instructed to place the card in the pre-posted envelope and mail it back (to me). The user will be aware that I will be vetting the content as I would like to establish a sense of trust that whatever they choose to say will not be judged.
  • After a day or so, the user will receive the same card in the mail with a new message from a different individual and instructed to keep the conversation going (by re-recoding their story, or reaction).

I will use contextual inquiry with the initial user, to establish how they felt about sharing their stories, hearing the stories of others, and if the process was beneficial. I will be testing if the method of the recorded stories at all encouraged the user to go out and speak to real life individuals whether in a group setting or a confidant. This will be my measure of breaking a personal stigma, and establishing a connection with another human through the power of storytelling.

It took a few runs to realize this first pilot (separating the medication aspect from the personal connection breaking stigmas), Some scenario storyboarding and a basic process flow about how this might be realized.

IMG_4419

 

Congruently, I have been revising the story arch of a 14 day medication trial, processing what content would be on each page, along with imagery, establishing a visual heirachy that both promotes support, and directs the eye to the second component which is the medication (one pill per page).

I am currently in the process of both recruiting the individuals that I would need to successfully test my first pilot, as well as developing the content design that will actually be seen, read, and heard on the first pilot prototype.

Posted in Classes, Creativity, Design Research, Interaction Design, Portfolio, Strategy | Leave a comment

Q3 Summary

After 8 weeks of research, and 8 weeks of prototyping and scenario user testing, I am currently in the process of developing an audible book that brings the compassion of group therapy as well as the encouragement of a medication regimen to individuals living in isolated environments, such as rural West Texas.

This idea has the goal of bringing the voices of individuals who may be suffering the same condition to someone who may not have the resources to talk to anyone about their condition as well as the provide them with a 2 week starter pack of their prescribed medication, with information about that medication as well as intervention moments for the patient to reach out to their health care provider if they are experiencing any negative or positive effects from the medication. Ultimately the goal is to get the new patient confident enough through de-stigmatizing mental illness that they themselves reach out and talk to others, and continue the conversation through their recovery.

Here is a link to a wrap up of the research and prototyping done in quarter 3.

Q3 Wrap Up

Posted in Classes, Design Research, Interaction Design, Portfolio, UX For Good | Leave a comment

User testing and observation

After creating my “Thing” which I describing now as a journey kit for individuals diagnosed with a mental illness focussing particularly on the various ranges of depression, to bipolar, and anxiety disorders.

My first round of user testing was incredibly enlightening and educational. My assumptions that something playful and interactive proved to be a bit too foreign and confusing to my users. No one came out and directly said that, but by reading facial expressions and their interactions with the kit, I could tell that the whimsey surrounding the idea may have come off as not taking the user seriously.

Before I go any further I will introduce first the journey kit, in a very rough prototype that I tested with. Then the series of questions I asked, what I learned, and how I am currently moving forward.

The kit.

P1011576 P1011577 P1011578 P1011579P1011586 P1011581 P1011582 P1011583 P1011587 P1011588 P1011589 P1011590 P1011591IMG_4279

I should say first that as I passed around the kit, I also passed around a potential user scenario in that described what it might be like if your Dr. gave you this thing rather than a bottle of pills. This scenario was accompanied by a one frame image of a woman being handed this box:

IMG_4281With this scenario:

“Jane has just been diagnosed by her psychiatrist as having major depressive disorder. She has been feeling overwhelmed yet hopeless for a while now, so the psychiatrist has suggested that she try out some medication as well as her therapy immediately.

Jane is pretty anxious about taking medication. She has heard a lot of horror stories of side effects, or the zombie effect, but at this point she is really just looking for some relief so she is willing to try anything.

Jane goes to the counter of the psychiatrist office to check out and is surprised when instead of the dr. giving her a sample pack or a bottle of pills she is handed a box.

All that the box says on the top is “Hello. I am here to help”, she is intrigued as to what could possibly be inside. But also confused, “Is this medicine?” she thinks.

The dr. explains that this is a starter kit for her. That having a diagnosis of depression is not the end of the world, getting to a place of self-acceptance is a journey and she would like her to give this kit a try. If the medication and kit process is working for her she would like to keep her on the program, and validates that she is not alone. She is here to help.

She explains that inside she will be guided through the process of taking her first week of medication with this kit. Inside it has day-by-day pull out pill packs, like and advent calendar, clearly labeled “Day1, Day2 etc.). There is her phone number inside the inside cover of the box if she is experiencing any side effects or just needs to talk her number is always there, and on the 4th day she would like her to use the included pre-posted notecard to answer 3 simple questions about how she is doing and mail it back to her so she can keep in touch when they are not face to face in a therapy session.

She also explains that inside there is also a book called “My Story” that has stories of people just like her she can read, and blank pages where she encourages her to write down her story, and to record her thoughts or feelings each day in the “My Story”.

She describes how to take the medication and tells her that the instructions and info about the medication is on the bottom of the box if she ever needs it.

Jane thinks to herself, “my this is different. I hope I can keep up with it all this”, but is uplifted a bit that she is not just being sent home alone with a bottle of pills. ”


This activity was followed up by a short questionnaire regarding the accuracy of the scene, if there was anything that would make the concept more relevant, or more simple, if there was anything missing, and what might you do to improve up it if you could do anything.

The answers were group based, and was a very enlightening discussion.

One woman – age 54 – described the scenario as being seemingly accurate, but definitely hopeful that the Dr. would guide her through the process of using this “thing” because there really was not much direction in the prototype. Rather intentionally actually, a choice made by myself to try to be very clear yet still have a sense of discovery.

Another man – age 47 – thought it was an “interesting” idea, that the postcard was nice, but really the action of taking each pill out of the box, ripping it off of the card and taking it with you was a bit unrealistic and tedious.

My sessions are so far being held in a medical facility where you are not even allowed to bring in your phone, but one man was nice enough to go out to a cafeteria and fill out his scenario there.

P1011592 P1011593 P1011595

So with what I observed, listened too, and got in hopefully honest writing was that I need more focused content.

IMG_4280

What I came out of my session was this:
People WANT to tell their story. Affirmations are nice, but the content needs to be packaged more familiar, and the actual content needs to better encourage a few key items.

  • The idea that they are not alone.
  • That they are not weird.
  • That other people share their same story.
  • That the idea of being “normal” is such a stretch perhaps it is more of an acceptance that not being normal is really ok.
  • People rely on their medications, and switch meds a lot until they find the one that works for them.

GOING FORWARD:
The box is staying. The innards are changing a bit, but really just becoming more robust around the narrative listed above. I am now moving forward with the “notebook” kit rather than the advent calendar approach, which I believe will gain me more access to be able to provide guided content, as well as it being a much more familiar and portable solution for people who may need to have their medications with them on the go. I am now focussing on a 2 week solution rather than a one week solution.

The week is moving fast, I just got my second round of just feedback, no scenarios, from a few new people that I will share next time, and hopefully have more people to comment on the actual included narrative of the item, as well as the construction – next week.

 

Posted in Design Education, Design Research, Interaction Design, Portfolio, Reflection, UX For Good | Leave a comment

TippingPoint: Doughnuts & Beers | Smoke & Mirrors

We finished last week by testing low-fidelity wires with one group of strangers to elicit feedback on our overall idea, as well as to understand emotional responses to different scenarios and tones.  We learned a lot from that test and we wanted to continue to test these screens with a few more individuals to gain even more perspective.

2
2 of the screens we tested

Beer & Doughnuts

Our first stop was the University of Texas campus.  We arrived at a sunny picnic table on the north side of campus armed with a box of doughnuts to be used as compensation for people’s time and opinions.  We set up camp, wrote “Free Donuts:  Help With Design Research” on the box and put on our best smiles in an attempt to lure people to our table.  We quickly realized that offering free doughnuts doesn’t get nearly the response that offering free beer does (our tactic from last week)… despite that lesson learned, we were finally able find two college students willing to sit with us and give us their opinions.

1
Free Doughnuts… Anybody??
3
Yay, participants!

Our major takeaway from this set of tests was the need for our messaging to be tailored to the person using the service.  The two girls we spoke with were both 20 years old and did not drink or go to bars, so the series of screens we showed them aimed at an audience that spends too much money going out to bars wasn’t applicable to them, so it elicited negative feedback.  They also did not have credit cards or debt so they got stuck on the idea of using a service to pay off credit cards.  This was useful in its own right, and got us thinking about different ways we might tailor the communications and how we might be able to test that.

Later that afternoon went to a nearby bar to find more participants.  Not surprisingly, offering beer worked like a charm and we quickly found four participants eager to share their opinions.

IMG_6422
Sam with a test subject

A lot of what we heard echoed our first round of tests:

  • People enjoy a playful tone and a relatable voice
  • They want messages to be short and sweet
  •  They want to be able to customize the characters
  • They want to know specific dollar amounts (not just percentages)

We also heard some new feedback:

  • People want some sort of option to turn off the messages, especially if they do not currently have enough money to pay towards their credit card or savings
  • They want clear language telling them where their money is actually going
  • They would like us to push the funny character voices even further (fun!)

Smoke & Mirrors

In addition to these tests, we also reached out to our AC4D network, and were able to find three alumni friends willing to let us pilot a “smoke & mirrors” version of the service with them.  This involves a hacked together process of using their bank account alerts to send them an email every time they make a purchase over $1.00, and then setting up their email to forward those alerts to us so we can then send them a text message asking if they want to contribute money to their credit card or savings.  Make sense?  See below:

EPSON MFP image
flow diagram: smoke & mirrors

Our goal for this method of testing is to determine:

  • What it feels like to receive a message
  • With what frequency people prefer to get messaged
  • What tone is most effective
  • How much money a person using this service might save/put towards debt

After one week of sending & receiving messages, we had our first follow-up interview today.  The participant told us that she really enjoyed receiving our messages and preferred when the messages were more playful and personal as opposed to cold and professional.  It was her opinion that about one message a day would be a good frequency and any more than that might get annoying.  She wants us to keep it fresh and “keep the wins coming.” This means we will need to figure out ways to keep the reminders from becoming stale;  learning about our users to personalize messages, upping the ante, using variable reward structures, and helping people track their progress might be some methods we can use to keep the thrill alive.

The Next 7 Days

This coming week we will be continuing the “smoke & mirrors” testing with our alumni volunteers focusing more on testing different tones.  We will also be doing a series of Scenario Validation tests which we are currently recruiting volunteers for.  Please feel free to share the link above with your networks or if you or anyone you know fits the bill please don’t hesitate to contact us.

Tune in next week for more testing fun!

Posted in Classes, Design Research, Interaction Design | Leave a comment

Mental Healthcare in Rural Texas: Interaction design for the people, by the people – that have no idea what the people need

It’s true. I would imagine the majority of projects that an Interaction Designer works on are for people they may have never met, and have no idea what their users need or the processes they take to meet their needs. This could be true from anything as simple as re-constructing a bus system app if the Interaction Designer has never ridden a bus, or as complex as attempting to create, through design, a solution to the wicked problem of access to mental health care in rural America.

The latter of the two examples is what I am focusing on, and have been for the past 16 weeks or so.

This initial blog post is the beginning of a series of stories. Intended to serve as an overview of the backlog of all the travel, research, data synthesis, and real user scenarios (names changed) that I have gathered and now currently processing out design ideas. We will identify the key players, the where, when and how they go about meeting their needs. As well as the obstacles and challenges both the patient and the caregivers face in their journey through the difficult process of both access and care.

There is a lot to catch up on, so let’s start from the beginning.

I began my research focusing solely on access to general healthcare in rural America.

IMG_4199

I was drawn to subject this initially because of my own upbringing in extreme rural Texas. Where the nearest hospital you could visit for anything more than vaccinations or stitches on your knee after falling out of a tree per say, was about an hour away. During my contextual inquiry, where I went to a rural Texas town, investigated their medical facilities, and interviewed both physicians, caregivers, and patients, interviewing and observing them in the environments where they lived and worked; I actually realized a larger problem than access to general healthcare was access to mental healthcare. And in rural Texas, as well as the rest of the rural United States, access to mental health care facilities I found to be tedious, illusive, and sometimes non-existent.

For most of us access to a therapist is relatively simple. The person reading this, myself included, may know a handful of psychiatrist or psychologist that can be accessed for an appointment during their lunch hour. In extreme rural areas however where the majority of the people are either on Medicare, Medicaid, or fall between the coverage gap of not being poor enough to qualify for Medicaid, and not being old enough to qualify for Medicare, are directed to privatized mental health centers. These centers are few and far between and operate on grants, donations, and the kindness of wealthy philanthropist to provide therapy and medication to those in need.

However, there is a catch. In order for the center to pay for the visit and the medication the patient has to actually be physically present in the facility AND rather than being able to speak directly in person to a therapist, the diagnosis is done via teleconference. This means that the patient must drive, sometimes up to 3 hours to visit the center (walk ins welcome) and talk to a TV screen.

IMG_4201

This in and of itself is barrier number 1.

I had the opportunity to interview a caseworker that had just retired from one of these centers and from that interview a number of insights were gained as well as some very compelling stories. She was able to give me information about the patterns she witnessed in her 14 years of service.

That there is a stigma around seeking help for mental health issues, most likely shared throughout many societies but specifically in an area where “everyone knows everyone’s business”. There is a perception that you should be able to suck it up and it really takes loosing it all and hitting rock bottom for individuals to seek help. This generally happens when their personal support system has been tapped out. They feel alone and the final option is to drive, once again, to a clinic far away to speak to a psychologist via teleconference.

Another issue in very rural areas is access to technology. During the course of my research I personally had zero cell phone service, and admittedly drawing from assumptions, many of the homes in the sparsely populated areas looked as if they did not have running water let alone wifi.

And then there is the glaring isolation. Homes in the areas I visited are sometimes miles apart. There are “towns” I put in quotes, that really are just a few households spread out on a large piece of land. Some having populations of just 100ish people.

A number of publications I found had done intense research on this very topic, thus validating that this is not just a personal problem it is a problem that affects society as a whole. One paper entitle “Mental Health in Rural America” illustrates the shocking statistics that were uncovered in their research.

[excerpt]”In a review of studies investigating the prevalence of psychiatric disorders in rural primary care settings, Sears and colleagues (2003) found that 34 to 41 percent of patients had a mental health disorder. Additionally, results of studies of seriously mentally ill individuals indicate that rural residents have poorer outcomes (e.g., reliance on inpatient services, increased symptom severity) when compared to urban residents, especially if there are co-occurring substance abuse issues (Fisher, Owen & Cuffel, 1996; Rost et al., 1998).

One striking difference between rural and urban populations is the higher rate of suicide in rural communities, which has been a consistent trend for more than a decade (New Freedom Commission Subcommittee on Rural Issues; NFC-SRI, 2004; Institute of Medicine, 2002; Stack, 1982; Wagenfeld et al., 1994). Specifically, the suicide rate for older adult (elderly) males and Native American youth in rural populations is significantly higher than in urban populations (Eberhardt, Ingram & Makuc, 2001).

Adults suffering from depression, who live in rural areas, tend to make more suicide attempts than their urban counterparts (Rost et al., 1998).”

This is a real problem.

So after weeks of contextual inquiry, transcription, secondary research gathering and synthesizing out all this data I could, I then began developing some insights into what this all meant. There are some serious problem opportunities that could be addressed.

IMG_4195

IMG_4173

IMG_4175

IMG_4192

IMG_4194

IMG_4172

IMG_4191

IMG_4171

IMG_4198

Questions I asked myself along the way:

  • How can a center stay connected to their patients and monitor their mental state and medication regimen after they walk out that door?
  • How can any tracking or monitoring of a patient be performed without seeming clinical or cold?
  • How can a support system be established for patients that are isolated?
  • How can technology be taken out of the picture and a program still work?
  • How can I actually get a patient in this environment in a particular mindset to even care about following and participating in a program?

I went through a series of many many brain dumps of potential scenarios, at least a hundred design ideas. I concept mapped, and process flow diagramed a few I thought were potentially viable. Threw those out and started over again. I did storyboard after storyboard attempting to validate through real life scenarios of how some of these ideas would play out, and finally landed on one over arching theme.

What I am currently iterating on is a Patient Journey Kit that utilizes Fed-Ex or the postal service rather than a smart phone or a computer.

This kit will be packaged with their medication, and seeks to guide the patient through the process of self-recovery week by week.

I would like to include:

  • Real stories from real people expressing their experience, a new story each day/week that hopefully identifies to the patient that they are not alone. And what they might be feeling is not shameful or wrong.
  • An encouraging progress tracker, that provides information about how the patient may be feeling taking their medication, so there are no surprises and empowers the patient to be aware of their mental state.
  • A tear out and mail back interactive questionnaire that does not feel like a questionnaire but more like a personal check-in. It will be mailed to their caseworker, pre-posted with the name of the caseworker and address pre-filled for the patient’s ease of use.

I currently have about 6 iterations of how this could possibly play out, and how the system logistics could actually work.

Next steps include more sketching, more scenarios, and narrowing down to at least three rough working prototypes to test with both therapist and patients this week.

I am very excited about this project moving forward. The following post will include status updates of testing results, iteration prototypes, and new insights I gather along the way.

I would like to hear from you! All information is valuable so if there is an opinion or comment that anyone would like to share to benefit or critique the project I encourage any and all feedback.

Thank you!

 

 

Posted in Design Research, Interaction Design, Portfolio, Reflection, UX For Good | Leave a comment

CapMetro Re-design Wrap Up

For quarter two, our Design Methods class has been focusing on rapid ideation and iteration for a redesign of the Capital Metro mobile app. For those of you who don’t know, Capital Metro is Austin’s public transportation system.

To kick this project off, we completely immersed ourselves in the current app in order to formulate a thorough understanding of the current experience of using the app and identify the key areas where it breaks down.

The Problems

There are a number of things that cause frustration while using this app, but the attributes that cause the most frustration is the navigation, different menu items take you to the same place, and in some flows, it’s difficult to find your way back.
Here’s a concept model of the app as it currently is in order to illustrate its complexity and more clearly identify the breakdowns:
 
CURRENT-ConceptMap-CapMetro

 

With these breakdowns noted I created a new, “ideal” concept map:
 
Ideal-ConceptMap-CapMetro-Revised03

With this in mind, I chose to focus on the following:

1. Get a step by step itinerary based on my desired destination from my current location
2. Identifying a stop near me and easily understand if the bus I need will pass through

And so we begin…

Like I said earlier, this class is about rapid ideation and iteration. We started with an initial set of wireframes, user tested them and then made edits based on the results from testing. This process of make, test, iterate went on for six weeks.

Overview-iteration

User testing allows us to assess the usability of the product. In this class, we used Think Aloud Protocol, a method of testing where you ask the participant to think out loud as they are going through the flow of the product to complete a specific task. It allows you, the designer, to gain insight into the thought process a person uses to complete a task rather than just focusing on the completion of the task. This way you can pinpoint where adjustments to the design are needed.

UserTest-Hands
 

Evolution of the Trip Planner

TripPlanner-AllScreens

Evolution of Home Page
Evolution-HomeScreen

Evolution of the Trip Experience

Evolution-Map

Iteration 7: Trip Planner

TripPlanner-FinalFlow-Blog

What I learned

Think aloud protocol works.
People catch on and it’s a great opportunity to step out of your designer tunnel vision and see the design through their eyes. It immediately becomes clear where there are wholes in your design.

Make it difficult, make it real, make it almost impossible.
When user testing, you must be careful about how you craft the scenarios. It’s easy to make a scenario that may not be real enough but works well with what you’ve designed. This won’t tell you what you need to know to move your design forward.

Carefully consider the order of your flows.
It became very clear that it only takes one flow for a user to begin to learn your application and then begin to expect certain results. With this in mind, it’s important to order your flows strategically.

Posted in Interaction Design, Methods | Leave a comment

CapMetro App Iteration 6: Defining and Refining

The latest iteration of the CapMetro App was intended to reduce the number of physical clicks that it would take a user to get from point A to point B, purchase a ticket, or add money to their “wallet”, and get on their bus.

Other smaller functions such as saving to favorites, finding help info were taken into consideration but not the primary function of this iteration.

Below is the revised concept map for this version of the flow:

Cap Metro Concept Map - Support Process

And below are the pre-critiqued wires of the consolidated journey:

1-01

2-01

3-01And below is the post critiqued in class revisions to the wires:

20141210_214335After both critique and user testing the results were mixed both positive and negative.

My user tests did not seem to have an issue with being immediately presented with the idea of getting to a particular location from the location they were currently, via gps.

The critique however pointed out that someone, at some point may want to not always use their current location to get from A to B, and might not realize that by clicking the “Plan a Trip” button on the navigation that option actually appears.

My user test questions then were to specific. The task posed was get from where you are to this destination. This was not an open ended question and from this the task seemed rather obvious and was generally successful.

The next steps are to actually take into consideration these open ended questions. What if a user wants to perform a certain task that I do not have the option for? And this is the process of iteration.

Honestly 7 iterations is really not enough to get to the ultimate flow for the user. Testing and re-testing is really the key. Getting the wires in front of real people and knowing what questions to ask or to NOT ask might actually be the key.

Posted in Classes, Design Research, Interaction Design | Leave a comment

A moving experience: Nearing the end of the CapMetro ReDesign

It’s week 7. That might not mean much to you, but to us here at Austin Center for Design it means we have 10 days left to finish out the second quarter of the Interaction Design for Social Entrepreneurship program.

It also means that after spending the last six weeks working on redesigning the smart phone application for the Austin’s Public Transportation system, CapMetro, we only have one more week to update wireframes, user test them and present them for critique. We are using a method of user testing called the think out loud protocol: A user is given a written task to complete using the wireframes (for example, find a route between your current location and this address), the designer performing the test acts as the “computer” bringing up the appropriate screen or component in response to the user’s actions, and the user is instructed to “think out loud,” saying what he or she is doing and why, while performing the task.  With the fact that the quarter is drawing to a close in mind, I planned my user testing this week to focus specifically on a couple of problem areas in my design.

Me conducting a user test at a favorite dive bar. Image courtesy of Lauren Segapeli.

By this point my flow for searching for routes and narrowing down options based on departure time is going pretty smoothly. So, rather than run users through that again, I focused on how the user drills down on a particular route to a destination, looking at the interaction between the information presented through the map and the information presented via text. I also looked at the flow for the Next Bus feature, which allows the user to find out when a bus is next departing from a particular stop based on real time data, rather than just the set schedule.

My high level take away is both encouraging and daunting: my design has reached a high enough level of fidelity that the animation between states is increasingly crucial for the user to understand how to navigate the application. So, for my final round of testing and critique I need explore better ways to describe this animation. In the meantime, below are some of the specific problems I encountered in my testing and the complete flows I tested. I’m also including a high level system diagram that I created last week to explain a problem I was running into and how I have updated it in this week’s iteration.

searchflow-01searchflowContinued-01

 

Above is a search flow as the user finds a route, departing after 5:30, to go from his/her current location on Chestnut Street to my favorite Mexican restaurant in Austin, Polvos, on South First Street. point-01

This is screen appears after the user has selected one of the options for a possible route to Polvos.

“So I guess I walk from point 1 to point 2…” -User 1

The user I was testing with understood the numbered circles on the map to be points to travel between instead of steps on the trip, this caused confusion.

stackedOptions-01

 

The user can access step by step instructions by swiping up the panel on the bottom. To return to different options the user clicks on the section on top where the options have stacked on top of each other. Most users understood this, however, it was somewhat awkward. This is where I realize I need focus on the animations and transition. It is strange for the options to stack in front of the to/from bar.

The other flow I focused on is for the Next Bus feature below:

NextBusFlow-01

I realized while I was testing that I didn’t include a way to get to screen 25, the list of all bus stops on the route.  I have since added the VIEW ALL STOPS button that you can see in the flow above to address this problem.

:AllStopspng-01

This shows the screen before the button was added.

Finally, I need make more apparent the connection between the scheduled information used to plan trips in the future and the ability to use real time data to check projected arrival time for in-transit buses.

“I’ll reopen it to check for estimated time of arrival when I’m leaving.” -User 3

I want the user to know that when he/she looks at route to a destination within a certain period of time before departure, the app will automatically query the Next Bus data to update the arrival times for buses and modify the route if necessary.  This issue, plus some improvement since last week are diagramed below.

SystemProblemConceptMap-01

Posted in Classes, Interaction Design | Leave a comment

Redesigning the CapMetro App: Iteration 6

iteration 6

Previous user testing sessions made it very clear that it only takes one flow for a user to begin to learn your application and then begin to expect certain results. For this round of user testing, I reordered the flows and scenarios in order to combat this. At the end of a trip, the user is given the option to save that location as a favorite. Since this was the first flow they finished, they applied this model to future flows. Hence, when asked to save a location as a favorite, starting on the home screen, each individual decided to go through an entire trip in order to get to the end where they could then save the location as a favorite.

In addition to reordering my flows, I decided to give the participants scenarios that covered ‘edge’ cases. I wanted to see what how the app would hold up if they had to double back or completely end a trip. While it ended up working fine, I learned that I should most definitely role play these ‘edge’ scenarios as they can be slightly confusing. They were confusing for two reasons– 1. I didn’t write them well and role play before with at fellow classmate would have mitigated this. 2.The participants I tested had a difficult time putting themselves in a situation outside of their current one. Example: If they had to change buses and go a completely different direction they would have “Called an Uber”.

 

Flow #1:

You want to save your home address as a favorite location.

There were no issues in this flow during testing.

Flow01-CapMetro-blog04

 

Flow #2:

You’re currently on Chestnut between 14th St and 15th St. You are walking to the bus stop around the corner on 15th St near Coleto St. You want to see when the next bus is leaving from this stop. You want to double check that the next bus is on the route you need.

Flow02-CapMetro-blog04

Issue:Multiple people expected the route for the next bus to appear after pressing the white pop-up. The hierarchy on the route page confused people– one person thought they were looking at a series of steps for the route.

Design Solution:The hierarchy of information on the page needs to be more apparent. If the user is making a decision based on the route, then the route number needs to be the obvious notation for sorting. This will help set expectations for what they are looking at. Also, there should only be one icon in use on this page. In this case, animation could be a good solution for orientation. Once the user presses on the white pop-up, it will move up to the top of the screen and the other routes through the stop will appear below.

 

Flow #3:

You are currently on the Eastside on Chestnut and 14th St and want to go to Hole in the Wall. Knowing that you’ve previously saved it as a favorite destination, find a bus there.

There were no issues with this flow during testing.

Flow03-CapMetro-blog04

 

Flow #4:

Curious of how people would back out of a trip once they’ve ‘started’, I gave two scenarios for the same flow:

Scenario #1: You are meeting friends at Hole in the Wall. You want to see what different trip routes from your current location will look like on the map.

Scenario #2: You are meeting friends at Hole in the Wall. You are currently on Chestnut and E 14th St. Find a bus to get there. Get on the bus. When you are on the bus, a friend calls and says they changed their minds and instead are meeting on South Congress at Snack Bar.

Flow04-CapMetro-blog04
Issue #1:Everyone hit the back button to view other trip options and “End” to end the trip when their friends called and changed plans. This is good. The confusion happened after they chose a trip. Participants didn’t think to click on a part of the route to see the information.

Design Solution:Once a trip is chosen, the map of the route comes into view and the first step is highlighted with the information pop-up. So, screen 6 will replace screen 5 as the first screen a user sees.

Next Steps
You can view my concept map here. For the next week, I’m going to focus on the usability and fidelity of the above screens.

Posted in Interaction Design, Methods | Leave a comment