Better Than a Phone Call

In our second to last week of Q3, our team (Laura Galos and Maryanne Lee) continued to build out or service, Meaningful Mail (working title). This service allows family members, from the web, to introduce difficult aging-related topics with elderly family members by sending them prompts and letters through the mail. To expand on our idea since last week, we created three main flows as low-fidelity wireframes, or sketched images of screens for the web part of the service. The main flows included:

Choosing a prompt MM_Topic_2_v3_1.4.A_blog Writing a long-form letter MM_Long Prompt_1.0.D_blog Writing small sections of a letter – 2 Approaches MM_Letter Chunks_1.1.A_blog Chunks of a Letter - Approach 2 Sending a letter MM_Send Letter_1.3.C_blogWe tested these flows by conducting think-aloud user testing. Think-Aloud testing is an evaluative testing method designers use with potential users to get a glimpse into what they are thinking and having them articulate this as they are performing a task. We began testing the wireframes with users that have aging-related conversations with elderly parents or foresee themselves as being the family member who will be faced with having these conversations in the near future. The testing was valuable in that it showed us breakdowns users faced in navigating the system, but it also brought up big questions we felt we have to work through as soon as possible for our service.

1. How is Meaningful Mail better than a phone call?

“I guess just like the purpose of it. What is the reason why this is necessary or easier than just talking.” – User Testing Participant

2. How does this service work?

“I guess I never thought of anything like this. Almost like talking about these issues through the mail. Interesting. Email is more how of how I figured it would be.” IMG_0927 Because we heard these high-level concerns, we went back through our testing from the last seven weeks to make sure that further iterations maintained the most important feedback we’ve heard this quarter. From that feedback, we formulated design priniciples to guide our work moving forward.

Design Principles:

  1. Product has to feel non-threatening to aging family members, and approachable to the younger family members bringing up difficult topics.
  2. Product should feel like a 3rd party in order to diffuse the tension that comes with bringing up aging-related conversations.
  3. The directness of the conversation should be adjustable, but in general conversations should progress from lighter to more difficult topics.

Our other focus this week is in creating a value promise and checking to see if our service aligns with the promise we’re making. Today we came to this version of the value promise that applies to both elderly individuals and the family members who help care for them by listing what the utility, emotional, and behavioral value is for each party. IMG_0935_blog We are currently operating under this value promise:

By using Meaningful Mail, we promise to help you both (younger and older family members) stay on the same team as you make aging-related decisions together.

When we held up each piece of Meaningful Mail to this value promise, it became apparent that there was far more opportunity for the users of the service to collaborate toward shared goals, rather than try to find a compromise between disparate purposes. As we move forward, we will continue to iterate on each piece of the service to make sure it maintains our value promise. If we can do that, users will not have to wonder why Meaningful Mail is better than a phone call.

Our full set of wireframes can be found here.