Individual and Team Projects
Role: UI/Concept Designer, Prototyper, Storyboard Artist, Usability Tester
Date: Jan. 2016 - Mar. 2016
Timeline: 1 week projects
Ideation / Prototyping / Evaluation
During this 10 week course our cohort went through a series of one week exercises exploring various prototyping methods. Each week our assignment was to complete ideation, prototyping, and evaluation in a different project. We learned a great deal about rapid prototyping, which can be used to quickly and cheaply gain insights into a given design direction.
In our first exercise we employed paper prototypes to create an application that hands off usage seamlessly from mobile to wearable. The application I designed tracks airfare ticket prices and shows notifications of price drops on a smart watch.
I spent time crafting the physical device frames so that they could be reused at a later time. Not wanting to cut custom sizes of paper, my mobile paper prototype frame used notecards. The frame was slightly undersized so that the cards could be added and removed easily.
The final video shows the interface in action.
For this design exercise we created concepts for digital shower control interfaces. I iterated on three different controls keeping in mind simplicity and grip-ability.
The temperature and flow controls for this prototype are combined into a separately rotating handle and ring design. Considerations for this prototype include a large control for easy grip-ability, and toggle buttons for spigot control.
The outer ring for the design freely rotates without influencing the position of the inner knob. Temperature is controlled with a freely rotating knob that could potentially be software adjusted. The temperature value on the left is the current water temperature, while the right value is the desired temperature.
A more traditional and perhaps familiar control structure was iterated upon for this interface. Two separate knobs control flow and temperature. A digital was used instead of physical labels and knob position indicators for flow rate and temperature.
Square toggle buttons in the center of the control surface switch water spigots. These buttons are intended to be digital buttons with a back light indicating selection.
The final prototype adds another mode of control by introducing a slider lever for flow control. It further explores combined controls with a multi-modal knob. The knob can be slid up and down to open and close the water flow valve and can be twisted to control temperature. The spigot output is selected with a three position switch at the top of the panel.
Demo & Evaluation
The evaluation participant was able to generally and intuitively understand the control interfaces. Each task was performed quickly except for finding the temperature control for prototype A. However, the test subject was able to find it within a few seconds and was delighted by the design.
Prototype B was found to be the most immediately usable with its more traditional control structure. Prototype A seemed to be the most desirable of the designs. Prototype C was perhaps the most overlooked. The design of the combo slider and twist knob made for a fragile prototype, and the participant found it to be undesirable for this reason.
OneBusAway is an existing application that helps bus riders be more efficient riders with real time updated information on bus arrivals. The video prototype conveys the the applications usage and context to a broad audience.
Given that I would be filming in Seattle during winter, the narrative in my storyboard planned for rain. As luck would have it, the day I scheduled to film was dry. I did have a backup narrative and was able to film the shots I needed.
I also used music that I produced for the background of the video.
The visually impaired use typical street mapping software that offer high-level navigation for outdoor navigation, however due to technological constraints, GPS solutions breakdown in indoor situations. Due to tightly packed obstacles like furniture, indoor navigation is especially difficult for the visually impaired. Understanding the need for indoor navigation aids we explored several designs for indoor navigation systems with our subject matter expert Cynthia Bennett.
Navigation Design Implementations
- Overview of the room and relative direction and distance to destination
- Vibration to signal the direction of the destination
- Turn by turn directions with vibration
- Turn by turn directions with voice prompts
A vibrating mobile application, text to speech, and an Excel spreadsheet were used to simulate the behavior of the potential design.
The day before our evaluation with Cynthia, we did a test run of our evaluation scenario. Initially we only planned for turn by turn directions. Our team of three are all non-severely visually impaired and had quite a bit of difficulty performing the navigation tasks without our vision. Although as sighted people we fumbled through the room and wanted explicit directions, I felt that Cynthia would find our turn by turn directions too slow. In reaction we added simpler methods that would give the user more freedom and control (implementations 1 and 2).
In our exit interview Cynthia voiced that the designs were promising. She preferred the vibration feedback over voice and high level directions over turn by turn. Cynthia navigated the room much faster than we ever did during our test run. Further implementations would need to be revised understanding the speed at which visually impaired users can navigate a room.
During this course we learned to spend more testing and less time building help uncover a successful design.
When it comes to selecting a prototyping method, there is a lot of overlap between the methods in terms of what they can achieve. A simple rule for choosing methods is to pick the method that most rapidly develops the design to a testable form.