I have been designing and coding websites as a freelancer since 2006. However, I recently realised that being a web designer was so 2008 – the tech industry has grown up and there is a whole new world of fancy job titles to choose from.
I took the decision to realign my career and focus on user experience. This transition wasn’t a huge leap, but I’ve had to learn to think differently about how I design. Fortunately, the skills I’d already honed are still highly applicable to this discipline. For the parts I didn’t understand, I read a stack of books, attended many workshops, and annoyed anyone willing to answer my questions about what it takes to design and deliver thoughtful digital experiences.
I also design for print, but this portfolio is mostly about the UX stuff.
Our mission: “To help the residents of a building improve their health and wellbeing.”
With my team, we set about discovering as much information as we could about the issues that residents in shared buildings face. We decided to focus on residents aged 20-35, living in flat/house shares.
We employed two methods to research our audience:
The interviews were conducted in the homes of the participants, to best understand how they live and what problems, if any, they faced. The web survey was shared via social media.
Digging through the survey responses, most people felt their shared home was supporting a healthy lifestyle, although some still had experienced some adverse effects on their wellbeing.
Affinity mapping the qualitative data uncovered a few common pain points, under the broader issue of anti-social behaviour.
We found that people had various methods of communicating with their housemates to resolve these problems; face-to-face conversations, WhatsApp, Facebook messenger and notes pinned to the wall in the shared space. Many respondents preferred to do nothing:
“Nobody wants to be seen as making trouble:
landlords can evict you, other tenants can assault you. This has happened to me before.”
Diving deeper during the interviews, it became clear that anti-social behaviour caused stress for the residents. This issue was magnified if there was a clash over residents’ schedules.
Following our research we were ready to narrow our focus on the problem we wanted to solve: “To improve household harmony in shared living environments through better communication.”
Designing a solution
If we could foster better communication between housemates over individual schedules, we hoped we could alleviate the stress that results when unexpected events occur in a household.
We felt that a dedicated app to for housemates to share and acknowledge personal schedules could replace the existing tacky solutions (notes on the fridge, WhatsApp/Facebook messages) revealed during our research. The app would allow a housemate to notify others in the house if something in their schedule was likely to impact others in some way, so that they could manage their own behaviour accordingly.
Prototyping and usability tests
When I had enough screens for a prototype, I put the experience together using Marvel and put it in the hands of some users for a usability test.
The tests revealed some flaws in the designs. For example, the phrase “There’s a snag” was confusing. But overall the test subjects were able to complete basic tasks and they could see value in the idea.
Buoyed by this feedback I resolved to fix the problems identified during the tests, designing new screens and upping the fidelity for a more realistic prototype.
The sample wireframes from the next prototype looked like this:
The next round of testing with this prototype was even more insightful. The increased fidelity of the screens made the prototype feel more rounded in the hands of the test subjects. This gave them to confidence to be more critical, which provided me with more valuable feedback.
I discovered the the giant plus button on the dashboard, used to create new diary items, was not as obvious as I thought it was. The possibility of a connection to a third-party diary also came up many times.
The good news was that all participants understood the concept and were able to complete the tasks I asked of them.
This project is ongoing. We plan to continue the cycle build-test-learn cycle to validate further ideas.
To test the broad concept, we also plan to leverage existing tools such as WhatsApp and Google Calendar, employing a diary study to monitor any effect that using the app has on residents’ behaviour.
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