For this project I was prompted to redesign an existing system, tool, or application at the University of Washington using accelerated user research.
Phase 1: Identifying the problem.
The first step in my design process was brainstorming. After receiving the prompt, I spent the rest of my afternoon on campus thinking about the technologies that I use most and ways that I could redesign them. I wanted to focus on an area that people typically don’t think of when they think interactive technologies, so that I might positively influence an area of campus that may be somewhat neglected. I also wanted to make sure that my choice would allow me to easily access potential users for accelerated research. I finally narrowed in on restrooms, recalling a wide range of interactions and technologies that I have noticed during my own experiences on campus.
Phase 2: Ideation and Sketching.
Next, I continued my brainstorming activity in the sketchbook to help me visualize, explore, and test different ideas. I also referenced some recommended reading on sketching including Sketching User Experiences by Bill Buxton, which helped me to determine the degree of refinement and ambiguity I would render my sketches with. I wanted to welcome criticism and suggestions from my peers in the design course, as well as potential users that don’t have a background in design. After sharing my sketches with a few peers and a couple people outside of class I wrote down the comments and suggestions each person made and weighed the drawbacks and benefits of each design with respect to this feedback.
Phase 3: Refinement.
While each of my designs were aimed at encouraging people to wash their hands, I discarded an idea for a gamified paper towel dispenser because most people saw it as little more than a novelty. The idea that received the most positive reaction was an interactive display to be placed on the wall of the restroom near the sink or sinks. Counting the number of times the toilets and hand soap dispensers are used with sensors, the interactive display would display a “forecast” of the restroom’s environmental health. In addition, the display would present statistics about the efficacy of hand-washing in the reducing the spread of disease. Several people asked whether the interactive display would be on the inside or outside of the restroom, which prompted me to consider a wider range of services that this design could facilitate.
Phase 4: Paper Prototyping and User Testing.
In order to test this design with users, I quickly developed a paper prototype of the interactive board while I continued to explore new opportunities for the design. By the time I was ready to begin testing, I had added an interaction where users could view a map of other restrooms in the same building, and search for gender neutral or accessible restrooms on campus.
I tested the prototype with 5 different users, including two of my peers in the course and 3 other potential users that verbally agreed to user testing. Two of the users I tested the prototype with had difficulty interpreting the “forecast”. Several users expressed a desire to see the “forecast” for the nearby restrooms, as well as other restrooms on campus. And while one user said that she would be more likely to read the health information if the display were in the restroom stall, others continued to ask whether the board would be posted on the inside or outside of the restroom. The last user asked whether she could rate the restroom or report its condition to a custodian.
Phase 5: Reiteration and Wireframing.
The last phase of the process involved a careful consideration of the feedback from users in the prototype testing and further refinement of the design as I moved to develop a digital wireframe version. At this point, I had decided that displaying the interactive display outside of the restroom would allow the most access to the widest range of potential users. I also modified the “forecast” to be more explicit in meaning by simply displaying the calculated average of users who had washed their hands and added a bar chart of the raw data. I expanded the “forecasting” feature to the mapping of other restrooms in the building, and added building and campus level mapping for all categories of restrooms. I also added a reporting feature for the case where the users wanted to rate or report the condition of the restroom. I created the wireframe using Adobe Illustrator and maps from the university website and Google.
Phase 6: Reflection.
Receiving criticism and feedback was critical to this design. Only after sharing my sketches and prototype with potential users was I able to empathize with the user and really see the range and diversity of its potential use. I would like to continue to explore the diversity of user cases, especially the opportunity to facilitate interaction between restroom users and custodians. I would definitely seek out potential users who use accessible restrooms or gender neutral restrooms, and custodians or janitors to test my design with and get feedback from.