Wigo - Urban mobility
Where - Master’s student at University College London When - 2013 How - Agile teamwork, user research, UX design, prototyping
In a nutshell
Intel challenged our team to create a smart city system that engages with city information models, social software, ubiquitous computing and human experience to provide something of value to inhabitants or visitors to London. We had an additional challenge to exploit “data mulling” using it to build a new crowd-sourced form of “package delivery network” for urban mobility.
By applying the User Centered Design (UCD) process, our team designed WiGo.
What is WiGo?
WiGo is a platform focused on providing personal and sustainable urban mobility to improve the health and well-being of both individuals and the city. To achieve this WiGo utilized intelligent algorithms, big data and smart devices. Its core is a network of sensors placed on London’s infrastructures providing a broad range of data from weather and air quality, to who is using the transport system and when. For the best user experience we designed WiGo Wrist, a wrist device featuring bio-sensors, screen and microphone to quickly consult WiGo’s network and follow suggestions.
- Researched the topic and presented insights back to the team
- Participated daily in group activities such as brainstorming and status meetings
- Designed, analysed and reported a questionnaire to explore the target population’s commuting habits
- Collated findings from the research activities into personas and scenarios
- Once the design and research iterative cycle started I was in charge of the wearable device for which I:
- Conducted, analysed and reported fitting trials
- Rapidly created 3d cardboard mock-ups for the purpose of testing
- Conducted, analysed and reported guerrilla usability testing
- Designed and iterated user interface
Interfaces of the wrist device and iterations
The project into details
The User Centered Design process (UCD) was followed to achieve the solution. This framework prescribes to follow four cyclically linked phases: establish requirements, design, prototype and evaluate. Design solutions were based on requirements identified through the research. Subsequently, evaluating them required us to conduct further research on a prototype. Finally, the new requirements were implemented in the design and evaluated again.
1. Establishing requirements - the research phase
Since the topic was new to all the team members it was studied for one day. We then brainstormed ideas on topics related to the brief and the problem we were trying to solve. This initial brainstorming and research phase reduced problem complexity and gave the team a deeper understanding of the topic. A first rough idea of the system was outlined. Before starting the user’s analysis, the target was identified. The focus was on young (25-34) professionals living in London since they account for 20% of the London population and have high mobility within the city (TFL Report from 2009). Additionally they are technology conscious, have a reasonably high disposable income, and are widely known as a “launching pad” for new technologies.
Analysis of user population’s needs
Both qualitative and quantitative methodologies were used to better understand the target and their needs in terms of urban mobility. Additionally a competitor analysis on the travel tools indicated by users as preferred (TFL, Google maps, National Rail) was conducted to understand their strengths and weaknesses. Overall, the research on the target user population prompted idea consolidation and an initial series of requirements.
Personas, scenario and user journeys
Based on our research findings and the target population’s characteristics, three personas were built as a reference tool for team members informing each stage of the process. These personas included an example of a limited user (wheelchair + blind/partially sighted). Personas were enacted in scenarios that also included possible users journeys.
Three tests were roughly conducted on the wrist device: stress level of holding arm up, size of interface and distance to the screen. The main finding was that some users did not find comfortable to hold their arm up when interacting with the wearable device.
Task analysis is a descriptive approach so we needed to have a specific task, however people travelling have a holistic approach. For this reason the only task analysis method used was our job process chart an operational sequence diagram. This method is the recommended one to explore interaction between a system and a person.
2. Prototyping and designing the interface - the design phase
For users to evaluate the design of an interactive product effectively, designers must prototype their ideas.
(Yvonne Rogers, “Interaction Design”, 2012)
Rapidly three 3D prototypes of the wrist device were built. The first one was very rough, the bracelet was made of hard plastic and wood with sticky notes as the screen. It was not really wearable, but the sticky notes were ideal to test the prototype with the Wizard of OZ method because of their conduciveness to rapid iteration. In the second prototype the wearable related issue was partially solved using a bent piece of cardboard. However, the bracelet was not adjustable, so not wearable by all of the testers. The third prototype was the final one, the bracelet was made of a soft plastic band. A glue dot solved the adjustability problem. The concept behind the screen remained the same, although sticky notes were not used. A second glue dot made the bracelet sticky so that paper screens could have been quickly attached and detached from the bracelet.
The functional design phase was based on scenarios, user journeys and on requirements gathered from task analysis, fitting trials and research on the target population. Since team members were aware of design and usability principles an expert evaluation was conducted. Interfaces were designed for two different technologies: smart-phone and wearable device.
Phase 2 - Designing and prototyping
3 and 4. User testing and design iteration - the evaluation phase
The physical prototype was used to evaluate the interface solutions in context. The test for the smartphone interface went very smoothly and it prompted only one iteration. For the wrist device we performed three rounds of one-to-one scenario based user tests. The Wizard of Oz method was utilized for user interaction with the prototype and they were also encouraged to think aloud. Testing a wrist interface was very challenging since wrist and wearable was not yet as common as it currently is and users were generally not accustomed to the technology. Even if participants had a good level of tech expertise, they could not move away from the mental model of a “normal” mobile device. They also had barriers to envisioning themselves using a technology they had never used before.
First design - first test
For the first round of tests, a low fidelity pen and paper prototype and Wizard of Oz method were used.
This was an initial phase to check if we were going in the right direction, since the design of a wrist device screen was a new experience for all of the team members. For this reason only one design alternative was tested.
A few issues were identified. These led to the second interface.
This time Balsamiq was used for the wireframes which included user suggestions. While for the first round of tests a very simple and structured user journey was tested, for the second round of tests the user journey was more complex, including different possible choices.
During round two of tests the team started receiving confusing suggestions from users. As a result, in round three different solution were proposed for some of the interfaces. Again, the users could not really imagine themselves using the technology properly. The third round of test confirmed this.
Final iteration and considerations
This work would have needed more resources. A deep study of interaction and usage of the wrist device had to be conducted, at the same time the information architecture had to be organized and then the interface design could have started. If we had the resources for further testing, we would have run an ethnographic study amongst our team to experience wearing and using the device for a few days. Potentially, this type of test could have given us deeper insight into the target user's mindset and, as a result, better informed our design process.
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