A smart desk gadget that improves the physical activity of white-collar workers by nudging them to sit less, stay focused, and hydrated.
The project aims to address one of the IU's grand challenges by creating a technological Intervention through the design thinking process. There are three different topics, and our team has chosen to proceed with "Precision Health Initiatives". Eventually coming up with
"How might we design a technological solution to nudge a white-collar worker to stay active, focused, and hydrated in working hours?"
Iteration 1 - Godesk
August 2019 - October 2019
Iteration 2 - Project Ma
March 2020 - May 2020
Abhinav (My Role: Design Lead)
User Interviews, Observation
Sketch, InVision, Principle
Arduino C++, Blynk
Wizard of Oz testing
My Role in the Project
We are a team of three master's in HCI students paired up to work on Indiana University grand challenges. As the problem is too broad, I took the lead in narrowing down the problem statement, performed a literature review to define the focus group and rationale in opting for "Precision Health Initiative." I actively contributed to the interview data collection, early product sketching, and evaluation.
I led the Interaction design, 3D printing of the prototype, Mobile app schematic, and wireframes of the prototype. Also, my electronics engineering background came to help in making the tangible prototype for user testing.
Understanding the Human problem
While researching precision health initiatives, I came across an astonishing surge in the number (millions) of cases of heart diseases and Type - 2 diabetes. I started to find the common reasons and which age groups are being affected in the majority. I used the 5 - Why Technique, an iterative interrogative technique, to explore the cause-and-effect relationships underlying a particular problem.
The physical inactivity in white-collar workers is observed mainly due to the sedentary jobs, making it challenging to stay active during work hours.
Why is this problem important?
According to the CDC,
Low levels of physical activity can contribute to the risk of developing various health issues such as heart disease, type 2 diabetes, cancer, and obesity.
The health care associated with insufficient physical activity costs around $117 billion annually.
Why white-collar workers?
According to the American Heart Association, sedentary jobs have increased by 83% since 1950.
The Problem Statement
How might we design a technological solution to nudge a white-collar worker to stay active, focused, and hydrated during working hours?
GoDesk is a smart desk gadget that nudges the user to sit less by emitting colored light signals. The companion mobile app suggests physical activities to the users and keeps track of it.
Thinking in Product, Not by features
One of the challenges given to us is to develop a product with better functionalities than the existing products in the market, but we believed that thinking in features would land us to a product that is not usable by the targeted customers. Hence, to differentiate the overall experience from the competitive market, we stressed thinking in products to make sure that we build the right features for the right audience and finally tackle the real problems that the customers are actually facing or currently have.
A minimum viable product has just enough core features to effectively deploy the product, and no more. - Frank Robinson.
Using the Lean UX methodology
For a greater focus on the actual experience being offered, we have opted to follow the Lean UX process to help us in sketching, presenting, critiquing, researching, testing, prototyping and even wireframing the solutions. This approach had foster us to align with the early vision and come up with tons of ideas.
Investigating the existing products
A better way to find a product that could be apt for the target audience is through understanding how the competitors are doing currently in the market. We have gone through the app reviews of each product in the market to find the common problems faced by its customers. I have also done a heuristic evaluation to discover new opportunities. Below is a quick chart of a general evaluation/assessment of the products in the market.
Insights from Research and Observations
The background research about the problem space helped us familiarize ourselves with the problem and determine what we wanted to learn from the research. We utilized the following research methods to get answers to our high-level research questions.
We conducted semi-structured interviews with the six participants that matched our target user group - 'white-collar workers.' Participants' work ranged from administrative, technical to research and all of their jobs required sitting at their desk.
Key insights from the interviews:
1. Participants often forget to break the continuous sitting pattern
- "Oftentimes, I just forget to take the breaks once I am in the flow during work hours."
- "On busy days, I'd sit for 1-2 hours straight without even noticing it."
2. The work environment and the schedule limits participants' ability to dedicate time for physical activity during work hours
- "I wish I could dedicate some time for walking."
- "It's nearly impossible for me to set aside time specifically for any physical exercise."
3. The participants are not aware of the amount of physical activity required for them to minimize health risks
- "I have always wondered whether I am doing enough to stay active."
4. Participants felt that wearable technology was too obtrusive and tracking stats are not helpful
- "I am tired of seeing all the data and numbers associated with my daily activities... I just want to run!"
- "Health apps are tracking everything and it's almost neurotic."
- "Okay, it's good that I have access to all this data about my health. What am I supposed to do with that information?"
We also conducted six observations where we observed the behavior of our target users in their context - indoor workplaces. The observations helped us analyze the behavior pattern of the users in the office environment.
Here is what we observed:
Most participants got up from their chair for either water or coffee
The mobile phone was an integral part of their work setup, and they interacted with it frequently
Participants spent most of their time at the desk
This is how we got there!
Based on the research results we understood that users have different motivations and needs during their regular day. Hence, we had to design the user persona to prioritize the type of users to our design. We collaborated to brainstorm, create affinity diagramming and empathy mapping to ultimately define our user group. But I believe that for a long-term purpose, benefiting more than one group should be included in our strategy. Hence, we started considering the primary persona to design the MVP and give a furture direction for further iterations based on the usability results.
Paving a way to the Experience
Understanding the needs and anlaysing the data from our research, we started to develop concepts for our product while keeping our target audience in mind. Initially, we started exploring designs that are easy and friendly to use, after multiple iterations of sketches and foam prototypes - as well as receiving feedback from our peers, experts and professors, we collectively finalized a product design that targets all the core problems.
Mobile App Wireframes
“A successful product is never done or perfect” - Geoff Teehan, Product Design Director at FB
The above quote is so true. A product is never done and the challenges evolve once it is out into the market. In the future, I will reiterate the design process to improve the overall product experience to give it a shape, so that the product is tangible, feasible and improve the overall experience.
Introducing Project Ma
Ma is a smart desk device connected with the mobile/desktop application, which nudges a person promptly with colored lights emitting from it. This keeps them motivated, hydrated, healthy, and focused on improving their overall physical and mental wellness while working regularly.
/Mä/ - One's Mother.
One who takes care of you.
To demonstrate the use cases, we created videos to present our work. I initiated the video scripting and editing, creating overlay of the app to visually present it to the viewer. I believe that demonstration videos should be self explanatory and easy-to-understand even to the first-time viewer. I learned and improved my story-telling skills with a visual medium and strongly advocate that it is a must have skill as a UX Designer.
First-time User - Onboarding Scenario
Regular User - Nudging Scenario
Design through Prototyping
Once the final sketches are completed, we focused on realizing the product's first version using a 3D print. For this, I worked in Fusion 360 and Tinkercad to design the .OBJ file and further used slicing software CURA, to make it compatible to 3D print the model. We used the blender software to make the 3D visuals for the prototype.
While the prototype is being 3D printed, I focused on assembling the required electronic hardware and coding the development board to make it work in real-time. We have used Node-MCU which has a built-in Wifi module to communicate with the mobile app. To this device, we have added passive infrared sensors to sense the presence of the person, pressure sensors to sense the weight of the water bottle and used the wizard of Oz technique while testing the product.
High Fidelity Mock-ups
We conducted the think-aloud exercise with our participants using the prototype. For this, we used the Wizard of oz technique to control the prototype's behavior as per user inputs.
1. When users explored onboarding flow, they had concerns about entering their personal information such as height, weight, etc.
2. User felt restricted by the fixed time duration of the snooze functionality of the device.
3. Users struggled to figure out the units of measurement for entering height and weight.
4. Users want to access the historical data about the activities so that they can track the activities over the months.
5. Users felt that light signals were noticeable but straightforward, and it nudged them to move away from their desks.
6. Users found the insights section helpful.
Overall, the concept was very well received by the users, and we gained actionable insights from our evaluations.
I learned how to deliver a user-centered solution while envisioning the end to end product strategy.
When we had multiple design directions to choose from, it was tempting to add more features. However, I learned the importance of feature prioritization to focus on one core functionality that defined the MVP.
Users show No Mercy
Whether it be a physical product or a digital product, customers always incline to the best that satisfies their needs. User research, Market Research, and Usability studies have changed my perspectives on how users would go about choosing a product.
Lean UX, Period!
The Lean UX process helps designers to focus more on the experience rather than the deliverables and I believe it is required to avoid wasting time regretting on not taking better design decision ahead of time.
What would I do differently?
I would better evaluate the scope of the research in terms of available time and resources to get more value out of the in-depth interviews
I would involve the end users early on in the design process either by conducting collaborative ideation session or getting their feedback on a high-level concept.