Creative Assignments

Creative Assignments > HCI Assignment 1 – NeedFinding ( week 1)

 

Design Briefs

Take a look at the design briefs for the quarter: Change, Glance and Time. While doing this assignment, focus your observation with one of these prompts in mind since your final project should address one of these concepts.

Assignment

Step 1: observe

As Yogi Berra said, you can observe a lot just by watching. Watching how people do things is a great way to learn their goals and values, and come up with design insight. We call this needfinding. This assignment helps you train your eyes and ears to come up with design ideas. Your goal is to uncover user needs, breakdowns, clever hacks, and opportunities for improvement.

You will ultimately be designing a web application, but your observation may or may not include the user actually using an electronic device. If you are designing a web interface for a task that doesn't yet exist on the computer, you'll be observing users doing the task as they do it now. You'll identify opportunities for the software to solve existing problems this way. On the other hand, you may be designing a product to improve an existing computer interaction (e.g. doing email, organizing deadlines in a calendar). In these cases, you'll want to observe your user doing the task in situ, that is, using their computer to do the actual task in the actual environment.

  1. Begin by selecting a specific activity to observe. Read the three design briefs for this quarter. Select an activity that relates to one of those briefs.
  2. Select three individuals to observe. Choose people who are not similar to yourself (e.g., a friend with a different major). Your goal is to observe the successes, breakdowns, and latent opportunities that occur when computers are used, not used, or could be used to support your chosen activity. Ask them to participate in this assignment and get permission from them. Be sure you coordinate with your participants to select a time that will be rich for observations. Tell the participants to perform the task as realistically as possible, while communicating to you as appropriate. Utilize the strategies we talked about in lecture to help you.
  3. During the observation, in addition to taking notes, try to use digital photographs if possible to document activities (but do not use a video camera). After the observations, spend 10 to 15 minutes interviewing your participants about the activity you observed. It should take you approximately two hours to make all three observations if you have planned carefully. It will take longer if you haven’t!

Step 2: brainstorm needs/goals

After observing people, go over your findings and use them to brainstorm a list specific user needs: opportunities for design innovation that would enable computers to better support the activity you observed. Once again, go for volume when you brainstorm and include as many people as you want to help you. Brainstorming is a group activity and should be fun! All ideas are good ones at this stage, and you should generate at least 15 of them: go for volume.

You are not looking for solutions yet: focus on user needs and goals only. An example of a need might be "Sometimes, when Scott takes the Caltrain home, there is no room for his bike and he has to wait for the next one. Scott needs a way to plan what train to take based on how much room is available in the bike car".

Step 3: find inspiration

Your next step is to find inspiration for the solutions you will be brainstorming in your next assignment. Inspiration can be existing applications, artifacts, products, or services that relate to your concept. Here, web search is your friend (potentially useful sites include Google, Google Scholar, the ACM Digital Library, TechCrunch, Engadget, Digg...). Some things you find will be quite related, but it is important to interpret "related" broadly. It may be that a carrot-peeler or a measuring cup is your inspiration for an elegant and ergonomic software interface design. You may be inspired to improve upon an existing service or go in a totally different direction. Cast the net wide and find as much as you can. Inspirations that fit our example need with Scott's bike could be an observation of parents fitting strollers onto a bus, the Twitter bikecar, or a foldable bike.

Pick out your five favorite inspirations. For each one, give a brief explanation (1-2 sentences) of why you chose that design (What did you take away from it? What did you learn from it?... In other words, why did it inspire you?)

Submit

  • A selection of one of the design briefs your observations fall under (Change, Glance or Time) and an explanation of what activity you observed and how it relates to the brief.
  • A description of how each person you observed performed the activity. The description should capture a particularly interesting moment/breakdown/work-around from the observation.
  • For extra credit, a captioned photograph from each person you observed performing the activity. (You should have a total of 3 photos with corresponding captions for each).
  • A list of needs/goals/tasks inspired by what you observed (at least 15). If you brainstormed with others, please include their names in your submission.
  • Five existing designs (inspirations) that relate to your thinking. The relationship could be very concrete or very abstract. Give brief explanations of why you chose those designs.

 

 

 

 

Evaluation criteria & Grading rubric

Guiding questions

Bare minimum

Satisfactory effort & performance

Above & Beyond

Did you observe three people performing an activity related to the brief you chose?
(10% of grade)

1: Observed only one person or observed an activity completely unrelated to the brief.

2: Observed only two people or observed an activity that would be much more related to a different brief.

3: Observed three people in activity clearly related to the brief.

Does each observation description clearly show a breakdown / design opportunity?
(30% of grade)

1: Not really. One observation might have demonstrated some breakdown, but the explanation was not clear. Or one observation was completely irrelevant.

2: The observations seem relevant, but the reader might still have some lingering questions. Perhaps a couple of the descriptions could have been better written.

3: All the descriptions were informative and enlightening. They could go into a newspaper article or a report.

Did you come up with at least 15 insightful ideas for user needs?
(30% of grade)

1: Most of the ideas were irrelevant, repeated, or obvious (by obvious, we mean that you didn't need to do any observation to come with up with them).

2: Most of the ideas were insightful. Only a few seemed irrelevant, repeated, or obvious.

3: All of the ideas are insightful. You can imagine each idea becoming the basis for a design project.

Did you find a wide spread of inspirations and explain why you chose each one? 
(30% of grade)

1: Inspirations with no explanations

2: Either the inspirations were obvious (that is, you could have come up with these without actually doing any observation) or the explanations were vague (that is, you might confuse someone who had to read your inspirations and implement a solution based on them).

3: Offered a diverse set of inspirations with insightful explanations. An HCI guru can spend an hour on the Internet and still not come up with anything better.

Which of the design briefs does your observation fall under: Change, Glance, or Time? Explain what activity you observed and how it relates to the brief.

 

 

Describe how three people performed an activity related to the brief you chose. In particular, you should focus on a particularly interesting moment/breakdown/workaround from the observation. You can describe your observations using simple text, or you can be creative and describe using sketches, storyboards, or any other format. For extra credit, upload a photograph of each person performing the described activity, with a short caption.

 

Evaluation

Did the student describe three people performing an activity related to the brief the student chose?

  • 0 points: No answer or completely irrelevant answer.
  • 1 point: Observed only one person or observed an activity completely unrelated to the brief.
  • 2 points: Observed only two people or observed an activity that would be much more related to a different brief.
  • 3 points: Observed three people in activity clearly related to the brief.

Does each observation clearly demonstrate a breakdown / design opportunity? Grade this criterion independently of the number of observations; e.g., if the student only submitted one observation but it was informative and enlightening, the grade should be a 3.

  • 0 points: No answer or completely irrelevant answer.
  • 1 point: Not really. One observation might have demonstrated some breakdown, but the explanation was not clear. Or one observation was completely irrelevant.
  • 2 points: The observations seem relevant, but the reader might still have some lingering questions. Perhaps a couple of the descriptions could have been better written.
  • 3 points: All the descriptions were informative and enlightening. They could go into a newspaper article or a report.

(Extra credit: 20% of grade) Did the student submit a photo and a caption related to each described observation?

  • 0 points: No photo or completely irrelevant photos.
  • 1 point: One relevant photo and caption.
  • 2 points: Two relevant photos and captions.
  • 3 points: Three relevant photos and captions.

Write a list of needs/goals/tasks inspired by what you observed (at least 15). If you brainstormed with others, please include their names in your submission.

 

Evaluation

Did the student come up with at least 15 ideas for user needs?

  • 0 points: No answer or completely irrelevant answer.
  • 1 point: 1 - 7 ideas.
  • 2 points: 8 - 14 ideas.
  • 3 points: 15+ ideas

Were the ideas insightful? Grade this criterion independently of the number of ideas; e.g., if the student only submitted one idea but it was insightful, the grade should be a 3.

  • 0 points: No answer or completely irrelevant answer.
  • 1 point: Most of the ideas were irrelevant, repeated, or obvious (by obvious, we mean that the student didn't need to do any observation to come with up with them).
  • 2 points: Most of the ideas were insightful. Only a few seemed irrelevant, repeated, or obvious.
  • 3 points: All of the ideas are insightful. You can imagine each idea becoming the basis for a design project.

List five existing designs (inspirations) that relate to your thinking. The relationship could be very concrete or very abstract. For each design, give brief explanations (1-2 sentences) for why you chose those designs.

 

 

Evaluation

Did the student find a wide spread of inspirations and explain why he or she chose each one?

  • 0 points: No answer or completely irrelevant answer.
  • 1 point: 1 - 2 inspirations.
  • 2 points: 3 - 4 inspirations.
  • 3 points: 5+ inspirations.

Were the inspirations diverse, well explained and insightful? Grade this criterion independently of the number of inspirations; e.g., if the student only submitted one inspiration but the explanation was insightful, the grade should be a 3.

  • 0 points: No answer or completely irrelevant answer.
  • 1 point: Inspirations with no explanations.
  • 2 points: Either the inspirations were obvious (that is, you could have come up with these without actually doing any observation) or the explanations were vague (that is, they might confuse someone who had to read the inspirations and implement a solution based on them).
  • 3 points: Offered a diverse set of inspirations with insightful explanations. An HCI guru can spend an hour on the Internet and still not come up with anything better.

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Design Briefs


Change

Project Brief

Change is hard. Sometimes we lack information. Other times, our routines and habits are really persistant, even if we wish they weren't. Can technology help people and communities change their behavior to meet their goals? New electronic devices (computers, phones, tablets…) can help by providing information. By reminding us. And by connecting us with others. Want to keep a commitment to run more? Go with a friend. Change might mean exercising more, eating healthier, helping make a more sustainable planet, or participating in local government. Or it might be becoming a better chess player, carving out time to read, or remembering to see the world from a new perspective.

Your Mission

Use the power of new technology to create an application or service that facilitates personal or social behavior change.

Design Inspiration

  1. Can technology provide a window onto the environmental and labor practices behind products? Or steer people toward decisions that align with their values?
  2. How might technology help people make sustainable decisions? Like buying local food, using less energy, avoiding cars, and reusing rather than buying new?
  3. What's the most effective way to join people together to help a cause?
  4. How do people kick undesired habits and build desired ones? Could your mobile phone, tablet or computer incentivize healthy eating, exercise, doctor visits, a good night's sleep?
  5. Can we help communities help coordinate better? Like plan a block party, advertise tag sales, or carpool for commuting and errands?
  6. How might technology improve the experience of volunteering? (via social networks?)

Glance

Project Brief

We are surrounded by information. Some might even call it overload. How might technology show us the essential pieces at a glance, so we can quickly navigate through the noise to get to what we really want? We compulsively check email, Twitter, Facebook, and the news — just in case there's something there. Right now we are doing the filtering and finding ourselves, why not let our devices do it for us? How can a screen summarize information and present just the most relevant parts (especially if it is tiny)? How can these devices use social and physical context to more effectively have the key information ready at a glance? Today the home screen of many devices is a grid of icons, or a static picture. That's not very creative. You can do way better!

Your Mission

Find people and design a personal dashboard tailored to their needs.

Design Inspiration

  1. What should a dashboard display? Email, calendar, news, time, weather, reminders? Which ones? All of them? Or maybe a screen that just has a short note from a loved one. Which is better? It all depends on who you're designing for.
  2. What might a context-aware dashboard look like? Could time, location, or who is nearby help a device create a more effective glance?
  3. What might a 10x10 pixel screen show? The mood of a friend? The state of the stock market? How much it snowed in Tahoe? Whether the coffee in this shop is fair trade?
  4. What are the differences between the display of a wall in a room and a mobile screen? Benefits, drawbacks?
  5. How might we use ambient alerts to convey information?
  6. What would the dashboard of Albert Einstein look like? Or Lady Gaga? President Obama?
  7. How might we “grab that moment”, catch the last five seconds said, or visually capture that which no one else saw?
  8. How might we send a message with one gesture?
  9. What might appropriate alerts look like? What if you were only interrupted when you should be, or only some interruptions got through, or the interruption interaction was context-aware?

Time

Project Brief

The way people represent time changes how they think about it. Wall calendars remind us of years, seasons, and the dentist appointment 6 months in the future. They codify weeks by wrapping every seven days, and it's easy to find the weekends -- they are on the edges. Clocks help us coordinate with others. Historically, many countries' citizens adopted pocket watches and clocks along with the railroad. Before the railroad, there was no need for precise time. Daily schedules help us plan. They can encourage us to "fill" our days, or talk about being "free". When we punch the clock, or bill hours, we turn time into money. These representations are human inventions. Most digital time representations — clocks, daily and monthly calendars, … — simply translate paper and gears into pixels and beeps. With the computation and sensing capabilities of mobile devices, can we find a more personal and joyful way to interact with time?

Your Mission

Redesign the way we experience or interact with time.

Design Inspiration

  1. The American Institute of Health estimates that 75-90% of all visits to primary care physicians are stress related. Could an interactive time representation help us be effective and relaxed?
  2. What if our mobiles were aware of our daily rhythm and helped us reschedule our activities to optimize for our well-being? How could we redesign the alarm clock? Do alarms need to be obnoxious? Maybe an alarm clock could wake us with the smell of delicious breakfast, or coffee? Or maybe its sensing could pay attention to our circadean rhythms, and wake us at an appropriate time? Could a time representation help us get a good night's sleep?
  3. How might a design use multiple modalities — visual, auditory, vibration, … — selectively or in concert to create more effective reminders?
  4. How might we help people feel happy and energetic — when they wake up and throughout the day? What if instead of a clock calendar we had an energy calendar? So that instead of scheduling for 2 in the afternoon, one schedules for “when I'm feeling energetic”, “when it's nice outside”, or “when it's quiet”.
  5. How might we leverage technology to feel more in touch with our temporal rhythms?
  6. How might we create a new representation of time?
  7. How can we create better social representations of time?

Here are a few cool examples:

 

 

http://www.sleepcycle.com/