TL;DR


Problem

Students are aware of the need to improve their posture when they work on their computer, but are unable to maintain a good posture for extended periods of time. This causes serious neck and back pain to more students as they progress through their academic program in universities.

Solution

We designed a desk object that provides real-time feedback about user's posture and help build healthy posture habits. Usability testing performed using physical prototype helped us devise design implications that were incorporated in the final design of the product.

Problem Domain


Scope

In the current academic environment, particularly at a technical school, students are required to spend extended periods of time sitting in front of a computer on a regular basis. At Georgia Tech, there is a sizeable portion of the student body that must spend many consecutive hours of their day in front of a computer screen in order to study and interact with others.

Research has proved that the number of students who reported experiencing pain in neck and lower or upper back increased as students progressed through the degree program. Fourth-year students had a significantly higher proportion of respondents reporting pain as well as a significantly higher exposure to the risk factors of prolonged computer use, time spent in front of a computer without breaks, mouse use, and poor workstation ergonomics (Lorusso et al., 2009). This suggests that the problem is worsening over the course of an academic program and could be ameliorated by early intervention and correction.

My Role

I contributed equally to each phase explaied on this page since the team worked in complete coherence. Along with my responsibilities in research and design activities, I led the arduino development to build the physical prototype.

Type Group Project My Role UX Researcher, UX Designer Timeline 5 months (August 2016 - December 2016) Tools Used Arduino Programming, Design Sprints, UX Research Methods

What I learned


Hardware Prototyping using Arduino
Continuous design improvements through Prototyping and Usability Testing
UX Research and Design process

Preliminary Research


We explored past research conducted on student’s posture behaviors and health issues related to posture to get a deeper idea of the problem space. On the other hand we also researched existing products in the market that are targeted towards users who wish to improve their posture habits.

User Research


To understand our users in further depth, we first performed ethnography to document student postures at working environments in public spaces on campus. Then ran a short survey with closed-format questions (128 respondents), followed by semi-structured interviews with 12 students from our target group. Finally we performed Affinity Mapping to identify key insights from data gathered using all the above mentioned research methods and categorized the data to formulate user personas.

Task Analysis


To perform task analysis, we first researched and identified the user characteristics, user responsibilities in the task and analyzed the influence of environment on the task. After this, we compiled the learnings into an Hierarchical Task Analysis (HTA).

Storyboard


Sketching the storyboard was a step further into presenting our user’s behavior over time when they work on their laptop. The storyboard served as a reference point at each stage of our product design in the future phases.

5-Minute Madness


We followed one of the Google Sprint diverge methodology for idea generation. During this time, constraints like viability and function were muted in order to foster creative thinking. To analyze these findings for common themes, we coded all the ideas and grouped designs into more generalized categories. We then discussed and finalized 3 ideas- Desk Character, Laptop Ambient Light LEDs and Posture Adjusting Chair.

High Fidelity Prototyping


After converging to one idea, we flushed out the design in further depth. We first sketched the designs and then used software like Fusion 360 to create 3d models for the same. We then 3D printed these models and used them for our project.

Design Evaluation


#Phase 1 - Heuristic Evaluation

In order to evaluate our design, we have merged the relevant components of various usability heuristics, derived largely from Nielsen and Molich.

#Phase 2: “Quick and Dirty” Feedback User Testing

The purpose of this phase was to understand user’s ability to define a relationship between their posture and the device. To facilitate this session, users were first oriented to the device, and then with the help of an actor and wizard, we run through the various states that are possible, and asked questions at the beginning, after each state change, and at the end of testing.

#Phase 3: In-context Usability Testing

For this phase, we conducted one hour long in-context usability testing where the user had to work on their laptop, while the team sets-up around, wizard-of-oz'ing the prototype, as it would function in reality.

Reflecting on Insights


ALl phases of Design Evaluations provided us with a lot of new design implications for our prototype. We brainstormed new design ideas to overcome the loopholes in the design/functioning and build a robust device. We re-designed the device as following:

Challenges & Takeaways


  • Designing for Secondary Task is Tough
  • Hardware Prototyping is Capricious
  • Velostat is not for measuring Varying Pressure Intensity
  • How Hawthorne Effect ruins Usability Test