user research, design research, digital interfaces
Crest is a design research project done over the course of 'How People Work', a class focusing on the principles of Human Centered field research.
For this project, we were asked to identify a problem space within the our local environment (campus) and investigate the interactions and experiences of users (i.e. why is it a problem?).
As a final, we created a cohesive visual summarizing our identified problem, methods, and findings- as well as a redesign proposal of the interface. (coming soon.)
The structure of the project is as follows:
- identification of a local problem
- research of said problem
- insights and findings
- re-design prototype (in progress)
Reachable goals and significant interactions in our local space.
Early on, my team recognized the broad scale of topics we could tackle- ranging from service based problems to social values.
My team (Gautam Bose and Grace Cha) identified the lecture hall projection interface on campus as our focus problem. Consistently, we have seen professors, students, and guests struggle with using the system and wanted to investigate it further.
This interface is a significant interaction point between professors and the (usually digital) media they teach- difficulty at this point of a class experience can affect valuable class time and work for both professors and their students.
Research was the core of this project. We sought to understand the specificities of the interface and what the story of interaction is like between a user and the system.
We created two different maps (below) defining the stakeholders and territories of the system- coming to the conclusion to narrow our research towards direct users rather than all stakeholders. The direct users were those directly part of the two greatest territories of the product: usability of the interface and education.
applying research methods and gaining insights
Research Protocol Outline
To document the detail of our project, my team created a research protocol document to outline the methods, materials, and intent of our research.
First, we looked into the stakeholder groups affected by the the system as a whole- collapsing it into tiers based on distance and direct usage of the product.
Second, we created a map representing the different 'territories' the product functioned in (usability, education, maintenance)- then the flow of the product usage was mapped within these territories in clockwise form.
From here, my team used design field research methods (think aloud, behavioral mapping, video observation, and contextual inquiry) to explore the interface with direct users. Using these four methods, we gained insights from the perspective of the user and learned how and why certain actions proved more difficult than others.
Above is a highlight reel of some users going through a prepared keynote using the interface.
In total, our method of research was as follows:
1. For each user we had three perspectives of video set up- one recording the body language and emotions of the users, one recording the interface interactions, and the other recording the larger system feedback (the projectors themselves).
2. We asked the user to voice their actions, thoughts, and feelings while working their way through the prepared keynote- and finally,
3. we would interview each user after the the session was finished.
4.After all sessions were finished, my team analyzed the interactions on the interface to gain insights on the physical touchpoints of the product.
Collecting, Analyzing and understanding users and the product.
Our greatest findings lied in three distinct categories: time, feedback, and experience.
1. Set-up time was the most significant time waster.
Of our tests, set-up took the most time with an average of 3:19 minutes- the longest taking 7:16 minutes. During this extended time, participants would visibly become frustrated or confused.
Set-up being a difficult task of the product is of high-risk because it has the ability to affect the tone of the lecture or class- and can even impede on valuable course time.
2. Disjointed feedback between the user, product, and output hindered clarity.
Users would be confused about output, unaware of all features available to them, and deploy unwanted features accidentally. When something did go wrong, there would be no communication of what they did or how they could move forward from their actions.
Their ability to do work was hindered by lack of clarity and intuitive use of the system.
3. The greater the experience, the more fluid the usage.
Simply put, the more times someone used the system, the easier it was to use. This told us that new users would need to learn the how the system worked over time and practice because the system itself was unintuitive.
Heirarchy, feedback, and organization of features were the main points of confusion in the interface.
1. Organization & Heirarchy
Unclear structure of controls failed to communicate order, importance, and significance of features. For example, section names did not align with their subfeatures, and the current hierarchy felt unintuitive to the user's needs.
From using the product- my team recognized unavoidable requirements of the system (i.e. projector cool down/warm up) that were both time consuming and frustrating towards users. Many occasions, our participants would state "I don't know how that appeared/ where that came from"- leading to confusion. Where the system knows what to do- users are unsure.
Proposal and Re-design
1st stage prototyping interfaces
Focusing on the interface, my team is working on a prototype of the Crestron system.
Key features include:
1. Prioritizing feedback, instruction, and support to alleviate frustration and burden of time.
2. Restructured heirarchy towards significance of use for the user- clearly noting how to access subcategories of features related to each 'zone' of media presentation.
3. Collapse of related features- those related to room control, projectors, and secondary devices would be separated.
The prototype is still in progress, feel free to contact me to find more information.