Recent developments related to the epic age of technology have amde society become more connected through digital means. But on the other side more disconnected on a phsyical level. While this becomes of higher importance when one ages or is in the need of care.
In a little town called Naarden there is a street where people have asked for help to become more connected. While time passes they are growing more uncertain about available sources of help from their neighbours. The human ability to empathize is what triggers people to help one another. Stimulating the empathy of the residents is central in both the end product and during the design process.
Below a summary of the project. Interested in what I’ve learned and where I missed up? Or more in depth information or questions? Feel free to contact me.
Before you can design a bridge, an end product, you needs to research the area and solve several challenges. Such as what kind of banks the bridge resides on, what will run under, weather conditions, available resources and much more. But in this day of age I’m not the first one to create a bridge. Therefore I did an analysis of possible competitors and researched different models about why and how people aid others in need.
Based on the found information I created a first paper prototype to be used during the first design session. The goal of this session was to connect with the residents, gain their support and show them how easy it is to actually create possible solutions they have in mind.
During the design session the participants jumped aboard and were happy to help out. But they asked to not specifically focus on situations about health care. Helping out with throwing a party is equally important, in such situations one really gets to know one another. And based on that connections they will aid others faster.
To get to know the participants better I’ve invited them over for a beer in a local pub. Due to the comfortable setting (and alcohol) we had a normal conversation, instead of an interrogation style interview. During the conversation we spoke about what triggers them to take action and what it takes for them to decide to help some one.
There is a big variety of triggers, obstacles and other factors the to-be-designed solution has to take in mind. For example insecurities (‘I don’t know how to help’) and timing (‘If I’m already at the supermarket I don’t mind picking up his dinner’). But there is one common process they all follow. First they have to know something is up, then find out more about what’s going on and so they then know how to act and help some one.
Based on this new information I created a new prototype for the second design session. This prototype simulated a new way to notifys other they could use help, what kind of help and communicate about it by sending messages. During the sessions they wrote the messages themselves and discussed them afterward. The participants did not need any help making their questions and answers clear. But they would like to have ways to show the importance, categories and mark things private.
Parallel to the end product development I went on a search of how other available technologies could enlarge the add value. As technology keeps advancing, more and more sensors are being applied. This creates a new network of information that can be put to use. For example context aware notifications based on a combination of location and questions asked. Or applying datasets to support how a user plans or asks something.
By mapping the involved entities, relations, attributes and flows, for different situations where the end product can be of use, it is easy to see how a surrounding system and external datasets support the user. The new insights this has generated have been taken in account during the development of the third prototype.
For the third design session the prototype was printed out and laid out. The participants were given the goal to organise and communicate different events, from barbecue’s to laundry to aiding some one, while obstacles occurred. The participants were very happy with the product layout and concept. All the feedback was on product level, interaction and copy.
By now the product was still mostly wireframes. It was not pleasing for the eye and didn’t give off a lot of emotion visually. Also when wanting to develop the first version there are multiple constraints one has to keep in mind, such as finance and development restrictions.
By applying the google material styling many of these constraints were overcome. For the visual design the colours blue and orange have been chosen together with the participants. Blue eminates calmess and responsiblity and orange eminates change and health. All important in the context of this product.
With this the first high fidelity prototype was created and the concept finetuned. The participants were very happy with the end results and are looking forward for the first developed version. Meanwhile I decided to do some more in-depth test with a new group of participants to get more feedback. Once again the feedback was only on product level, agreeing with what the concept could mean for them and it having added value.
At the start of the project the street was divided in three small social communities. By having one or two inviduals from each community in the design sessions hey have gotten to know each other better. Now when the sun is out they have 1 big street barbecue instead of 3 small seperate ones. From this I can conclude that the social connections in the street have been changed for the better.
The end product, the mobile application, is yet to be realized. Due tot different changes in the municipality it was not possible to acquire a funding budget.