Role: User Researcher
Collaborators: Fairy Bui, Joseph Caluza, Christine He, Kathy Hoang, Kenny Nieh, Kishen Sharma, Stephen Trac
Timeframe: 10 weeks
Contributions: User Interviews, Storyboards, Sketches and Low-Fidelity/Physical Prototypes
In this course, our group had a lot of free reign as we weren’t given any instructions on where to begin. We could tackle any problem space and design any kind of prototype. We decided to examine how UCSD students carry and organize their daily school essential..
This led to the creation of e*Class*tic, a carrier for college students to organize their everyday school items and electronics. It utilizes elastic bands instead of pockets to hold their essentials, enabling flexibility with how you organize and pack your daily essentials. The e*Class*tic also promotes packing only what you need, rather than over-packing.
MY ROLE & THE GROUP DYNAMIC
As a group of 8 full-time undergraduates, we each came from different academic backgrounds, including biological sciences, HCI, cognitive science and computer science. For the most part, we were all relatively new to user research and user-centered design. I played a major role in acquiring user data through ethnography and user testing as well as prototyping and storyboarding.
Given such a large, diverse team new to design, I also played an important part in guiding communication within the group by:
- promoting creativity and collaboration through conversation and sketching
- debating whether or not our designs addressed user needs and pain points
- maintaining team morale by promoting a fun and open atmosphere
I made it a priority near the beginning of the course to build good relationships within the group in order to build rapport and subsequently make communication within the group easier and more effective in the long run.
Given so much flexibility and control over what direction we take our project, user research played an enormous role in our day-to-day activity. We made it a priority to develop a prototype that actually addressed our users’ needs and pain points.
In order to gain a better understanding of our users, we contextualized their needs and pain points using diagrams, including affinity diagrams, an identity model, a day in the life model and a sensation model.
THE PIVOTAL MOMENT
In our first rounds of user research, we broadly examined what needs and pain points UCSD students have when “carrying” their everyday objects. In one round, we surveyed 78 randomly crowdsourced students, 43 males, 33 females and 2 gender neutral participants, and discovered that 96.2% of them utilize backpacks as their main source of carrying for their school belongings. With backpacks having such a strong presence in our users’ carrying habits, we delved deeper into how users utilize their backpacks, what they often carry and what qualms they face. We went as far as prototyping backpacks and redesigning backpack features without fully understanding what role backpacks played in their lives.
After we presented our prototypes to each other, I wasn’t convinced that redesigning the backpack was the right route for addressing our user needs and pain points. Thus, I engaged the group in a conversation, debating whether or not redesigning the backpack was truly addressing our user data. This resulted in a debate between whether we should stick with backpacks given that we were already ~7 weeks in or consider other solutions. Given our dilemma, I thought it would be a good idea to get a fresh perspective to bring in new ideas and give an unbiased view. I approached one of the teacher assistant’s and shared our dilemma and our prototypes with her. This turned out being exactly what we needed and we discovered that one of our prototypes, an organizer shaped like a binder, could prove to be the solution to our user’s need.
THE END PRODUCT
With a sudden new direction in our design, we quickly began prototyping, sketching out our design and then building a physical prototype. We followed up with user testing, sampling random students and also tested it in lecture halls.
After our user testing, we took the feedback we got and re-sketched our final design to create the e*Class*tic.
Key features includes:
- A grid of elastic bands, which enables flexibility of usage and promotes carrying only the essentials - given that most of them are smaller objects.
- Two zippable sides, one that carries the laptop and another side that carriers all other essentials.
Key changes from the physical prototype to the final design:
- We replaced the notebook strap with a notebook click, for great ease of access and use.
- We added a folder behind the notebook to allow carrying important papers, such as empty scantrons.
- We added stretch-ability to the sides of the zippers, to allow expanded version of the carrier in case users
- We added a removeable strap, as users wanted a carrying option that did not required using their hands.