Harshath.com

Design. Technology. Problem Solving.

Bus Buddy

December 2013

This was a group project for the Introduction to HCI class. I contributed to the project during the ideation, wireframing, prototyping and usability testing stages.

This project was about exploring how we can make the lives of parents with kids aged 5 to 10 better. Our premise was that getting the kids ready in the morning each weekday to catch the school bus on time can be hectic, and picking them up in the afternoon can involve waiting for an uncertain amount of time at the bus stop. We wanted to explore this "daily chore", learn more about the experiences of parents with kids in elementary school, and design an app that could be of help to this set of parents. We called it Bus Buddy.

Understanding Our Users

We interviewed a 5 parents with kids going to elementary school to understand what their primary needs and concerns were. The interviews were semi-structured, and we talked to the parents about what it was like each day in the morning and evening when their kids got ready or got back from school. We gently steered the conversation where needed to learn about what their chief concerns were.

We learned a few notable things:

Ideation and Design Directions

We collected our inputs and all came up with several different design directions. We discussed the priority of various aspects of the system, various media to deliver the service over, and several visual representations of the information, like a map, a tube-stop, a Weasley clock, etc.

We initially considered the participation of children, parents and drivers into the system and envisioned what the system should feel like for each of them. Particularly for children, we explored making interfaces geared towards them to help not only alleviate some responsibility from the parents, but also teach children about being responsible.

We also considered other kinds of physical interfaces which both children as well as parents could use together.

While we explored all these design directions, we realized that in order to prototype and test the system, we will need to exercise restraint and narrow down the scope of the system to most important facets. We settled on designing a system with the following aspects:

Wireframing and Prototyping

Due to a limitation on how much we could design, prototype and test within our time frame, we decided to focus solely on the parent's end of this ecosystem. We first nailed down what the overall architecture and screen flow of the parent app would feel like...

... and then started with wireframing. We drew up a few iterations of wireframes, and proceeded to convert the wireframes into a clickthrough prototype. We mainly focused on ensuring that the most relevant and important information was most easily accessible.

Most-relevant information up-front.

The most frequently occurring departure from routine was when plans changed. Sometimes kids can't make the bus in the morning. Other times, parents need to pick them up from school for a doctor's appointment. We made that operation easy to perform as well.

Changing plans should be easy.

Prototype

We used the wireframes to build a web-based prototype that could run on a phone. The app had an admin console where we could set up the prototype to simulate various situations like the current time of the day, the names of their children, whether their children are already on the bus, etc.

The prototype can be accessed online by following the link below.

Web-based prototype

Test and Evaluate

To test our designs for usability, we recruited 9 participants (6 of who were parents of elementary school children) and asked them to perform several benchmark tasks on the prototype, while we observed their actions and timed them as they performed them. We then asked them to complete a short survey where they rated the prototype, and then proceded to collect qualitative feedback from all participants while the experience was still fresh in their minds.

The whole process taught us many things:

In summary, the project was a good practical exercise in user-centered design, testing and iteration.


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