Timeline: Sept - Nov 2016
Project Type: Class Project
My Role: Project Lead, UI Designer
Tools: Sketch, InVision
Skills: Problem Space Research, Usability Studies, Wireframing, Mobile UI Design, Cardboard Prototyping
Over the course of 10 weeks, I was tasked to come up with a problem space related to "disasters" where my partner and I designed and built a digital and physical prototype of our solution.
During earthquakes, cell towers always see a spike in usage from people trying to contact first responders and loved ones. Most of the times, cell towers become overwhelmed and rendered useless, at a time when they are needed the most. Because of this, people aren't able to get emergency medical attention and they're no able to contact loved ones as well. Everyone loses.
After researching and fully understanding this problem, we came up with a solution that would act as a secondary form of communication during disasters that would help relieve stress off of cell towers. This solution would consist of "beacons" that are pre-placed around a certain area that create a "mesh system" of beacons that anyone could connect to. By relaying data across multiple nearby beacons, anyone connected to a mesh system would be able to contact anyone else in the same system.
The beacons are the backbone of this entire project. Each beacon would be placed in local fire stations and manned by trained emergency personnel. With a beacon to beacon range of up to 2 miles and a person to beacon range of 1 mile, these are the specs for each beacon:
After 3 versions and multiple rounds of usability testing, we found that the most work was needed changing the beacon screen to make error messages more clear. We made sure to optimize the design of it to be as easy to use as possible.
The final piece of this system is the mobile app. With its intuitive and familiar user interface, my mobile app was created to be as straight forward as possible. No learning curve, just open it and use it. Through this app, you would be able to call or text your loved ones. The mobile app uses your contacts list to search for people with the same numbers as a your contacts so that you don't have to remember any phone numbers. Our app also shows you what beacon you're connected to as well as other nearby beacons.
The focus of this iteration of the design was to take into account the situation of our users and design according to it. I knew I wanted to go for a minimalistic design that was easy for users to pick up on because they would be in a high stress situation and they shouldn't have to learn a completely new UI, especially for elderly users who may not be the most tech savvy. I also made sure to keep the buttons at the bottom of the screen (versus the top) so that they were in a comfortable pressing range for one handed use.
After evaluating and getting feedback on the first version, I decided to switch to following Apple's native UI because I thought what's more familiar than the UI that's built into every person's phone already? (Of course, for the Android version, it would follow the native Android UI)
After multiple rounds of usability testing, we discovered the following problems:
From this feedback, we made the appropriate changes and produced these final screens:
Because this project was trying to tackle such a complex and rarely occuring problem as earthquakes, it made designing for them much more difficult.