HomeStart

Summary

This project was the final assignment for the Interaction Design Studio class in Carnegie Mellon University’s MA in Design program. The brief was to design an experience that extended “beyond the screen”, and my teammate and I decided to create a service that encourages more environmentally sustainable practices around moving. Through exploratory user research, a major pivot in service offerings, and helpful feedback from users, colleagues, and professors alike, we ended up designing a service that “creates space” for customers after they first move into a new home by supplying them with all of the necessities needed to live for the first two weeks (from basic furniture and an internet hotspot, to instant food and add-on options like a pre-arrival cleaning service or a fully-stocked fridge/pantry). After a user selects the package and the desired add-ons, a HomeStart employee uses a 3D-printed replica of the user’s key (provided by the user in a photograph) to enter their home and set up all of the items (inflating the air mattress, stocking the fridge, etc.). Once the pressure of feeling as if one needed to go out and buy all the necessary furniture and daily use items in a single day was removed, our hope was that customers would take advantage of the significant amount of pre-existing furniture and home goods that was already available around them throughout the neighborhood. To encourage and inform users about this more socially and environmentally sustainable practice, we would also provide information on their mobile and desktop around resources in their new community for purchasing such re-used and pre-owned items instead of buying items new from large “one-stop shops” – the “big box” stores that sell furniture, flatware and silverware, bedding, and everything else in one location. While convenient, we believed that these stores did not benefit the community within which they were based, nor produce goods in a way that benefitted their creators (often in faraway factories) or end users (due to their frequently low-quality construction materials and techniques). To keep the cost of our own package affordable, we designed a “basic” package that consisted of both consumable items (like instant foods and a pitcher-based water filter) and more durable, expensive items (like an electric kettle and an air mattress). Users would keep the consumable items once their term with HomeStart was finished, and they would return the durable items to HomeStart.

Our video sketch, which presents the narrative of one user’s journey through the entire service experience, gives viewers a human-scale glimpse of our various physical and digital touchpoints as a HomeStart user would experience them.

role + responsibilities

We had the option to work in teams for this project, and I chose to work alongside another classmate who is a talented visual designer and with whom I had collaborated successfully in the past. I leveraged my research, service design, and wireframing abilities to plan the exploratory and evaluative research for the project (directed storytelling and card sorting exercises), develop the content and visual directions of the outcomes of that research (the personas and service blueprint), and work with my teammate’s chosen color palette and type to create a series of low-fidelity mobile wireframes that helped us discuss and visualize future visual design directions.

Design research

  • created twelve early-stage service ideas to discuss with respondents
  • designed card sorting/ranking exercise for research interviews
  • conceived of and designed both collateral and exercise for the “move journey diagram” portion of the generative research interviews
  • Wrote research protocols for both exploratory and evaluative interviews
  • Led half of exploratory interviews, co-led all evaluative interviews

Ideation & scoping

  • co-designed both content and graphic design of the territory map
  • responsible for the design and content of the personas
  • responsible for the design and content of the service blueprint

Prototyping

  • assisted with creation of mid-fidelity wireframes of the app (Omnigraffle)
  • responsible for designing proposed in-app interactions (Sketch & Keynote)

Deliverables

  • designed animation-intensive final Keynote presentation
  • wrote and spoke voiceover for video sketch
  • co-wrote script for video sketch

 

exploratory research

In recognition of the broad variety of experiences people have when they plan for, carry out, and settle in after a move, we sought a method that would enable us to record this diversity of experiences such that it preserved the distinct elements that made each respondent’s journey unique, but also framed their moves in such a way as to make them relatable to each other across a common framework of analysis. We settled upon an exercise that combined traits of directed storytelling with the service design research method of customer journey mapping. We had each of our respondents narrate the entirety of their moving journey from when they initially decided to move until when they felt fully settled in their new home. As they spoke with us, the interviewer recorded down each of the important steps in the move that the respondent identified, probing for detail as necessary so as to give the respondent a clear picture of the degree of nuance we were looking for. As the interviewer filled in the journey map, a separate scribe would be recording how they heard the respondent recite their journey so that any narrative gaps could be filled in afterwards during the debrief. After completing the narrative of their journey, we probed around when respondents felt particular the strongest desires to either acquire or divest themselves of belongings, and also where they felt the greatest amount of stress. Stickers represented such information as when respondents felt anxious around having too much stuff, and when they felt at ease and that they had a comfortable number of belongings.

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generative research interview

Our initial round of card sorting focused upon a dozen early-stage service ideas that we would place in front of respondents for them to analyze after they had finished narrating their journey to us in our directed storytelling exercise. After some deliberation around how best to carry out this card sort, we decided to simply present the cards to the participant and let them read and interpret them, rather than our read each card aloud. We believed that this would yield more interesting data around the directions that respondents most hoped (or feared, in some cases) the services would actually unfold. A common response to a respondent’s question around how one of these twelve early-stage services would work was, “How would you envision [this service] working?” Respondentís answers would often begin with either “It would be fantastic if…” or “I think it’d be weird/frustrating/pointless if…”. This was also useful for some respondents who would notify us of similar services that already existed, giving us the chance to learn what others thought of the pre-existing services and any perceived shortcomings in their design or delivery.

visual_story_guide
research tool: move journey diagram

We developed this visual discussion guide and research tool we developed for our directed storytelling exercise. As outlined above, we had respondents walk us through their most recent moving journey, with a discussion facilitator copying down the experience of their move and a scribe typing out the journey simultaneously so that we would be certain that no nuance or detail was passed over. The stickers represent the points where respondents felt the most and least stress around the moving process, and where they felt most and least burdened by their belongings.

evaluative research

Based upon our prior success with card-sorting in the generative stage of our research, we decided to continue with the method and adapt the approach to help us evaluate the contents of our service’s various packages. We brainstormed to develop cards for over fifty different potential items that potential customers might find useful in the first two weeks of being in their new home. We then printed the cards and had the same respondents who had participated in our initial card-sort arrange the cards to answer the question of, “What would want to have waiting for you in your new home when you arrived there?” We decided to give users a fair degree of freedom as they embarked upon the sorting process, leaving it to their discretion as to how they wanted to sort their the cards in the initial round (for example, in addition to a “yes” and “no” pile, several of our respondents also built a “maybe” pile, which they gradually built or whittled down over the course of the initial card sort as they sorted through the full list of items). There were three stages of sorting altogether in this evaluative exercise, with each successive stage setting progressively tighter constraints upon the respondent. We began the exercise relatively unconstrained, by having users simply divide the items into a “yes” and “no” pile, with no restriction on the maximum number of items they could choose to have. From there, we applied the constraint of only being able to keep twenty items from their present subset, and noted which ones they eliminated from that round. Finally, we asked them to narrow their choices once more to only ten items.

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evaluative card sort

This photo is of our second stage of evaluative card sorting, where users sorted items based upon what they most wanted to have with them during their first two weeks of living in a new location.

analysis & synthesis

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research analysis

The analysis of our evaluative research findings had us categorize the various items we offered to consumers based upon how often those items made it to the “final round” of the evaluative card sort, where users could opt to “keep” only ten items. We took their desire to keep a particular item as an indicator of its importance for inclusion in our basic package.

territory map-v2
territory map of the home moving space

In the beginning stages of our exploratory service design research, while we knew we wanted to address a problem in the space of moving homes, we were unsure where the most significant pain point lay. To better understand the existing service landscape, we constructed a territory map containing all of the companies and interests at play in the broad field of moving today. This helped give us a bird’s eye view of the field before we dove in for a close-up look at individual respondents’ experiences navigating through the moving process.

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one of our research-derived personas

We developed personas from an amalgam of eight interviews that we conducted around different moving experiences. We borrowed different aspects from our eight research respondents and wove them around two personas, each of which we created to represent the two more “extreme” styles of moving; that of planning extensively in the lead-up to the move, and that of focusing more upon a “quick” move over an extensively-planned one. These personas were useful to us when imagining how our potential services would serve the broad spectrum of how different people chose to plan (or not plan) their moves.

We also included scenarios our personas engaged in, and what they chose to prioritize during each stage of their particular moving scenario. The bottom of each persona contains a miniature journey map showing their particular emotional course through their moving scenario, along with quotes reflecting their emotional state as it fluctuated across the critical moments that defined their moving journey.

Moving Journey Map-v11
user journeys

We drew upon both our personas and the output from our directed storytelling exercise to construct this pair of “extremes” that we noted from our users’ narratives of their journey. Users tended to manage their move in a way that resembled one of the two styles presented here, although these represent the “far ends” of the spectrum rather than a “typical” moving experience, which would likely include differing degrees of the elements of the two representative journeys mapped above.

 

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final service blueprint

HomeStart’s service blueprint, which lays out each individual stage and step of the service. We constructed our blueprint around Shelly Evenson and John Rheinfrank’s model that they developed of the “experience cycle” during their work for Xerox developing a usability design strategy during the 1980’s.

prototyping

Homestart_mockupcomponents_cropped

The above high-fidelity wireframes demonstrate the responsive design of the screen-based elements of our service. Our design process began with sketches.

Print

Sketch of different proposed information hierarchies. The left option emphasizes the number of days until the customer’s interaction with the next touchpoint (“Shipping”, in this case). On the right, the timeline metaphor is expanded upon, with the user’s progress through the icons representing the touchpoints as the primary emphasis in this option.

Omnigraffle_Homestart

Here are early-stage digital wireframes developed in Omnigraffle to indicate visual design direction of our final mobile wireframes. The screen in the middle is an “item list” which doubles as both a visual guide to what one will be receiving with their HomeStart package and also a packing list that helps people plan for what they must bring and what will already be waiting for them in their new home upon their arrival. The screens on the right and left are two different visual takes on the “progress map” that shows where a user is in their service journey and grants them the opportunity to change when their package will be delivered, when they must return it, and more.

Homestart_color_sketch.jpg

Above, a pencil sketch of different ways to depict selected and non-selected buttons and bars inside of an interaction (expanded upon in higher fidelity below using Sketch 3).

HomeStart_hifi.jpg

An example of a higher-fidelity mockup I created to illustrate a design direction for the preceding sketched interaction (designed using Sketch app).

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