Project summary

Bond is a smart TV and mobile app that combines elements of social media, journaling, automatic location and activity tracking, synchronized calendars and other shared activities for partners in long-distance relationships to engage in non verbal communication to strengthen their relationship.

View Prototype
Project details

Client: 

Class Project - Introduction to HCI

Tools: 

Figma, Invision, Photoshop

Role: 

  • • Co-leading Interaction Design
  • • Ideating through Sketching & Affinity Mapping
  • • Conducting Cognitive Walkthrough
  • • Low-fidelity Wireframing
  • • High-fidelity Wireframing
The Challenge
Long Distances can make relationships feel impersonal. How can we use technology to encourage non-verbal communication?

There are many nuanced non-verbal interactions in relationships such as eating together, watching movies, motivating each other to exercise, celebrating milestones and providing each other with real-time updates which are hard to replace in long distance relationships. Dissimilar geographical locations, different time zones, transient occupations, or varying level of technological proficiency make it even harder to communicate effectively.

Research Process

Interviews

To better understand our target users, we conducted 8 semi-structured interviews. Questions for the interview were primarily focused on maintaining relationships (family, friends or romantic) through technology such as text messaging, video calling, social media websites in an attempt to understand the impact of technology on relationships. I interviewed 2 participants, one male and one female in their mid-20s.

Affinity Mapping

We gathered our key insights using an affinity map. The issues that arose during the interviews were categorized broadly and some hot Ideas were explored.

Issues and Hot Ideas
High level findings
“I feel like I keep missing important events in my partner’s life. There was a time when he was very sick and I didn’t find out till a week after he recovered.”

“I sometimes get too busy to call my mother and she panics when she doesn’t hear from me in a while. This doesn’t happen when I’m at home since she can see that I’m fine.”

“My (phone) conversations with my family are always about what I’m doing and what I’ve eaten. It doesn’t leave much time to talk about more substantial things like my how I’m feeling about a particular course or event.”

“Intimacy gave way to constant awareness. We always knew when the other was online and it felt rude if no one replied in time.”

Analysis

The interviews helped answer some questions about the positive role of technology in relationships, but all interviewees agreed on the negative aspects of communicating through technology.

  • Technology still lacks the ability to completely replace real relationships, but it does help augment them.
  • All of the people interviewed use the internet to feel closer to their existing relations, but feel like the medium doesn’t allow them ever to be truly together.
  • Major life events are also hard to deal with since the technology only makes them feel more apart.


Personas

Through our interviews, we identified that interactions need to be more immersive, low maintenance and contextually smart to effectively augment existing long distance relationships. We built three user personas to guide our design process

Sketching

With the problems now defined and our personas established for our design ideation, the team started sketching ideas. I drew 40 out of the 160 sketches that the team created.

Some of the sketches
Idea Refinement

We discovered that all our ideas from the 160 sketches revolved around the experiences that can be shared via technology. Adding all these experiences into a single application would clutter our solution and make it unlikely for the user to derive and value. We refined our ideas down into experiences that could be easily shared without much user input.

Prototyping and Evaluation

Ambient Display

Based on our refined set of design ideas, we decided a passive ambient display would be the best medium to show our users their partners information The analogy we used was providing our users with a "window into their partners life".

The prototype of our ambient display shows what the partner is currently doing and lets the user scroll through past activities and pulls information from the partner’s mobile app.

Heuristic Evaluation


We evaluated our paper prototype based on Nielsen's heuristics.
GOAL: To validate that users can understand interactions and identify key information.

Key Findings


We found that while the ambient display was able to easily relay information, the biggest question was how exactly this information is gathered and how a partners privacy concerns are accounted for.


Configuration Application

We designed a configuration app to let users control the information they were sharing and built a quick paper prototype to validate whether user’s could easily navigate through the settings.


Cognitive Walkthrough

We tested the application’s interactions through a cognitive walkthrough. This involved basic login and configurations of other applications for the users to setup the ambient display for user’s partner.

Key Findings


We found that while there were some issues with flow of the application and some of the screens needed some kind of onboarding to help the user configure the ambient display easily.


Final Designs

Ambient Display
Smart TV Application for Ambient Display

The ambient display smart TV app is a passive information dashboard that is designed like a window into the user or their partner’s life. It lets a user’s partner easily see:

  • The time and any alarms set in the partner’s time zone
  • Their phone battery percentage
  • A weather overlay that shows the weather in the user’s location
  • The user’s mood and any personal notes added by the user
  • The kind of place the user is in shown through a stock image
  • A scrollable timeline of activities as updated by the user
Configuration Application

The configuration app lets a user set up their partners ambient display with the information they’re comfortable sharing and lets them post updates and review the information shared in one place. The high fidelity mockups were built in Figma and Invision.

SIGN IN

Users can either sign in using SSO or connect directly to their partner’s app using a code.

AVATAR SETTINGS

The user selects or builds an avatar and selects the default mood they want their partners to see.

SHARING SETTINGS

Users can enable optional modules to share and configure such as:

  • Location Settings - Transit, current location and weather.
  • Alarms, sleep tracking, step count and phone battery and cellular details.
  • Third Party APIs - Media Streaming and Calendar events.

The user is informed about all the information being shared and can switch these off at any time.


NEW ACTIVITY

The user can post new annotations and new activities to both their own and partner's dashboards.

Video Prototype

The team created a video prototype to showcase how the application would be used in a user’s day to solve a real problem.

Future Scope

Since this was a project to familiarize ourselves with the basics of digital tool design, many steps integral to developing a useful product were omitted. Our solution can definitely be improved with the following:

  • More user research to identify any potential privacy concerns.
  • User testing to identify how much the information aids in creating conversation.
  • An exploration of APIs to see what details can be easily shared.


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