Turn thoughts into Practice - Interaction Design

Interaction design is a practice of designing interactive digital products, system and services. It not only turns the motivation and purpose of the design to something workable, but can also determine how users will interact with the design, contributing to the quality of experience. During this process, we tried to turn the concept of citizen science into reality. We had been thinking about how to let amateur citizens help environmental scientists collect useful data.

Stage 1. Determine users and activity

Given different data types, users who may use our design will vary from each other. Therefore, the first step is to brainstorm the appropriate user for each data. For instance, the picture shows the possible users of collecting noise level data in learning or civil environment. Also, it is important to understand during which circumstances they will use the design---- which is known as activity. Listing all the possible users and activities allowed us to get a fuller picture of what specific case our design will be aiming at.

Determine the user and activity of collecting noise data

Stage 2. Choosing the functions

Although there are many functions which can make the app more useful, in practical aspect, it is hard to include all the functions in one design. Therefore, choosing what functions are essential in the design is an important process. Since our design is an app design for citizens to collect data, we have to think of what kind of data we want to collect in each function. As shown in the picture, in the function textual info, scientists may want to collect these different kinds of data.

The outline of data collected in the textual info function

Stage 3. Prototyping

After brainstorming, it was time to draft and make a low-fedilty prototype. We made the design by using the app "POP", which allows us to put our paperwork into an interface that the user can really stimulate the scene of using it. I chose to design an app for students to collect the noise level near their learning environment. Here's the link to the video of me demonstrating the basic function and usage of this app: https://youtu.be/xWfqThJFcPs

Doing actual work on designing a prototype

Designing this app was truly an enjoyable process to me. I never thought of turning my ideas into practice. Although POP only allows us to create a low-fedilty prototype, it was still a whole new experience to me. When seeing my paper draft linking to each other, which seemed like working on a real app, I was overwhelmed by the sense of achievement because it was the first time I could turn my thought into a functioning app.

However, I also encountered some difficulties during the process. Interaction design seemed easy, but when I really tried myself, I found it hard to design a concise interface with all the functions required. It will not appeal to users if the interface is too complicated, but on the contrary, if the app omit too much function, then it loose its purpose. Therefore, I had to find the balance point between these two extremes.

By designing this app, I also got an insight of how citizen science works. Citizen science is a popular trend in recent years. However, it is hard for scientists to collect data from citizens. The main purpose of this interaction design is to enable scientists to collect useful data more efficiently. Take my design for example, it is hard for scientists to take the noise detector in order to gather the noise level in every learning environment. Therefore, if this interaction design really goes into practice in the future, it will help developing the trend of citizen science, making citizen science a more mature data collecting system, and scientists can improve our lives by doing research on these data.

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