Great Design with Commuters in Mind

Leo, Jin, and I (from right to left) devising our interaction flow.

Our group began designing a car interface specifically catered to the needs a long-haul commuter to work might have while on the road. For starters, we imagined a scenario where the driver has to use the restroom and needs to find the nearest public facility to their current location. We discussed what the best solution would look like, and we believed a hands-free, voice-prompted restroom router would be the ideal solution. We also thought about implementing a touch screen interface using the car’s GPS display as backup in case voice commands weren’t working, but the idea behind using human speech as the primary tool was to keep the driver focused on the road without dangerously diverting their focus away from the road.

Interaction flow of our restroom router — we gave attention to mapping both forms of interaction (voice or touch commands) to demonstrate how one could use either option.

Before this project, I had not given much thought to the design of smart vehicle interfaces. Though as I was sketching out our prototype, it dawned on me that the fact I hadn’t thought a lot about these interfaces goes to show their elegant ease of interaction. I’ve never had a hard time getting one to do what I want, which to me is key to having great design. I enjoyed being on the other side of the interface and crafting the interactions for the user for the first time; it helped me realize the work that goes into designing, appreciate what great design looks and feels like, and most importantly I had too much fun throughout the user-centered design process.

Moving forward, I am looking forward to incorporating the practice in future projects down the line. The biggest concern I have with the process is what happens when there are several different user types to take into account for a product? About almost every type of person drives a car, but I’m assuming there must be a line drawn regarding how many people to cater to in a design before the amount of time and resources spent is not worth the returns. On the other hand, it also seems expensive to design different cars for each unique user without consolidating different needs into one multi-tasking vehicle. I’m curious to learn more about how designers wrestle with “multi-user centered design” if such a term exists in the future.

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