OurHouse: A Prototype for Communication in Shared Houses

For this project (part of a Coursera study on Interaction Design), I looked at how to provide “glanceable” information and collaboration for shared households, e.g. student house-shares, families.

Needfinding

I began this process without even an idea of how technology might help in this scenario. During the needfinding process, I interviewed three different residents:

1. Family of four: 45 year old mother, accountant. Lives with husband (age 47), son (age 14) and daughter (age 8)

2. Professional sharers: Female, aged 28, IT consultant. Lives with Male friend (26 year old PR consultant) and Male friend (31 year old restaurant cook)

3. Young Couple: Female (30 year old teacher), Male (29 year old junior doctor)

I discovered that often, all sorts of information is shared, passed around and acted upon, such as lists, events and notices. This is usually offline and there are many breakdowns.

This activity led me to define my Point of View:

“Shared living would be much more convivial, if communication and collaboration were seamless. Every click is an obstacle, this communication should be available at a glance.”

Storyboarding

The next step was to storyboard how this solution might fit into the lives of our target users.

This process helped me to crystallise the working scenarios of the platform.

Paper Prototypes

Next, I put together some paper prototypes and tested them with some sample users. At this point, I was still envisioning this as a wall-mounted tablet app.

Heuristic evaluation of this paper prototype revealed some useful feedback. I picked out two key problems from the evaluation. Firstly, the layout of the page, particularly the top bar (that includes the tabstrip and user switch) needed to be rethought to fit more with general usability standards, and the method of switching user needs to be rethought. Secondly, the way of managing tasks needed to be redesigned; particularly what can the user do with a task and how tasks are managed between house members, related to permissions (my task or someone else’s task).

The evaluation was very useful, I found I had significant insight from speaking to 3–4 different people, and I got an insight from people that are not “embedded” in the design.

It was great to find that my idea was adopted to be the initial seed for the Coursera “remix” assignment. It was very satisfying finding my idea reused by countless other students for their assignments in later weeks.

Digital Prototyping

Based on the feedback, I implemented initial digital prototypes using InVision. I implemented two alternative homepages, with slightly different layouts and navigation paths. By this point, based on feedback, I was starting to adapt the app more towards the communication concept between housemates, rather than the web resource aggregation (news, weather etc). At this time, I also adapted the app to suit a phone form factor, to help drive a minimalist design.

At this time I also defined a test protocol that would be used during user testing to validate the design and determine the best prototype.

User Testing

Using the great UserTesting.com online tool, I submitted the two prototypes and a test protocol for the public to execute. Testing was also done in person, which allowed for more interactive feedback

For the most part, the users preferred the second layout. They also provided valuable feedback around the management of tasks — e.g the user shouldn’t need to enter “edit” mode, to delete a task.

Final Prototype

Implementing the final changes and applying styling, the prototype was finished! It can be found here.

I hope you like it!