Studio Session #2: Interaction Design

Our focus in this session was on designing prototypes and the interactions the user would have with the product. Our overall goal was to produce a prototype of a “citizen science” app using the POP app.

Completing the Activity

This session began with group brainstorming, which was similar to the first week. We alternated groups and threw out ideas for each of the possible topics of our application- water quality, availability of fruit/vegetables to urban foragers, noise levels in public areas, and an animal census.

Thinking of users who would use an app to report water quality.

Afterwards we compiled our information and split off to work by ourselves. I focused on designing an app to report significant noise disturbances in an urban environment, because I would be most likely to use that of the four. My design ended up being pretty simple. Users would collect a sound clip and geo-tagged photo, then add a description and rate the level of disturbance. As a motivation for the user, the app carries a level system with it themed around becoming a citizen scientist, and you can share this to social media.

Beginning a basic outline of our apps.
The end product, created using the POP (prototype on paper) app.

Reflections

The biggest problem I felt I faced was creating an app that felt like it had a core theme in its design. It was simple enough to add all the components I needed for the prototype to function, but I felt like the different screens weren’t really consistent enough in design, or didn’t distinguish themselves from your average app interface. If I return to prototyping, I think one of the best ways I could improve my design skills would be to start with a central theme so each screen felt like it belonged to the same app. This could do wonders for how satisfying the prototype is to use and interact with.

Personal Opinion

I really enjoyed this brief look into app design. I think having a simple goal (allowing people to report noise disturbances) allowed me to focus on how the app felt instead of spending all my time on how it worked. It allowed me to see just how difficult it could be to create an application with a unified theme or visual design. I would like to revisit this topic another time, with possibly a more fleshed-out idea.

Using What I Learned

Building prototypes for coded products will always be important, because the difference in time spent creating a paper vs. a digital prototype is just too large to ignore. Imagine the time difference it would take to create a functioning calculator as opposed to simply drawing out the buttons and making noises when they’re pushed. But I think the most useful and relevant topic we touched on in this session was creating a product that the user wants to use.

I’ll focus on the tech industry for this example, because of the way it has exploded in recent years. Odds are that if your small startup is trying to address a particular problem/niche in the industry, there are other people doing the same thing. The ability to distinguish your product by making it feel good or rewarding cannot be overstated in this environment. SnapChat outpaced its competitors because it has a simple, fun design that users like to interact with. Swipe one direction for contacts, the other for your story, and tap to take a picture. Interaction design is so important here because it turns a simple concept of sending pictures to your friends into something users can enjoy.

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