Mapping Out Our Digital Homes
Broad Concept: Digital Homes
Just like people have rooms in their house or places they frequent in their neighborhoods, they have different websites associated with different tasks, moods and activities. For this project, I’d like to map out and study people’s virtual homes.
Some information I could yield from this is individual differences (why is one person’s entertainment space netflix while another’s is youtube) how people spend their time (and what that reveals about their values) and where people consider their home space (and why?)
My Digital Home
To start out, I’ll map out my own digital home. At this point, I think its worth making a distinction between my digital spaces on my laptop vs phone. The affordances of both products and distinctions between app/web design affect how I use each one.
Laptop (MacBook pro 15 inc)
- Buzzfeed — Home Base
- Facebook — Home Base
- Youtube — Home Base
Career (professional communications)
- Stack Overflow
- Google Drive
- Apple Calendar
Phone (iPhone 6)
The interesting thing about comparing these sites is that there are some that I only visit to achieve a specific task, and others that rest at without a goal in mind.
What is different about websites that draw you in vs those that push you out, not only in UI design, but in purpose? How do people feel about the respective sites (for instance, people spend a lot of time on facebook but tend to have negative things to say about it)? What websites do people tend to rest on and what does that say about them?
Choosing a Direction
Based on these initial thoughts, I considered a few different directions that I could take the project in.
Mapping People’s Digital Homes
Everyone has their own set of websites that they frequent. It would be interest to map out these websites and see the similarities and differences among people. Does everyone have a different floor plan? Or are the floor plans mostly the same but populated with different sites?
Transposing Various Website Formats onto Others
Different websites have different visual formats. These formats affect the way we use them and even how long we spend on them. It would be interesting to categorize each format and then transpose some websites onto a different format (what would gmail look like it if were laid out like youtube)
Considering ‘Doors,’ or Methods of Transportation, Between Sites
Obviously, you can go from site to site by typing different URLs into a browser. However, many websites embed links to their sites in other frequently used areas. It would be interesting to research movement patterns between sites and why some some websites act as entryways into others.
Devices as Digital Homes
I’d like to explore the concept of transposing the activities of a device such as a laptop or phone onto a digital space, more specifically the home.
With this analogy, interesting parallels can be made:
One could think of the websites and apps we use regularly as rooms in our digital house. Just like rooms, we spend different amounts of time in different rooms and use for varying purposes.
For instance, one can spend hours in the living room doing next to nothing, but may only go into the kitchen to prepare food. Similarly, I spend long periods of time passively scrolling through facebook, but only go to gmail for short periods periods of time to contact specific people.
These rooms make up a larger floor plan. Just as someone’s house reveals information about themselves, I’ll predict that someone’s digital floor plans will reflect their habits, values, and personality.
Just as we move from room to room via doors or openings, we must move from various applications to others. However, the way that we do this is not always as straightforward as typing a URL into a browser. Sometimes one website will link to another, and the user will move through them without even realizing it.
The final factor to consider is how people occupy the digital rooms that their in. Although one cannot be in more than one physical room at a time, some houses contain open floor plans where one can, for example, work in the kitchen while overhearing the conversation in the kitchen. Digital applications can work in a similar. One can have his or her Spotify playing while writing a paper on google docs, or receive text message notifications while checking their email.
I’d like to map out a few (2–5) people’s digital homes, taking into consideration the factors mentioned above. I’ll gather most of my information from user interviews, where I will ask questions pertaining to the four categories mentioned above. For consistency’s sake, I think that I will limit consideration of ‘devices’ to personal laptops (although this is subject to change)
The interviews will probably go something like this:
- What websites/applications do you use the most? (identify the primary ‘rooms’ in the house)
- What purposes do you use them for? (categorize the ‘rooms’ into various types, ex dining room, kitchen, living room, bathroom)
- How often do you use each app/website? (determine the relative size of each ‘room’)
- How do you access each app/website? (identify ‘doors’)
- What prompts you to visit each site? (further identify ‘doors’)
- Do you ever find yourself moving between apps/sites without realizing it? (find hidden ‘doors’ or back entrances)
- Do you ever find yourself multitasking or using different apps/websites at once? If so, how? (determine what ‘rooms’ should be placed close together, if separated at all)
- Do some apps/websites run in the background while others are at the forefront of your attention? What are some examples of these? (identify what possible windows or open walls exist)
From these interviews, I plan on constructing visual maps of people’s digital homes. From these maps, I foresee gaining a better sense of how people access and use digital products, identify possible that occupy similar spaces in people’s digital homes, and perhaps spark inquiries about what these products will look like and how they will interact in AR/VR.
I ended up interviewing three people. Each interview followed a 5 step process.
Step 1: Determine Most Used Apps
First, I would ask each individual to open up their phones, go into settings, then battery usage, and show me what their most used apps were for the past day or week.
Step 2: Discuss App Usage
After listing the apps, I would go down the list and ask how and why the individual used each one.
Step 3: Discover What Prompts Entrance to Apps
I would then go through the list of apps again, now specifically asking what prompts the users to enter these apps (is it built into a specific time of day, due to receiving a notification, or simply boredom).
Step 4: Evaluate Multitasking
Finally, I would go through the list one last time and ask if and how the individuals multitask while on the apps, or if they are completely engaged while using them. I would also ask how likely the users are to leave each app if he/she receives an external notification while in the app.
Step 5: Look at App Organization
Lastly, I would ask the users to take out their phones again and briefly discuss how they chose to organize their apps and what that might reveal about their usage habits.
Here are the raw transcriptions that resulted from each interview.
Person A- Male, Senior at CMU, ECE Major
use computer more for work stuff
phone for leisure
what i believe are my most used apps are on my first pages, most accessible apps are on bottom row
- ones that i want most quick access to are on bottom row
- ones that i spend a lot of time on are on first page (based on usage, importance, and ease of access)
- sometime statement of intention (ex don’t use shazam often but when i do want to get to it frequently)
reddit — browsing memes, procrastinating, waiting for something, in bed before i get out of bed or before i fall asleep
- prompts to enter: boredom, desire for entertainment
- can be on it any time, can be texting, checking email, etc while renditting, kind of like an idle state
snapchat — when i think of a joke/something funny, use it to share with people, don’t view that much content. will open snapchat if i get sent a message but won’t scroll through stories like i do on Facebook or reddit. Feel like i use snapchat unconventionaly
- prompts to enter: when i get a notification (someone sent me a snap), from boredom, so find something to share and create content, every once in a while see something worth sharing
- more intentional, if i have snapchat open i have a goal to either send or view a snap, try not to nonchalantly watch snaps, try to watch with audio on, actively engaged, bc when i send snaps i like to include a lot of details, so i like to think that there’s importance in audio. usually don’t feel compelled to put headphones in when have volume on, bc snapchats are so short
spotify — listen to music, usually when i walk back into room tell google home to play music, when i’m walking between classes ill listen to music, usually have it running in the background, am rarely actively on it, doing homework
- prompt to enter: if i know i’m about to walk somewhere (as i’m walking out the door) or right when i get back into my room. Open it to play music when i know ill be spending a few minutes alone and don’t have to pay attention to anything else. Sometime i switch music but usually stay with what i’m playing. Usually pick something and let it play. queue up a playlist.
- usually not actively on spotify, almost always in background, if i am actively on spotify it’ll be on desktop, usually will be creating a playlist for discovering new music (even that doesn’t require much work)
messenger — use it for group chats and communicating with groups of people and with people that don’t have iPhones, message ppl i don’t know too well. Don’t scroll through
- props to enter: get a notification or want to contact someone
- send messages, don’t expect immediate response so will close it and go elsewhere
messages — use to text people directly, usually closer friends than on messenger (in order to text someone have to have their number) don’t scroll through.
- prompts to enter: same as messenger. but a notification in messages holds more weight than in messenger. would be ok with letting a notification in messenger sit for a while but if there’s a notification in messages i’ll immediately have to open it. Usually notifications are more important in messages bc its direct (instead of a group chat)
- text, leave app open and wait for immediate response, more actively on it then messenger
facebook — open when i get notifications (on the corner of the app) and don’t like red dots on my app. Usually don’t care about notifications. Will sometimes scroll like on reddit but not as often.
- prompts to enter: if i get a notification on the app, boredom
- scroll through, sometimes like some things, only really scroll of like, rarely create content, occasionally I’ll react to things, similar to reddit kind of idle time
email — most serious think i do on my phone. Normally check on laptop but if i’m walking between classes will sometimes check, if its time sensitive or relevant. Don’t usually write emails on phone, only check. Won’t scroll through content, not that much new content. If i get a notification will check it but wouldn’t scroll through.
- prompts to enter: when I’m expecting an email will check it a lot habitually, checking if I’m forgetting to do anything important. Open phone, check email to see if anything important, and then check reddit, also will get notifications on lock screen, if title is interesting, will check, if i think if something i want to check
- very focused on task at hand, need to make sure i’m covering all of my bases for the day,
- during job season checked email like every hour
- when on email unlikely to get side tracking by notifications (also don’t spend very much time on it)
- open, is there anything important:
- no, close it
- yes, attend to it bc its important
youtube — usually use as redirect from reddit. Reddit will have a youtube video to watch so I’ll click on it on reddit.
Could watch on reddit, but will purposefully open in youtube to up vote or find more similar content. Occasionally go to youtube directly but will usually only do that on laptop.
- prompts to enter: from reddit, occasionally for entertainment (more structured leisure than than reddit, if i know i have an hour instead of a few minutes, videos are distinct chunks of time where reddit you can open and close whenever, a bit more dedication involved, also youtube videos I feel like i have to watch with sound, much more involved process to put on headphones, sometime I will watch in silence but I feel like I’m not getting the full experience)
- completely on it when i’m on it
- would never listen to audio without headphones
- if i get a notification, depends on the notification, depending on what it is, i”ll stay on the video and check it later or pause video and check immediately, also depends on video (how long it is)
google maps — use it for navigation or when I’m hungry i’ll open maps and just search for food. Usually with the intention of getting food but doesn’t mean i’ll end up going to get food bc often I’ll check a restaurant, see if its closing soon and then decide to eat at home. Lately been tracking where i go every day and checking that bc its interesting, checked it only a few times.
- prompts to enter: wanna go somewhere, figure out how to get there, figure out what a place that you’re planning on going to is like right now, very rarely go on google maps to browse, will sometimes do that but only on desktop
- a bit idle, even though i have a clear objective when i have open it, its not as immediate ( for food stuff) it its navigation then I’ll do it while doing other things pertaining to goal (like getting into car). when getting into car to go places will open spotify and google maps to get going.
- another thing is checking how long it will take to get there, very concrete goal in mind
- use cases: food, navigation, seeing how long it will take to get somewhere,
- if i have a plan to go somewhere later today, will check how long it takes to get there, and then later on when its time to go i’ll open it not navigate
clock — use it to set alarms. Wake up to an alarm every day to every night i’ll set an alarm. Sometime for timers for workouts or laundry.
- prompts to enter: right before i got to bed to turn on alarms, before i open the app i always know exactly what i want to do with it, achieve goal and exit
- thinks it has so much use time bc its running in background or on foreground but all i’m doing is looking at it while doing something else like planking
- unlikely to get sidetracked by other notifications, bc so quick of an interaction, open, set alarm, open, check, usually mentally involved
phone — for calls either for picking up a call or making a call to girlfriend or parents. Occasionally will call ahead to a restaurant or something. Will sometimes get spam call.
Person B- Female, Junior at CMU, Design Major
first page is notifacitions/centeral information (bible verse of day, big events i have, weather, when i first wake up immediately what i look at)
next page (like i arrange things on bookshelf, has always stayed consistent). First page has always stayed the same. Has stuff I use most often, on bottom is also what i use most (or what I thought i use most frequently) Kakao talk i use to communicate with family so important to me. Grace to you sermons I listen to during the day also when i go to and from home.
don’t really care about second page, i have it but don’t really use it too much
last page is fb products. don’t like them but have to use them to choose to put them in the back. have space to put them earlier but purposefully don’t put them there.
lock screen notifications: youtube, instagram, wall street journal, kakao talk (only for mom and brother and dad)
Youtube — entertainment, listening to choreography music videos or background music playlist while working, watching videos while eating. Used youtube for protest project.
- prompts to enter: notifications on lock screen from subscribe channels, kind of like a package in the mail and you hear the doorbell, at the end of the day my subscription list grows and i watch it all at once. At the end of the day watch all the new video uploads. Have a time put aside at the end of the day. If i don’t have anything else to do after done with new videos will go to trending and watch those too or will watch recommended videos for similar content.
- bc quality of content is high, visual, motion, sound, I get sucked in and don’t do anything other than view that video, can’t multitask
- as a playlist can multitask.
- if i got a notification while on youtube i’d ignore it
Instagram — scroll while eating or walking, gathering info about things i’m interesting in at that time, recently into this animation artist, would look at his work. Different weeks I have different interests. For research for projects or personal interests. Multiple instagram accounts (public, close friends, persuasion class.
- prompts to enter: like looking at good design/food/pretty people, get notification but is my default social media app, curated feed of your interests. Look at nice photos of nice things and it makes me feel better. Don’t need a prompt to go into instagram, a hobby I like so i just go into it. Between classes I have time to go to la prima, or finish my essay, in moments of empty time, space, or in places where it looks socially unacceptable to not do anything. Feel compelled to fill the space.
- prompts to enter (posts): when another person posts makes me want to post. groupthink mindset. In my personal instagram account when i see other friends post i feel motivated to post (but only perfect people). Only when specific people post am i motivated to post. Or if I’m at a place on vacation or with a group of friends and I feel urge to share it.
- use this more than messenger to communicate, a platform of specific people
- usually mindlessly looking/wandering through, don’t put a lot of value into it, whenever i get a different notification tend to leave, get easily distracted
- the fact that you can scroll so easily without getting hindered makes it easy to leave.
Gmail — Email people, jobs, class, utilities, eye prescriptions, working, email is a place for public portrayal of myself, don’t use it for personal conversations, anyone everyone can contact you. Browse through phone but when i write i use laptop
- prompts to enter: set a time to read email (turned notifications off bc too stressful). Check in morning after read bible and get ready. Constantly check in phone, have natural urge to check it. Look through new emails. Know what I’m expecting, check those, then exit out. Only check emails, don’t normally answer on phone.
- browse only, so very easily distracted to leave gmail app. Not the case on web version. Pretty quick bc just see something and leave.
Spotify — Walking/traveling time, don’t listen to music while i work (going home, coming to school). Have playlists that I always listen to when i go home, like background music, walk to that tempo. Were too many people so became feed of nonsense.
- prompts to enter: i have a set time and place, mostly on commute times, a response to a routine i have, thats what I normally do so i put it on
- almost always multitasking, only use it when commuting, background to physical environment. Specifically for walking home or to class from. Put on a playlist and won’t change it.
Bible — in the morning, when i have my quiet times, is a reading app, spend like 30 mins reading and write in my journal what i think about. Important part of my day, sets the tone for the rest of the day. Sometime listen to it while I’m walking.
- prompts to enter: most structured. Have particular time in day, while drinking morning coffee. Have highlighted verses, have a streak of how many days i’ve used it, in a feed format, verse of the day, has read tab with bible content. In morning read the verse planned on reading. Sometime someone will recommend me a verse and I’ll go to that during another time in the day. Feed is my own history so i go to it a lot, feels very personal. Mostly try to stick with the plan but if i don’t have time or don’t want to read than I’ll go to the feed.
- in the morning i won’t get distracted, try not to leave bc its my only time to do that and its a different part of my day. certain apps have a different value in my life. Bible is part of who I am so i try not to get distracted.
- will also listen when i’m walking home, will listen to when I’m walking home too, more straightforward things i’ll listen to when walking, things i really have to pay attention to understand meaning I’ll do in mornings.
Snapchat — check once in a while, almost stopped using it, friends change over time, started to pile up, instagram is better bc you can curate to specific amount of people
Phone — don’t call too often but when i do either i need an immediate response or its urgent.
- prompts to enter: When someone calls me or when i need to call for appointments. Housing bills, stuff. My friends and family don’t call me too often, but i video call my family. Have a clear goal in mind when using it.
- when calling people, mostly for getiting specific, urgent information, have to focus my attention and not get distracted. depends on who i’m calling. If its extended then I’ll allow myself to get distracted
Camera — Use very often, take photos of anything an everything, mostly about something i find interesting about my environment, or something i want to remember, taking a moment in time i want to remember
- prompter to enter: see something in my environment thats interesting or i want to go back to, motivated to take a picture. bc I’m on the go when I use it I tend to leave the app after i’m done.
Apple Music — bought all the songs, bc i bought it i associate more value with it, set in a specific order with a specific tone
Photos — similar to camera, go back to it to look at it, purposefully take photos over time to look at how they change
- prompts to enter: texting or call my mom, go to it to get photos to send. Go back to look at past photos, prompt is nostalgia, having a bad day, want to post something on instagram, look through what I’ve taken in the past. When I’m reminded of something i did earlier that day and have a moment to look back at it.
- sometimes gets distracted and sends photo to person that is in photo, usually texts it
Find Friends — was at a retreat so was looking at where people were a lot
- prompts to enter: only if i have a plan to see where my friends are at. have a clear goal in mind( look for friend) but then after located friend look at where all other friends are.
- don’t get distracted because highly interesting, equate find friends to protection and safety so feel like need to focus
- after find person I’m looking for look at other people and question what is the person doing there and then will text them being like what are you up to
Messenger — prefer to have face conversation, so when i do talk would rather call, feel like conversation is kind of meaningless, would rather keep that part of life in person
Facebook — just don’t go in there as much, esp during the election was so much negativity really scared me and made me not want to go there ever again, get sucked into a bad loop so turned off
Person C- Female, Junior at CMU, Design Major
notifications on lock screen: poly mail, messenger, Facebook, instagram, cnn, usa today
organize based on categories. non folder things are things i check often and are important for my day to day, not based on much i use, based on how essential it is in my life
intentionally made one page so bottom row doesn’t make that much of a different, bottom row is higher level of importance, then non folders, then folders
spotify — listening to music, discovery of new music, play as ambiance as i go through my day. during tasks such as traveling to and from places, working with low cognitive load (was a communal experience to share). Trigger happy. Often change songs (pretty much until that song is finished) and then change, will also queue up songs.
- prompts to enter: longer passive moments in my day that i want to provide energy for. also listen to podcasts during long period of time. preemptively open spotify for my walks.
- multitask a lot
twitter — check on casual thoughts from interesting people (professors, designers, political figures, people who i respect the thoughts of) very recent. A good way to get links to related and unrelated news. Will get links to news or opinion articles (ideo, articles about technology). How do i expand my taste in people or my taste in design. Sometimes check in the morning, if i have an hour or so break in the day. Often happen to read articles. Also write my own content.
- prompts to enter: intentionally open up twitter, use is very intentional. I’m about to open instagram and will choose to open instagram again. sometimes during dead time but usually very purposeful about time. want to curate it better.
- depends on importance of notification. very easily distracted while on twitter, my mind focus isn’t very intense
messages — use it to talk to friends, no distinction between messages and messenger, don’t have as many contacts on messenger than on messages. If someone doesn’t message me on one i’ll message them on the other.
- prompts to enter: when i get a text. generally try to reply pretty immediately unless i’m avoiding something, but really try not to put it off, do put callbacks off though.
facebook — to check up on friends, I just spend so much trash time on Facebook, I don’t think I even get any value out of it. Trash videos that i get stuck on show up. Biggest value I get is from events, a lot of friends make events on fb. What my extended friends are doing. Go on Facebook when I’m sitting, prior to getting work done or when I’m bored of work, intentionally transitioning to using twitter when standing in line, waiting for stuff.
- prompts to enter: when I’m standing in line waiting for something i open Facebook without even thinking about it. Rarely with a goal in mind, unless for an event or birthday, just scroll through, sometimes without even reading anything.
- multitask while on Facebook, don’t dedicate focus to in the first place, allow my attention to drag focus from on Facebook. See content as less valuable bc don’t care as much about people generating content.
poly mail — emails. notifications bothers me so i like getting rid of notifications and delete/archive stuff. Check email often to make sure i’m not missing anything. Also get a lot of ads. Only read on my phone unless theres an immediate response needed. I hate sent on my iPhone signature. Usually check when i notice my notifications go up.
- prompts to enter: all reactive. rarely doing input on poly mail on my phone, see a notification and then check. in the morning always check on it, different times of day, notification number is important. If see an important email will go in and check that and then delete all trash emails. Used to work towards 0 notifications
- check email while I’m doing something else if its important
youtube — for music a lot. If i’m thinking about something not on spotify, I’ll listen on youtube. Also live beat music (some of the work music i like is uniquely curated playlist). Also to watch youtube video, but don’t do it often since school started. If interesting video related to conversation with a friend, will watch video together. Sometimes my hair is too wet so while i watch it dry i’ll watch youtube videos. If someone tells me to watch a very specific youtube video in that moment I’ll watch it. When working out, will play a mix of music videos or hype video. Passive pauses in the day. Will be aware of what I’m watching depending on where I am. Will put headphones in if in public
- prompts to enter: with working out its an activity that i use youtube for, other times i think of something i want to watch, sometimes during dead time but only if i have enough time. Usually play music on youtube before going to bed. Spotify will keep going forever but youtube will stop after one, usually have specific goals in mind at school not the case at home.
- always finish the youtube video unless its really important
phone — call people. FaceTime my family a lot, boyfriend before going to bed. If i want to catch up or get someone immediately i prefer to call then to message. Believe in conversations of phone calls more than texts. A lot of lost language in text.
- when someone calls me or when i need someone’s immediate attention. usually have a specific task in mind.
- any time i”m talking or calling with someone will put phone down and just talk to them , if i’m text ing will jump in and out of text
messenger — people that aren’t in my closest circle.
- prompts to enter: notification from someone messaging me
linkedin — job obsessions, look for ways businesses are growing, see what recruiters are posting, rarely read posts bc repetitive and not very insightful. Used to use it for articles but articles are often very surface level. Like twitter better bc it feels more freely expressive.
- prompts to enter: check notifications, get stressed out and check it. Go to notifications immediately and check those. More about looking at what other people are looking at. Less a specific goal and more just I wanna see whats happening. Use linkedin to look up on people from articles you read from twitter
- not clicking with deep intent, always a level of passivity, if top thing on mind is job, will go on linked but with little intention
photos — use a lot to think about what i want to post on instagram or twitter next, when i miss a friend I’ll look at pictures of person or watch videos to remember events. Go on it whenever, but when i do I start going backwards far. Go on to look for something to post and will then get lost going really far back.
- prompts to enter: also showing other people about something interesting in my day, can use as a form of conversations
- also leave easily, unless i”m set to post something on instagram
venmo — transactions for paying for other people’s meals, splitting costs of stuff with roommates.
- prompts to enter: remember to pay people, usually pay back on own accord, try to do things immediately.
App — Room Relationships
Based on the interviews, I then recorded the most frequently used apps and associated each one with a room.
Person A- Male, Senior at CMU, ECE Major
- iPhone 8
- Reddit — Living Room (connects to youtube)
- Snapchat —Kitchen
- Spotify — Lights
- Messenger — Small Balconies
- Messages — Small Balconies
- Email — Foyer
- Youtube — TV Room
Person B- Female, Junior at CMU, Design Major
- iPhone 7
- Youtube — Basement Movie Room
- Instagram — Living Room
- Email —Foyer
- Spotify — Lights
- Bible —Study
- Camera —Stove
- Photos — Kitchen Table (messages balcony near it)
Person C- Female, Junior at CMU, Design Major
- iPhone X
- Spotify — Lighting (lots of little lights instead of one big one)
- Twitter — Living room with many books
- Messages — Small Balconies
- Messenger — Small Balconies
- Facebook —Junk Room
- Polymail — Foyer
- Youtube — Fancier Lighting
- Linkedin — Another living room connected to the first
Creating Floor Plans
Finally, I drafted the floor plans on sketch and compiled them into a presentation.
Many interesting things can be gleamed from the results of this project. I was fascinated with how apps like gmail were used in a very consistent manner while youtube was used differently by each person. Conversely, some spaces, such as the living room or kitchen, were occupied by different apps for each person.
Finally, I found it interesting how people’s floor plans reflected their actions, and in some cases, how they were trying to change their actions. For instance, Person C’s primary space is twitter, which fulfills the role of a library. This was a conscious choice that she was making to avoid what she perceived as wasting time by defaulting to scrolling through facebook.
Making these maps was not always as straightforward as I would have liked. As metaphors, they are bound to be imperfect. However, I greatly enjoyed the process. I feel that if I were to interview more people and construct a wider array of floor plans, interesting discoveries could be made about user patterns and competition among apps.