Prototyping Smart Whiteboard — UX Case Study

Tiffany I Ting Tseng
Jul 30 · 10 min read

Exploring, implying, and evaluating design for home base IoT device


This project focused on the development of a “Homebase 2.0”, enhancing an existing “Homebase” product which acted as a digital photo frame and message board for a household. The decided design for this enhancement is a “HomeMap” which uses Google Beacon technology to monitor and display the location of individuals on an ambient map display of the house and facilitates assigning tasks such as household chores.

Design Exploration

Our teammates focus on the problem we want to address first to decide our goal for the product. Because everyone has a cellphone, we started to think that there should be something that a cellphone could not achieve at home. With this belief in our mind, we could conduct our 10+10 ideas. After our first discussion at class about each group member’s 10+10, we built our user persona gradually and shared the same objective. By having consensus, each group member could refine our 10+10 idea and sketch more details. Then we could bring our final sketch from the individual. During our second discussion at class, we finished the first prototyping and started evaluation from each group member. We also had the prototype tested by other groups, and they also provided valuable opinions for our product. Having such great ideas sharing, our next meeting at the library we could quickly came up with our final prototype and had it been evaluated. We are proud of our product because it is technical, social and economic feasible. It has a very clear and simple idea and could be accomplished in an interesting way. The ultimate goal behind our product is addressing poor communication and improving interaction among family member. Our product could also be used in other fields like the school laboratory and business office. In the following content, we just focus on the Homebase scenario.

10+10 ideation

During our 10+10 discussion process. We came up with some consensus about the goals for our Homebase v2.0:

  1. Shared System: the product should be a device that every member of the family can use it together or separately.
  2. Minimal interaction required: the device should display some essential or useful information automatically that anyone could glance at the information at passing.
  3. Improve communication: the device should focus on address the problem of poor communication between family member.
  4. Reminders/Distribution of tasks: we decided that two main conversation topics among family member are about message-leaving and task distribution.
  5. Scheduling: we decide that since we use a map to locate the family member and task, we also need a scheduling model like a calendar.

Here are some features for the product:

  1. The users would be the family that is made up of children and younger parents, so the height of the device should be suitable for children.
  2. The product would work like a whiteboard combined with IoT device like beacons that use Bluetooth for connecting.
  3. The product including a wearable device that interacted with beacons to identify the user’s location.
  4. The main screen of the whiteboard is a dynamic map that would display every member’s location at home.
  5. The push notification on the cellphone that could help notify family member with the information updated on the whiteboard.

We also discussed the technology that our product would apply:

  1. Smart Pens/Markers that children could easily use or touch screen, we would like children using their hands to sketch and write.
  2. Ink-style always on display: for increasing user experience for children, we want our dynamic map could design like Marauder’s Map in Harry Potter.
  3. Low power mode when not using: even though users could glance and grasp some information, we also want the product could achieve power efficiency.
  4. Ambient Display: since we use beacons to position a user’s location, we can detect them when users are standing in front of the product. Then we could perform an ambient display screen.


Final Selected Concept

Our final selected concept is a map-based, message board, and mission-oriented smart home hub. We also defined the name of the product: Overlooked. We got this idea from a popular video game on Nintendo Switch: Overcooked. Every character in the game has the mission that must be completed to continue the game, so as in our family. Each family member has a task that must be done. For example, do the dishes, do the laundry, take out the trash bin, play with kids..etc. The goal for our product is to improve the communication of family members and help them distribute the daily chores. Besides, using gamification interface design to make sure that users would like to participate in. We also designed the health meter inside the wearable device to monitor children’s body since they are not articulate when they are sick. In addition, the wearable device could detect the interaction between two people, so we could know if these two people are spending time together or not. For achieving our aims, we also add some model that could incentivize everyone. So for each family member, they can know the health status by checking the hearts display on the main screen. Moreover, there are points each member earned the show after the profile picture. Here is the list of the product interface:

  1. Ambient Display : the ambient display is a dynamic 2D map Ink-style designed. You can see everyone’s location on it. When information is updated, the whiteboard would display LED flash to attract family members taking a look.
  2. Main Page: when someone approaching the screen, the beacon on the top of the screen could identify who is standing there, and then the screen would display the personal information that is for the specific member. The main page is designed as a 2.5D map for improving the pleasure of using and gamification for kids. There are profiles with picture, message and task numbers, color marks indicating they are at home or not, hearts index showing the health status and coin icons showing the points earned.
  3. Store Page: when family members finish their task, they would get points as a reward. They can use the points in the store page to exchange the real reward in the physical world like ice cream or a brand new bicycle. The choices in the store are decided and agreed by each family member and marked with different prices. And when children redeem the points, push notification would be sent to parents’ cellphone.

Key Findings from Initial Critiques and Walkthroughs

Our initial critiques focus on some kinds of the issue listed below:

  1. In the initial design, each of our group members provides many ideas. For example, we also connected the IoT system that could notify the expiration date of food on the screen and combined with a security system that could prevent a stranger from getting into the house. After our discussion, we decided to remove them from our main function and put them into our extensional function because of some reason. First, it is too complicated for our intended audience — children. Second, each feature adds cost that increases the price of the product so there is a practical need for limited features.
  2. We have an issue with the theme of our product. Because of it, not harmony to see an ink-style map with 2.5D gamification interface at the same product. We decided to adjust the gamification idea and try to keep the map simplicity. Thus we only kept the 2.5D idea on the main screen. So on ambient display, there is a 2D dynamic map, and on the main page when someone is watching the screen, there is a 2.5D dynamic map for showing the height information in the house.
  3. We also discussed the layout of the screen. Some group members thought that since it is for children to use, we should keep the interface as easy to understand as possible. So the screen should display map only. Some group members thought that there should be some basic information displayed on the screen like the message memo and task list around the map. We finally decided to put the map only screen on ambient display and dashboard screen on the main page.


After we created an initial prototype to test our designs internally, we moved on to a physical prototype to make it easier for testing with users. This was necessary for them to understand the product from a more realistic perspective in terms of ease of use, size, and functionality.

Significant Changes from Earlier Rounds Based on Walkthroughs

We perform earlier rounds on the class on Feb 27. Our two participants were two students in the prototyping class. Based on their professional background, they provided the feedback as the list below:

  1. The product is very suitable for family with kids, but it could be used for a business project also.
  2. The map should combine outside locations also. So chores like picking up kids could be displayed on the map.
  3. The users think the interface is easy to use.
  4. The users think that there should be notifications for parents to notify their kids.
  5. The device should combine with voice recognition for younger kids because they are not familiar with touch screens.


Evaluation of the prototype was done as the final step of the project, to evaluate the effectiveness of the current implementation and determine possible improvements. With additional capacity, the findings from the evaluation process could be iterated upon to refine the product.

Key Findings and Patterns that May Have Emerged

Users feedback refined the target demographic for this product to being families with children from elementary to middle school age, especially those with a single parent or in which both parents work. The testing supported the desired functionality, but concerns were raised about privacy issues for users. Significant feedback from each testing session is listed below.

  1. The location of the people was understood.
  2. Tasks on the map needed initial prompts but were appreciated by users once used.
  3. The option of using the touch screen seemed more suitable to users than just markers
  4. Users can not find where can they post a message.
  5. There should be a checkbox to show whether the task is completed or not.
  6. The tasks should be more obvious than the message.
  7. Users want to add store items.
  8. Does the number on the profile mean message or task?
  9. Is there any time limited for the task?
  10. The map should display outside the house also, so the task can be shown for outdoor like buying the grocery or picking up children.
  11. Concerns raised about personal privacy
  12. Target demographic seems to be parents with young children
  13. Concerns were raised about needing to reprogram the system every time the home is rearranged.
  14. Concerns raised about reducing interaction between parent’s and children
  15. Suggested that lighting system/ LEDs could be used on the outside edge to indicate notifications
  16. Users seemed confident that they could quickly learn to use the device but were not confident that older adults would be able to grasp it right away.

Testing allowed for a better understanding of the product in the context of actual use. Users saw the product being useful for the demographic of parents with young children, as well as in businesses and schools. Households with only adults or with older children were seen as unlikely to use the product. The current design seems to have plenty of room for improvement. Clear, large displays with simple interaction should be emphasized in a new design. Further testing within the target demographic would provide insight into larger concerns about privacy and parent-child communications. The intention of the idea and design was positive but the further UI changes are needed to make the experience better for users.

Lessons learned / conclusion

Users generally agreed that the product accomplished the goal of improving household communication, at least in the context of task distribution. A large benefit of testing has been in narrowing the scope of the product. From testing results, the map functionality of the device does not seem to be as useful as the task distribution and reward aspect, so this aspect could be removed to better emphasize the core functionality and reduce the system complexity.

Although the system is targeted towards the home, users implied that it would be useful in the context of businesses or schools as well. The product is focused around management at its core and the concept could be enhanced and refined for a variety of fields. We learned that the revamping an existing design was more tedious than anticipated due to the increased constraints put on previous iterations by users. Creating a more interactive and appealing solution required the engagement of users and special emphasis was required to eliminate the threat of privacy invasion and constant tracking. A more interactive medium especially the tasks provided the sense of credibility to the design to both the parents and the children which was appreciated.

In conclusion, we believe that we are on the right track to improving the existing design by approaching it in an inclusive manner.

Tiffany I Ting Tseng

Written by

IUPUI MS HCI Aug 2018 — May 2020

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