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Case Study — UX & System Design

240 hours of UX —Nutanix Design Competition Finalist

Designing a product from scratch in 10 days!

Published in
11 min readMar 21, 2020

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Too long; didn’t read?

This is a case study of designing an MVP (Minimal Viable Product) from scratch in 10 days — A journey starting from a dark room going through intense research and analysis to designing an empirical solution based on rational hypothesis & modern design thinking.

The Theme

We are sharing and consuming enormous amounts of data — impacting our perception of others and vice versa. Similar to rating systems like CIBIL (India), Credit scores(USA) developed and used by financial institutions, there have been talks of a social rating system. It would be interesting to consider how such a system could evaluate individuals on factors ranging from personal themes such as health, personal finance to broader ones like carbon footprint, crime and more.

For this Nutanix Design challenge, we will question what such a system for collecting and quantifying this information could look or function like.

This theme was launched in the month of February by Nutanix on the Nutanix Design Competition Website. Further, the problem statement was released on the 6th of March with a deadline of 18th March — 12 days!

Problem Statement

The problem was to design an interface that helps the Mayor to monitor the city’s state, identify issues & suggest solutions and rate the citizens across multiple parameters. The working of this interface depends on the rating system used to rate the citizens, thus appending the problem statement to imagining the functioning of a social rating system, which will serve as a foundation for designing the interface.

The goal was to make it easier for the Mayor to monitor the citizens’ social behavior and encourage responsible living by implementing a social incentive system depending on the citizens’ social rating.

The Process

Time for some scribble-dribble :P

To approach this problem, I divided it into two parts:

  1. Designing a social rating system and
  2. Designing an interface based on that system.

The timeline was of 12 days, and the solution might differ from the current solution depending on the available time.

The first step? Google!

Research — Rating Systems

I started with the Chinese Social Rating System and credit scores like the FICO and the CIBIL. I looked upon the basic functioning of these scores and how these scores are used to create an incentive-based rating system.

I analyzed the similarity between these scores, their calculation, and how these are used to help the banks and the Chinese government to monitor and provide incentives to the score-holders.

Let’s look into the detailed analysis of all three scores!

Credit scores

Credit scores help lenders decide whether or not to approve loan applications and determine what loan terms to offer. The score is generated by an algorithm using information from your credit reports, which summarize your borrowing history.

Credit indexes evaluate basic factors like credit mix, new credit, length of credit history, payment history and current debt with different weights for each and provide a single 3 digit number ranging from 300 to 850–900.

Credit scores are used to calculate interest rates and credit risks linked to an individual depending on the value of the score. Generally, a 650+ value is considered good and anything below 620 may be considered risky.

The Chinese Social Rating System

Based loosely on the principles used in traditional credit scoring, this system goes several steps further to score you as a citizen and assesses how much you contribute to/hinder society.

Linked to a mobile payment app that’s widely used in China (similar to Apple Pay or Google Wallet), the system builds up a profile of each individual and what they’re spending their hard-earned Yuan on. The app is also connected to a social media profile and can be linked to a driving license and car registration.

Unlike credit scoring in the UK (for the most part), what you can be penalized for is not restricted to your borrowing and repayment history. If you act in a way that is deemed untoward to your fellow countryman, you could soon start to find life getting that little bit less comfortable.

The moral thinking behind the social rating system means that if you do things that are perceived to make you a ‘good’ citizen, you will be rewarded with a higher score — so pay your bills on time, obey the law and make sure you don’t publicly criticize the government, and you should have nothing to fear.

Things that will improve the score:

  • Paying bills on time
  • Buying Chinese-made goods
  • Praising the government on social media
  • Being friends with other high-scorers on social media
  • Donating to charity
  • Looking after your family

Potential perks of a good social score:

  • Fast-tracked visa applications
  • Discounted energy & insurance costs
  • Better interest rates from an associated lender
  • Getting higher visibility on dating apps

In a bid to encourage greater integration within society, your behavior can be monitored and, if necessary, punished by lowering your score and in some instances by receiving an on-the-spot fine via text message.

Things that will harm your social score:

  • Bad driving
  • Playing video games
  • Befriending people with a low social score
  • Smoking in non-smoking areas
  • Leaving a bike on a footpath
  • Insincere apologies

Potential punishments for a bad social score:

  • Restricted internet access
  • It could become more difficult to purchase a property
  • Harder to get a job in state-run businesses
  • More difficult for your children to get into good schools
  • Limited access to flights and train travel
  • Restrictions on certain consumer goods
  • Restricted access to some hotels
  • Having your name placed on a public blacklist

As you might expect, the system has been hailed as a success by some people, and a hindrance by others.

Comparing both systems

Both scores evaluate certain factors at different weights in an algorithm that returns an index, that is used to avail certain benefits or punishments for the score-holder.

The main difference? Well, your credit report doesn’t care how bad a driver you are or how many hours a day you spend playing video games. It is formed from information that lenders deem useful to determine how likely you are to default on a payment if they lend you money.

Social Rating System — My Design

A system where several social/civic services need certain threshold values of the Social Rating Index (SRI) for them to be accessed. Anyone having a lower score may not be allowed to access it at all or maybe allowed after penalizing (financially or otherwise).

SRI depends on the social behavior of an individual which can be monitored by technological aids, by connecting this system to other systems like social media profile, driving license, car registration, water & electricity bills, etc.

The Major Parameters

Unlike credit score, social score depends on a lot of factors and can be calculated in a number of ways depending on the domain of usage. So after boiling down multiple parameters, I categorized them under 4 major categories — Law, Environment, Civic, Economy, which can be used to calculate the SRI.

Some examples:

  • Environmental — Solar panels at home; Usage of water and electricity; Usage of public transport
  • Economic — Donation and credit history; In the Indian context, what % of their transactions are digital
  • Civic — Parking at designated parking spots; Avoiding littering; Reporting complaints on time
  • Law — Criminal and Traffic records

Note: Apart from these 4 four major parameters, there is a possibility of more factors as well, but due to the time constraints, I limited my research only to these.

How to acquire the Data?

All this data can be collected from various sources such as:

  • Water and electricity bills can roughly reflect the water and energy conservation index of a citizen.
  • The payment behavior can be monitored from the records of ATM transactions and digital payments.
  • Law index can be judged by the citizens’ criminal records which can be collected by connecting this system to the police and traffic systems, and every citizen can be tracked based on their license and car registration.
  • Social media can be a big aid in monitoring citizens’ responsible behavior. For example, if someone spills too much water on Holi or over speeds their vehicles and posts it, such activities, if caught, will have a negative effect on the SRI. Technological limitations are a blocker for this kind of analysis but maybe with enough time and resources, it is possible to overcome such limitations. Although, I believe this is not practical enough :P

Calculation of SRI

Let’s consider a citizen commits a traffic violation. The car number plate is read and the challan is issued. This adds up to the record of the citizen and the LAW index of that citizen is drops by 15 points (say) and the CIV index drops by 8 points (say). Thus the final SRI (which is calculated using these parameters — LAW, ECO, ENV, CIV) drops.

The algorithm is a complex mathematical equation created to find SRI using input arguments — LAW, ECO, ENV, CIV with different weights of each. This weightage configuration can be altered for a specific parameter-based analysis. For example, in a city environment might not be the primary concern but maybe increasing the crime rate is. So, the mayor can change the configuration to see crime centric analysis of the city or maybe change the configuration to environment centric analysis whenever required.

Steps involved in the calculation of SRI

Research — The Interface

So… I started with knowing the user — The Mayor. I had no idea of the Mayor or his working pattern i.e. roles & responsibilities. Fortunately, I had two of my siblings working in the Bhopal Municipal Corporation; although I wasn’t able to speak with the mayor directly, I got really good insights about the Mayor.

Knowing the Mayor

The role and responsibilities of a Mayor differ from state to state. Assuming the city of Bhopal, the mayor has a unique working pattern. Major responsibilities are Policymaking (budget booking), raising public issues and approving proposals. The Mayor in Bhopal does not have financial powers i.e. payments need not be approved by him.

In a city, a Ward consists of 2–3 colonies which is managed by a Councillor. All these councilors and the mayor make up the council which discusses and approves the proposals. Every mayor has 60–80 councilors under him in a big city like Bhopal.

There exists a Mayor Helpline which is handled by a team of operators that receives 400–500 public complaints a day. The complaints are then forwarded to respective departments like Urban Development, PWD, RRDA, PCB, etc.

I also got a chance to look at the CM helpline portal through the officers’ login access, to have a look at how complaints at a state level are managed and resolved and how the portal aids these processes.

The Major Tasks

After getting all the above information, I was able to boil out these major tasks:

  • Check the performance of the city and identify issues
  • Raise issues and resolve them
  • View and Approve proposals
  • View the citizens’ complaints
  • Make the annual city budget

Now it was time to know the city!

The City’s Performance

The next step was establishing a system of indicators for measuring performance development of the city. According to

  • Population (mortality, fertility, population projections)
  • Economic participation (employment, unemployment, vacancies)
  • Poverty (access to bank accounts, children poverty, financial hardship, low-income households)
  • Health (life expectancy, inability to work)
  • Environment (green environment, open space, air quality, recycling)
  • Transport (transport volume, journeys to work and school, traffic accidents, cycling)
  • Education (children education, the highest qualification obtained, the qualification of the working population, training of young people)
  • Safety of local communities (overall level of crime, antisocial behavior, violence, unintentional injuries)
  • Cultural vitality (involvement in sport and cultural events)

How to analyze these indicators?

Further, to analyze these indicators in detail, tools can be developed which can be connected to respective departments/boards and their database as well as the SRI database. All of these can be accessed by the Mayor in the city management tool, thus helping her to identify issues in the city.

wipes forehead* phewww…

The Solution

The following solution is based on the following assumptions:

  • The city has an efficient traffic surveillance system, fully equipped with high-speed cameras which can read car number plates
  • The different municipal departments have their fully functional databases and management tools which are updated regularly
  • The Mayor is comfortable in using computers and is fairly experienced in solving the city’s problems
  • There is the availability of the required technology to track and monitor citizens
  • The major population of the city is digitally active and people can raise complaints online

*drum rolls* presenting…

An MVP for identifying the city’s issues and suggesting solutions
The workflow of the Mayor while using this tool
The Mayor analyses the trends and suspects an issue
She may then use some of these tools to identify the location and verify the issue
Population Tool modal — This can give insights about the population distribution according to the Social Rating Index (SRI) and also sort the different localities according to the change in SRI of the population
If the Mayor feels the need to raise an issue, she can use the Activity Monitor
Constant Monitoring may result in higher chances of resolving the issue

The Scenario

Let’s see how this design solves the problem!

Before the implementation of SRI and Cimba, there were several open ends where the issue wasn’t getting resolved…
As you can see the open ends are closed now, hence the chances of the resolution of an issue are supposed to increase!
The Activity monitor aids communication without disturbing the authority & hierarchy of the Municipal Department

Conclusion

Another fun project… I felt this was a quite realistic problem statement and quite research-intensive. A major part of the research was conducted on the internet which of course is not an authentic source if one is not experienced enough.

Talking about the process, I believe I may have been a bit more deviated towards the social rating system research & design. Also while solving I worked with that one task, I chose in my mind, so the design may be a bit biased towards this one workflow, which may cause issues during the actual design and development of the product.

I took a lot of assumptions and also considered the city of Bhopal as a practical reference for Mayor’s research, which was conducted on phone, and all of this is based on my understanding of the conversation I had on the phone. This is an MVP based on a hypothesis, so once this product is shipped, further changes can be made depending on the data collected. I’ve tried to keep the design scalable wherever possible like the number of tools, the major parameters, etc. can be altered depending on further ground research and insights.

Also, the article is a bit heavy on text, so if you have made it this far… I appreciate your patience. Thanks for reading :)

Want to learn more?

Want to get an industry-recognized Course Certificate in UX Design, Design Thinking, UI Design, or another related design topic? Online UX courses from the Interaction Design Foundation can provide you with industry-relevant skills to advance your UX career. For example, Design Thinking, Become a UX Designer from Scratch, Conducting Usability Testing or User Research — Methods and Best Practices are some of the most popular courses. Good luck on your learning journey!

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