Week #5

Assignment #5.1

June 2, 2013

Concept testing: 1 concepts

My gap

In what way might we notice that our phone is ringing even if we cannot hear it?

User needs

  • The Alerter signals that the phone is ringing
  • The Alerter is rather unexpensive
  • The Alerter is easy to install
  • The Alerter is easy to use
  • The Alerter can be installed in different ways
  • The Alerter is unobtrusive
  • The Alterter does not need a power surge

Concept sketches

A couple of weeks ago I combined some ideas into these sketches, labeled A through J:

Last week, with the help of the selection matrix, I chose to pursue "The Waver" (concept A, based on movement), "Kitt's Revenge" and "Tutankhaphone" (concepts E and I, both based on lights). They can all be seen in action here.

Process used to test the concepts

The gap originates from the fact that I often work on the computer while wearing my headphones and listening to some music to cut out the ambience noise, thus losing telephone calls. This is a problem that I share with many colleagues, both at the office and around the world. This gave me an exceptional way to test my concepts: let my colleagues use them directly and tell me what they think of the alternatives.

As all my three prototypes are working, at least in a Wizard-of-Oz sort of way (they don't yet activate when the phone actually rings, but I can easily command them and fake a phone call), I didn't necessarily need to choose only one and make up some hypothetical comparisons, but I could test each and every one of them on the field. All I had to do was very easy:
  • place one of the prototypes in front of one of my colleagues
  • have her work with her headphones on as usual
  • trigger some fake calls every now and then
  • measure the effectivity of the prototype
    • the user actually notices that "the phone is ringing"
    • measure the reaction times
  • ask for feedback
  • repeat all of the above for each prototype
  • repeat all of the above for each user

This was much better than testing concepts on paper, as I could see how the users really used the artefacts and not simply what they wold say, thus reducing both the risk of not describing the artifact properly and the risk of the users saying different things from what they actually think: presenting different artifacts in a pre-alpha state gave them the impression that I had not worked very hard or spent much time on them, thus emotionally detouching the users from the idea of "being kind to avoid hurting my feelings". And this is a plus, because when it happens it's easier to get a sincere feedback. On the other hand, people tend to be condescending if they think you broke your back on something, and while it can be good for your ego and pride it's really bad for the quality of the informations that you get.

The order with which the users tested the three prototypes were different, to obtain a more unbiased and objective evaluaton. Also, all users operated in slightly different environmental conditions, lights and shadows being the most important factors for the sake of my observations.

Chosen concept

I noticed that the different artifacts performed differently in different light conditions: The Waver was the best choice in full light, while Kitt's Revenge performed better in dim rooms. As I already noticed in my personal tests, the paper used for the Tutankhaphone concept shielded the light of the LEDs it contains too much, making the prototype nearly unusable in normal conditions, even if the problem is not related to the concept per se but to the material I chose for the prototype.

So, after the tests on the field, I've decided to blend all the three solutions together: I'll use a servo that will move an arm (like in concept A) with some LEDs on it (like in concept E). This will create an artifact with a broader range of application, without dramatically changing the cost of the solution.

The solution will be, at least in the first iterations, standalone (like in concept I), so that it can be easily moved and it won't add another degree of variablity to the design process. Once the most important problem is addressed (the user notices that the phone is ringing) I'll be able to find the most suitable solution to place the artifact where it best satisfies the user needs.

A very basic implementation of the combined concept, very quickly derived from The Waver with a couple of LEDs attached, is shown in the picture.

No comments: