Prototype v5, user testing, synthesis of results.
This week I…
I had to go back to the drawing board to take the leap from v4 to v5. The triangular structure inherited from the activity system was difficult for users to understand. The triangle depicted the relationships between the contextual factors and how each mediated the other, which is helpful for theory but not application. I restructured the hierarchy of contextual factors relative to the needs for the user experience.
Hierarchy and description of contextual factors.
At the base of the pyramid is Tools, which are system components involved in the activity. Tools represent the minimum system requirements for the interaction to take place, i.e. hardware, software, wi-fi, etc. The next level is Physical Space, the objects in the space as well as the natural and built environment. Physical Space is an important consideration for mixed reality experiences because the digital and physical worlds are experienced by the user at the same time. This category includes some factors required for interaction to take place such as sufficient visible light for holograms to display and defined spaces for spatial tracking, but is also an area to take note of surfaces and furniture, the relationships of connected devices to each other, and other affordances and constraints in the user’s physical environment. The next level is People which includes stakeholders and community members. This category considers secondary users, people in the physical space not interacting directly with the system that can have an impact on or be impacted by the user’s interaction with the system and whose needs are often overlooked in the design process (Alsos & Svanæs, 2011). Included are parties involved in the interaction digitally such as hardware and software providers, third-party data buyers and advertisers. Considering the People in the design process will contribute to the design of user experiences that support collaboration and sharing or security and privacy as needed. The apex of the hierarchy is User Needs such as preferences and social norms. I renamed it since “Rules” caused confusion for users, and many of the findings in that category pointed to implicit user needs and pain points.
Once I established the relationships of the contextual factors to each other, I sketched out ways to visualize them while focusing on the user journey. I looked at diagrams of ecosystems for inspiration on how to map out relationships in complex interdependent systems. I also separated User Input from the Tools category and placed it next to the figure of the user, interfacing with the Touchpoint of the system and pointing toward the user’s Goal.
The resulting Context Map diagram provides a framework for describing the context in which a human interacts with a system.
I then created a worksheet version of the Context Map as an approachable tool for use in the design process.
When I completed the Context Map worksheet for the HoloLens case study I could see the value in highlighting the user journey at the top above all else and stacking the contextual factors in relative importance. The 8.5x11 worksheet version seems more approachable and easier to fill out multiple worksheets for various contexts throughout a user journey.
I returned to the graduate-level UX course at NYU Tandon School of Engineering for another round of user testing. I walked them through the hierarchy of contextual factors and the Context Map diagram, and how these informed the 8.5x11 worksheet version in front of them. Then I asked them to complete the worksheet with the same scenario: a designer working at a desktop computer with a 3D CAD model of a motorcycle, then transferring it to a hologram and interacting with it in physical space. After the exercise, students shared their experience using the new version and asked questions about areas they had difficulty understanding.
Finally, 16 students completed a brief 9-question survey to evaluate the Context Map. Questions 1-5 used a Likert scale to collect a range of responses and intensity of agreement or disagreement.
Finally Question 9 was multiple choice and asked: Which of the following best describes your background? Check all that apply: Design, Engineering, Social Science, Other.
The survey results show that this version of the Context Map worksheet was easier to understand. While the previous version was challenging for some students to translate the information in the scenario to the worksheet, this time 75% of respondents agreed or strongly agreed with the statement “I understood how to use the Context Map worksheet for the scenario.” A total of 62% of students reported that they would use the Context Map in their projects. 56% found the Context Map useful for communicating with stakeholders, however 31% reported they were neutral. This sizeable number and the answers from the open response questions suggest students may have been unfamiliar with the term.
Most students identified their background was in Design or both Design and Engineering, and positive responses correlated with these respondents. Negative responses correlated with those who identified their background was in Engineering. This finding points to a gap in reaching this particular audience and suggests why some were unfamiliar with or in disagreement with the terminology, logic, or visual representation of the Context Map.
This week I met with DeAngela to update her on the project since she last saw it in December. At that time she raised a good question about why it had to be a head-mounted display, and that she personally would never want to wear something like that over her eyes. This point made me question my assumptions about the experience I was prototyping and take a step back to look at the range of mixed reality environments and seek new ways to design for them regardless of the method of delivery. She emphasized the importance of the user journey at the top of the Context Map and encouraged me to push through this final iteration.
I met with Dana to discuss ways to approach this iteration that pushed beyond the old activity system or a basic user journey. She showed me some of the ways her UX students were diagramming a range of dimensions such as gesture input vs. voice input. We looked at some visualizations for inspiration and went back to the idea of ecosystems, and she encouraged me to come up with something we haven’t seen before.