WalkSocial

Walk Social is an iPhone application that connects senior retirees to their community of walkers by enabling location-based encounters with friends and fellow walkers. The interface of the app is designed specifically for our targeted user group, allowing them to make connections through the most simple and direct interaction.

Role: Design Lead
Duration: 02.2011 – 02.2011
Skills: Interaction Design, Prototype
Tools: Fireworks, Illustrator, html

Exploring the problem space

This project began with a set constraint of designing an iPhone application allowing retirees to engage in community building. Given the wide demographic range of “retirees”, we first narrowed it down to the population in their mid 60s and above, the so-called senior retirees. After the clear definition of our target users, we then brainstormed the habits they have or activities they might engage in. Ideas came mostly from the interactions with and the observations made from our parents and grandparents. Some of these include swimming, walking, monitoring investments, brunch, and so on. Out of the list of activities we identified, we look in depth at each of them for connections with our goal – community building.

Setting the focus

We took community building in a direction of allowing people to venture beyond their social norms, to make new friends and build new connections. Going back to that list, we identified that walking is a main type of “social/leisure” activity amongst older generation. Thus we thought this activity would provide a rich space to address our design constraints.

Once the activity is decided we then did a brainstorming session on all the possible user types. We came up with seven different types of potential users each with different scenarios (see below).

On the whiteboard, we then looked at the scenarios and behaviors of these groups and synthesized them down to three consolidated types:

  • Walker Extraordinaire who enjoys walking to stay in shape and likes meeting people
  • Couch Potato who just loves cooking for friends and staying in for a football game
  • Natural Leader who enjoys organizing social events and loves to meet and connect with people

From these types, we generated 3 personas. The personas allow us to constantly empathize with the user and understand their goals throughout the phase of design.

Design

In the process of designing the application, we came up a bunch of ideas and possible features we wanted to incorporate, such as reminder as an exercise motivation, allowing management and creation of walk routes, managing profile and setting route preferences, etc. All of these concepts were sketched out in the first round of wireframes.

We tried to focus on the core competency of the social connections revolving around walking. Going back the goals of the users with the wireframes at hand, we decided to cut down features and make this application as simple as possible, easier for elders to use. This was a very tough process involving intensive discussion amongst our team, considering the rationale behind each feature with respect to individual needs and the overarching goal.

Prototype

The result was a clean and simple interface (see above) that provides the most natural, thought-free interaction experience. The final design of the application consists of only two horizontal layers and each with only a depth of maximum three layers. We made it totally anonymous except for the location information, which reduces the complexity in the interaction with the application. We also designed the flow so that most users won’t have to type anything to use it, only the leaders who organize walks have to do so.

We then printed out individual screens and did a few user-testing to validate our goals. Through these user-testings we also caught and fixed missing parts of the flow. The end result was made into an interactive prototype on Fireworks. Demo along with scenarios can be found on the project website.