Ellipse

A mobile application that influences sustainable purchasing behaviors on electronic devices.

My Role: Lead UX/UI Designer, Project Manager

I was in charge of ideating and defining project scope, leading the design process, and UI (design system with component libraries) and UX design execution.

Responsibilities: Usability tests, Wireframes, User-flows, Prototype, Information Architecture, Concept Development, Ideation, UX Research, User Experience Design, User Interface Design

Timeline: 6 month

Software: Miro, Figma, Adobe Illustrator, After Effects

Advised by: Kim Pimmel | Adobe

Senior Product Design Lead, Augmented Reality

Design Challenge

The increase consumption of electronics in modern world causes negative effects on air, soil, water and humans health even after being recycled.

How might we encourage sustainable electronic consumption at the point of purchase?

Context

This project is a capstone project of the University of Washington's MHCI+D program.

Why e-waste?

We noticed the dramatically accelerating pace in the development of new technologies and found out there’s a huge negative impact on sustainable development, which is e-waste. 

resident's platform using ipad. Home page mockup

Design Response

Ellipse is a mobile application that incentivizes consumers to extend the use of life of their electronic devices in order to curb the global e-waste problem by utilizing gamification, behavioral nudges, and financial incentives.

Key Features

1. Point Reward System

Ellipse rewards users with points for extending the life of their electronics daily. The longer users use their electronics, the more points they earn. Users can also earn points by taking actions that relate to e-waste, such as reading articles on the news feed, and repairing and recycling their electronics.

In addition, the points can be redeemed on Ellipse for both new and refurbished products.

2. Leaderboard

Ellipse gamifies the usage of electronics through a leaderboard that shows how long other users are using the same devices, to encourage users to extend the life of their devices.

3. Education

The first step toward change is awareness. Ellipse offers e-waste news articles on the home page for users to learn more about the e-waste issue and how to help.

How was it made?

6 Months From Vision To Launch

Research

Initial Research

Developments in electronics have led to increased usage of electronic products across the world and it increases in electronic waste or e-waste. Furthermore, formal recycling of e-waste is an expensive and slow process. With the recent limitations to export e-waste, recycling efforts are being outpaced by the mass consumption and planned obsolescence of the manufacturer.

Organized data from literature reviews

Semi-structured Interviews and SME Interviews

Our goal was to understand Millennials’ shopping behaviors and decision factors when purchasing electronics, in order to understand why Millennials neglect to consider the environmental impact of purchasing small electronic devices.

Learning from professionals

We spoke first with three subject matter experts (SMEs) and then conducted 12 interviews with potential users in our target group (millennials in the US with moderate to high incomes).

Key Insights

1. Consumers have a lack of trust for used and refurbished devices.

"I prefer buying a new product because I'm not sure about the quality of refurbished or something that has been used." - Participant C
"I'm not entirely convinced whether if you buy a refurbished phone you're going to have the same." 
- Participant D
"I personally don't like buying second handed devices because I don't know the history of the device." 
- Participant F

2. Consumers trust that the manufactures are being sustainable on their behalf.

"I trust that apple does that for me. I know that they consider a lot about sustainability." - Participant D
"I assume that they are doing proper recycling for the devices so I haven't really explored sustainable options." - Participant H

3. People tend not to recycle old items out of a lack of awareness on the problem and how to recycle.

"I don't know how to properly dispose them. I probably should have sold them but I didn't do that because it was too much trouble and I don't know how to clear them." - Participant A

4. Functionality is the most important factor when it comes to electronics.

"It's all about the performance." - Participant A
"If I had a warranty I will buy a refurbished product so if it had problems I can send it back." - Participant C

Synthesized data from interview quotes and insights

View Research Report

Ideation & Downselection

Ideation

As a team, we generated 60 design concepts to target the problems that we found.

Concept sketches with short descriptions

Downselection

We applied several ways of affinity mapping to synthesize our data to lead the downselection process. Finally, there were three concepts that aligned the most with our design principles, motivational, informative, and convenient. Using those principles, we were able to narrow to three concepts that best-aligned with our goals:

Three downselected concept sketches with description sticky notes

(Click on the image below to view full size image)
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Initial Concept

Our initial concept was a mobile AR application that uses one of the behavioral change methods, "Incentivize behavior by allowing a user to achieve status and prestige through achievement badges to share on social media”, as an incentive for users to extend the life of their devices. In addition, this solution might provide something fun with the AR camera to keep users on the app.

Initial concept storyboard

Initial Concept Testing

Concept testing with strangers in Seattle

We recruited and conducted testing with millennials of medium to high income in Seattle with various backgrounds to test the viability of the product. I led the team to derive the testings into actionable insights to guide ongoing design direction.

WHAT WE LEARNED

1. Even though AR is fun, it might not be the best response for our design challenge.

"If the goal of the project is to influence as many people as possible, AR will limit the number of individuals we can impact." - Kim Pimmel (Advisor)

"AR currently can only recognize classes of objects and would require extra work for users to register their devices." - Kim Pimmel (Advisor)

2. Not everyone is incentivized by achievement badges.

"I don't think I would ever share or post the badges on my social media." - Participant #4

3.The time it takes to gain points is too long to keep users engaged.

"6 month is too long, I would be bored." - Participant #7

HOW WE RESPONDED

1. Removed the AR feature.

We realized the barrier entry for AR would limit/reduce the impact we wanted to have and we didn't want people to get new phones just to able to use our app.

2. Made sharing to social media optional and created more badges to incentivize users to put in more effort to collect different badges.

"Habit tracking is powerful because it leverages multiple laws of behavior change. It simultaneously makes a behavior obvious, attractive, and satisfying." - Atomic Habit

3. Created a daily point system and other ways to earn points, like reading articles or participate in e-waste related activities.

Information Architecture

I created an Information Architecture to help the team and users to navigate to the information they need in the easiest way possible.

Design Process

I led the UX and UI design of Ellipse to make sure our design is user-centered and would keep users engaged and motivated to extend the life of their electronics, which is our goal for this product.

Wireframe

I led the wireframes from low-fidelity to high-fidelity for usability testing. We identified the hierarchy of the information and made sure the content ties back to all the findings we derived from our research and testing.

I created the low fidelity wireframe sketches and first version digital wireframes

Usability testing

We conducted four usability testing with our high-fidelity wireframes. This helped us pinpoint unclear elements and refined our understanding of users’ perspectives.

I led and facilitated the usability testings

Design System

As we iterated and refined, I created our visual design system based on the color, font, and industry research I did.

Increasing Fidelity

We moved from low-fidelity prototypes into high-fidelity interactive prototypes as we tested, getting closer and closer to our final design.

Home page wireframe evolutions

(Click on the image below to view other low to high fidelity screens)
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Final Design

(Scroll down for clickable full size images)

The goal of our project is to better inform consumers of the effect of their purchases and encourage sustainable consumption of electronic devices.

Screen flow

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Reflections & Further Considerations

Ask what is the experience we want people to have?

Even though the goal of Ellipse is to try to change the purchasing behavior to curb the global e-waste problem, people are still the most important factor. It is crucial to constantly put ourselves in users' shoes to remind ourselves of the needs and wants of users. By understanding their desires and goals, we can provide a more user-centered design.

Be clear about the "why" behind every decision.

Why do we need AR? Does it have to be AR to achieve our goals? That was the question we kept asking ourselves for months. Even though the team really wanted to design an AR app, we realized that is not fully aligned with our design principles and user needs. It was a great learning experience to put what we wanted to do aside and focus on what is the best for the product and people.

Be open. Be curious. Don't stop learning.

Design is not only about design. I was really glad that besides all the research readings we did for the project, I was also reading other books outside of the project. The book Atomic Habits I read in my spare time turned out to help our project a lot since we were using behavioral change as our main strategy for Ellipse. It is important to be open and curious and not limit ourselves in the box so we can explore more possibilities and use our creativity fully.

More Work