A platform that creates meaningful relationships between staff and residents at assisted living.

Team: Ann Lei, Chloe Liang, Roz Hillenbrand

Responsibilities: UX Research, Concept Development, Ideation, Information Architecture, User Interface Design, User Experience Design, Prototype

Timeline: 10 weeks

Software: Miro, Figma

Design Challenge

Formal home health care has become more widespread but the staff and resident community relationships are often strained, especially during the COVID-19 pandemic in 2020.

How might we encourage meaningful social interactions between assisted living residents, who are cognitively capable and technologically comfortable, and the staff that cares for them?

resident's platform using ipad. Home page mockup

Design Response

Story is a platform that increases meaningful relationships between staff and residents at assisted living by encouraging them to share and see the unique stories from each other. It is utilizing a multi-faceted approach of engaging residents though a tablet E-Paper with channels of information from their community, staff, and family, prompting staff through a mobile portal, and combined into an interactive community wall that is synced with stories and information from both residents and staff members.

codeFair's full user flow mockup in an dark grey iMac desktop

Key Features

1. E-paper for resident

Story provides prompts to give incentives for users to share more unique stories. We prioritize accessibility for the elderly to easily put down stories with voice recording, as well as allow users to adjust text sizes with the button on the left side. With the AI engine filter, we make sure the stories that are shared on the wall are respectful.

2. Staff Portal

Story offers a mobile app version to give phone heavy users the conveniency to quickly post and view stories by list view or visual bubble format. We allow staff to have an easier access to learn about their patients.

3.Community Interactive Wall

(Prototype done by teammates)

The community interactive wall would be projected in a space of the facility for users to interact with each other. In addition, we designed a pull-down feature that allows equitable access to the bubbles at a variety of seating or standing perspectives.

How was it made?


This project is a school project from the Ideation studio course of the University of Washington's MHCI+D program.

Why assisted living?

The cohort was challenged to improve the experience for the home and household. My team and I wanted to help the group that's suffering the most during COVID-19, the elderly. That was where we found out the problem assisted living is facing nowadays.


Initial Research

Elderly are experiencing increased loneliness, depression and cognitive disorders, especially the ones that live in senior assisted living. On the other hand, staff of assisted living tends to have misconceptions and concerns when it comes to patients with uncommon characteristics or diseases. However, the facilities do not have the skills and training to deal with the issue at the moment. Moreover, during the COVID-19 pandemic in 2020, since elderly were at the highest risk, staff are more fearful to be in contact with them and feel reluctant to be at work.

interview findings grouping with sticky notes

Contextual Inquiries and Interviews

Our goal was to try to understand the state of mental well-being in elderly communities in assisted living facilities as related to their understanding of home. We conducted contextual inquiries and interviews with two residents, two family members of residents, and a director of operation of an assisted living. Even though we know the importance of talking to staff at assisted living, we are not able to find staffs that are comfortable talking about this issue during our research phase in 2020.

Contextual inquiry and interview at an assisted living with a resident

Key insights

1. Staff and resident community relationships are often strained.

“How do we protect our staff from residents that might call them derogatory names.” - Director of Operations

2. It is hard for elderly to connect with each other.

“We all have different living habits and people fight when someone invades their personal spaces. I just chose not to interact with them at all." - Resident

3. Technology is underutilized for elderly.

"It's a huge struggle for family and residents. I’m getting heartbreaking stories where the family members can’t connect and I get a call from a family member that their mom's memory is going every day and she won't remember who their children are by the time they get there." - Family Member
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Daryl Fellows | Development Services Supervisor
Lucette Ramirez | Communications Officer

Ideation & Downselection


Based on our design challenges, we came up with a total 92 ideas and assigned colored dots to them as the initial downselection method. Green dots were assigned for the ideas that better address our design challenges and represent the four design principles, which are Accessible & Inclusive, Respectful & Thoughtful, Humanize, and Already in Use Technology. Red dots were assigned to the ones we thought were not well aligned with the problem space and desired outcome.


After doing several ideation sprints our team narrowed down to three ideas. Based on how close the idea aligns with the design principles, desirability, and feasibility, the team evaluated and downselected to our initial concept, concept two, E-Paper, a flexible ink display device that provided personalized feeds, based on the research, insights, and feedback we got.

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Concept two: The one we chose to move forward with

Design Process

Concept Testing

We conducted an early validation usability test in low-fidelity paper prototypes to better understand if the key aspects of our concept work well independently and together. The Goal was to find out how do users feel when seeing their stories go on the virtual story wall and gauge how helpful the voice text is for elderly.

Participants: Resident x1, Family member x4, Speech Therapist (staff) x1

Initial Concept Key Findings


1. Understanding each other’s backgrounds and histories can help to explain who they are.  

“I feel like I’m participating in community building.” - Family member #2

2. Important to limit steps in which users may be deterred from submitting.

"I am bad at coming up with a good title, that frustrates me." - Staff #1

3. Appreciation of others’ stories is critical without creating popularity contests.

"If I saw someone else’s story received a lot of likes. I might feel pressured." - Resident #1


1. Provide more questions like "Who has been the biggest influence on your life?" "What lessons did that person teach you?"

research shows by asking great questions is what makes a good conversation.

2. Eliminate the title column. Show AI filtered mood categories instead.

3. Solidify the platform would not show the number of likes on the virtual story wall.

The like button is only for back-end algorithm. In addition, the size of the bubble is random and doesn't represent the amount of likes.

Affinity Diagramming

We gathered qualitative data points from the usability testing to identify common concerns and questions we received.

usability testing sticky notes


The storyboard allow us to envision the experience we want users to have.

Illustration by Chloe Liang

Information Architecture

We developed a detailed information architecture to help us better understand the whole picture of the system, simplifying how people navigate, and identify the missing parts.


Design System

The branding focuses on the feeling of calmness and accessibility. However, we acknowledged that it will always be hard to use color as an indicator for elderly and people who are visually impaired as a differentiator, we decided to add patterns on top of color to show different moods.

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Final Design

E-Paper screen flow

Staff Portal screen flow

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Reflections & Further Considerations

The importance of understanding the perspectives from the stakeholders

Through this project, I learned that the more interview we did, the clearer the problem becomes. For example, one of the interviewees told us they don’t get along well because they have different cultures and none of them ever had the chance to share why they do what they do. Even though the problem seemed similar to building a friendship/relationship, it still has its own color and story to it. Learning about the context and the reason behind every situation totally changed how we view the problem.

Working with users in fields I am unfamiliar with

We got to have the opportunity to talk to people that work in the medical field. It was challenging at first that they would mention medical terms that we were unfamiliar with, but we learned the value of asking questions and doing more research throughout the process. By asking more questions we got to hear many more stories/examples that would never come out of our questions and understand empathy is understanding. By doing more research we got to communicate better with people in the field and have more effective communication.

If I could do it again

・More Interviews and validation testing with staff and resident

Due to the pandemic, we didn't get to talk to the amount of stakeholders we'd like. However, I think learning about stakeholders is the most crucial part in research and I wish we could have more stakeholders to validate or critique our concept for further improvement.

・Focus more on the experience we want to provide instead of the platform

I wish we could start with one platform instead of three to focus more on how does this experience help with the overall situation. Having platforms that target the specific stakeholder is good, but I feel like it distract us from refining the concept in such a short. period of time.

・Accessibility, accessibility, accessibility!

We tried to design a platform that provides calmness. However, at one point we almost forgot to prioritize accessibility, especially when one of our stakeholders is elderly. Next time I would definitely start with having a simple and accessible design before focusing on the overall feeling.

Next Steps

・Physical Design

Our vision for this concept includes several elements of industrial and spatial design needed to develop the tablet and wall features to fit our unique use case.

・Family Access

While continuing to actualize the features, we would want the family portal to be in the next iteration that would encourage relationship strengthened outside the facility as well.

・Story Library

For certain populations in the target group, having the ability to catalog stories and memories as they arise would allow generational knowledge to be recorded.

・Usability Testing

Given COVID-19, we carefully prioritized safety of at-risk communities and we would want to more thoroughly validate our concepts with this unique community.