Story

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

My Role: Lead UX/UI Designer

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

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, and this has been exacerbated by COVID-19 pandemic.

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?

Context

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 home and household experiences. My team and I wanted to help the group that's suffering the most during COVID-19, the elderly.

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 facilities by engaging residents and staff to share and see unique stories from each other. Story utilizes a multi-faceted approach of involving residents though a tablet E-Paper and staff through a mobile portal.

Key Features

1. E-paper for resident

Story provides prompts to give incentives for users to share more unique stories. To prioritize accessibility for the elderly, there is an option to easily record, edit, and post 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 also make sure the content that is shared on the virtual story wall is respectful.

2. Staff Portal

Story offers a mobile app version to give phone heavy users a convenient way to quickly post and view stories by list view or visual bubble format. In doing do, we allow staff to have easier access to learn about their patients.

How was it made?

Research

Initial Research

As a result of quarantining, the elderly are experiencing increased loneliness, depression and cognitive disorders, especially the ones that live in senior assisted living facilities. In addition, staff of assisted living tend to have misconceptions and concerns when it comes to patients with uncommon characteristics or diseases. However, facilities do not have the skills and training to deal with these issues at the moment. Moreover, during the COVID-19 pandemic, the elderly were at the highest risk, and therefore staff are now more fearful to be in contact with them and feel reluctant to be at work.

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 operations of an assisted living facility. Even though we knew the importance of talking to staff at assisted living, we were not able to find staff that are comfortable talking about this issue during our research phase in 2020.

Contextual inquiry and interview at an assisted living facility 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 the 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 the 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

View Research Report

Ideation & Downselection

Ideation

Based on our design challenges, we came up with a total of 92 ideas and assigned colored dots to them as the initial downselection method. Green dots were assigned for the ideas that better addressed our design challenges and represented 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.

Downselection

After doing several ideation sprints our team narrowed down to three ideas. These were based on how close the idea aligned with the design principles, desirability, and feasibility.

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Initial Concept

The team evaluated and downselected to our initial concept, E-Paper, a flexible ink display device that provided personalized feeds, based on the research, insights, and feedback we got.

Initial 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 users feel when seeing their stories go on the virtual story wall and to gauge how helpful the voice text is for the elderly.

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

WHAT WE LEARNED

1. Understanding each other’s backgrounds and histories can help residents and staff understand one another.  

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

2. It is important to limit steps which may deter users 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

HOW WE RESPONDED

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

Research shows that asking great questions is what makes a good conversation.

2. Eliminated the title column and showed AI filtered mood categories instead.

3. Ensured that the platform would not show the number of likes on the virtual story wall page.

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

Affinity Diagram

usability testing sticky notes

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

Storyboard

Illustration by Chloe Liang

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

Information Architecture

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

Design Process

Wireframe

The goal was to have the best layout and content for the target users for the specific platform while keeping the consistency.

Wireframes for resident tablet E-paper and staff mobile app portal

Design System

The branding focused on the feeling of calmness and accessibility. However, because 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

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E-Paper screen flow

Staff Portal screen flow

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Reflections & Further Considerations

The importance of understanding the stakeholder's perspectives

Through this project, I learned that the more interviews we did, the clearer the problem became. For example, one of the interviewees told us staff and residents don’t get along well because they have different cultures and none of them have ever had the chance to share why they do what they do. Establishing these relationships is more complicated than building a friendship because of age differences, cultural differences, and power dynamics. Learning about the context and the reason behind every situation totally changed how we viewed the problem.

Working with users in fields I am unfamiliar with

We had 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 came to understand that empathy is understanding. By doing more research we have more effective communication with people in the medical field.

If I could do it again

・More Interviews and validation testing with staff and residents

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 this experience helps with the overall disconnect between staff and residents. Having platforms that target the specific stakeholder is good, but I feel like it distracted 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 the 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 next iteration to encourage relationship strengthening outside the facility as well through a family portal.

・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.