Student Project, 2012
Created for: Iowa State University
Discovery Phase, Product Refinement Phase
Paper/Pencil, Illustrator, PhotoShop, IntuitionHQ, Numbers, Keynote
It is Saturday afternoon. You are sitting on your couch, home alone with no plans. The friends you usually hang out with are either sick or traveling. you've read everything on your bookshelf? you've already cleaned your apartment for the week? you've finished this week's laundry?. You've recently heard through office colleagues that there is a new website that helps you find activities in your area. You grab your laptop and enter the website address - www.activities4.us
My project is a system (human-machine) designed for its users to seek out activities. Activities 4 Us is a web-based application where a user inputs their location by zip code, how many people will participate in the activity and starts a query. They are then presented with a list of results of activities; in their area, happening within 24 hours from their search, displayed depending on local weather (no Frisbee in the park option offered if it is currently raining or calling for rain), date accessed (no picnic suggestions if it is winter) and separated by low-to-no cost activities and activities requiring money. Additionally, at this point, users can also select a set of filters to narrow down the type of activity they might want to take part in.
To create my User Profile I decided that it would be best to focus on age group (21–55). I thought it best to focus on one age group to start with and tailor the system to then meet the needs of a wider audience later.
To begin the interview process I contacted twelve people to request interview times. I had prepared two pages of questions. The questions had three different sections and then the wants and needs brainstorming activity. The sections were - 'Defining Boredom', 'Finding Activities' and 'Accessibility of Websites/Interfaces'. My purpose for asking these questions was to -
• Find reasons and situations as to when a user might access my system
• How active in finding things to do a user might be when bored
• What activities users might be looking for
• What types of refining searches a user might desire for my system
• What other methods users interact with to find activities
• What makes a good design in terms of accessibility
Defining Boredom Review
The first thing to note is that most of the participants find themselves filling their free time by watching TV but in comparison, watching TV was only listed by one participant as something they want to do with their free time. Just less than 50% of the participants are bored when they are left alone, and 6 out of 7 rely on friends for their source of activities. Friends are going to be difficult for my system to contend with, however, those other people need a source to find activities to do, which my system could fill. 85.6% of the participants use the internet to find activities. The design of my system will need to consider users who are feeling anxious and annoyed/irritated by their boredom.
Finding Activities Review
100% of the participants interviewed use the internet to find activities. 71.4% of those interviewed typically do activities that cost money, however, it should be considered that the other 28.6% responded that "sometimes" their activities cost money. My system should consider the sites that the participants use (Metromix, Yelp, Groupon, Google...) as competitor examples and try to refine/simplify my system in comparison. My system should separate activities by cost and consider a priority to activities that cost money. One question that could have been asked to clarify is - "Do you prefer activities that cost over those that do not?". Users may find themselves taking part in for-cost activities but prefer to not spend money if given the option.
Major Problems I do not think I found any usability disasters in my system, however, one major problem that I encountered in my user testing was that the system is unclear about how to return to the ‘Home’ or main search screen. I had built in a link in the logo, which is standard practice when designing websites, but I’m not sure if all the users would have understood that.
The breadcrumb system was either not clear or overlooked. This can be resolved by changing the breadcrumb wording to reflect ‘Home’ instead of its current ‘Search 4 Activities’. Additionally, a ‘Home’ link could be added to the header and footer navigation. I do think that would create an aesthetic imbalance in the links (i.e, three on one side, two on the other) so perhaps some thought should go into creating an additional link to balance them out.
Another major problem deals with the ‘New Search’ button below the filters. This was another way that I thought users could find their way back to the ‘Home’ screen, however, it proved problematic for User 003 -
“The ‘New Search’ button confused me once at the beginning me because I felt like it was an ‘Apply’.” – User 003
This is a very good point. If users are accustomed to clicking an ‘Apply’ button when filtering, they may reset the query accidentally. The ‘New Search’ button is placed in a similar position to where an ‘Apply’ button normally would be.
Speaking again to the ‘Apply’ button major issue I discussed above, this is also a cosmetic problem. The content of the ‘How 2 Use’ page notes that this would be the location of the ‘Reset Filter’ button. We don’t want users making the same mistake with that button either. It would probably be best to disconnect the ‘Reset Filter’ button from the ‘Activity Filter’ box altogether, removing the grouping of the two items.
New Feature Requests
"Take ‘new feature’ requests with a grain of salt." – Steve Krug, Don’t Make Me Think
User 001 brought up an interesting idea that I hadn’t considered – to create an optional log in on the site that users would not have to sign up to use the system, but if they did it could track their activities, potentially suggest new activities and store information to populate the search fields. My original intent was that location would be handled by the ZIP search, but it has been brought to my attention of the situations of locations on ZIP code dividing lines, where just a short distance from the user’s current location may be a different ZIP. Something should be considered for situations like this so users wouldn’t need to do multiple searches to find local activities. User 003 also brought up a point that should be considered -
“The ‘All Activities Map’ seems out of place to me because it’s ‘No Cost’, ‘Paid Activities’ and then ‘All Activities Map’ whereas the other two don’t have maps. Like, why is this one a map instead of just all activities and I can turn on a map?” – User 003
The original intent for the ‘All Activities Map’ was to have an overview of the area and the activities to do. While there was only one user to bring up this issue, perhaps everyone would benefit from a tab that just listed ‘All Activities’. It might take the place of the query landing page and then users could use the tabs to filter between ‘Free Activities’ and ‘Paid Activities’. Or, to go a step further, perhaps the tabs could be eliminated completely and be replaced by additional filters in the ‘Activity Filter’.