Vanessa Li | PulsePlus Case Study
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PulsePlus Case Study

Connecting Adults with Their Aging Parents

Background

The problem

Our parents took care of us for many years, and the tables are starting to turn. This shift can be a big challenge because many of us have families of our own now and lots of responsibilities to juggle. - Founders of PulsePlus

The goal

Concerned families want to have greater access to support products and services; aging parents have a strong desire to remain independent, but their need for care is likely going to evolve. Three designers and two clients needed to find a solution to combat social isolation for the seniors to positively impact health outcomes and reduce stress for their loved ones.

Our product

PulsePlus is a mobile app that supports caregivers by enabling access to services like companionship, errands, transportation, and household chores on demand as needed with a built-in rating system.

We want to enable caregivers to build a network of support for themselves and their loved ones by securing valuable services on demand.
We want to enable caregivers to build a network of support for themselves and their loved ones by securing valuable services on demand.

The Challenges

How to empathize with users on both sides?

All the team members are in their early 20s. We couldn’t say that we understood all the worries and pains of adults over 50 years old and their elderly parents. Luckily, however, our target market was just the age of our parents and grandparents, so we had a good start by putting ourselves in our parents’ shoes. From there, we read, listened, thought, felt, and empathized.

How to ideate and narrow down the design options?

After we had completed plenty of primary and secondary research, the market opportunity became clear. A simplified version of our process went as follows:

  • We built up ideas by brainstorming around insights and personas collaboratively.
  • We narrowed down the ideas with an Affinity Diagram and validated them using Speed Dating methods in which we showed different storyboards quickly to many target users and analyzed their feedback.

The kick-off meeting

Let's make a plan

We had 12 weeks for the project from a vague topic of interest to a fully-fledged app design. In the kick-off meeting, we introduced ourselves, planned each step, and explained why each would help us to achieve our final goal.

This is a Gantt Chart including two weeks before the project (preparation) and three weeks after (making a booklet and final presentation).
This is a Gantt Chart including two weeks before the project (preparation) and three weeks after (making a booklet and final presentation).
I led the creation of the kick-off presentation. It acted as a plan and a great communication tool between us and clients.
I led the creation of the kick-off presentation. It acted as a plan and a great communication tool between us and clients.
Download meeting presentation

The Secondary Research

Literature review

We started by reading all the research reports we could get.
We started by reading all the research reports we could get.
We cared the most about trends and influential factors. The results proved that "senior care + tech" was indeed an opportunity.
We cared the most about trends and influential factors. The results proved that "senior care + tech" was indeed an opportunity.

Territory map

Before jumping into a product idea too quickly, we mapped out and evaluated every connection to find our focus. I held a 15-minute brainstorming session and hosted a 30-minute discussion to review the sticky notes we had made and move them around. We then spent 20 minutes talking about which area might be interesting and worth digging into.

We wrote down all the things we thought relevant and then organized them into groups.
We wrote down all the things we thought relevant and then organized them into groups.
We drew this map based on the sticky notes. It gave us a better understanding of the whole picture.
We drew this map based on the sticky notes. It gave us a better understanding of the whole picture.

Importance of secondary research

Facing a relatively new area, I like to be prepared. I did enough homework before interviews, so I spoke the interviewees’ languages and knew what to expect from the participants.

The Primary Research

Interview

We interviewed 4 senior adults and 5 adult children from 6 different families. For each participant, we scheduled a 1.5-hour session to talk about their routines, difficulties, wishes, and visions. In total, we spent:

  • 13.5 hours interviewing.
  • 4 hours consolidating and organizing the information.
  • 2 hours discussing and drawing conclusions.

We made a presentation containing the research results, which you may download at the end of this section.

We ensured that the participants covered the spectrum.
We ensured that the participants covered the spectrum.
One of the interviewees was answering my question while my teammate was taking notes.
One of the interviewees was answering my question while my teammate was taking notes.
I was organizing the highlights of interview results.
I was organizing the highlights of interview results.

Cultural probe diary

Sometimes, our interview subjects hesitated to speak about their feelings or neglected to discuss some sensitive issues. A cultural probe allowed us to gather more data about people’s lives, values, and thoughts. We designed a diary for our subjects to record their behaviors, feelings, and activities for a week.

I was sketching on the whiteboard and designing the diary. We focused on routines, activities, and relationships.
I was sketching on the whiteboard and designing the diary. We focused on routines, activities, and relationships.
We printed several copies of the diary and let participants spend a week filling it out at home.
We printed several copies of the diary and let participants spend a week filling it out at home.
Download research report

The Insights

Hire the right people to do the right things

“When a new caregiver comes to my mother’s house, they got to know what to do. There is a lot of complexity in caring for elders. If you get into elderly situation and their mind are not that good, they might tell you that ‘I’m supposed to take the green pill,’ when they’re not supposed to take it,” said Jim.

Socializing helps seniors stay happy

Joan's mother lives near a middle school. Sometimes, she invites students and their parents over to have tea together. “It makes me feel younger,” she said. On another note, Kate's mother, who can barely move, has no social life. “She's lonely and depressed. Sometimes I think she just doesn't want to live anymore,” Kate said with tears.

Please don't design another emergency button

Last winter, Alice's dad fell on an icy pavement and cut his lips. He could press the emergency button, but he didn't. Instead, he walked into a clinic across the street, holding a blood-soaked handkerchief to his lips. The elderly are often afraid that calling for help is a sign of being vulnerable, and they do not wish to become a burden.

How do I know if they are trustworthy?

“I wish I could have more time to take care of my parents, but even if I don't, I won't let some random strangers help me to do that.” Donna told us that a background check and recommendations by family and friends are the main influencers in gaining her trust. She would also like to get to know the person first.

Building Up

Persona

Keira – in her 50s, tries to balance her personal life, a career and a large family tree.

Emily – sadly, poor health conditions keep her from being active and social.

Jensen – quite independent, enjoys hobbies and spending time with family.

The three personas represented our core customers.
The three personas represented our core customers.
We wrote down the needs, wants, barriers, and enablers on sticky notes and put them around each persona.
We wrote down the needs, wants, barriers, and enablers on sticky notes and put them around each persona.
We brought our clients into the decision-making. They were looking at the personas and stories.
We brought our clients into the decision-making. They were looking at the personas and stories.

Storyboard

Amy's story - Request instant help from friends or friends of friends.

Jim's story - Request instant help from registered helpers.

Linda's story - Meetup app for both seniors and adult children.

Samantha's story - Financial planning for siblings.

Albert's story - E-profile of a senior’s daily routine.

We were discussing the user stories.
We were discussing the user stories.
The storyboards included two Uber-like senior care apps, an event app, an app for siblings to split bills, and an app for caretakers.
The storyboards included two Uber-like senior care apps, an event app, an app for siblings to split bills, and an app for caretakers.

Narrowing It Down

Speed dating

We printed out the storyboards and showed them to 40+ people in two days. About 3/4 of participants were between 40 and 60 years old; 1/4 were over 70 years old. We had three participants who were under 40 years old.

We were showing the storyboards to potential users.
We were showing the storyboards to potential users.

App Design

Wireframing

We drew wireframes then printed them out to test the flow.
We drew wireframes then printed them out to test the flow.

Prototyping & Testing

Users were testing the prototype.
Users were testing the prototype.

UI design

When we started to design the interface, Sketch was gaining popularity among designers. We decided to utilize the opportunity to learn a new tool, so we switched from Photoshop to Sketch.

Part of the UI design.
Part of the UI design.

My responsibilities

Planning & Managing

I made plans and ensured the project was carried out as planned.

I managed the progress and made proper adjustments when we were behind schedule.

Communication

As a liaison, I handled all the communication (in-person, emails, and phone calls) with clients and research interviewees.

I organized every presentation to show our findings and demo our designs to both the mentor and clients.

I kept everyone on the same page, checked on progress, and coordinated tasks as we moved along.

Research & design

We did intense secondary research and presented the research results in the format of a territory map.

We drafted interview questions together and conducted nine interviews with both adult children and their parents.

We generated insights from the research and used them to guide our design.

We collaborated and delivered personas, storyboards, journey maps, wireframes, and a fully click-through prototype.

The Reflection

Tools & methods I used

Literature Review

Territory Map

Competitive Overview

Interview & Contextual Interview

Cultural Probe

Persona

Storyboard + Speed Dating

Wireframing + Prototyping

UI Design

Adobe Illustrator + Adobe Photoshop + Sketch + Google Slides

Things I learned

Ethnographic methods (contextual interviews and diaries) ensured that our design was user centered.

Co-designing with clients and users was a great way to find solutions that truly meet people's needs.

The design process is a series of divergent thinking (building up) and convergent thinking (narrowing down).

The Recognition

From Jenna Date - HCI Professor, Carnegie Mellon University

I mentored Vanessa and her team in the HCI Independent Study course. Both Vanessa and team worked directly with clients to turn a rough concept into a polished app design. Her clients were extremely happy with their interactions with the team and thrilled with the deliverables. Vanessa did a wonderful job managing their expectations and working diligently to complete a product they could work with in the future.