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
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.
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.
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.
After we had completed plenty of primary and secondary research, the market opportunity became clear. A simplified version of our process went as follows:
The kick-off meeting
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.
The Secondary Research
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.
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
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:
We made a presentation containing the research results, which you may download at the end of this section.
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.
“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.
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.
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.
“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.
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.
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.
Narrowing It Down
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Interview & Contextual Interview
Storyboard + Speed Dating
Wireframing + Prototyping
Adobe Illustrator + Adobe Photoshop + Sketch + Google Slides
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).
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.