SmoothPath is an app dedicated to helping disabled people find accessible routes to their on-campus destination. Taking into consideration preferences like "least elevation" and accounting for busy areas in real-time, SmoothPath navigates the best path for users.
As a group project for Design Innovation 181 (a Spring 2019 class taught by Purin Phanichphant), students were asked to think of ways to improve mobility and accessibility for disabled students on the UC Berkeley campus. Created with Changhao Zhang and Andrew Louie, SmoothPath was meant to be taken through the low and mid-fidelity stages. Recently, I decided to make high-fidelity mock-ups for the product!
User Research & Key Insights
We started with some preliminary research (online sources, pictures and videos from social media), then formulated some insights, patterns, and early ideas. Additionally, we decided to interview a focus group of wheelchair & crutch users and create a user journey map.
Some interview questions we asked:
Walk me through a typical day on campus. How do you get around?
How much time do you spend on campus?
Do you remember a particularly frustrating experience getting around campus?
Do you remember a particularly easy experience getting around campus?
Are there any campus features that help or hinder you from getting around?
Some key takeaways we gained:
The lack of accessibility in buildings and routes discourages disabled people from moving around campus
Elevation and crowds are major factors in determining a route's accessibility
Fear of falling over and injuring themselves prevents users from trying/seeking unfamiliar, new routes that are possibly safer and better
“Our campus has lots of hills, and most of my classes are on hills, so it's really hard for me to go by wheelchair."
"The pedestrian walkways are narrow, which makes it really hard for me to get through when there are a lot of people."
Ideation: Divergent Thinking
Taking into consideration information and insights from user interviews, our group formulated three "How Might We" questions:
HMW ensure a smooth and safe trip under different conditions?
HMW give users more independence getting to a destination?
HMW relieve the feeling of helplessness faced by disabled people?
We then came up with 100+ ideas to address these three questions, and used affinity mapping to categorize the ideas into eight categories:
App / Online Platform
Volunteers / Assistance
Our group picked the top ideas and decided to combine them: a service that allows users to pick the smoothest, least-crowded path and a system that allows users to rate accessible paths.
We made a very simple, "interactive" lo-fi prototype to test out. With the screens starting at the right, users were guided through the experience of inputting their destination, viewing/taking a recommended route, being able to see how crowded the route currently was, and rating it once finished.
After further feedback from users and our professor, our group decided to make improvements. Given that factors like elevation and time are more important to some users than others, we wanted to include filters that allowed users to choose a path based on elevation, distance, time, and crowds.
We wanted to include a feature that displayed real-time data on how crowded certain areas were so that calculated routes could avoid them. We also wanted to enable an audio feature so users would be able to use the app without constantly looking at it / holding their phone.
We then tested this prototype with users and received more feedback.
Incorporating user feedback from the mid-fidelity prototyping stage, I decided to find an alternate way to visually display crowd density - heat maps.
One user also brought up the very important point that users with different disabilities would go through routes at varying speeds. I decided to ask users the preliminary question of which apparatus they use to better gauge the amount of time it would take to complete a route.
I also wanted to display all the possible routes in one map, rather than having users scroll to see small visuals of alternative routes. I included icons to symbolize the locations of wheelchair ramps on the map. Finally, I wanted to give users the option of viewing the route via 3D landscape.
The high-fidelity mock-ups briefly go through a crowd-based filter (the only filter where paths have no ratings since they're based on real-time crowd data and consistently change), but mostly explore taking a path using the elevation filter.
I used the simple but strong color palette of Ik blue and white, with grey text. I wanted the app to appear smart and capable.
The feedback I received from users was generally positive. One wheelchair user - Nafeh - was extremely excited about the idea and told me about a time he had fallen out of his wheelchair and broke his arm because he hadn't noticed the stairs he was approaching.
Overall, I think an app like SmoothPath would relieve a lot of stress and frustration that disabled users endure while trying to find a way to their on-campus destinations. I know Google Maps is working on something similar to this, but mainly for the public transit process.
If I had more time, I would want to explore user profiles. How can I implement a validation system to ensure that users are legitimate and leaving truthful ratings and feedback? Since this is a campus, I would also want to explore providing users with accessible routes that guide them all the way to their specific destination (classroom, hall, library floor) via accessible entrances and elevators. I would also design mock-ups of features like the drop-down menu to include pages like account, settings, help, etc.
My design process was slightly different from SimplyBart - I incorporated more personal pictures, used methods like affinity mapping, and repeatedly improved on my iterations a lot more. Seeing that this is my second human-centered design project, I want to continue improving on my design-thinking methods.