Design Probes – Helpful or Hindering?

The lecture this week was very interesting. It started with the Turning Frustrations into Delight Ted Talk given by Clara Gaggero Westaway.  I really enjoyed seeing the amazing solutions that her and her team came up with for problems that I never even thought of. One that really stuck out to me was the app they came up with for multi-tasking on a smart phone. What I took away from this video is that many problems in design are not obvious. Most of the time they stem from frustrations that we don’t even realize effect the way we interact with product or building. After watching and discussing this video we dove into design probes. After reading the assigned article, How Probes Inform and Influence the Design Process, I was very excited to do a design probe myself. One thing I really took away from that reading is that not only are design probes helpful to the designer, but they are eye opening for the person doing the probe. At least it was for me. Keeping track and logging all of the things I do in a day made me realize multiple things about how I spend my days. For example I never realized how much time I spend looking at a screen. Whether it’s a computer screen, my phone screen, or a tv screen, I look at one almost all day. This showed me that I should be more conscious about taking breaks and possibly buying some blue light glasses to help with any effects that looking at so much blue light during the day might have on my eyesight. One thing I like about the design probes is that they are more of a brainstorming tool than a tool to get a specific solution to a problem. Many times the designers are unsure of the problem when they first start the probing process, or the problem stated at the beginning of the process changes because of the outcome of the design probe. Another thing I like about design probes is that they are something that you can give to someone to do in there own time, with their own privacy. This allows for much more accurate data. An example the authors used in the reading goes along the lines of if I were to ask a random person about their habits in the bathroom, they would feel uncomfortable and would probably not be very honest about how they spend their time there. But with the design probe the person can write about things like how they might like to have light reading when using the bathroom, or that they like to have candles in the bathroom when they take a bath without having to gage the reaction of the person they are telling. After discussing design probes and all of the things that go along with them, we got to break into groups and see one of our peers’ design probe packages. We then got to brainstorm and design something that would help them. For our person we found that they are very busy all day between their sorority, classwork, cooking, working out, working a job and more. So what we came up with is a planner phone app. We decided on an app because this way is it always with her so when she remembers something in say the middle of a class or when she is on a run, she has her planner right there to write it down. So features we came up with were: it would connect to other apps such as an activity app to track workouts and meals, Canvas for school assignments and class schedule and work apps like Paycom for work schedules, a food tracker/recipe book, a reminder generator, and that users would be able to connect with other users to share things like their schedules, recipes, and workouts. When we presented this to her I think she really liked it and she mentioned that she wishes this was a real app. I really enjoyed getting to throw ideas back and forth to come up with this solution in response to her design probe package. When I was working on mine, I did feel kind of silly logging when and what I was eating and what I was wearing and what I was doing all day. But after doing this activity in class, I can see how having this information can generate many ideas on how things in my life could benefit or be changed.

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