Robert  Bennett

Hatched

A ten-week research-to-prototype design project to help empty nested parents with emotional challenges.

Introduction

Hatched is a mobile application design we created to help recently empty nested parents through the transition they face when their children leave home.

We chose to design for empty nested parents as we all recently had experience with our own parents being empty nested.

Design Process (over ten weeks):
  1.   Interviews
  2.   Personas
  3.   User Journey Map
  4.   Design Requirements
  5.   Storyboards
  6.   Information Architecture
  7.   Paper Prototypes
  8.   Quick Evaluations
  9.   Annotated Wireframes
  10.   High Fidelity Mockups

Interviews

We began the design process by each interviewing an unrelated empty nested parent using a semi-structured interview format. We conducted the exploratory interviews to discover pain points that we could target for our design.

Our interview questions focused on the transition empty nesters face with specific emphasis on the challenges they encounter and the current methods they use to overcome them.

We gained many insights from the interviews, but three specific findings ended up most valuable:

  1. Empty nesters face a drastic change in lifestyle and schedule
  2. Parenthood is a central part of many parent's identity
  3. Finding friendships is difficult for empty nesters who relied on their children to connect to other adults

Personas

Using our synthesized finding from our user research, we next created a set of two personas to help create a tangible, fact-based representation of our users' goals, pains, and desires.

Because we were unable to find fathers for our research, we created two empty nested mother personas and focused on empty nested mothers for the project.

Based on our research, we determined that employment was one differentiating factor between empty nesters, so we created one persona based on our research with stay-at-home parents and one based on our research with working parents.

User Journey Map

Using one of the personas that we created, we next created a user journey map to further explore the emotions an empty nester might experience in a single day:

Design Requirements

From our narrowed user group and problem space, we refined our users' pain points and needs into three distinct design requirements we would use to guide our design through the rest of the project:

  • A way to reflect on and process past experiences as a parent
  • A way to connect with other empty nesters for parental guidance and support
  • A way to discover local events and opportunities to encourage spontaneity

Storyboards

We used these design requirements to individually create two storyboards each to brainstorm different solutions to different requirements. It was from these six scenarios that we came up with the three ideas that would form the basis of our solution.

Information Architecture

To better define our solution, we next created an information architecture diagram to organize the pages in each of our three modules as well as the connections between them. We each individually completed one diagram and then met to combine them into a single cohesive solution.

Paper Prototypes

With the overall structure of the application complete, we moved on to define some of the smaller aspects of each component by creating paper prototypes for three key pathways.

Using the pages listed in our information architecture diagram as a guide, we quickly sketched out the screens needed for one pathway through each of the modules together as a group. We created our paper prototypes at tablet size as our research indicated many empty nesters used tablets and appreciated the larger screen sizes.

Quick Evaluation

To better facilitate upcoming user testing, we created an annotated photographed walkthrough of each path to define what would constitute a successful interaction and to help ensure consistency between different group members tests.

Key Tasks:
  1. Alter mood settings, enter mood of the day, and view mood map
  2. Explore trending discussions and interact with a discussion thread and its comments
  3. Navigate Go! page to search for events to go to over the weekend

Annotated Wireframes

Using our paper prototypes and their walkthrough guides, we individually tested our three key path scenarios with three different users. Overall our tests indicated that our screen prototypes were clear, but several small interactions could be future refined.

Strengths Identified:
  • Easily identifiable idiomatic icons
  • Straightforward interactions
Improvements Needed:
  • More consistent navigation and formatting
  • More explanation on module purpose and benefits

High Fidelity Mockups

Using our annotated wireframes as a base, we next created high-fidelity mockups of five of our screens to provide a sample of how the finished application would look.

Given the difficulties we faced with consistency in prior steps and the precise nature of high-fidelity mockups, we took a different approach by having two team members acquire resources for the mockups with the remaining team member taking responsibility for the final assembly. This process resulted in a clean interface that joined the three modules together.

Reflection

We were overall very happy with the insight we gained into empty nester's experiences. As always, and especially as new designers, we had many learning experiences throughout the project.

Many of these experiences stemmed from the fact that we picked a very complex user group with deep emotional needs. Although we considered designing a solution for some of the more superficial needs of empty nesters, we decided it against it after we learned that the emotional challenges faced by empty nesters were much greater than any lifestyle challenges.

Overall, we felt throughout the process that additional time and resources to conduct research would have been helpful. We would have loved to reach out to mental health experts for guidance on our solutions, and there were times we wished we could have done more evaluations with users. Although we used the research we had collected frequently and with success, we simply felt that with such complex issues, more research could have made our solutions even better.

Even so, our group is satisfied with the solutions we created for empty nesters and believe they could be used to help them transition to their new lives and identities.