Capturing an activity through a general mood emoji was intuitive and broad enough to encompass different interpretations.
When Sri came to my team at DESIGNATION, he wanted to build UPsQool, a child activity tracking app. His goal was to helps kids succeed in life. To do that, he wanted to create a tool that helped parents gain insight on their child's growth both intelligently and emotionally.
Although he had no kids of his own, he is an uncle and watched his nieces and nephews grow up. He saw recent statistics showing that people were more likely to be hired if they had both high IQ and EQ (the emotional version of IQ). Over the next two weeks, it was my team's goal to test Sri's idea and bring it to life.
What are people's definitions of happiness and success? Are there any cultural considerations we should pay attention to?
How can we guide parents and their children towards happiness without telling them what to do? Not to mention across cultures?
How can it translate into something meaningful and actionable?
It’s been proven that just having data doesn’t mean anything. It’s not enough to incite people to change their habits. So it’s important that the data we collect actually provides insights to our users as well as a path to action.
How do parents currently keep track of their kids? Is there a standard process to raising a happy, successful children?
Happiness doesn’t necessarily mean success, and success doesn’t necessarily mean happiness. What kind of measurement is appropriate?
During our conversation, one thing we did realize was Sri’s big picture: happy kids. Tracking was just his way of accomplishing it.
This was important because in all the details of the plan he had set for himself, he understood that whatever the means may be, happiness is the most important. We needed to keep this big picture in mind as we continued with the research towards making this application.
Three Moms, Three Dads
Parents were our primary users, as they would be the ones interacting with the app the most. We interviewed a range of people that varied on income, age, gender, and background. We focused on what parents currently do for their kids, how they find activities, if they currently track their children's wellbeing, and whether or not they practiced "holistic" upbringing.
Two South Asian American Adults
We interviewed two South Asian American adults as secondary users to gain insight on any possible cultural differences that played a large role growing up. Our main questions surrounded their upbringing environment, relationship to their parents, and if they can tie any previous activities to their current success.
One Child Psychologist, Two Teachers, One Social Worker
Our Subject Matter Experts helped us fill in the psychological, behavioral, and social aspect of parenting. Our questions ranged from how to track kids' success, to identifying patterns, to breaking down ideas of discovery and growth in structured and unstructured learning time.
Our parent personas highlight the range of goals, frustrations, and philosophies they have to parenting. Additionally, their children are of various ages to highlight the difference from babies to teens.
Parents can easily tell if their children are happy, especially when they’re young. No app necessary. Long term trends are more important.
You can feel successful and happy when seeing your own growth.
Allow for flexibility and discovery: structured activities are as important as unstructured ones.
Parents like the idea of data, but not the work of tracking.
We wanted to turn these takeaways into action. Moving forward, we focused on these three elements to bring to life in our prototypes.
Focus on emotions over time. Details are secondary.
Allow parents to learn parenting on the job.
Create a personal metric that shows your trends, not how close you are to a goal.
Prototype A had an emphasis on tracking mood trends through an everyday documentation tool: photography.
Prototype B documented activities in specific categories to see your progress.
This was my prototype. Prototype C helped parents record emotions alongside their scheduled activities, supplementing their current habits.
Prototype D aimed to be as minimal as possible, outlining only the most basic of tasks for a big picture snapshot.
We created four different prototypes, each varying in flow and focus. Our goal was to test this app against varing degrees of parenting styles to see if there was an approach that fit all.
Additionally, we varied in how to gather data. Some focused on gathering photographs, honing in on current habits. Others harnessed impromptu activity recording or schedules already made on third party sites.
What we found stuck true to our users habits. Each response reflected their parenting philosophy, and there were heavy patterns that emerged. The charts show those who preferred Prototype A did not like Prototype C, and vice versa. Prototype B provided more mixed results, and Prototype D was too simple to be useful. (Note, Prototype D came later into the testing, and was given to parents who preferred schedules)
In our qualitative analysis, we found that some parents wanted to use this app for children who need to track certain behaviors, such as depression. Additionally, coaches, psychiatrists, teachers and parents could understand long term trends and correlations between activity and mood.
Other parents expressed interest in using this app as a way to communicate to their partner. With such busy schedules, often times both parents can’t attend all activities, missing out on important moments such as baseball games or other accomplishments. This app could help them connect more with their children’s lives.
A few also said that they’d be interested in having their kids participate, logging their own activity. Parents would want to track younger kids’ activities to get general overview, but then as the kids get older parents would like to use it as a way to keep communication open. While this idea would have to be tested, many parents saw potential in investing time towards this goal.
Most importantly, parents were interested in seeing an overview of mood, emotions, and recommended activities based off of the children’s happiness and whether or not they’re having fun. Our users stressed the importance of simple input methods, and that qualitative notes were more insightful than quantitative, so they can look back and see what was going on during a specific day.
We understood that life changes constantly, regardless of parenting styles. Perhaps you plan a bunch of classes, but find playtime more rewarding for your child. Or maybe you realize you need to add a little more focus and structure into your routine.
We wanted the app to encompass all of what life throws at you. So we have a schedule centric view with quick and easy add-on events.
As one parent said, "I want to love my children, not judge them." To keep our app from centering around quantitative data, we focused on personal growth and progress to keep spirits high and engaged. Instead of measured progress bars, we incorporated color saturation as the primary indicator. Tracking in itself is not fun, nor immediately rewarding, so it was important to keep our users motivated.
In this way, we want parents and children to be proud of what they've done, not just see what they haven't.
We wanted the data collected by our users to be rewarding and useful. At first glance, you see the information in quick snapshots. How many documented times did they have a "good" experience this week, and how "not so good"? What do they seem the most happy doing? What do they spend the most time doing?
Based off of these trends, we recommend activities around the area to continue pursuing the children's talents and interests.
Our testing revealed the need for more testing. Our suggestion for Sri was to choose one of the two main parenting styles: quick & easy, or schedule oriented. When we tested the final prototype, parents still preferred one mode of input or another.
As our app depends on quality and quantity of data, we urged him to focus on better methods of input, and to utilize future phone features (ie notifications for rating and calendar alerts).
Below is our roadmap for future implementations, left to right. We felt that Sri could run and test the qualities of an MVP, and work his way into more usable and delightful aspects of his app.
Find a way to track activities without a calendar
Interactive notifications for rating
Connecting users to parks and rec and other activity centers