As part of the Interface and Interaction Design course, my group was approached by Ford Motor Company to design a center console for future Ford vehicles. The client’s primary directive was that we design a system that worked equally well for drivers with vastly differing levels of technological familiarity.
Over the course of the semester, I performed user research in the form of a contextual inquiry project, built personas and scenarios, created several iterations of wireframes for our console, built a functional prototype, performed user testing, and finally offered my results and recommendations to Ford in a final presentation. All of my findings were published throughout the semester on a website, which I was in charge of creating.
To research user preferences, my group interviewed seven different people, trying to cover a broad range of ages, driver levels, and levels of technological familiarity. After each session our entire group would work to organize our rough field notes into affinity notes. I used these notes to create a large wall-sized affinity diagram, a tool for organizing and making sense of large sets of ethnographic data.
Using the insights and summations provided by our affinity wall, I went on to create four personas, including one primary persona, and three secondary personas. I used a graphical representation of driver level and technological familiarity level to make sure that my personas covered the wide range we were targeting. Along with these personas I created several scenarios that would inform our designs, including both "nightmare scenarios," highlighting the current problems with in-car systems, and "dream scenarios," in which I envisioned ways that my solution would solve those problems.
In addition to performing group work, I also created all of the graphical layouts for the personas in Adobe Fireworks. To view full descriptions of all of our personas and scenarios, click here.
I combined the knowledge I had gleaned from the affinity wall and from distilling all of the interview subjects down into personas and began an iterative brainstorming and wireframing process. My first step was to list all of the functions that an in-car center console should have, and then map them in the way I wanted in our system. I used MindMeister to create these maps.
I created both paper wireframes, in which we could rapidly move interface elements to see their effects in different places, and digital wireframes in Adobe Fireworks. I found Fireworks to be a particularly effective tool because I could quickly build wireframes that looked rough, but were functional enough to explore the way my proposed design would function.
I decided on a design that combined the flexible, context-sensitive nature of touch-screen controls with the tactile feedback of buttons by creating six context-sensitive buttons, each with an embedded 128x128 pixel LCD screen. The images displayed on these button-screens would change based on the screen the user was looking at, similar to the way controls change on a touchscreen.
Another innovation was to combine the touchscreen with five fixed buttons along the bottom of the screen, each linked to a specific content area, like Audio or Navigation. This would allow users to quickly jump between content areas with tactile buttons without navigating deep menus using the touchscreen while they were driving.
I decided on a high contrast, low-fidelity look for my prototype, both to show to my users that this was a prototype and should not be considered a final design, and because time constraints did not allow me to create the high number of functional screens I required with higher quality graphics.
In Ford's current in-car systems, voice control is a powerful control option, but the user has to rely on knowing commands in order to use them. I designed a system in which a visual prompt on-screen lets the user know what commands they can say on any given screen.
In order to test my prototype, my group built over 90 interconnected screens in Adobe Fireworks, and converted the prototype to HTML. With the time constraints I did not have time to build an actual in-car system, so I compromised by having users use my system while playing a driving video game (Mario Kart Wii) and using a steering wheel-shaped controller to simulate a driving situation.
I observed and asked the test subjects questions during their test and had them take a survey after the test. My results showed that although further testing and iteration would be required to build a final version of this product, users were happy with many of my ideas, including the fast navigation buttons, my improvements on voice controls, my overall navigation scheme, and my layout of the touchscreen with larger and fewer target areas.
My findings are described in detail on the final presentation page on our website. I hope to be able to post a video of our final presentation here soon.