I worked on a class project on the challenges in COVID-19 impact with three other graduate students. For the User Interface Design and Development class, we decided our target group as working mothers. We were interested in what impacts the pandemic has had on mothers of young children, and wanted to create solutions for them. I came up with interview questions and led and supported interviews, and led diary studies in the need finding stage. After researches in need finding stage, we decided on three ideas to prototype. I recruited participants and coordinated all usability tests, and tested prototype usability. We found out that mothers are looking for good ways to spend time with their babies especially in this pandemic, and we had to be more careful with the privacy and security issues as some of our apps required information about babies. I realized we could have created a better product with deeper understanding of our target group because we overlooked how mothers’ needs are inevitably related to children’s needs.
We were interested in examining mothers who have children under the age of 5 (not school aged yet) who work full time from home and who have a partner / husband who works full time. We wanted to know what impacts the pandemic has had on mothers of young children, and how they have managed to balance (or not) the new demands and lack of support available. We wanted to understand their day-to-day challenges.
We decided to narrow down our user from other potential interviewees that might be extreme, given that the pandemic already felt like an extreme situation, and we wanted to be able to make sense of the data. We feared there would be too much noise if we incorporated too much data outside of our predefined parameters. We wanted to interview mothers who work from home full time and who have a spouse who works full-time.
We asked questions about the lives of working mothers. First, we introduced ourselves and asked if they’d agree to being recorded. Then we briefly stated the purpose of the interview: “we are working on a class project to understand how you manage to work from home and childcare duties.” We loosely based our interviews on these questions. If they fit to ask, we did, but we also followed the interviewee’s cue in terms of topics they would like to discuss.
While we were able to interview 4 people, unfortunately we were not able to observe anyone in-person. Given the pandemic, we instead asked questions we hoped would be representative of observations. We asked moms to describe their day broken down into smaller sections (e.g. what happens at the beginning of the day before you start work). We also hope the diary study and subreddit will speak to the observation component.
[Basic background demographic questions asked at the end if needed to minimize the influence of the demographics]
- How many children do you have? How old are they?
- Tell me what your typical morning is like.
● What do you do before you start to work?
- Tell me about your typical workday.
● Did you work at the office before COVID? Did your life change after your job change to remote? How?
● Tell me about your schedule on weekdays.
● Do you have a lot of meetings?
● Do you have childcare support?
- Can you tell me what you do after you are off from work?
● How do you feel at night?
● What do you do after your children go to sleep?
- When you have someone to help with your baby, what do you do?
- Tell me when you had an issue with your work schedule.
Due to the impact of pandemic, we were not able to do observe what working mothers’ lives are like in person for this project. Instead of observation, we conducted diary studies to capture everyday lives of working moms for a week.
We had two participants for diary study and asked everyday feelings and their experiences.
- Please choose an emotion which best describes your experience today of managing childcare and work responsibilities: happy, contented, excited, restless, sad, worried, and/or angry.
- Please share why you chose this. Were there any events or circumstances that caused you to feel this emotion?
- What could have made today’s experience better in terms of managing childcare and work responsibilities?
Based on our need finding research, we answered the questions that came up during the need finding stage. (I created low-fi and high-fi prototype for CarePool.)
How can you find engaging activities for yourself & your child?
Ideally, the mother could find activities that are mutually enjoyable for her and her kids. This idea was based on a need we found through our interview process, where we heard from moms that they wanted to spend quality time with their kids but were often distracted by work or other home responsibilities. Additionally, they often felt like they didn’t even have enough time for themselves to relax and decompress.
During the sign-up process, the user is asked to choose their interests, which will help curate the suggested activities. Each time the user logs in, they are able to choose a particular mood they’d like to experience, and then are presented with different activities to explore.
Can an app minimize complicated carpool coordinating for parents?
The ideas is that the app automatically matches two parents, who send their kids, to the same school. So the parents don’t have to find their carpool match, by themselves, or find the match, at the last minute, if their match got canceled. As two parents are matched, the app notifies parents, when they should pick up the matched kid, and when their kids are picked up.
Can giving a surprise gift to a fellow mom (friend) make you feel more connected to your community?
We found that parents are feeling pretty isolated given the pandemic, and receiving a small gift can be a good pick me up.
Ribbn allows moms who may not have each other’s addresses to give gifts to each other while maintaining the element of surprise (since asking for someone’s address is a dead give away that something is coming in the mail). The app allows users to join groups that they are a part of, like “Malibu Wine Club”. The home page gives you gift ideas, and allows user to link with their online shopping accounts.
With usability testing, we aimed to test our prototypes, Baby & Me, CarePool, and Ribbn, with user group and understand opportunities for improvement. Also, we wanted to understand which apps best meet our point of view.
Raising a baby(s) doesn’t mean you have to give up caring for yourself and even in the time of COVID, there are safe ways to leverage help from others and build connections
I was responsible for recruiting the participants. I recruited them through our friends, Berkeley School of Information Slack channel, and LinkedIn. We invited our need-finding research participants, and one new participant
Each interview asked users to think out loud as they went through the flow of each app. We gave the Figma prototype links to the participants and I assigned them the tasks for each prototype. And, we asked general questions related to our point of view.
The general questions we asked to all participants was:
● Would you use this app? How often?
● If so, what about it appeals to you? If not, what about it doesn’t appeal to you?
● Is this app intuitive to navigate?
And for each app, I asked:
● Do you have an idea what this app is about when you first see the sign up page?
● What do you expect to come after the feeling selection screen?
● What would you do when you feel exhausted?
● You are picking up your matched kids, this morning, what would you do?
● Is the number of notifications enough when your kid is picked up by your match?
● Do you think this app can make it easier for you to drop off and pick up your children?
● You have someone from your book club that you want to send a gift. What would you do?
● If you want to send a present using Ribbn and the person is not using Ribbn app. What would you do?
Generally, the feedback for each app was consistent among all 4 interviewed users, which validated the targeted user group’s general needs; Although we intended the apps to benefit moms themselves more than another childcare apps, it seems as if their lives are inseparable and it’s impossible to not take child’s needs into consideration while planning for moms; Additionally, we learned time specific needs because our interviewing happened during the holidays, which had a very different context to feedback than when we were in the need finding phase in October.
App specifically, we discovered that finding activities suitable for kids during quarantine are super valuable to moms; We discovered unintended uses of project idea, like although interviewees didn’t find it super useful to send gifts through a third party app, there is a need for gift tracking during the holidays, which can help us pivot the project idea to better suit user needs. We also didn’t anticipate that rural vs urban contextual environments would change needs of working moms and trust (or lack thereof) in technology / privacy as much as they did.
Impact and Reflection
From these testing results, what we can immediately do is to pivot the app to better suit user needs, like adding child-age filter to help moms find child-friendly activities more easily for the Baby&Me app, prioritize showing the user verification process on the CarePool app, and adding gift tracking features to the Ribbn app.
On a macro level, we should have been more narrow in our user criteria and we should have followed up with users who were more similar to the needfinding interviewees. We thought the narrow criteria of a) full time, b) working from home, c) mothers, d) with a partner, e) who also works full time, f) with a child under the age of 5 (not school aged) was specific enough. However, the needs of a parent with help from the grandparents or other community members was not considered. We also didn’t anticipate how many children under 5 were in daycare, and there are very different needs for parents with children in daycare vs parents who have their children home with them 24/7.
For the seasonality difference, we would probably try to do user testing before the holiday season begins or after it’s over to avoid this type of feedback, or we’d additionally do user testing before the holiday season begins or after it’s over so we have holiday and no holiday contextual feedback.