What can we make to test our concepts?
Heading into the prototyping phase, we considered our six key concepts (learn more about these here) and identified three to prototype. Prototyping is a key part of the human-centred design process, and involves finding quick, easy and inexpensive ways to test how users might interact with a new product or service you'd like to create.
Our team developed prototypes for an NFC-enabled digital cookbook, video calendar and medicine reminder.
Prototype 1: Digital Cookbook
We were able to prototype this concept using our existing learner app (available in the Google Play and App Store). Members of the project team went to the family home of Allan (person living with dementia) and his wife Sharon, and filmed Allan making one of his favorite dishes, spaghetti bolognese. The video was then edited into a step-by-step video tutorial and made available to Allan and Sharon privately through an NFC sticker, which they chose to stick on a notebook in which they have written the list of ingredients. Allan and Sharon then tried using the cookbook prototype in their own time without anyone from the project team present.
Allan and Sharon then tried using the digital cookbook prototype without any team members present.
1) The filming was more enjoyable than Allan and Sharon had anticipated. Initially hesitant, Allan very quickly warmed up to the camera and had a lot of fun shooting the how-to video.
2) Allan and Sharon found that the standby mode had to be adjusted on their phone for the video to keep playing. A useful piece of user insight was the need to increase the auto-lock time on the phone being used so it doesn’t keep going into standby whilst following the video tutorial.
3) As an app it ‘fits’ into their lifestyle and isn’t a big departure from what they know.
“When it comes down to apps...you settle on them after a while...That’s what people do with apps, they make sure they fit into their lifestyle and this one does.” - Allan
4) The app is particularly useful when the person with dementia has support. Sharon suggested that part of the reason the app was a success for them was her supportive role, and that it would be most useful for people with a second person there to support:
“I just wonder about people who are on their own, would they remember where they put it and that they had it…” - Sharon
“In the past when I’ve seen Allan cooking he is standing there and he is thinking ‘what do I do next?’ or ‘where is that kept?’, and this solves those little problems and enables you to go through with the task.” - Sharon
5) Allan and Sharon particularly liked the sticker functionality and the ease it offered.
6) Allan and Sharon found the app ‘calming’, ‘useful’ and confidence-boosting for cooking.
“Now I’ve got that, I’ll obviously optimise how much I use it. I just think it’s such a smart idea. So terrific.” - Allan
“If they have always done something, it will give them confidence to go on doing it. If the thing that is stopping you is that you’ve got short-term memory loss, you haven’t lost your skills…” - Sharon
“In the past when I’ve seen M cooking he is standing there and he is thinking ‘what do I do next?’ or ‘where is this kept?’, or ‘where is that kept?’ and this solves those little problems and enables you to go through with the task.” - Sharon
7) The digital cookbook provides a way of sharing treasured traditions with family members and loved ones.
Allan and Sharon intend to share the video with Allan's adult children and their grandchildren. Watching a loved one preparing special recipes in their own way provides a touchpoint for family members - the video app acts as a functional legacy project.
Allan and Sharon's tips and ideas for development
“It could be used for so many different situations...not just cooking but other aspects of daily living. I know some of my friends get confused with daily dressing and if that’s how you start the day it can be quite stressful.” - Sharon
“I think you should do one that covers household cleaning in totality!” - Sharon
Prototype 2: Video Calendar
We prototyped this concept with David, a person living with Alzheimer's, and his wife Rachel, who agreed to try out a prototype video calendar over a two-week period.
The prototype was created by adding NFC stickers to the couple’s existing wall calendar. Each day the couple created a video and sent it to the project team. We were then able to link the video to the sticker corresponding to that day. Simple instructions on how to use the calendar, with visual prompts, were put on the wall next to the calendar.
The first sticker on the calendar was linked to a video of Jenni and Ali from Humanly, which was recorded at the participants’ house and showed them explaining the project. The couple revisited this explainer video several times during the prototyping period.
1) Watching back videos of recent activities triggered the participant’s memory
For example, David and Rachel visited a music shop during the two weeks, which David did not remember this until watching the video that he and Rachel had made on the day. They had taken a 360 degree shot of the inside of the music shop and after watching this, David clearly remembered an interaction with the man who had served them.
“For our purpose it had a practical element of bringing back things that had happened before. And you feel kind of rooted because you see the people [from your day].” - Rachel
2) The video calendar was social and enjoyable, bringing people together. David and Rachel experienced a lot of joy in the performance and creation of the videos.
“That’s the thing with the video, it appeals to David’s sense of performance and it brings out joy. If you start filming, David comes back to life; it’s [he’s] amplified” - Rachel
“It was like a little play with David being the actor of his life” - Rachel
“I did like the [fact that doing the video] brought back your spontaneity...You weren’t playing because of the video, you are like that and the video made it more real….There was a bit of selfish[ness] about it” - Rachel
When people saw them recording videos they were intrigued and wanted to be in the videos. Additionally when people came round to their house and saw the calendar on their wall they asked about it, and it became a talking point and encouraged social interaction.
“People were really interested in it when they came and they wanted to be in the video.” - Rachel
Rachel and David shared some of their videos on social media, much to the delight of David’s son in Australia.
“I do think there was quite a lot of enjoyment doing it. You asked me to put it on your Instagram! You were quite proud of them…” - Rachel to David
“It makes us feel closer, more connected [to family abroad]” - Rachel
3) David had to be prompted to remember to do a video entry and assisted in making videos. The difficulty in creating the videos and uploading them to the calendar may be symptomatic of the prototype, and could potentially be reduced with the design of a bespoke interface.
“One of the problems is that there’s quite a lot of steps on David’s phone before you get to the video; there’s a camera and you have to press video. And because this is a prototype there’s quite a lot of stages…” - Rachel
“I’m not sure how much David would embrace it if it was just [up to him] on his device. It would need to be a package he could try…” - Rachel
4) The structure of the video calendar provided an ‘excuse’ to create and look back at videos. While they could still do this without a video calendar, the structure seemed to provide an enjoyable and accessible format.
“Having a video calendar and being part of the test gave us authorisation to do it. If we had just done it we may have felt self-important, whereas there was a reason” - Rachel
At one point Rachel wanted to show the Humanly team one of the videos they’d created on her phone; however it was clear that it was much easier and faster to tap on a sticker than scroll through all her photos and videos to locate the one she was looking for.
5) Rachel and David were motivated to engage with the video calendar for each other’s benefit. Rachel was motivated to do it because she felt it helped David with his memory, and David was motivated to do it because he felt it pleased Rachel.
Rachel and David’s tips and ideas for development
By experimenting with the video diary they found that recording a 360 degree view of a location they had been in was very successful for jogging David’s memory of that location and events that had occurred there.
They would have liked to upload more than one video per day:
“On a day you may go to a number of different places, so on one day we had three different videos but had to pick one to send to get attached to the sticker." - Rachel
They also commented on the usability and eventually having an easier interface for recording and uploading videos:
“What if there was a button on the phone which could let you easily record things? What if you had a button on your video you could simply press and it would go to the calendar?” - Rachel
NFC Medicine reminder
The prototype was created by combining the use of an existing NFC alarm app (Terminightor) with a How Do I? NFC sticker. Simple instructions, with visual prompts, were put on the wall near David’s medication along with the NFC sticker. The prototype did not fully replicate the concept because it did not include a video to guide David to his medication, however it enabled us to test our hypothesis that having to physically move to where medication is kept in order to switch off an alarm will increase the user's likelihood of taking the medication. David and Rachel used the prototype medicine reminder once a day for one week.
1) Rachel believed the NFC reminder had the potential for increasing the likelihood of David taking his medication. Currently evidence of its effectiveness is inconclusive, but they found that it had the potential of working when David did get to his medicine box.
“Because it was a sticker, you could just stick it on the medicine box and then at least he has the box in his hand…” - Rachel
Rachel and David wanted to test it for longer and experiment with putting the medicine box/sticker in different locations around their flat.
2) A customisable audio message would be an important addition. Unlike the original concept of a video playing when the alarm goes off, the existing app we used for the prototyping was only able to show text saying ‘David, please take your morning pills’.
David and Rachel were already using a ‘talking reminder’ app that gives a verbal prompt to take medication and this feature has been very helpful for them. However this app didn’t incorporate NFC and they were curious about both features being combined.
“David has an alarm at 7:30am to wake up and [it was hard to] distinguish between that one and this one an hour later for his pills, it was quite similar and I had to explain it to him” - Rachel
“The fact that it’s not talking is quite a major element because the talking would click with what it was about...if it was one that was talking that also had [the sticker], that would be ideal.” - Rachel
3) David was unsure about the need for a medicine reminder.
Due to the nature of dementia, people living with dementia are not always aware of the difficulties that they encounter because they aren’t able to remember them. This is the case for David, who does not recall having difficulty remembering to take his medication and so does not understand why he might want an alarm to remind him to take it.
Rachel however reports that David encounters significant difficulties when taking his medication. As the reminders David uses currently can be turned off manually, if anything distracts him on his way to where he keeps his medication, or if he forgets why he is there once he has arrived, he is unlikely to take his pills.
“I often have other things in my head that I’m thinking about and they’re often bigger things, like I knew you were coming today so it’s sort of firmer in my head but not as firm as [taking medication] needs to be!” - David
4) David believed a new ritual would have to fit into existing rituals and habits
David made an observation in relation to his medicine box, which is a paper container with the pills organised by days of the week. He talked about being more used to medicine being in old pill bottles, and it seemed as if his paper medicine box was quite alien to him even though he uses it every day.
David discussed with the team adapting or recreating old rituals or habits from the past as a way of making new things seem clearer and more familiar. For example incorporating longstanding symbols, cues or triggers.
David also described the challenges of introducing the alarm into his routine, and how to overcome these:
“I didn’t automatically [think of taking my medication] when I heard the noise...Where does the noise come from? I wouldn’t set an ordinary [reminder] on the phone. I would write it down. What I am trying to say is that some things, like having a cup of coffee, is an inbuilt ritual and if it were like that then…” - David
David and Rachel decided to continue using the NFC-enabled app in combination with the How Do I? sticker to see if it might grow to be helpful. They have made an adaptation to it by moving the sticker from the wall to the medicine packet to see if this helps.