Our objective was twofolds.
- To understand the problems of technology users at the McKeldin Mall.
- The solutions we could design to mitigate their problems.
- Direct Observations
- Semi structured interviews
- Contextual inquiry
It was important for us to get a high level sense of what was happening. This was always at the back of our minds and guided us during analysis, design and subsequent design iterations.
Understanding user goals and motivations was pivotal to inform what we could and could not do. For example, the number one draw for people to come to the Mall was the novelty and beauty. So one insight for us was that we had to be minimally invasive in how we wanted to augment the current experience.
When trying to re-do something that people have a close emotional attachment to, perceptions do matter. Most often than not, change is not welcome. We wanted to be cognizant of apprehensions people had before we went deep into design.
Based on our findings from the research phase, we decided to do a SWOT analysis to synthesize our results, find problem and opportunity areas.
- Beauty of the Mall
- Personable spaces at the Mall
- Inclination to use technology devices
- Sun glare was a huge problem
- Lack of outlets to recharge devices
- Dearth of comfortable seating spaces
- Unreliable internet connectivity
- Unaccommodating to inclement weather
- A way to make the Mall more accommodating for technology use
- Making changes to the Mall, which may take away its beauty
- Anything that inhibited an open and wide view of the Mall
VALIDATING OUR INSIGHTS
As part of the effort, we worked in association with landscape architecture and anthropology teams. We were able to triangulate our findings and found patterns across our different data gathering techniques.
- Individuals, as opposed to groups at the periphery of the Mall.
- Comfort and personable spaces played a crucial role in using technology.
- There was increased flow of traffic in the walkways closer to the Administration Building. (image source)
- People were attracted to the Mall by its novelty (sound of soothing water).
Anthropology teams also found that there was a smoker’s haven right in front of the Testudo (image source).
THE INDOOR OUTDOOR EXPERIENCE - Optimizing seating spaces for tech
The idea here was to rethink seating spaces which would make it comfortable for technology users to use the Mall space. We chose spots on the Mall which were hotbeds of activity; as well as strategic placement of seating spaces which would not hinder an open view of the Mall.
CHAIREVERYTHING - A redbox for renting chairs
- A chair vending machine, where an user of the Mall can either rent or reserve a chair
- The rentable chair itself, which the user can collect from the redox, installed at strategic points on the Mall. User can then move to a comfortable spot on the Mall and unpack the chair with the press of a button
SPOTLUCK - App to find a spot on the Mall
A SOLUTION COMPARISON
Users felt that this would make their experience at the Mall pleasurable
Suitable for both individual and group activity.
Most preferred of the design solutions
Preserve natural beauty
No protection from harsh weather
Manipulations to Mall space
- Feature Richness
- Free Usage
- Convenience and no changes to the Mall
- Free usage
People did not perceive the solution as useful
Dependency on internet
Least preferred of the design solutions
THE FINAL DESIGN SOLUTION
Moving towards one final solution, we decided to pursue the ChairEverything solution. As and when applicable, we also tried to blend useful design elements we tried from the other 2 approaches. The reasons were
- Some people may find the redesign of physical spaces near the fountain as obstructive
- We were not convinced that Indoor Outdoor experience would receive widespread acceptance.
Our eventual ChairEverything solution consisted of 3 components; The Box, the smartphone app and the rentable chair.
We received an average satisfaction rating of 4.4 [out of 5]. The solution received widespread appreciation from not just our peers, but also from landscape architecture and anthropology teams. Dennis Nola, an instructor from Plant Science & Landscape Architecture, loved our designs.