BlindNavi is a navigation app made for visually-impaired smartphone users. With BlindNavi, We solve their frustrating experience of current unfriendly service through qualitative research, design iterations, and user testing.
User Research/ Product Design/ Prototyping/ User Testing/ Video Making
12 months since 2014
Professor Hsien-Hui Tang, Neng-Hao Yu
Designer Anne Chen, April Chen
Developer Yi-Ying Lin, I-Fang Wang
The visually-impaired people use their smartphones through auditory sense. However, most of the current apps are not designed for the usage pattern of the visually-impaired people, and always contains bad information displayed and unfriendly interaction design.
Nowadays, there are 246 million visually-impaired people all over the world. Therefore, tremendous demand for independence and mobility remains unsolved.
Provide a new mobility-aid solution of navigation app for the visually-impaired people, which helps them to remember meaningful information over the journey and makes the trip safer and smoother.
First, we did deep research to understand the visually-impaired smartphone user's real need for mobile navigation. Next, we concluded several needs from the research to develop our design strategies and make a prototype. At last, we invited our target users to test the prototype and give us feedback for the next design iteration.
THE MAIN PROBLEM:
Tool Learning is Difficult
If a visually-impaired person wants to go somewhere unfamiliar, he/she needs to use several products to complete the journey: First, Search information in order to confirm the exact position, then next, use the mobile phone to Navigate himself on the road. At last, Share the road experience with other visually impaired friends afterward.
We were really surprised to know how many applications they use, and how many problems they have.
Not to mention, they only got tools and apps that are designed for normally sighted people.
The information display is unfriendly to the visually-impaired users.
All of these lead to a very frustrating navigation experience.
We used Contextual Inquiry to interview 10 visually-impaired smartphone users so as to understand their experience of traveling and the usage habits of the smartphone. Moreover, We also adopted Shadowing Methodology to observe their behaviors when they are traveling in reality. Besides, an O&M instructor provides her 9-year-expertise in the field explaining how visually-impaired people attain information when walking on the road. In order to simulate the experience of visually-impaired people, I covered my eyes and let the instructor guide me to the destination. This experience is unique and makes me realize a sense of helplessness that visually-impaired users faced.
LINEAR MAP THINKING
It’s easy for sighted people to memorize the position in 2D map. But, for the visually-impaired people, it's hard for them to develop a 2D special concept without visual sense. Therefore, a journey from A to B is much more simplified in their mind. It’s like a "LINEAR process" of moving between spots. Each spot represents a crucial sensory clue.
The visually-impaired people use Multi-sensory Cues to memorize the entire journey. For example, a smell of a bakery shop, a doorbell of a convenience store and a touch of stairs, etc. This information won’t be noticed by sighted people but they are very important for the visually-impaired people to distinguish the current position.
Going-out experience completely covered
The main features of BlindNavi are Search for preparation, Navigate on the road, and record the route to Share with friends. These features in BlindNavi are designed to solve the problems we discovered from our interviews and observations, and the listing order on the main page is also the order of the steps for a going-out experience.
route A to B
where am I
Flat information architecture
In order to fit the visually-impaired users’ habits of using Voice Over, we reduce the app architecture and usage process with list-view structure, which is flat and easy to use.
Multi-sensory cues as navigation content
We use Multi-sensory Cues & Clock Position to navigate visually-impaired users while they are on the road, which matches with the way they remember routes. For instance, the audio guide would be like “after passing by the bakery shop(smell noticed), the bus station will be at 2 o’clock position.”
Integrated with iBeacon to provide Micro-location
We provide hyper-local and multi-sensory notifications to our users through the micro-location technology of iBeacon. Based on our survey, the best locations for building iBeacon are the corners, the shops with multi-sensory cues and the unmovable items such as traffic lights.
We had built a testing environment at National Chengchi University and recruited 6 users to do the testing tasks. The purpose of the testing was not only to test the app prototype itself but also to test the appropriate locations for iBeacon and the content of the audio guide. After the testing, we received lots of positive feedbacks, which motivated us to do this project much deeper and further.
"Yea, it’s the product I always wanted! It tells me directly which way is better for walking!"(p3)
“It does help reducing my wandering time on the road."(p8)
“The details of the audio guide are helpful, it reduces the insecure feeling.”(p2)
the testing environment at National Chengchi University
BlindNavi motivates the visually-impaired users to explore the world on their own. By combining the power of design and technology, we enhance visually-impaired people’s cognition to the living environment and improve their independence and mobility.
What I Learned
BlindNavi is my first UX project participated at school, and also the only one that conducted the deepest and designed the most complete. I am thankful to have this opportunity to join a graduate school project during my senior year in college. By collaborating with other graduate members, I learned a lot from them and gained a lot of unique experience. For example, because our target user is visually-impaired people, so the way and the tone we interview them are particularly important, it can result in that if we can build the trust with them or not. When the users gave us the first positive feedback and said it’s just the product they had wanted for a long time, the enormous sense of fulfillment I felt was beyond words. BlindNavi made me realize how interested I am in solving user’s problems, the power of design, and the huge impact it can make on society.