Stay at home parents devote their
lives to their families. How do we design a solution
that helps them find time for themselves?
High-fidelity prototype of
a system that helps
organize their time and
August - December 2019
UNDERSTANDING OUR USERS
To understand stay-at-home parents' significant pain points, team and I conducted 10 semi-structured interviews with stay-at-home parents around the country asking about their schedules, chores, and challenges. Although we had hypothesized that stay-at-home parents would find maintaining their social lives the most difficult, another story started to unfold once we began affinity mapping the results of our interviews.
Although the stay-at-home parents we interviewed were extremely dedicated to their families, there was one person they didn't prioritize: themselves.
The parents reported that their biggest challenge was finding time for themselves and their hobbies in the midst of their unpredictable schedules.
BREAKING DOWN THE PROBLEM
From affinity mapping, we identified three major areas that the stay-at-home parents found the most
stressful— areas in which we could help them save time to pursue their own interests. We also created two personas, based on our interviews, to keep us focused when fleshing out our concepts.
1. Daily scheduling
One reason parents reported having such little time for themselves was because of their hectic and constantly changing schedules.
One of the main reasons parents had less time for themselves was because they were constantly watching their kids or taking care of the home.
3. Household tasks
Another major pain point that the stay-at-home parents reported was feeling boredom and exhaustion after doing chores for long periods of time.
WHO WE'RE DESIGNING FOR
To facilitate brainstorming and ideation, my teammate and I created two personas based on our interviews and affinity mapping.
LOCATION CARY, NC
TECH USAGE SMARTPHONE USED DAILY
Kristen is a stay-at-home mom with two young kids: Ava, a 3 year old, and Ethan, a 1 year old. Her husband, Nate, is a chef at a local restaurant. Kristen worked for a couple of years after earning her bachelor’s degree but decided to become a stay at home mom after having Ava to spend more time with her. Because of Nate’s long working hours, Kristen is often in charge of the kids and household. She finds herself running in and out of the house all day to drop Ava off at preschool and get errands done with Ethan in tow.
Before having kids, Kristen spent her free time reading or watching crime dramas. She was part of a book club that met every Saturday for two hours, but after having kids her unpredictable schedule leaves her with very little time to pursue her hobbies. She’s trying to socialize more, but she is only able to attend book club about once a month.
LOCATION REDMOND, WA
TECH USAGE SMARTPHONE, LAPTOP, ALEXA USED DAILY
Daniel is a father of 4: a pair of twin girls age 11 (Maya and Maxine), and two boys aged 7 (Jacob) and 5 (Sammy). His wife Maria is a software engineer for a tech company in Seattle. The twins and Jacob are in school until 3pm but his youngest gets home from kindergarten at noon. Daniel made the decision to be a stay at home parent because he and Maria decided that one of them should stay at home with the kids.
He likes to keep up with the tech industry by reading articles and books and plans to go back to work as a mobile developer in a few years. Daniel used to play soccer in college and recently got into baking. He wishes he could find a local league to play in to make friends with similar interests, but because the family moved to Redmond a few months ago, he isn’t familiar with community groups.
We created mood boards, storyboards, narrative walkthroughs, and wireframes for each design concept, each corresponding to one of the major pain points listed above.
SMART SCHEDULER (pain point #1)
The Smart Scheduler is a physical screen placed in the home which takes the place of a planner.
(PAIN POINT #2)
Kindly is a mobile application that enables people to find kid-friendly locations based on user ratings.
(PAIN POINT #3)
HomeHelper is a magnetic board game to hang on the fridge which helps SAHPs delegate chores.
We conducted a second round of semi-structured interviews with three stay-at-home parents to determine which concept fulfilled the most urgent need in their lives and how they would change each design. The results were unanimous— every stay-at-home parent preferred the Smart Scheduler.
The Smart Scheduler
The smart scheduler is a physical screen (17” x 22”) placed in the home which takes the place of a calendar or planner. Rather than a system that stresses users about their responsibilities, the Smart Scheduler aims to provide a clean, calming space where users can shape their day and keep track of their well-being. The main features of the system are:
Daily schedule shown on the right side of the screen.
Preview of the next week’s events
Movable tab of digital sticky notes on which the user writes event details
Smart pencil with which the user writes the sticky notes
Expandable footer that shows monthly calendar, user’s goal of the month, a chart showing user’s monthly amount of self-care, and daily suggestions
A mobile app that allows users to schedule on the go and get reminders about tasks
In a nutshell, the smart scheduler is an amalgamation of traditional timekeeping methods and modern technological calendars. Because the main system is integrated with the home on the wall like a traditional calendar, users are able to view it as they go about their daily tasks at home. Unlike a completely mobile solution, users don’t have to go out of their way to look at their phone. This is especially pertinent for stay-at-home parents whose hands are constantly occupied taking care young children.
What really sets the smart scheduler apart from physical and mobile calendars, however, is its emphasis on self-care. We found from our interviews that what stay-at-home parents need most is time to themselves for relaxation or hobbies and that they are not able to fulfill these needs due to their hectic schedules and the effort it takes to find events or activity groups. The smart scheduler allows stay at home parents to be cognizant of the amount time they are actually spending on themselves and find ways to increase that if necessary. It also provides suggestions for local events related to parents’ interests so that they don’t have to spend their own time searching.
THE SMART SCHEDULER
Assessing our design
We conducted a three part evaluation with six participants over two weeks. We used the following methods, employing paper prototypes for in-person semi-structured interviews and an online prototype for remote semi-structured interviews:
think aloud & interview
Participants were asked to think aloud while and answer questions after walking through four key tasks: adding and deleting an event, and interpreting the footer and the expanded self-care graph. This gave us an understanding about how intuitive the main functionality is.
sus & custom survey
Participants filled out an online survey of 10 standard SUS questions and 5 custom questions so that we could understand the overall usability and effectiveness of the Smart Scheduler system.
We asked participants to choose five
to ten adjectives that they felt described the system best from a list
of 29 positive and negative words.
This exercise gave us an understanding of how the
participants conceptualize the system.
We chose these methods because they would help us understand whether or not we met the design objectives we had set in the initial stages of our project. The main system criteria we were trying to evaluate with these methods were time-saving (think aloud), encouragement to pursue personal interest (think aloud), learnability (SUS, think aloud), efficiency (SUS, desirability analysis), satisfaction (all methods), accessibility (SUS), and empathy (think aloud, desirability analysis).
“Using sticky notes
make it very intuitive.”
- Participant 3
Overall, the SUS score for the Scheduler was an 83.8. Participants found the system easy to use and intuitive. Generally, they liked the interaction of writing on a sticky note and dragging it to add a task. Four participants specifically pointed out that they liked the process of editing and deleting tasks compared to the current scheduling methods they use.
Our participants also felt that the system would help them be more efficient and organized. However, they also felt that using the system would take a lot of time and motivation, which they might not necessarily have. Additionally, while the parents we interviewed were unsure whether the self-care graphs would actually cause them to make lifestyle changes, they believed that the graphs provided useful information.
Because of our semester-long time constraint, we could only conduct one round of discount evaluation. However, based on the results, the team generated a number of design changes that would hypothetically be tested in a second round of evaluation. The major changes we made
were to increase the functionality of the self-care graphs, such as customizing graphs and allowing participants to set and track goals through the graphs, amongst other changes.