April to May 2023 (6 weeks)
UX Designer and User Researcher on a team with Anne Hu. Project for Human Factors Methods class.
Around a third of teenagers have anxiety disorders, with many more experiencing anxiety—and these numbers are increasing over time. If we can help early teenagers build anxiety management habits, these skills will last them a lifetime.
Building self-awareness with a smart fidget toy
Tufts Professor Daniel Hannon pointed out that anxiety management starts with awareness of anxious moments.
This led to our design opportunity. What if we created a smart fidget toy that collected data on when you fidget and displayed this data to the user so they could become more aware of their anxiety?
STAGE 1: RESEARCH
We identified the following key stakeholders and developed a set of guiding interview questions for each group.
We asked teenagers about their perceptions of anxiety and their ideas for fidget toy designs. To gather quantitative data, we asked them to rate potential app features on a scale of 1 to 10.
As for the fidget toy, teachers and students told us the fidget toy needs to be quiet and discrete. The therapist we interviewed suggested that the app clearly connects data on fidget timing and frequency with the user’s anxiety.
STAGE 2: DESIGN
From our interviews, we learned that early teenagers experience three phases of anxiety:
With this in mind, we organized our app in the same way to align with our user’s mental model. Our app has three tabs: Home (containing fidget toy data), Calm, and Reflect.
Low-fidelity app prototype
Medium-fidelity app prototype
High-fidelity app prototype
Fidget toy prototype
In our interviews, we asked teenagers about their favorite fidget toys. Our design combines a stress ball and a rotating component similar to a fidget spinner.
STAGE 3: TESTING & REDESIGN
We conducted three usability tests using the procedure below. We learned the most from task #1: “Take a few minutes to think aloud while you explore the app.”
On average, users rated their experience using the app an 8.4/10. They said the app was “laid out nicely,” “made me smile,” and “easy to use.”
Don’t be afraid to ask follow-up questions. I learned to be okay with sacrificing some guiding interview questions to ask follow-up questions, as long as they generate valuable insights.
Create a safe space for user interviews. Since anxiety can be a sensitive topic, we started our interviews with a few disclaimers: “This can be a vulnerable topic, you can stop at any time, and there are no right or wrong answers.”
Digital and physical products require unique research and design methods. We had to be creative to gather feedback on both. For example, we asked teenagers to sketch their “ideal fidget toy.”