BlindNavi is a navigation app made for visually-impaired smartphone users. With BlindNavi, We solve their frustrating navigation experience through qualitative research, design iterations, and user testings.
User Research/ Product Design/ Prototyping/ User Testing/ Video Making
12 months in 2014
Professor Hsien-Hui Tang, Neng-Hao Yu
Designer Anne Chen, April Chen
Developer Yi-Ying Lin, I-Fang Wang
Nowadays, there are 246 million visually-impaired people all over the world. They use their smartphones through auditory sense. However, most of the current apps are not designed for the usage habits of the visually-impaired people, and usually contains complex information display and unfriendly interaction design. Therefore, a 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 needs for mobile navigation. Next, we concluded several insights 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.
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. Also, We 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.
The biggest 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, they would open a browser to search for the address and make a phone call to confirm the exact location. Second, they would use an existing navigation app such as Google Maps, to navigate themselves on the trip. At last, they would like to share the walking experience with other visually impaired friends on a messaging app afterward.
We were really surprised to know how many applications they would use, and how many problems they're facing. Not to mention, they only got tools and apps that are designed for normally sighted people, so the information display is unfriendly to the visually-impaired users. All of these lead to a very frustrating navigation experience.
It’s easy for sighted people to memorize the relative position in a 2D map. However, 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 critical 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.
Navigation experience is 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.
where am I
route A to B
Reduced information architecture
In order to fit the visually-impaired users’ habits of using VoiceOver, which is a built-in feature in the iOS system, we reduce the app architecture and usage process with a list-view structure that is flat and easy to use.
Multi-sensory cues as navigation hints
We use Multi-sensory Cues and Clock Position to navigate visually-impaired users while they are outdoor, which matches the way they remember routes. For instance, the audio navigation guide would be “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 research, the ideal 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 testings, we received lots of positive feedback, which motivated us to do this project much deeper and further.
"Yea, it’s the product I've always wanted! It tells me directly which path is easier for walking!"(p3)
“It does help to reduce my wandering time outside."(p8)
“The details of the audio guide are helpful, they reduce 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 was my first UX project participated at school, I am thankful to have the 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 very unique experience. For example, since our target user is visually-impaired people, so the way and the tone we interview them are particularly important, it can affect whether or not we can build trust with them and lead them to share more details of their navigation experience. The time when the user gave us the very first positive feedback and said it’s just the product she 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, as well as the power of design, how much impact it can make on the society.