December 13

This week I spent the majority of my time preparing for my presentation.

I was able to meet with one of the caregivers I interviewed and show her my three use cases: doctor’s appointment, recurring payment check-in, and shopping lists.

From my feedback and discussion with her, I decided to switch my target audience from older seniors to baby-boomers – even though I tried to go with a solution and technology that is easiest to use, people still need to be overall accustomed to using technology in general before bothering to use my assistant (and many older people don’t have the cognitive ability to do that). For example, she said her 83 year old mother would never use my product because she has dementia, even though it’s mild.

My discussion with her also helped me reframe my assistant and think about the trust considerations of users giving it so much data. Previously, I had called it a proactive assistant that provides information at the right place and time – but this calls into question how the system “knows” everything and can be so smart. Instead, we came to the idea of the assistant just gathering all the information you have and placing it back in your hands in a meaningful way.

She also gave me some feedback about the overall direction of my project, which I think is tied to the feedback from my final presentation that I received – so I’ll elaborate on all that later.

In terms of presentation preparation, I was also developing assets and thinking through my designs along the way in order to tell the story. I found the presentation preparation quite stressful, especially making everything fit in 7 minutes – but it was a really good exercise and I learned a lot. I probably tried 3 different narratives and flows before landing on what I had today, and even then, had to do a lot of content cutting. I’ve linked my presentation deck and video above in the post summary.

Overall, I think this semester has been a bit hard, especially toward the end – I think I’m working in a very meaningful space but for some reason my confidence dipped significantly, especially in the last few weeks. After today’s presentation, I think I’m pinpointing some reasons why I feel this way.

For some reason I’ve been worrying that I haven’t been doing enough, quantity-wise – maybe having more structure and being stricter with documenting what I’ve done next semester would be helpful.

I also think right now I’m tackling some very general, surface level use cases. My user-testers find them useful, but I think they’re not extremely strong selling points and don’t set my product apart from other products very strongly. From my feedback in the presentation, as well as from my user-test, I should probably choose a very specific case and work on developing that experience from start to end. My user-tester used budgeting as an example – creating an assistant that would really help the problems and negative spending behaviours many seniors struggle with.

However, I think this semester was very fruitful, even if I’m not all too satisfied with the outcome of my work. I learned a ton: from hard skills like determining a good problem space and voice prototyping, to valuable insights from my discussions and experiences with different people I spoke with (caregivers, the seniors at the centre I volunteer at). I think I’m most proud of putting myself out there in two ways: The first way is literally going out and learning more: visiting the centres, having people share so much of themselves with me and be that vulnerable. The second way is how I approached this overall project: I tried to approach it as open-minded as possible and genuinely let my explorations and research guide my designs. For many of my past projects, without realizing, I would fall into the traps of having an idea from the very start and using my research and testing to “validate” this idea that I fell in love with from the start. This semester, I tried very hard to avoid that and I think I did a good job.

All in all, I think this semester was spent exploring the topic space and the use of a conversational digital assistant as a medium. I think I can use these learnings next semester to hone in on a very specific area – e.g. budgeting, switching healthcare providers, etc. and maybe it won’t be a general digital assistant anymore, but a platform that uses the digital assistant to optimize a specific complicated process.

But for now – back to sleep!

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