Research, Paper Prototyping, Low-fi Prototyping, Design Systems, Hi-fi Prototyping, Information Architecture, Interaction Design, Motion Design, Photography & Videography
Sketch, Figma, Figmotion, After Effects, Premiere Pro, Principle
Mehul Shah, Miki (Xue) Bin, Cheyenne Ismailciuc
Human-Computer Interaction + Design,
University of Washington
Sep 2019 - Dec 2019
How might we help autistic adults achieve independence when riding public transit?
The goal of this project was to successfully guide young autistic adults in public transportation. Here, I led my team in the design response which was informed by our formative research. Our team looked at 'how to promote public transportation usage for the autistic users' who are inexperienced riders. By providing them location-based guidance, real-time transit etiquette, and help via community engagement.
Design for Accessibility
Contextual Guidebooks. In unfamiliar cases, autistic users are prompted by receiving real-time guides, a collection of "books" on public transit etiquettes, before and during their ride to be better prepared for their transit journey.
SOS Help. When the user is in a high-anxious situation, they can reach out for help from other Infinite Transit users, who can support them with their immediate transit problems.
Sharing Experience. Users can share their riding experience by contributing to guidebooks, submitting and editing posts, thus growing as a contributor within the Infinite Transit community.
Highlighted bus number on the route overview for the user to know which bus line they will be taking to their destination.
Breakdown of Bus Number and Time to Destination as well as the time allotted for walking/riding is displayed with clear annotations.
The progress bar gives information to the user about their journey on their ride, including ETA, contextual guides, locations, and review books (that includes other riders' encounter experience at that particular location).
A Request Help Notification is prompted only when clicking the Request Help button on the main map screen, this will provide the user information about locating a potential passenger willing to help the user during their transit ride.
Sharing Experience & Edits
Riders' are prompted with a choice to share their encounter experience at that particular location after they have completed their journey. The Edit feature allows the user to edit the text in a contextual guide and update it with the most recent information.
Guide feature gives users a reassurance by prompting them what they can expect when they head-out or during-transit to their destination.
The Contribution Level Button directs the user to view their level as a contributor. The level bar indicates the user’s experience level through the transit experience.
Throughout these 13 weeks, my team and I divided our research and design process into three primary categories:
Double Diamond Process
* - I played a key role
** - I spearheaded my team
Research / 4 wk
Stakeholder Mapping *
Literature Study *
Popular Media Scan *
Ideation / 5 wk
Concept Organization **
Down Selection **
Paper Prototyping **
User Flows **
Information Architecture **
Prototyping / 4 wk
Collaborative Brainstorming *
Low-Fidelity sketching **
Mid-Fidelity Wireframing **
High-Fidelity + Motion **
Autism is referred to as a broad range of conditions characterized by challenges with social skills, repetitive behaviors, speech, and nonverbal communication.
"The U.S. cost of autism over the lifespan is about $2.4 million for a person with an intellectual disability, or $1.4 million for a person without intellectual disability ⎼⎼⎼ expensive costs indicate a limit in resources they may be capable of utilizing, including personal transportation."
We gathered our research reflecting this problem space:
More than 3.5 million Americans live with Autism Spectrum Disorder.
In the coming decade, half-million people with Autism Spectrum Disorder will enter adulthood.
Autistic people have the same travel demands as everyone has.
There are limited resources for Autistic people in regards to public transportation.
People with autism have various sensitivities in regards to public transport, which include: Change of routine in bus routes, substitute drivers, more passengers entering the bus; unexpected traffic; privacy and space; sensory issues like loud bus noises, fluorescent lighting, and scents such as perfumes ⎼⎼⎼ people with autism face heightened sensory sensitivities and social anxieties associated with public transit.
From our research we gained valuable insights about our user group and the problem scope that demands to be highlighted:
Young autistic adults easily get panicked about changes in public transit services.
They rely on community platforms such as Reddit and Twitter to educate and share experiences.
Transportation training for autistic adults is scarce or simply unavailable.
Paratransit services may vary considerably on the degree of flexibility they provide their customers, limited hours, long service wait-time windows, problems for routine travel trips, and issues involving crossing county line barriers cause limitations for people of special needs.
“I need to follow someone else. I get overwhelmed and end up being lost.”
“I don’t understand how to track stops or plan and time-trips across multiple busses”.
Source: Quotes pulled up from our study response with the autistic community on the Reddit platform.
For our design challenge, we as a team performed collaborative brainstorming to downselect the top 3 ideas from our 90 different concept sketches. Where we aimed to:
Provide explicit instruction, with no room for ambiguity.
Facilitate interactions with other actors that minimize social anxieties for the user.
Provide personalized transit etiquette prompts to our users in real-time.
Downselection of 90 sketches to 3 ideas.
Paper Prototypes, Wireframes, and Probes
I lead my team in quickly communicating ideas in a visual way. The way I approached (brought in my design values reflecting from my Indian culture: Self-reliance, Craftmanship, and Affordability) -- where I wanted us to not spend a lot of money and at the same time create a functioning prototype. We used materials like paper, cardboard cut-outs, post-its, sharpies and markers, stickers, tape, and glue.
Paper Prototypes and Probes to test with real participants
As you see here, some of the highlighted annotations from the participants that they expressed while using our paper prototypes. The idea of a split-screen display didn’t work out well. The idea of using the Autistic community logo didn’t result in a positive feed from the autistic community and the idea of complex bus route information left our users overwhelming.
Now that we had an idea from our minimum viable prototype, we sketched out some ideas and thought about what our app and user interface might look like.
We decided to call out 3 main
Guidebooks (where users could learn transit etiquettes and educate themselves with what to expect);
Gamification (where users can learn etiquettes through gamification process);
Community Forums (where users can help, share, and learn from others' experience through community engagement).
We unified our sketches into initial designs which comprised of elements of the three concepts, a location-based guide that allows for community engagement and real-time transit etiquette information.
This helped us to confirm our design decisions before we spent more time refining what our final prototype would look like.
Next, with our initial designs, we reached out to our users on Reddit to validate our design decisions and test with the unified prototypes we made.
Initial Designs. [Click to enlarge on each mockup]
Testing with some of our paper prototypes and initial designs with participants, we quickly gained more insight into our user group's mental model. Because of their need for explicit instructions, peer-peer experience, simple distractions, and vague visuals hinder usability.
From this feedback, we reassessed our design response.
Most prevalent app issues found from user testing
Users had difficulty in navigation
Our users expressed that they had difficulty in navigation without any clear explicit instructions. They felt that it was similar to the features -- Google maps were offering.
Game like experience was distracting
Users felt that the gamified approach of learning real-time etiquette in the public setting was distracting. They felt they could easily be lost without having any information about their location during transit.
Users liked sharing their experiences
Our users showed a strong affinity in helping each other in the community by sharing their riding experience and the help they received from other riders and people around.
Iteration & Final Designs
Finally, after iterating on the feedback we received from user testing, I led my team to prototype the final concept into app designs. And in our final solution, we made sure to address a wide spectrum of autistic users and meet their public transit needs.
Interaction Design that highlights the key interactions of Infinite Transit.
We found that these features were really useful to the user base we tested with. It gave them a sense of trust and guidance at every step of traveling in public transport.
Most importantly, I had the opportunity to work with a very different set of user base and this really expanded me as a designer to work on inclusivity.
Impact & Takeaways
Towards the end of this project — we were reached out by a startup agency based in New York who wanted to collaborate on this project.
"I like how your app removes ableism. Now it's time to think about inclusivity."
- Mark Surabian,
Founder, ATHelp.org & ATTrain.org
I believe achieving inclusive design means that we iterate on our scope to anyone who easily makes errors on bus rides and how we can help them, including anyone with disabilities, non-native speakers, and first-time riders.