SonoTech

Designing a more inclusive concert experience for the Deaf Community

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Background

As part of a class project at Georgia Tech, we had the opportunity to create a product geared towards improving the live music experience for the Deaf Community. The Deaf Community face countless barriers in the music experience, so we wanted to create a product that could truly make live music accessible to everyone.

Contributions

I was the research lead for this project. I conducted a literature review, led the design and analysis of a survey, conducted semi-structured interviews, and crafted the usability and evaluation protocols.

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The Team

Jason Dong

Kaavya Singhal

Qiong Wu

My Role

UX Researcher

Project Duration

August 2020 - December 2020

Phase 1:Generative Research

We began by conducting a literature review of the social, cultural, and technical context of the live music experience for the Deaf Community. This included researching current applications and products that address the Deaf Community’s experience with live music to gain a better sense of the needs and wants of our users. In order to delve deeply into this problem space, we identified specific objectives we wanted to accomplish.

Objectives:

  • Understand how current auditory impaired individuals perceive their concert experience/what (if anything) they feel is missing.

  • Examine how inclined the Deaf community is on using current softwares and technologies addressing the live concert.

  • Identify the greatest pain points our users encounter.

 

 

To further understand the problem space we were working in, we decided to conduct surveys and text-based interviews.

Surveys

Objective: To get more information about the Deaf Community’s pain points in the live music experience, their perceived inclusion and accessibility in the live music experience, and any assistive technologies that are currently being utilized.

 

Rationale: Surveys allow us to gain a large amount of information quickly to gain a better understanding of the Deaf Community’s needs.

 

Methods:

  • Distributed on the Subreddits r/deaf and r/hardofhearing and various support groups found on social media

  • 22 questions

  • 45 responses 

Analysis:                                                                                                      Insights:

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  • Most people have NOT used assistive technologies at concerts

    • ​Those who have not express sentiments of lack of accessibility, lack of awareness, and lack of availability 

  • Most people are willing to use assistive technologies at concerts, but aren’t sure if they are available or even exist

  • Most of the participants feel their music experience is at least a little bit different than those not part of the Deaf Community

Semi-Structured Interviews

Objective: To dig deeper into the Deaf Community's pain points within the live music experience that was previously uncovered from the surveys/initial research.

 

Rationale: The flexible and open-ended format of semi-structured interviews would also allow the participants to share their experiences and to express their opinions in a relaxed setting, thus giving us more insights about the specifics of their concert experience. We decided to do text-based interviews due to our participants having auditory impairments.

 

Methods:

  • Conducted text-based interviews over Skype

  • 13 questions

  • 8 participants 

Analysis:                                                                                                     

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Because of the COVID-19 pandemic, our affinity diagram was completed on Miro to practice social distancing.

To summarize our data, we came together as a team to share and analyze our notes from our interviews and uncover interesting and recurring patterns. Our main insights are listed below.

  • Users have problems with finding information about the venue accommodations.

  • Users don't feel entirely integrated into the concert experience.

  • Users have unaware of what assistive technologies are out there.

  • Users are confused on where to look or who to ask for accessibility at concerts and give up often because it is too difficult.

Phase 2: Research to Design
Synthesis

After gathering all of the data from the surveys and semi-structured interviews, we consolidated our insights into 6 main research findings.

 

Findings:

  • Members of the Deaf Community typically are not aware of the assistive technologies provided by each live concert venue.

  • Most individuals with auditory impairments would be willing to use assistive technologies during concerts if they were available.

  • Most of the participants feel their music experience is at least a little bit different than those not part of the Deaf Community.

  • Individuals of the Deaf Community feel that the process of requesting assistive technologies at live concerts is confusing and/or difficult.

  • Lyrical aid is generally one of the most important parts of a live concert for those with hearing disabilities.

  • Members of the Deaf Community feel more engaged at live concerts when they have prior knowledge about concert characteristics.

Persona and Empathy Maps

I then helped craft personas and empathy maps. These helped us more deeply understand our users' needs, wants, and frustrations to better help us make decisions in our future design. 

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The personas, empathy maps, and research findings would each help us uncover user needs and other insights that may have not been revealed before. These techniques were used to inform and create our design implications which can be seen below.

User Needs

I want to be able to easily request assistive technology at live concert venues.

I want to know what assistive technologies are out there that could enhance my music experience.

 

I want to know the lyrics at concerts.

 

I want to know the exact concert itinerary, ranging from all of the songs that will be played, to the complete lineup.

 

I want my concert experience to be the same as those not part of the Deaf Community.

Design Implications

Clear guidelines on where and who to ask for accommodations at concerts.

A system that shows what assistive technologies will be at a concert, and specific guidelines on when/how to use them.

A system that shows what songs will be played and what the lyrics are for each song in a real-time manner.

Product that provides all necessary information about specific concert characteristics in advance so that concert-goers can be situated and comfortable.

A system that is made equally for the Deaf Community and Hearing Community rather than merely trying to accommodate the Deaf Community’s needs.

Phase 3: Design

At this stage in our project, we began to ideate and sketch different design ideas based on the design implications we created earlier as well as the user research we analyzed. After a lot of brainstorming, our team narrowed down to two design ideas, SonoTech and Lyrical. We created sketches for these two designs.

Sono-Tech

SonoTech, is a mobile and/or Web-based application that is aimed at helping members of the Deaf Community use assistive technologies at live concerts. After users have bought their concert tickets, they will be given the option of exploring assistive technologies and performing four core goals: 

  • Finding out which assistive technologies are available at each concert venue for which they have booked tickets for.

  • Gaining background information about each available technology.

  • Requesting and booking assistive technologies in advance for the live concert they will be attending.

  • Gaining information about the process by which they will go about obtaining the assistive technology at the concert venue.

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Lyrical

 Lyrical is a mobile application that is aimed at providing lyrical aid to members of the Deaf Community both before & during live concerts. The “before” portion of the application is meant to provide users with background knowledge about the concert. The “during” portion of the application is meant to utilize the existing lyrical aid, Google glasses (real-time captioning glasses) and optimize this overall experience by providing a mobile counterpart as well as adjustable Google Glasses features. After buying their concert tickets, users have the option of performing three core tasks:

  • Looking up lyrics and concert lineups of selected venues before the concerts.

  • Pairing the mobile application with Google glasses to view the lyrics real-time both on the application and on Google glasses.

  • Changing the settings of Google glasses to adjust the lyrical characteristics.

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Narrowing Down Design

After going over both design ideas as a team as well as the initial feedback from users, we identified SonoTech as the most feasible idea for our project. We went through both design ideas with users using a feedback session protocol. Below I have included a few questions from the feedback session protocol I created as well as affinity diagrams from both sessions (SonoTech and Lyrical) which illustrate our insights from each session.

Question

What do you like about this design? What do you not like about this design?

Did you find anything about the design confusing/unclear, and if so, what was it?

To what extent do you believe that this design solves a problem the Deaf Community encounters in the live concert experience?

Can you think of a time when you would have used an application of this sort?

Justification

Identify generally what the users’ first impression of the application are.

 

Identify specific parts of the design that are confusing to users and why they are confusing.

Determine if this application provides an actual benefit to members of the Deaf Community.

Identify if users could see themselves actually using this application in their life. Also, understand if there is a recurring problem the users face in their concert experience where this app would be useful.

Below is our affinity diagram for SonoTech which we used to generate insights from our feedback sessions with users.

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Findings

  • There should be clear directions and photos on the application for each assistive technology as members of the Deaf Community rely on visual stimuli.

  • The list of available technologies should be shown before users buy their tickets so as to help them decide which concert to attend.

  • Participants would like more information about how to access booked technologies sooner in the application.

Below is our affinity diagram for Lyrical which we used to generate insights from our feedback sessions with users.

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Findings

  • Participants were concerned about the potential for the given technology not functioning during the concert experience.

  • Users with glasses may have problems using Google glasses, which is an accessibility issue for many members of the Deaf Community who wear glasses.

  • Participants found that seeing the lyrics and lineups beforehand is the most helpful feature.

Wireframes

Using the feedback from we received for our SonoTech sketches, we began to create wireframes and conducted further feedback sessions from our users. Below is the wireframe we used in our feedback sessions with the main findings we uncovered.

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Findings

  • Participants enjoyed the big pictures and the simple interface design.

  • The ear icon on the booked technology confirmation screen is not noticeable enough; users may not know to click on it.

  • The information and direction icons on the booked technology screen are confusing.

  • The UI is consistent with the mental model of buying tickets.

  • The bottom three icons do not appear consistently throughout the design.

Prototype

After all the initial feedback in our sketches and wireframes, we began to design the prototype on Figma. Shown below are a few screens of the prototype

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Screens that show that available assistive technologies at a Lady Gaga concert.

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Screens of a purchased concert ticket and how to get information on booked assistive technologies.

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Phase 4: Evaluative Research
After designing our prototype, we sought to evaluate our prototype through expert and user evaluations. We decided to use a variety of methods of usability testing including think alouds, benchmark tasks, semi-structured interviews, and questionnaires. I took the lead on crafting the protocols for the heuristic evaluations and user-based testing.
Heuristic Evaluation

Objective: To find existing design problems on our application that don't adhere to design "heuristics" and identify improvements we can make to the design before we engage in user-based testing.

Rationale: Heuristic evaluations allow us to get helpful feedback on common usability problems that a less experienced user may not find. They can identify obvious flaws in our design before we test it with users.

Methods:

  • Conducted over Zoom

  • Think Aloud followed by questions about specific heuristics

  • Experts go through Nielsen's 10 Usability Heuristics and how our prototype addresses each one.

  • 3 experts associated with the MS-HCI program at Georgia Tech who had experience working with members of the Deaf Community

Sample Questions:

  • To what extent do you think users get appropriate feedback in this system when they complete certain tasks (book tickets, request/return assistive technologies, etc.)?

  • What do you notice about the visibility of tasks (such as reserving technologies and accessing instructions) that users can complete as well as visibility of important pieces of information (how to access the assistive technologies at the venue)?

  • To what extent do you believe that the application guides users navigating throughout the interface?

User-Based Testing

Objective: To identify problems related to the navigation flow and user tasks in a real-time setting. Discover any desirable aspects of the design, as well as confusing aspects.

Rationale: User-based testing allows us to get real-time insight into what our users think of our design as well as any problems they may encounter.

Methods:

  • Conducted over Zoom

  • Task scenarios and semi-structured interview questions

  • 4 members of the Deaf Community

Sample Questions:

  • Task: View currently booked technologies for the Lady Gaga concert.

  • Task: Navigate to the instructions for obtaining Google glass at the venue.

  • What are your suggestions on any improvements we can make to the application concept?

  • On a scale of 1 to 5, how likely would you use this design once it has been refined? 5 being "I would absolutely use it" and 1 being "I would not use it"?

Findings
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Miro board where we organized our insights from the heuristic evaluations.

After conducting all of the usability testing with experts and users, we came together as a group to analyze the data. We organized our findings into main issues with our design and recommendations to iterate on the prototype. I organized the most significant findings below.

Finding #1
There is no information or any mention of assistive technologies on the home page. Deaf Community participants expressed that since it is the main goal of the app, it should be clearly visible to users.
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Recommendation: Include a taskbar button for assistive technologies or clearly lay out a button for assistive technologies on the home page.

Finding #2
Users expressed that there is no way to filter accommodations on the home page. Since users may choose concerts based on the accommodations they have available, they want to be able to filter concerts this way.
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Recommendation: Include a filter option for users to choose their preferred technologies so they can view all the possible concerts with their preferences. Cross reference preferences of the users with venue availability.

Finding #3
Users expressed that the font is too small on the Google Glass instructions screen, which might serve as an accessibility issue to those with slight vision impairments.
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Recommendation: Enlarge the font while also maintaining the white space and clear layout.

Note: If you would like to see all of our findings and insights, feel free to reach out to me!

Future Directions
  • Iterate the design based on the feedback from the usability testing sessions.

  • Conduct further usability testing.

  • Test the prototype in a live concert setting.

  • Decide whether the product will be a stand-alone app or part of an existing ticketing system (Ticketmaster, StubHub).

Challenges

Throughout this entire project, I definitely tested myself in what I was capable of accomplishing in one of my first UX-related projects. Because of the COVID-19 pandemic, everything from the collaboration with my teammates to the usability sessions with participants was conducted virtually, which was a challenge in itself. In addition, completing a 4 person project with 3 people was also quite difficult, but it allowed me to be introduced to all aspects of the UX process and deal with problems that may be out of my control.