FamBam
Designing a mobile app to help single parents with childcare
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Background

Single parents face countless barriers every single day, yet there are few apps that exist that focus solely on single parents. In this Georgia Tech project, we had the opportunity to create an app geared towards helping single parents with childcare and time management, in order to reduce their overall stress levels.

Contributions

I conducted a literature review of the social-cultural context of single parents and their most pressing challenges they encounter, conducted semi-structured interviews, created sketches and wireframes, and created the usability evaluation protocol.

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The Team

Jason Dong

Kaavya Singhal

Qiong Wu

Role
Lead UX Researcher
Project Duration

August 2020 - December 2020

Phase 1:Generative Research

In order to delve deeply in this problem space, we conducted a literature review of the social, cultural, and technical context of challenges single parents encounter every day. We initially had an idea to focus on lowering stress levels of single parents, but we didn't want to commit to anything too specific until we did our user research. Through our literature review we sought to understand our user needs, goals, motivations, and frustrations. We identified specific objectives we wanted to accomplish to give us more information about our target population and how they manage their stress.

Objectives:

  • Understand how single parents currently managing their time.

  • Examine how single parents currently taking time for their own mental health.

  • Identify how single parents currently seek external support.

Competitive Analysis

Objective: We chose to perform a design space critique of common apps in the mental health space. We wanted to explore common features of these types of apps, aspects of the design users enjoy, and frustrations users may encounter. 

Rationale: Allows us to see the strengths and weaknesses of current apps in the mental health space, while also giving us ideas to make a product that is both helpful and unique to single parents.

Methods: We analyzed the following apps:

  • Headspace

  • Mindful Mamas

  • Talkspace

  • Cozi Family Organizer

Insights: 

  • Some of the apps cost money - half of single parents are below the poverty line and may not be able to afford such an app.

  • Many are not geared specifically towards single parents.

  • Few clicks to accomplish specific tasks is important for users - interface must be intuitive.

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Surveys

Objective: Our specific goals for the survey were identifying single parents’ greatest stresses, areas in their lives they would like more support in, as well as any existing technologies/applications they currently use to help assist them in their single parenthood. Explore the "what" of our problem space.

Rationale: Surveys allow us to gain a large amount of information in a short amount of time and help us inform our future research methods. 

Methods: 

  • Distributed on Subreddits r/singleparents, r/singlemoms, and r/singledads as well as various social media support groups

  • 20 questions

  • 175 responses

Analysis: 

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Insights:

  • The majority of single parents go to family for support, followed by the internet.

  • 60% of participants currently use apps to help them navigate single parenthood.

  • The overwhelming stressor for participants was childcare.

Semi-structured Interviews

Objective: Gain deeper insight into the specific problems single parents are currently facing in order to narrow down our objective and problem space. Explore the "why" and "how" of our problem space.

Rationale: Semi-structured interviews allow us to follow-up and probe users on confusing and interesting answers as well as delve deeper into the specific problems our users encounter.

Methods: 

  • Conducted interviews over Zoom

  • 12 questions

  • 5 participants - 4 single moms and 1 single dad

Analysis: To analyze the interview data, we created a spreadsheet in which we manually entered the transcripts from our interviews with the 5 participants. We then went through the affinity modeling process by first creating notes per user, organizing them on Miro in an affinity diagram, and then “walking the wall” by brainstorming design insights and user issues. Below the affinity diagram, I have outlined the main findings we uncovered.

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Findings: 

  • Most single parents do have a support network in which they can go for childcare and other needs, with most of the support coming from parents or family.

  • Two of the single parents’ biggest concerns were the well-being of their child/children and the lack of time to balance all their responsibilities.

  • Current techniques single parents use to take time for themselves are walks, mediation, and TV.

  • The most popular applications single parents use that help them with parenthood are calendars and meditation apps.

  • Single parents find it difficult to make time for themselves as the sole caretakers of their children.

  • Single parents would like to see more mental health support. 

  • Single parents have feelings of uncertainty and worry about their children only having one role model.

  • For participants that use applications to help them navigate parenthood, only some of them believe they actually help.

  • COVID-19 has had the biggest effect on single parents’ social lives, consequently inducing feelings of loneliness.  

Phase 2: Research to Design
Research-informed Design Requirements

After consolidating our research findings, we came together to construct design requirements based on our insights.

Design Requirements

The eventual design should allow single parents to connect with external support systems (family, parents, therapists, other single parents).

 

The eventual product should help single parents effectively plan and manage their time. 

 

The eventual design should allow single parents to introspect and monitor their mental health. 

 

 

 

 

The future product should be simple to learn and navigate. 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The eventual design should provide a calming experience for the user. 

 

 

 

The future product should be home environment-friendly. 

 

 

 

 

 

Research Finding

Family support is the most significant area of external support single parents have.

 

 

 

Single parents find it difficult to make time for themselves as the sole caretakers of their children.

 

 

Single parents have feelings of uncertainty and worry about their children only having one role model.

Single parents would like to see more mental health support. 

 

For participants that use applications to help them navigate parenthood, only some of them believe they actually help.

 

Single parents find it difficult to make time for themselves as the sole caretakers of their children. 

 

 

 

Single parents find it difficult to make time for themselves as the sole caretakers of their children.

 

 

 

COVID-19 has had the biggest effect on single parents’ social lives, consequently inducing feelings of loneliness.  

 

 

 

 

 

 

Phase 3: Design

After discussing our design implications/requirements, we brainstormed 10 divergent designs and created sketches for each one. We picked our 2 strongest ideas, Talk Slot and FamBam. They both address the majority of frustrations single parents deal with as well as the functional requirements that were uncovered from our surveys and user interviews. Further, we believe FamBam and TalkSlot are both simple and feasible ideas that best address our user needs and problem space. The sketches/wireframes and storyboards of each idea are illustrated below. I created the wireframes and and general idea for Talk Slot.

Talk Slot

Talk Slot is an online breakout room app that single parents can join based on the topic they would like to address. For example, a breakout room could be named “Child having trouble with online school.” This addresses the design requirements of reaching out to external support systems and monitoring their mental health as it allows single parents to chat with other single parents going through similar struggles.

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FamBam

FamBam is a collaborative scheduling application geared toward single parents seeking to plan out their childcare routine, which addresses the design requirements of reaching out to external support systems and time management. Many of our participants rely on family members such as siblings and parents to babysit their children while at work, and FamBam would be a good way to organize this process. FamBam may include features such as a collective calendar where everyone involved in the child’s life inputs his/her schedules and/or a “request” feature where the single parent can ask for child care directly through the application rather than alternate platforms.

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Design Selection

We came together as a group and weighed the pros and cons of each design before ultimately deciding on FamBam. We chose FamBam because we believed it addressed the design requirements more fully than Talk Slot. In addition, we believed the idea was more unique from existing applications and could help single parents with frustrations they currently face.

Prototype

After choosing FamBam as the idea we wanted to pursue, we began to create the high-fidelity prototype on Figma, keeping in mind the design requirements we uncovered from our initial user research. Below I have organized some of the main screens of our prototype, a description of each one, and any design principles we demonstrated in the screens.

Log In/Instructions Screen

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These are the log in/instruction screens that users will first navigate through the very first time they download the app. It illustrates the three main goals of the application that we believed addressed the most pressing needs of single parents. The instruction pages help the users get familiarized with all the functionalities that the application provides in a concise, visual, and descriptive manner. It improves learnability by introducing functionalities of the application to help users familiarize themselves with the application and achieves external consistency by having introduction and login pages similar to ones that appear on other applications.

Calendar/Request Childcare Screens

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On the calendar, the main function users can accomplish is requesting childcare, which pertains to two of the most pressing needs of our users - seeking help with childcare and reaching out to their external support systems. To request childcare, users can click on a date they need childcare for and press the plus button to request childcare. This will take them to a screen where they can pick the time and who to send the childcare request to. Users have the option to send the request to just one caretaker or multiple caretakers depending on their preferences for that specific time. In addition, the calendar can visualize all the caretaking appointments that are scheduled for the month so that users are able to organize and manage their time accordingly. These screens adhere to consistency by following the user’s mental model of what a calendar should look like, evoke recoverability by allowing users to cancel requests for childcare, and maintain feedback by providing confirmation when a family member or friend accepts a request for childcare.

Gallery Screens

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The purpose of the Gallery function is to allow caretakers to share pictures and memories with the single parents. An area of stress for single parents we identified in our research was that one of their greatest concerns involved the health of their children, and this was exacerbated when they weren’t physically with them. To combat this, we decided to create a function that allows caretakers and single parents to collaborate on photo albums, so that the parents never miss out on the fun moments their children have and can have a greater peace of mind when their children are not physically with them. These screens support affordances (a heart on a picture affords itself to “liking” or “favoriting” that photo) and achieve responsiveness by providing a fast rate of communication in terms of when photos are added by caretakers (further achieved by the notifications that immediately appear).

Phase 3: Evaluative Research

Because of certain constraints because of the COVID-19 pandemic and the shortened semester, our team was required to conduct a discount evaluation plan with our classmates, not actual users. While this wasn't an ideal situation, as a UX researcher I tried my best to ground our classmates in the problem space and our users' shoes.

"User"-Based Testing

Objective:

  • Examine how well our prototype meets our design requirements.

  • Find out which features are most useful to single parents.

  • Identify if there are any confusing features or functions in the app for our users.

  • Learn if the application is different enough from what single parents have experienced/seen with other apps

  • Understand if the prototype is actually solving a problem single parents encounter in their day-to-day lives.

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 usability testing over Zoom

  • Think aloud

  • 3 benchmark tasks

  • Semi-structured interview questions

Sample Benchmark Tasks: 

  • Walk us through how you would request childcare on November 1st.

  • Find all the pictures that were taken by Bobby Bob. Favorite the first picture.

  • Walk us through how you would view the past caretaking appointments you have booked.

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Prototype connections of the high-fidelity prototype we used for usability testing

Sample Interview Questions: 

  • What are your suggestions for how we can make this application easier to navigate? Why?

  • On a scale of 1 to 5, how well do you believe this application can help you manage your calendar/time? (5 being it can help me a lot, 1 being it won’t help me)? Please explain your answer.

  • What are your suggestions for how we can use this application to better help single parents manage their time?

  • What are your suggestions for how we can make this application different from current calendar apps?

Findings

Because of the time constraints on this project, we only had time to present our research findings and the resulting design implications. Below I have included a table of some findings from our usability session, the resulting evidence, and the design requirement the finding addresses.

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Design Insights
  • Make viewing past caretaking appointments clearer. Perhaps add a "My History" feature.

  • Add more customization features for users. In order to help them manage their time more effectively, users expressed wanting a function to enter information for multiple children.

  • Make taskbar more visible and include more feedback when a user click on it.

  • Make icons in the Gallery page clearer on which one is a picture versus an album.

  • Make the childcare confirmation more obvious.

Future Directions

If we were to continue on this project we would continue our iterations on the prototype based on our initial feedback from our "users". After we would continue to evaluate and test our product with actual single parents to gauge whether this product is something they can see themselves benefitting from. We would engage in the cyclical process of getting user feedback and iterating on the design.

Challenges

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, because of the limitations of this class project we couldn't evaluate our product with actual users, so we had to settle for testing with our classmates. Another challenge we faced was not narrowing down the problem space soon enough. Because our target population has so many diverse needs and pain points, we found ourselves looking at a wide array of areas that could help the well-being of single parents. If we had to do it differently, we would identify the users' most pressing needs and narrow down our problem statement and objectives a lot sooner.