By Dominique Aruede, CMU Cognitive Psychology
When I joined, the quiz section had not been developed at all in favor of refining and refreshing the ID key and field guide which are more directly interpreted from the original website. Consequently, it was important to gather human-centered data again in order to assess the efficiency of the current design and determine if we could branch out to the quiz or keep working on the current designs.
First Task: Audubon Field Guide Walkthrough & Modeling
I spent a little time doing some exploration with a physical field guide and noting how it maps to real-world use and facilitation of citizen science. This step was particularly useful for getting my bearings on what the purpose of the Macroinvertabrates.com project is, how insect identification fits in, and how it works.
Second Task: User Testing
We conducted several user tests on insect ID experts and novices alike, with a focus on novice user experience from high schoolers and other young students.
The purpose of these usability tests was to gauge the design direction of our second iteration and to gather more user input to launch into the next iteration.
We reused the protocol from the first round of user testing and changed the questions to capture answers on our new inquiries:
The results revealed to us that the field guide was indeed informative, but subsequently neglected some utilitarian features that would be helpful for novice users. This helped to inform the learning goals and first iterations of the quiz design.
Below is an affinity diagram of the synthesized insights. It includes
Third Task: Quiz Design
The earliest version of the quiz was a rough sketch I drew up in Figma, but it did not have any learning goal or research claim behind it besides identifying some image as belonging to an order. These are the sketches below.
After further visualization, we wrote out the learning goals we thought would be the best to target in quiz mode based on the insights gleaned from the previous affinity diagram. The learning goals are summarized here:
After we gathered our quiz references, including Quizlet and Duolingo, we used our learning goals to consolidate designs for one flow of the quiz section. Users select their quiz type first, then their learning goal. An alternative flow that we are yet to explore involves switching those two options. Then we incorporated three quiz types: a flash card review, multiple choice quiz, and a matching quiz.
We drew this up on Figma and discovered a few issues/limitations
Afterwards we consulted our collaborator, who is an expert in aquatic macroinvertebrate education to give her opinion on the content and direction. From her insights, we decided to scrap learning PTV as a learning goal due to the inaccuracies of generalizing at the order level.
The next steps we plan to take include developing all the content necessary for accurate quizzing, fleshing out the flashcard review, the between order quiz learning goal for all quiz types, the common features learning goal for all quiz types, the common mistakes learning goal for all quiz types, exploring a new learning goal: “learning life history and fun facts about insect orders” as a deck in the flashcard review, and testing the usability and flow of our current design.
By Alice Fang, CMU Design
This semester, I've also been working on the design of the ID Key. As the Field Guide became more refined, we knew we had to focus on the other aspects of the app, less the design becomes incoherent. With previous key designs, we didn't really explore the edge cases, focusing on one prototypical 'question' and hint structure; soon I learned this question layout would not work with most of the interactive key.
Questions we were grappling with over the summer:
While refining the first wireflow for the Field Guide, I began thinking about the interaction flow of the ID Key in its most basic components using the visual style of the Field Guide. The simplest flow for the ID Key is a start page, a question page where the user has to make a choice, an optional hint, which will eventually result in identifying an Order, where the user can jump to that Order in Field Guide .
I began to mock up a flow with all of the questions and paths, in order to design the end pages for each decision; at this point, I discovered some discrepancies with the website’s ID Key
As with the rest of the app, to take advantage of the unique-ness and affordance of Macroinvertebrates.org's photography, the ID Key takes an Image-forward approach. For the Key, this means taking the images from the cards on the site ID Key and bringing them to the actual questions on the mobile app. In doing so, what do the hints look like now? Are they just text definitions?
In the process of mocking up different questions, I realized there are 3 general types of question pages, which would need to inform the type of button they had. The three types of questions are: Yes or No for 1 trait, variable answers for 1 trait, or choose between 2 traits.
How can I design a button that a. looks clickable and b. can still show a range of photographs? I didn't want to use one 'prototypical' image to represent each trait, because part of the beauty of the collection is being able to see the range of differences for a single trait. Wing Pads look different across different Orders, as do Tails.
Another button design I had to work out was representing the ~absence~ of a trait. The original key design had one image gallery, with choices underneath it; however, in choosing between Yes and No, it felt like there was some disconnect between seeing the trait, and then clicking 'No.'
By Alice Fang
This past semester, I refined the design of the field guide that Estelle and I worked on over the summer. With the main structure of each page layout figured out over the summer, this fall, I worked on global navigation, refined the design system of components and typography, and finalized some of the interactions. These design decisions informed the design and look of both the ID Key and Quiz.
The prototype we had over the summer followed the scientific-name as its organizing convention. With blue type in Roboto Slab, the scientific name stood out on each page, but conflicted in hierarchy with other type. What does the opening page look like when a user first opens the field guide function of the app? And how do these elements translate to the other two functions, ID Key and Quiz?
Global Navigation, Menu List, Flipping Images
We wanted color to be used more intentionally and consistently. Blue became actionable, orange represented 'state.' Following this convention, I changed the typographic system, exploring type size, weight, and style.
Thinking more holistically about the app, how does a user switch from the field guide to the ID Key? How does navigation work? Where does the back button go to? We used the bottom bar for global navigation, to switch between the main functions. Each function is its own independent section of the app, with tap to switch, not swipe.
I also explored more modal navigation methods; over the summer, we had designed a drop-down menu. However, during user tests, we received mixed feedback about people's mental models about the taxonomic structure. How else could we show Order > Family navigation, across all three sub menus: overview, diagnostic characters, and families?
The blue action button on the lower right floats on top of any content on any sub menu page. Selecting it on an Order page brings an overlay with other Insect Orders; on a Family page, it brings an overlay with the current Order, and a list of the families within the current Order. This way, users can get a better understanding of the nested structure of Order > Family > Genus.
I also explored different ways to flip / switch images at the Zoomable page level. How can someone recognize that a. an insect has multiple views, even if they don't know what 'ventral' and 'dorsal' mean; b. that there is an icon that actively flips the image?
User Testing Round 2
We conducted a second round of user testing with teachers, novice learners, and trainers. We asked them to speak aloud through a prototype of the app, and used a similar research protocol as the first round of testing.
Iterations Informed by Testing
I flipped the type system; the name with highest contrast is now the common name, with the scientific name quieter underneath. Common names were in Roboto Slab, and scientific names in Nunito Sans; this also allowed the Order Family genus naming convention to be used (Roboto Slab doesn't have an italic). Previously, we went with scientific names because of length; it was easier for edge cases to fit within the design. To switch to common names, I redesigned the headers, bars, and menu components for the reversed typography.
I also had to consider how components would fit in Orders outside of Mayflies. There are several important subcategories for identifying macroinvertebrates. Therefore, I had to separate Damselflies from Dragonflies, and toggle between the three categories of Caddisflies (case-making, free living, net-spinning). If there was a toggle for Caddisflies, then why are Adult and Larval Beetles separated into two different 'Order' pages? For the logic of the app structure, I grouped them back together; this meant we needed some toggle or filter system for Beetles as well now.
Building the Design System
Throughout the semester, I've been creating and updating a style sheet, so that all of the components were the same across all of the many frames and pages. When redesigning components, I also consolidated and organized all of the visual elements and typography. (This... is a more tedious process than I previously imagined.)
Field Guide Wireflow—All the Interactions
I also organized a wireflow for the team to understand the interactions of the Field Guide, so we're all on the same page. The three main functions of the app, Field Guide, ID Key, and Quiz, are also laid out for reference. A bit (and tedious) part of this project has also been organizing all of the resources, references, and assets for the developer and the rest of the team.
Personas are a common design research consolidation technique to make sense of user research data. Here findings from observations, interview transcripts, and organizational document analysis were synthesized and a set of representative user types were created to allow the design team an abstracted view of a range of user types, their needs, motivations and use cases to continually consider in decision-making as the design evolved .
Below are a fictionalized set of personas we created based on our data to characterize typical users of Macroinvertebrates.org. Personas developed by CMU design student Adrian Galvin.
By Dominique Aruede
Last week Dr. Louw tasked the design team with exploring the material design of the Audobon Society Field Guide and Pocket Guide and possibly perform a few insect identifications using the guides. The latter book was a smaller, simplified, more utilitarian version of the pocket guide.
In an effort to frame and understand the flow of a typical bug ID guide, we spent a week looking into the specific design choices of Audubon identification pocket guides and field guides. Alice, Estelle, and I each went though the Field Guide, noting down different features that added value or clarity or ease of use. We all agreed the field guide had general helpful features like annotated images and a glossary of all the common names.
Since I'm a very new member to the team I received another book, the pocket guide, which seemed to be for more novice audiences and was easy to digest for context purposes. The field guide was more advanced in technical information than the pocket guide, and that took away some of it's practicality. Below are our individual syntheses and visualizations of the insights produced from the objective.
by Chelsea Aci and Ziqi Dong
This summer we began development of an innovative open educational resource with the aim of making the task of learning to identify macronvertebrates easier and more engaging by developing a new kind of tool for guiding scientific observation and inquiry. The goal is to release a mobile version of Macroinvertebreates.org optimized for field use in low-no wifi conditions, and which supports learning to identify aquatic insects and water quality assessments.
Watch a video demo'ing our prototype with supporting documentation.
By Estelle Jiang and Alice Fang
Moving to a higher fidelity prototype by following the design system.
After showing our low-fidelity prototype to the entire team and developers, we decided to move forward by applying a more detailed design and developing the visual + design system. We also figured out how to showcase the relationship between orders, family and genius on the mobile application, and the UI components for each type of 'page'. It was one of the biggest challenges we met previously.
For the color theme, we followed the guidelines the project used on the website and applied the blue color to highlight actionable parts. To keep the app clean and concise, we used white for the major user interface design. As for the typography, the body font is Nunito Sans and the title font is Roboto Slab. Due to limitations with the database information, and in an effort to bring about the features of the specimen in photography, we also worked with the gigapan background color, creating a floating, borderless 'under a microscope' look [see image on the right].
Changes we made for the high fidelity prototype after discussion:
Homepage - We thought the card view can be bigger to attract people’s attention and intrigue their interest. Since we only have 10 orders, we did not have too many concerns about accessibility at the very beginning. The ID key button is also replaced on the home page.
The dropdown menu was also changed to help user easily navigate and get back to main page.
We also added icons to explain the functionalities and applied color for the side menu to make it stand out more. As we mentioned on the previous post, we were struggling between a button to expand, and swiping up. Since we were worried about the experience of swiping up which is too hidden on the bottom of the screen. we iterated and created a button on the bottom for accessibility instead.
Planning and preparing first round usability testing
To conduct our first round of testing, we started with writing the testing protocol, thinking about the purpose of the testing and the goals we want to achieve.
The purpose of our testing was to test the logic of the user flows, and to identify potential navigation and usability issues. We wanted to understand if the application is engaging to users, and is useful in identifying macroinvertebrates and learning their characteristics.
We assigned a few small tasks for users to finish during the testing:
Pre-task: Users will be given 30 seconds to get familiar with the application before doing task.
First task: Users are asked to browse the different orders though different ways. This way, we can then tell whether the design makes sense, and take note of how users navigate through the different levels of information.
Second task: This task was focused on the detailed Order & Family page designs, users are asked to find out more detailed order and family information, as well as specific diagnostic characters for a specific family. By asking the users how difficult the task is, we can evaluate the slider design idea we had, and how accessible / noticeable the actionable button is.
We also asked additional questions at the end of testing to check whether they can have a clear understanding about our application throughout the testing process, including:
Synthesize the findings to guide our next iterations.
Overall, we conducted five user interviews, with macroinvertebrate experts, people familiar with the site, and a novice user; I also got feedback from my friend who knew nothing about the concept or field in order to get additional novice learner’s insights.
Rather than use the normal user research method - affinity diagramming to synthesize the testing findings, Alice made the excel sheet to list out the key points the interviewee made for each task. It helped us highlight the common suggestions and feedback.
Here are the findings that guided our next iterations:
Iterations we made.
Since the first version of high fidelity prototypes are hard for novice learners to learn and understand the additional information, I quickly brainstormed two other versions to display the information and hierarchy between orders and families.
The first version allows users to swipe and learn along the way. The experience is more immersive and easy to follow if the users have no idea about the insect and the order. However, it doesn’t give enough freedom and choices for users to explore themselves, and quickly becomes repetitive for more experienced users.
The second version can cater the needs of both experienced users and novice learners since it allows them to quickly switch between various levels of information. The structure of the insects are also easy to tell and discover. The homepage was also iterated from showing only one order to display multiple orders at once.
The developers moved forward with this version, and worked to develop a beta version. It was interesting and difficult figuring out how to work in parallel; they were focused on setting up the database and structure, while we were iterating through the designs, but we couldn't progress too far or change too many things after they began developing the pages.
By Alice Fang
New 🐞 bandanas! I designed a bandana that highlights the insect illustrations done by Morgan Summerlin, inverted on black. The illustrations are placed on a diagonal for optimal bandana-folding-wearing! :-). Handy for working in wet settings, and promote Macroinvertebrates.org when you have to maskup,
By Alice Fang
Re-framing with a new team!
Chelsea and I were joined by Estelle (Yi Cheng) Jiang and Dakota (Zi Qi) Dong in late May. Moving forward, Chelsea and Dakota will be working on development, while Estelle and I will be working on the design and user-testing of the app. There was an adjustment period as we introduced the project to the new members and got everyone acquainted while figuring out how to work collaboratively in a remote wfh environment.
Through this process, we've been utilizing google docs and spreadsheets, as well as Figma, but coordinating between design and development has been tricky. Accommodating and synching the design and development timelines was difficult, and it was a bit touch-and-go.
Spreadsheets and Organizing Data
Previously, I struggled with establishing a structure to the app that allowed for navigation in and out of orders/families. To make the taxonomy clear (as we are non-scientists and non-bug experts), and to organize the information for design purposes, I created a spreadsheet with the following:
1. Inventory of functions that exist on the website
In order to figure out the minimum viable product that can be developed by students within a summer, and to compare what needs to change from Order to Family, I listed all of the functions for Order/Family/Genus.
2. List of insect orders, the families in each order, and the number of specimen (genera) in each family, and the number of diagnostic characters for each family and order
While many of the families have similar numbers of specimen, there were a lot of outlier cases we needed to keep an eye on, and account for while designing. The length of names, both common and scientific, impacts the typographic system, and the number of diagnostic characters affects how we visually set up that information. Some of the cases are as follows:
*Dev team has to set up the database (I don’t know the exact details). We ran into a challenge late in the summer [early August] where the Gigapan database had to be moved, and there was no way to extract some of the family traits and text information, requiring manual copy and pasting
Collecting References and Resources for Ideation Round II
Getting the design team on the same page.
I showed Estelle the previous mockups and ideas that I had for the mobile app, but in order to refresh and sort of create a mutual visual language, we took the time to research and look at other apps. We compared and discussed field guide apps, quiz apps, and other text-based apps like news/media.
*Referencing Headspace, AirBnB, Medium, WWF Together
*Referencing Twitter, Google Maps, Medium Merlin ID, Audubon
Lo-fi Version 2
New Ideas and Changes
Estelle quickly mocked some basic page structures, and documented user stories. This allowed us to see possible entry points and user profiles for the app. What are possible ways people would use the app? What would they be looking for? And how do we prioritize that development at the same time?
She also created this flow diagram of entry in the app and access points to different functions; however, it didn't include navigation and returning to previous pages, or other major functions we hope to implement in the future, like a quiz.
*Comparing what a bottom pop-up that scrolls up, and a button on the bottom, would look like.
Between a button to expand, and swiping up, we originally decided on a swiping up action, but were worried about the screen experience that it would be too hidden on the bottom of the screen. As we moved into user testing, we created a button on the bottom for accessibility instead. It stood out more, and for someone holding a phone, was located in a position that was easy to access.
Through this process, we also started to get into the look and feel of the application. As the focus and beauty of the collection is the high definition images and close-up thumbnails, I really wanted typography to play a role in the visual style while staying close to what the desktop site looks like.
by Stephen Bucklin, Environmental Educator
Pittsburgh Parks Conservancy
Responding to the COVID-19 situation Stephen and his colleagues at the Pittsburgh Parks Conversancy are creating materials for remote engagement and learning about urban streams and ecosytstems. Here are some of the materials they are creating, like a stream food webs activity to publish on the Pittsburgh Parks Conservancy website for students and teachers to use.
We also created a zoomable Stream food web diagram with high resolution images from the site with an associated Ecosystems Investigator worksheet
An interdisciplinary team