The precarious intersection is at the heart of our campus. Pedestrians, cyclists, people in golf carts, delivery trucks, personal vehicles, scooters, and skateboards all use this intersection (some multiple times per day). It’s frequented by people taking their time, people in a rush, those who know campus like the back of their hand, and those visiting campus for the first time. In this project, your group will design and prototype a concept to improve the intersection of San Jacinto and DeLoss Dodds.
Pathfinders at San Jacinto
A wayfinding system to help reduce chaos and confusion between pedestrians and traffic at an intersection near campus through pathfinders on the sidewalks.
TIMELINE 4 Weeks
User Research, Interviews, and Analysis
Rapid prototyping - Lo-fi
Usability Testing and Evaluation
For this project, we had to design and prototype a concept to improve the intersection of San Jacinto and DeLoss Dodds. Our area of focus was that the pedestrians were always confused as to where to go since the intersection was filled with busses that covered the street signs, this led to confused pedestrians crossing streets multiple times, changing direction halfway into crossing which led to additional chaos.
As a solution, we proposed a floor wayfinding and signage system, giving pedestrians clear direction and reducing chaos and 'walker traffic'.
ABOUT THE PROJECT
THE AGILE APPROACH
We initiated the process by performing contextual observations and preliminary user interviews at the intersection - interpreting our learnings into key pain points or opportunity areas, picking an area to focus, generating concepts, prototyped and testing, further refining them. We did multiple prototypes and testing sessions in order to improve the product as we go.
After careful user research and interviews, we came across the following pain points, upon discussing all 4 - we selected the third one as the focus area for our iteration and prototyping
As a solution for our focus area, we conceptualized a flow wayfinding system that would be placed on the sidewalks in order to guide pedestrians through the crossing. We used Storyboards to explain our idea, here I first framed a story and further went ahead with creating the scenes.
During our research phase, we followed a typical to and fro process, our initial observations helped us gather discussable insights for the user interviews - this helped us collect rich first-hand data. After this, we came back to observing - this process gave us a thorough understanding of the context, which led us to frame open-ended and specific questions for our second round of user interviews giving us accurate insights.
User Interviews focused on talking to specific user groups in order to understand the identified pain points in the observation phase. We focused on bus and cart drivers and chose to conduct guerrilla interviews (or "field interviews") at different locations in the intersection. We used Figma to collaborate virtually and create a database for all or research.
PROTOTYPING AND TESTING
My background in architecture grabbed me the opportunity to lead the prototyping sprint for the project. I had a clear vision in mind as to how we should go about the prototyping phase. We made a few decisions as to why and how we prototyped the way we did-
Why? Because it was easily available, had the scope of iteration, and was cost-effective
Process followed: Sketching on an iPad and then drawing on the sidewalk
Why? Because it was time efficient - it took us only 30 min to make the first prototype! and the prototype we made was at a 1:1 scale - it was of the same size as it would be once made in a high fidelity format.
User testing: Guerilla testing and Observations
Why? because Guerilla testing helped us appoint and interview participants to get specific insights and observations helped us understand how people used the product on their own.
Our first prototype was the guinea pig for the testing, more than insights about the design - this prototype helped us understand how to not make a prototype. We picked the wrong side of the sidewalk - the floor was rough which made the prototype look informal and led to a lack of visibility. No one used the system for the 2 hours we stood next to it.
We used Affinity mapping to organize our insights, grouping related insights across our research to pinpoint common themes. We started off collecting our thoughts using a whiteboard and Post-It Notes, before moving on to using Figma to digitize our findings for better discovery later. For our submission, we created a board to explain our observations and analysis (do check out the timelapse)
Based on our observations during the first prototype, we made sure that the second one was test-ready. We shifted the prototype to the other side of the street - that had flatter sidewalks and used uniform and thicker lines - that helped make the prototype look formal! Further during our user testing, we identified a few key problems:
As a design feature, we made the lengths of each line different - users perceived that the lengths related to distances of specific buildings from the spot
Due to a lack of clear directions on how to use the system, the users started walking in the opposite direction.
For our final prototype, we fixed the errors identified in the second testing - we had lines of uniform lengths and added arrows for clear direction! this helped increase the user-friendliness of the proposal helping us close the prototyping cycle!
The prototyping and testing phase helped us test our product and most importantly iterate and improve it! I truly enjoyed working on this project, which helped develop my existing skills while introducing me to the rigor of new ones I hadn't yet encountered. Huge thanks are owed to my amazing team and project mentor.
For our next steps, we plan to use the final prototype and make a hi-fidelity of it using UTexas colors. As a way forward, we intend to extend the product all over the street and create a street element out of it, one idea is to extend the lines into a game that students can play on the sidewalk in between classes. Let's see how it turns out!