Collecting valid audio diaries by creating a private, approachable, and engaging study experience for participants.
Mobile | UX/UI | 0-1
I led the app design in a four-member team in this course project. We closely collaborated with the Industry sponsor, AppHatchery, and research clients, lead psychologists at Emory University. Our project is now under development and will be put into use this Spring with a pilot study on real population 🎉
08.2022 - 12.2022
Ben Mayo (PM, Design)
Clinical psychologists still rely on outdated methods to collect audio diaries
Audio Diary Method is clinical psychologists' preferred method for collecting self-reports of participants, where participants verbally respond to pre-set questions about their daily lives. Audio diaries make it easier for participants to give a stream of consciousness and reduce the overhead of researchers in interviews. However, current methods for collecting audio diaries are quite traditional:
Participants borrow a recording device from the lab and return after the study
Participants call an answering machine to verbally respond to audio prompts
Participants manually upload after recording audio diaries
Traditional methods are unreliable due to 3 issues:
Too Many Steps
Manually fetching the recording device or uploading recordings add workload on both sides.
Participants are worried that others may access their recordings on native recording apps
Poor Data Validity
Issues like forgetting to record, lacking engagement, poor quality of responses, result in poor data validity
Use a dedicated mobile app to simplify researcher-participant interaction and create better participant experiences to ensure data validity
We designed Dayrio, a dedicated mobile app designed for participants to conveniently record audio diaries, which are privately synced to researchers. To improve the data validity, based on user research, Dayrio creates a more private, approachable, and engaging audio diary study experience for participants.
Walkthrough with the Virtual Assistant
Familiarize participants with the study procedure, setup, and the app UI with an inviting virtual assistant to reduce researchers' manual labor and ensure study validity from the early stage
Dialogue-Like Diary Recording
Mimic a private conversational experience with the virtual assistant to make audio diary recording more approachable, natural, and less anxious for new users
Take "Memos" to Help Recall
Enable participants to take memos throughout the day that can be reviewed to ease the remembering difficulties in the end-of-day diary recording
Incentive & Progress Tracking
Set short-term incentives and visualize the current progress of the study keep participants motivated and engaged throughout the study period
Our project was spoken highly by our clients and sponsors. And our design will be put into development and launched by our sponsors, the AppHatchery Team, in early 2023, with pilot study on helping burn out for frontline healthcare workers for clinical psychologists at Emory University. Here are some feedback we got from the researchers at Emory University and the AppHatchery Team:
The AppHatchery Team
You did a phenomenal job running multiple rounds of evaluation and iterations of your prototypes. Lot of creativity was going around and the metaphors you used to simplify and add some fleur to the app were great!
User Journey Maps
Think-aloud User Testing
We first met sponsors and collaborators to understand the problem space and their initial expectations. Then we interviewed clinical psychologists at Emory University and prior research participants to get first-hand information about their pain points, needs, and expectations for the audio diary recording device / application.
with Emory School of Medicine and AppHatchery Team
with clinical psychologist with audio diary study expertise
with participants who prior study experiences
Considering the diversity of our participants, to better guide a universal design solution and empathize with potential users, we further synthesized the interview results and came up with 2 typical personas for the participants that cover distinctive motivations for participation and levels of tech literacy.
Participants' experience throughout the entire study period plays a key role for the study validity and success.
As shown in the journey map, participants with little experience with audio recording have difficulties talking about their daily experiences into the recording machine in the early stage of the study, while some participants fail to keep recording on time in the later stage due to busy schedules or low motivation later on.
Create a private, approachable and engaging audio diary study experience for participants to better ensure study validity.
With the end design goal and previous research findings in mind, we then summarized the success criteria we would like to focus on in the next design stage. It considers the needs and expectations of both participants and researchers.
Enable participants to easily learn the study procedure and app UI to reduce researchers' workload as well as ensure data validity from an early stage
Properly address participants' privacy and security concerns both technically and perceivably to reduce their anxiety around the recording process
Create an approachable and comfortable audio recording experience. Reduce first-time participants' negative feelings, such as nervousness, weirdness, etc
Ease of Recall
Help participants recall their daily activities during end-of-day recording to help collect more complete and accurate self-reports without causing biases
Keep participants engaged throughout the study period and motivated to record valid audio diaries in time every day
Within the scope of voice recording, make the app accessible in different contexts for potential participants with varied abilities
To generate as many interesting ideas as possible in the ideation stage, all of us brainstormed solutions together by sketching concepts on paper independently. Then we came together to discuss our ideas, build upon each others' ideas, and clustered them into groups.
Two core concepts that best satisfy our design goals emerged in our brainstorming and discussions: 1. Virtual Assistant and 2. Audio Record Case. To quickly evaluate the concepts, I created concept sketches. Then we invited stakeholders to give us feedback based on how well these concepts met the design goals.
✌️ Virtual Assistant is great for improving the approachability.
✊ But we need more effective strategies to improve long-term engagement.
After deciding the core concept of the virtual assistant, we co-designed with participants and expert psychologists to propose other features that can further makes the audio diary study experience more private, approachable, and engaging for research participants. We then discussed about the feasibility, effectiveness, and novelty, we finally settled on the following core functionalities to satisfy our design goals after brainstorming and co-design sessions:
HOW TO IMPROVE APPROACHABILITY
HOW TO IMPROVE ENGAGEMENT
We then created the wireframes to show and test the core features and the entire user flow.
Wireframe Feedback and Key Iterations
To evaluate the features we proposed, we conducted think aloud interviews with prior participants and researchers to learn the usefulness and possible influence of our concepts.
Concept 1: Walkthrough with VA
Study requirements are more clear with VA guidance.
VA makes participants feels more connected with the researcher.
Still feel uncertain about the real recording process
Concept 2: Dialogues-like Recording
VA makes the voice recording more approachable, less awkward and less nervous.
VA is very neutral and will not influence the recording performance.
Status in recording responses can be more clear.
Concept 3: Take Sidenotes to help Recall
Some participants may find it very useful to help recall.
The purpose and usage of sidenotes are not clear for new users and thus may feel confused
Prefer written-text as an alternative input method when audio recording is not accessible.
Concept 4: Progress Tracking & Incentives
Feel much more motivated seeing incentives
Feel clear about the current progress with the calendar view
Discouraging to see little progress or many data holes over the entire study span on the homescreen visualization
Don't know where to track incentives.
"Many a little makes a mickle"
Encourage participants to focus on recent, short-term performance to improve the likelihood of completing the entire study
Encourage users to focus on short-term performance instead of the performance over the entire study span
Increase users’ motivation by showing the next small challenge and incentive
Motivation should be more directly triggered, not found by users
Improve users’ awareness of what has been achieved, what can be achieved, and how to arrive there
Enable the users to directly check incentives on the homepage to increase its exposure and thus better improve users' motivation
Expose the users to the next challenge and the incentive in the calendar view clearly to keep them engaged in the study
"Sidenote" is useful for recall only when users know its purposes and love to use it
Clearly convey the usage of “Sidenote” and improve the UX accessibility of taking notes
Provide user guide to help first-time users grasp the purpose and usage of Sidenotes
Enable written-text as an alternative input method to make sidenote taking more accessible
Visual Style Guide
CALM | NEUTRAL
INVITING | MOTIVATION
High-Fidelity Design - Iteration 1
Walkthrough the study procedure, setup, the app UI during onboarding with an inviting VA and
Provide the training session to ensure study validity from the early stage
Study Intro & Setup
UI User Guide
Audio Diary Recording
Get inviting reminders for diary recording to keep participants engaged in the study
Mimic a private conversational experience to make audio diary recording more natural and less nervous
Enable the user to record sidenotes throughout the day
Quickly review daily experience using transcripts to reduce remembering difficulties and better ensure data accuracy
Provide positive messages and short-term monetary incentives to improve participants’ motivation.
Visualize the current progress of the study to encourage self-reflection so as to improve participants’ engagement.
Home - Progress Widget
Diaries - Calendar View
Diaries - List View
To evaluate if our design meets the overall design goal and the success criteria we set previously, we first moderated user testing with 5 users with different experiences in audio diary studies. We conducted think aloud user testing over Zoom where we set tasks for each concept.
Second, we also conducted semi-structured interviews with 4 clinical psychologists who use daily diaries in their research to gain expert feedback.
Here's a summary of the ratings in the questionnaire. On average, users rated Moderately Positive (6) for all the questions.
User participants' attitudes towards the Sidenote feature varied the most, mainly because users have different levels of remembering difficulties and different habits of taking "sidenotes".
Feedback & Key Iterations
We grouped feedback from the user interviews and expert interviews based on themes and features. I colored different themes based on whether they are positive or negative feedback, or "could be improved".
STUDY WALKTHROUGH FINDING 1 💡
Easy to get lost in App Walkthrough
Both users and researchers agreed that the user guide with the virtual agent is very helpful, friendly, and clear. However, 3/5 users thought the app walkthrough is a bit wordy and easy to get lost. It's important to let users remember the key features of the app, and let them know where they are in the entire user guide process.
STUDY WALKTHROUGH FINDING 2 💡
Communication with Researchers is still desired
3/5 users and all researchers pointed out the necessity of communication between the participant and the researcher when participants are in trouble despite the availability of the help guide.
AUDIO DIARY RECORDING FINDING 1 💡
Love the avatar! Better if it's customizable?
All interviewees loved the virtual agent and agreed that it was cute, inviting, and made the study more engaging. 3/4 researchers said the virtual agent design was neutral, while 2/4 of them suggested that it would be better if the avatar could be customized according to the nature of the study.
Customization of the virtual assistant shall be further considered after we test the current design in a real audio diary study setting
AUDIO DIARY RECORDING FINDING 2 💡
Further Improvement: Better ensure recording quality?
Since recording quality has long been an issue, researchers proposed the idea that we can integrate a microphone test to help participants check the audio recording quality before starting to record audio diaries to better ensure data validity.
SIDENOTES TAKING FINDING 1 💡
Confused between "Sidenotes" and "Diaries"
2/5 users misunderstood the purpose of the sidenotes at first. They pointed out that the sidenote card looks too similar as the diary entry card, making it more confusing.
SIDENOTES TAKING FINDING 2 💡
Improvement: Review daily experience more efficiently?
Users mentioned that the time cost for reviewing sidenotes can be lowered so they would use it more often. For the sidenote list, 3/5 participants mentioned that the display of title, duration, and time is not very inefficient for catching the content of the sidenote.
INCENTIVE & PROGRESS TRACKING FINDING 1 💡
More diverse incentives! Participants want to feel useful
All participants agreed that seeing the monetary incentives and the challenge for the bonus would greatly improve their motivation and engagement in a longitudinal study. Also, 3/5 participants said they loved to see positive messages related to their contribution to the research or benefits in their personal development.
🧠 Combine top-down and bottom-up thinking
When understanding user needs and refine our design goals, we conducted user research to generate insights, this is a "top-down" thinking pattern. When designing core features like the Virtual Assistant, Short-term incentives, we referred to some relevant theories related to people's behavioral change, cognitive models, etc. This is a "bottom-up" thinking pattern. I really learned a lot about innovative design thinking by combining these two thinking patterns in my design process.
💁🏻💁🏼♀️💁♂️ Engage different stakeholders into the design process
The biggest challenge for me was to consider needs of both the researchers and the participants. Here, even though our customers are the researchers, the real users, however, are the participants. Participants' experience in this study plays a key role and should also be carefully considered. Our design should both be approachable and scientifically reliable. By taking different stakeholders into the design process, we are able to have a more well-rounded idea of our design requirements, quickly evaluate our ideas, and make meaningful iterations.
🏃♀️ Next Step
We will evaluate the avatar design in a real experiment over a longer time span and may use a between-subject experiment that compares between the group with the virtual assistant in audio recording and another group without it.
Secondly, we will design the back stage system for researchers to customize their study requirements. We first focused on the design of the user-facing app because in this way, we have a better idea about what features or information is needed, and what should be customized by the researchers.
Lastly, we will further improve the accessibility of our app considering the large audience it may face. For example, when starting to record, we can use the sound effect to help participants with visual impairments ensure that it's started.