Posture Analyzer

When you don’t do any UX stuff at work, you need to find something for you or work on side projects – that’s what I’ve been told by my IAI mentor and that’s what I’ve been trying to do. So when I realized that IHFE was running an app competition I had no choice but accept the challenge. I didn’t expect to win and I was more interested in putting the theory into practice and learning about the app design the hard way. After all, it’s always better to make mistakes during a side project than during an actual one.

I’ve learned a few things:

…and I also won the competition (yay!). So here’s a bit about my app and how I got to the final design.

Posture analysis…?

First thing was the theme. The competition defined it as

a new mobile app that would be of value to ergonomists and human factors professionals

and if I didn’t work on my MSc project over the summer I’d probably have a hard time coming up with an idea. But I did some posture analysis and got bored while doing it. Don’t get me wrong, I find the idea amazing and love it, but if you had over a dozen of photos and had to click your way through an online posture risk calculator, you would fall asleep as well. So I decided to design a little app that would make the whole experience a little more fun.

Research

I’m more a researcher than a designer, so jumping into the design without spending too much time researching things first was a new thing and I feel bad about it. I did read a bit about posture analysis and I did some actual analysis over the summer, but I didn’t feel confident. But I didn’t have time to do proper research, so I just asked a question on the IEHF’s linkedin forum hoping that responses would be relevant. I decided to treat myself as a target audience, but wanted to make it useful for others as well.

Sketching here, sketching there

Most of my sketching was done in my head. Yes, I am aware that’s not a good thing. I put the initial idea on paper first, but most of refining was done while I was thinking about it and arguing with myself over some details.

By the time I got to updating my sketches, I had gone through 3 or 4 revisions in my head. And then I realized I didn’t know what I was doing.

While I did talk to an iPhone developer to learn what was possible and what wasn’t, I didn’t mention any UI designs before. After all, I’ve been using iPhones for a while now, of course I know how it all works. Well, wrong. Realizing I was breaking all possible guidelines wasn’t a nice thing. Realizing that a revised version was still wrong was even worse, so in the end I just sat down and read Apple’s HIG (not the whole thing though, just the part about iOS UI elements). As a result I had to change my designs, rethink some things and even change functionality to make things work. It was a painful and annoying process, but I learned a lot.

Tools

After sketching on paper I started “digitalizing” my sketches in OmniGraffle, and as a result spent half a night searching for stencils and procrastinating. And when a specific control was missing, I found myself wondering how I could change the design to use the controls I had instead of hunting for a right control. Worst possible approach.

After that I decided that stencils were too limiting and installed XCode. Installing a 10GB beast on a laptop with only 3GB of free space was challenging. I managed to do that, although I’m still not sure how. Prototyping with XCode was fun until I decided to add a ‘back’ button to a screen I was designing… I’m still using Snow Leopard for no particular reason so the latest version of XCode I could use was 3.6. And because of that I wasn’t able to simply add ‘back’ buttons in the UI builder. I needed to write some code, but I didn’t want to do that – the time was running out and besides I haven’t written a single line of code in the past 2 years. So I downloaded Balsamiq. Yes, I was desperate at this point.

But, but… What does it do?

So, the app. It would be good to finally explain what it actually does. In short: the app makes posture analysis fun and simple.

The main features include:

And that’s it. Now it would be good to do some proper user research, test the prototypes, and develop the app. (Wishful thinking in progress.)

~falka, 2011-11-24 20:25