An app that helps the user validate maintaining six-feet of social distance while keeping users connected and accountable to their chosen social clusters
How might we help young adults practice safe physical distancing, while not requiring them to remain in the home at all times?
5-day virtual COVID-19 design challenge with Johns Hopkins University Center for Bioengineering Innovation and Design
Ideation, Concept Development, Wire-framing, Visual Design, Prototyping, User Research
This project began in March when the number of positive cases was skyrocketing. A team of six of us were chosen to participate in this design sprint with one main objective: the design needed to be quickly implementable. Our team heard from the Johns Hopkins medical experts that, while social distancing was starting to be widely adopted, young adults were still struggling to practice it and potentially spreading the disease while remaining asymptomatic themselves. We needed a way to incentivize this group to practice safe social distancing in a healthy, optimistic way.
To get started with Clusters, the user downloads the app and starts with their post-social distancing goal. Then the user can invite friends to their social cluster using social media platforms.
Before joining the team the user steps through the most recent public health guidelines. And finally, all members of the team have a space to propose, select, and agree on common guidelines and goals.
Using Bluetooth Proximity Detection, the app measures the distance between one smartphone and another. If the phone detects that the user has been less than 6 feet from another person for over a minute, the app will nudge the user via push notification to step away.
If the user steps away within a certain period of time, the app would notify their teammates that they maintained social distance and the team could choose to send a supportive “thumbs up”.
VISUALIZING & VALIDATING IMPACT
The app then acts as a hub for the user to keep track of the team's progress. For every day that the whole team maintains social distance, they build a streak together.
The team may also decide which of their goals the streak would unlock. Ultimately completing 14 days of continuous streak while showing no symptoms, which would allow them to form a social cluster and spend time together in-person.
The app also visualizea their individual progress and their impact within the whole community of users.
Target User Group
The government-mandated shelter in place measures have no clear end dates. This ambiguity can cause frustration and a lack of adherence over time. Anecdotally, this is already an issue with young adults 25-34 years old living in dense, urban areas. I chose to research the behavior of this demographic living in the city of Seattle as they are the largest group to test positive in King County, WA. The cases in this user group are also most likely to be asymptomatic. Helping young adults practice proper distancing can slow down the spread and prevent the second wave of infection.
I conducted 11 interviews with 6 potential users and 5 subject matter experts to understand what difficulties this target user group had with practicing social distancing, and what might motivate them. The following were the insights that came up.
Young adults want to practice good social distancing but have some level of cognitive bias
The individuals interviewed shared their efforts to be careful and considerate in not breaking social distancing rules while somehow rationalizing all the times they have spent with “trusted” friends since social distancing was announced.
Visualization of the impact of social distancing was the most impactful method of awareness
In the instances in which individuals chose to stay home, visualizations such as the famous
Washington Post Visual were described to have played a key role in their decision making as they showed the change their actions might affect.
Living situations for young adults are not conducive to social distancing
These individuals moved to the city to experience life in the city and so they tend to compromise on their living spaces, opting for studio apartments. The city of Seattle ranks 7th in the USA for single-person households. This has left them socially and physically isolated during the pandemic.
Young single adults tend to form “chosen family” groups with their close friends, even if they don’t live together
Most of our participants had moved to Seattle from somewhere else and were all away from their families. Most live alone and the only people they knew in the city were their close friends, whom they considered equivalent to family in this context.
With these insights, I was able to empathize more with a group that was misunderstood as they really cared for others around them but finding a way to cope with the isolation was difficult.
In relation, I also realized that they had a very strong, intrinsic motivation that I could leverage in the design response: they'd
do anything to be able to be with their friends/chosen families.
I lead the ideation of our concept where we explored different ways to keep our users motivated in practicing proper physical distancing. The main themes that repeated through concepts were social support, social distancing badges, and leaderboards. Below are some of the ideas that came from the exploration.
Exploration on a Miro Board [Click to magnify image]
The idea that stuck with was one where users could form clusters and remain accountable within them. This could help them check on each other and motivate each other towards a common goal. Members would also be able to retain the strength of their social connection in this way.
We also needed a way users could validate proper distancing. Ideas for this ranged from more physical household equipment, IoT devices,
and objects that could be used for distance, to more digital gaming consoles, wearables, and smartphones.
Ultimately we chose to utilize the smartphone’s ability to gauge the distance to other smartphones and alert the user. Smartphones also proved to be the best choice because of their ubiquity and the presence of the required sensors.
To understand how the community might receive this idea, the team conducted concept validation tests with 3 potential users using wireframe prototypes. This process surfaced valuable feedback on what could make the interface easier to navigate through.
Wireframes [Click to magnify images]