UW UNDERGRAD • 2013
The senior capstone project represents an opportunity for advanced, individualized design research and study. We were tasked to develop a unique project based on our own design interests and experiences in the Interaction Design program.
My project was completed during the ten week duration of spring quarter and the final piece was displayed in Jacob Lawrence Gallery during the Design Show in June. The work lives online at uwdesign2013.com.
In communal living situations, shared living responsibilities are commonly forgotten or neglected. While roommates can try to tolerate the deteriorating situation, it usually leads to built-up resentment, broken relationships, and even hostile environments.
Opt is a chore management application that facilitates shared responsibilities within a household. Opt provides housemates with a way out of duties when needed, while providing incentives for the household to take on extra responsibilities.
"Honestly I don't care if I ever saw him again – I don't even consider him a friend anymore".
My friend piqued my interest as we were catching up about his living situation. He had high hopes at the beginning of the year as he was moving in with close friends, but ended up being so fed up with them that he cut off all contact and moved out. How did things change so drastically?
For my research, I narrowed my audience to young adults who were living with roommates in the dorms or apartments. I wanted to understand the barriers to harmonious roommate relationships and the behaviors of healthy living environments.
I held eight one-on-one interviews to answer the core research question: How do roommates manage and share living responsibilities?
I divided the study into three categories:
- Paying for shared expenses, such as: rent, utilities, bulk groceries, large household items.
- Sharing the chore burden, such as: cleaning the kitchen, vacuuming, taking out the trash.
- Acceptable living etiquette, such as: being respectful of sleeping hours, boundaries with personal belongings.
Identifying Pain Points
After the process of transcribing all my interviews, I converted the interviews into sticky notes in order to easily compare and contrast both the positive and negative responses.
As it turns out, all of the participants were able to speak to at least one experience left them feeling resentful or hurt. There were several key learnings in the research:
- When first moving in, most roommates gloss over their living expectations. This proves to be especially consequential for roommates with differing definitions of cleanliness.
- Traditional chore charts are difficult and time intensive to set up and maintain. Even if they are set up – they can feel inflexible, unfairly divided, or unreliable (due to the lack of true accountability).
- Living responsibilities usually drop in priority over time, and then become frequently postponed or neglected.
- Resentment builds when tolerating or cleaning up after someone else's mess, and confrontation is never easy or pleasant.
I created personas based on my research in order to better understand my users' goals and needs, and the segments reflected both sides of the spectrum of living expectations.
Olivia / Higher Mess Tolerance
- "Just let it soak."
- Olivia is a nursing student who also works part time as a hostess and research assistant.
- Olivia's cleanliness level is a bit more relaxed. With her strenuous school and work schedule, it's not her number one priority to ensure the kitchen is immaculate or the carpet is spotless.
Chloe / Lower Mess Tolerance
- "Just wash it right away."
- Chloe is a business student wrapping up her final year of her undergraduate studies.
- For Chloe, keeping things clean and tidy is a priority and personal value. When she sees a mess that's not her own, she can only tolerate it for so long before she cleans it up herself.
The next step was to create a journey map to pinpoint the objectives, emotions, and pain points of my personas. Their narrative helped to surface concepts and design opportunities within the different stages of their roommate relationship.
My secondary research revealed that the competitive landscape is full of tools and services that excel in dividing bills/expenses or creating static chore charts. These services do little in addressing the pain points I found in my journey mapping, so I decided to create a mobile app that concentrated on the following opportunities:
- Develop a quick and painless way for roommates to communicate expectations and fairly divide responsibilities.
- Create accountability for the household, while allowing individuals to have flexibility when needed.
- Reduce resentment by providing incentives when helping out.