To enhance the experience of the Science Museum in London, I designed part of the museum App for the spacecraft exhibit. This exhibit is enclosed in a window where people can observe models of spacecraft’s with basic information as shown in image 1.
Image 1: Spacecraft exhibit with basic information (Name, year, designer and manufacturer)
To design my App, I understood that I needed to achieve 3 main things:
- Amplify the experience (Barton, 2015) by intensifying the models from the exhibit.
- Find a way for users to create stories (Kuang, 2013)
- Allow users to produce content and share it so that they could connect emotionally.
To achieve this I targeted my App towards children between the ages of 7 and 13. The concept behind the App is that children are invited to join NASA to design a spacecraft. This is only an excuse to teach them about the 4 main parts of the spacecraft’s and their technical terminology as seen in image 2 and 3. Moreover, the idea of allowing children to design their own spacecraft with parts of the models of the exhibition in front of them stimulates them to become keen observers and burst their creativity and imagination.
Image 2: Main parts of the spacecrafts
Image 3: Spacecraft main parts with their technical terminology (Emergency system = Launch system)
I wanted my App to reflect the principles of interaction design: consistency, perceivability, learnability, predictability and feedback (Hogue, 2012). While doing user testing I was able to observe that my App was really strong in consistency as I always used the same style, interactions and gestures, which allowed the user to learn how to navigate through it quickly. I noticed that when children were first introduced to the “design” part (see image 4) they were a bit confused and they wondered if there was a correct way of designing their spacecraft or they could do whatever they wanted. However once they moved into designing the next part of the spacecraft they quickly learnt what they had to do and they advanced through the App faster, thus the learnability was easy to follow. Also, they tried to drag and drop the parts of the spacecraft, thus it would be better to include this feature, as it seems more intuitive for them. Feedback was also a crucial. Once children guessed the terminology of the parts of the spacecraft and they got the well-done screen as shown in image 7, they would smile and look at their parents for an approval gesture. Likewise, once they built their spacecraft it seemed really rewarding to launch it into space by making use of one of the iPad affordances: shaking it
Image 4 and 5: Design you spacecraft screens (Launch Systems and Service module)
Image 6 and 7: Feedback screens (Launching animation and well done)
The App was too complex for 7 year olds but not for 8 year olds and parents were eager to help, they wanted to participate and often wouldn’t even let the children play, because they were the ones doing the clicking. Moreover, after testing the perceivability and predictability, I realized interactions should be more visible and children shouldn’t think before pressing a button, thus I believe that as an improvement the App needs pop-up explicit instructions for the first time the user is introduced to the design part as shown in the images below. It would be important to include clear perceived affordances that guide the users through the process of building the spacecraft and once they learn it they would know how to navigate successfully through the entire App.
Image 8: Pop-up explicit instructions
Image 9: Provide cues for interaction
Barton, J (2015) How To Create Meaningful Interactions Through Technology. Available at: http://www.designindaba.com/videos/conference-talks/jake-barton-how-create-meaningful-interactions-through-technology (Accessed: October 28, 2015).
Hogue, D. (2012) Interaction Design Fundamentals. Available at: http://www.lynda.com/Dreamweaver-CS5-training/Interaction-Design-Fundamentals/82822-2.html (Accessed: November 25, 2015).
Interaction Design Foundation (2011) Affordances. Available at:
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=NK1Zb_5VxuM (Accessed: 17 November, 2015).
Kuang, C. (2013) Fast Company. Available at: http://www.fastcodesign.com/1671845/5-lessons-in-ui-design-from-a-breakthrough-museum (Accessed: 28 October, 2015).
Soegaard, M. (2015) Interaction Design Foundation. Available at: https://www.interaction-design.org/literature/book/the-glossary-of-human-computer-interaction/affordances (Accessed: 17 November, 2015).