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The world's first teleportation kit designed for people who are physically apart to stay connected

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Timeline: 2020 to July to August  
Tools: Google Doc, Google Slide, Google Hangout, Adobe Illustrator, Figma

Background

Tangible developed the world's first teleportation kit (an innovative haptics device with an interactive application) for people who are not able to meet physically to stay connected. The team has invested a lot of time to develop haptic devices that can create sensations as "physical interactions" to the other party. They want to determine the needs of their users to optimize the user experience. The first user group Tangible focused on is couples in a long-distance relationship.

My role 

The goal is to discover user needs that can be used to design the Tangible application for the upcoming beta launch.
I worked as a UX researcher to research the problem space, analyze and synthesize existing and new interviews, and came up with design ideations to meet the physical and emotional needs of the users. My job is to discover what features the users may want the product to do for them (and their partners). 

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- Secondary research
- Competitive Analysis
- User interviews

- Problem statement 

- Affinity map

- HMW statement

- Ideations

- Take away

- Personas
- Journey map

Research

Define

Synthesize

Present

Process

Now I would like to show you my steps, 

STEP 1.  Research

​As a first step, I conducted secondary research. Based on studies I found, there are a total of 14 to 15 million Americans who are in long-distance relationships (LDR). 1/3 of couples in LDR are college students. 1/4 of them are married, and the average distance between them is 125 miles. The average LDR couples meet only 1 to 2 times a month. 

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Other quick stats

  • 4.5 months is the average time before a long-distance relationship breaks down

  • 40% of all long-distance relationships end with a break-up

  • 70% of couples in a long-distance relationship break up due to unplanned circumstances and events

  • 14 months – the average number of months before couples expect to move back together 

I also conducted research on competitive products and discussed them with the team. I discovered a few products specifically designed for people in a long distant relationship. I also discover some other markets the team can possibly apply their solutions to. 

STEP 2.  Define

I watched all the existing interview recordings and made an affinity map to help me to extract the essential points from the notes taken in interviews. I realized connection and communication are the most important things for users.

Most couples communicate by texting, calling, and video chatting but almost every couple experiences misunderstandings because of the language they used, regardless of the channel.

Most couples want to keep the connection between them strong. They come up with date ideas, try to create things together, and create memories to confirm that they are not disconnected. I then refined the problem statement and came up with the HMW statements. 

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Hypothesis (HMW) statements 

  • ... assist LDR couples to have a good way to communicate well without misunderstanding 

  • ... help LDR couples stay connected even if they are distant.

STEP 3.  Synthesize

I then conducted new interviews that focus on both communication and connections, and try to figure out  

 

  • what difficulties couples may have when they contact each other 

  • what products they have tried, what products they are using now

  • how do they keep them self connected with the other party 

 

I introduced the concept of "5 love languages." to guide the couples talk about how they connect to each other. I asked couples to score how important each language is to them, which is very helpful to carry the conversation and help them to share their experience connecting with each other.

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"The Five Love Languages" is a book that outlines five general ways that romantic partners express and experience love. They are acts of service, gift-giving, physical touch, quality time, and words of affirmation."  

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In order to tailor my questions for couples in a long-distance relationship, I made small changes in the categories to make the "languages" more suitable for them. I made the words of affirmation changed to "communication." Here are some quotes from couples and also a radar chart based on the the interviews. 

"When I need my boyfriend to help me move to a new apartment, he is not here."

               

                                          - Nina

"I miss the very simple things like cuddling and hugging each other. I feel alone when I can't do these with her."

 

                                         - Johnathan

"It's hard to buy her a gift when we are not in the same country." 

               

                                                     - Ming

Quality of time

Acts of service 

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Communication 

Receiving gifts 

Physical touch 

The importance of each of the languages to a relationship

How much these languages are used in your long-distance relationship

Based on the above information, I created a persona that helps me understand how my users may use the features of the Tangible app to achieve their goals and solve their problems.

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Also, I wanted to create a journey map to know all the common obstacles couples may have during their "long-distance relationship journey."

However, every couple is different. The time each could spend together does not have a standard pattern.

Instead of using a timeframe, I decided to use the 5 languages to include all the possible incidents couples may go through to help me look into different problem areas that may cause couples to lose connection

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STEP 4.  Present

I used the journey map to come up with ideations for each problem area. 

Ideations for "communication"

 

  • Create digital couple albums to update each other easily 

  • Make a shared calendar for couples to arrange their time to talk 

  • Be able to schedule when messages are sent 

  • Create topics couples can talk about in order to help couples understand each other  

  • Webcam built-in filter features 

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Ideations for "Acts of service"

 

  • Collect information on local services in different categories 

  • Encourage couples to list local services for rewards 

  • Provide discount codes for local services linked through the app 

  • Connecting with local friends/ community for help

Ideations for "Physical touch"

 

  • Use Tangible to provide physical interactions 

  • Make a soft piece to give input that works with the vest* (exploring different scenario )

  • Break up emoji into steps. 
Ex. Asking for a hug, respond to a hug request, and hug.

  • Make a detachable device that couples can bring with them when going out, and put it back with the vest when they get home. 

  • Allow users to send physical letters/ cards/ gifts

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Ideations for "Receiving gifts"

 

  • Send big days reminders/notifications   

  • Pre-select gifts for couples to choose from

  • Encourage couples to share the best gift they purchase/ receive for rewards 

  • Allow users to send physical letters/ cards/ gifts

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Ideations for "Quality time"

 

  • Provide activities suitable for couples to do and create memories. Ex. cooking, and exercising  

  • Provide a cashback service to help couples save money for their next goal 

  • Recommend trips

  • Encourage couples to share their trip and tips 

  • Have a virtual home to live together 

  • Take care of a plant/ pet together 

Feedback:

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" Sha joined our team at Tangible for a month as a UX design consultant, through Springboard’s industry project collaboration. With her unique and comprehensive understanding of the design / go-to-market process for hardware & software solutions, she played a key role in helping our early stage startup team converge & define the MVP for our first product-to-market. In addition, she demonstrated a mastery of the needfinding process, taking self-initiative to conduct robust interviews with our target audience. She developed compelling communication frameworks, and pitched new strategic directions / features to our team for consideration in the coming months. Beyond the excellent energy and thoughtful presence she brought to our team meetings, it’s clear that Sha is driven by an insatiable curiosity to engage with diverse user groups, and absorb all that she can - qualities that are rare, yet paramount for the designer to embody! Thank you for your terrific contributions, Sha. We wish you the best! "

Take away

  • It's important to avoid force-fitting a solution to a problem. I was assigned to look into what users may want from the products. I understand the company would like to keep working toward the need for "physical touch" since they have already developed a solution for it. However, when I talked to potential users, they told me various concerns about their relationship beyond physical connections, which means they need more than the current solutions. My job is to make sure that the company is aware of other needs rather than develop the UX only for the current solution. 
     

  • There are other markets that deserve to be explored if the company is open to taking a look. During my research and interviews with users, I realized that couples in long-distance relationships are one of the potential markets to work on. 40 percent of seniors regularly experience loneliness. They may potentially benefit from the product. 69 million children in China are not living with their parents because the parents work in big cities and left children to live with their grandparents. I believe the products are full of potential and can be beneficial for more people who are forced to be separated from their loved ones.

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