Home Messaging System Extended Research Computer Science Essay

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In everyday life the most pivotal and common activity is communication. People need to communicate to lead an active life. The main problem that we have worked on in active and efficient communication is Home Messaging System.

In the modern era there is a greater part of people who live in joint lodging. It may be as a family, group of girls/boys in apartments or as students. This particular group of people have to communicate in daily routine. People with busy schedules and clash of work timings get very insufficient time to communicate with each other even when they live together.

To lead an issueless life people need to communicate through efficient mediums to avoid different kinds of conflicts and troubles. Sufficient and effective communication is needed to overcome these problems between the residents of the houses. A reliable system has to be developed in order to solve the problem of communication without any hindrance. (N. Streitz, 1999)

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People use various types of mediums to communicate with their fellows, popularly some people communicate through cell phones to call or message or communicate verbally with their fellow residents. People may benefit from different ways of recording and sharing reminders about events such as appointments or noteworthy dates. But to manage their households like bill payments, important dates, appointments, cooking and cleaning jobs need reminders people need well-organized and reliable source of communication. They may need various ways to document and organize over errands in houses around the place.

The main purpose and aim of this project is to design such a prototype of home messaging system which is an interactive system that would help a group of people who are living together communicate and coordinate better.

We as a group decided to conduct a research to find out the user requirments. We chose to use interviews as a reseach method.

Literature Review

Using our literatures on home electronic devices, we identified the common problems concerning home computing applications; and our list of problems to be addressed reflected this. The interview questions were written with these questions in mind, in hope of providing solutions and/or learning the true insinuations of these issues in a real world environment. Issues related to the designing and deploying the systems include privacy issues [Fleuriot 98] (i.e. exposure of personal details to even intimate family members may create opposition to implementation), asymmetries between benefit and work performed [Palen 99], and the requirement of duplication of data between individual and master calendars [Fleuriot 98]. To properly design a useable and useful calendaring system that stands a strong likelihood of being voluntarily adopted by the users there is a need for grasping and articulation of multiple standpoint [Palen 99], this requirement lead to questioning not just the parents but also the children and the universty students in our interview process. In deciding the scale and kind of the device that would be best for domestic use we were lead by our reading [Mateas 96] to consider small, integrated, computational appliances as more appropriate domestic technology than the monolithic generic PCs, thus the design we came up with was closer to a single purpose 'toaster' than an extendable multi-use device. This device could have many terminals located throughout the home [Mateas 96]. Throughout the research and design process we retained a dual focus on both the utilitarian and social aspects of the system [Venkatesh 96]. Venkatesh's [Venkatesh 96] paper on 'Computers and other interactive technologies for the home' had a slogan that we often referred to in the lo-fi multiple design option phase [Lewis 94] of the project - "Don't assume that what the technology can do in the household is the same as what the household wants to do with the technology." (Ravi Bansal, 2000)

User research:

The foremost objective to create this home messaging system is to create a family, mate, shared accommodation-centered messaging system that can serve as a communication hub for everyone residing in a house. The system will allow all the members to communicate easily with others, as well as provide reminders for important events and dates. The main goal of the system is to exchange current messaging systems i.e. handwritten notes, whiteboards, phone messages, text messages, paper calendars, etc. with the more versatile, technologically enhanced functionality of personal videos, creating a more dynamic, personal, interactive, and efficient method of communication between all the residents in a house.

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We as a group settled on adopting interviews as the user research method.

We interviewed the following three different user models who share accommodation:

1. A couple

2. Parent (living with family)

3. University students living in shared accommodation

By interviewing three different groups we were able to categorize the diverse needs and integrate their requirements into a proper useful system. Using the results from interviews, we created three personas that would represent the different user models and their characteristics. Each user model has different kind of life style and needs. There are many chores, dates, appointments etc which needs to obey remembered through some medium and each user model do it according to their set of needs and living style. All of them live in a dynamic environment and have a different hierarchy of needs. Analyzing the needs of each user model made it easy to understand their requirements accordingly. In such a fast pace era everyone wants to move along with their lives and work fast and does not have the time to waste. For instance the couple we interviewed had children and was both working and had different time schedule. In their case they actually had various chores to do along with their professional life. Their family and professional life was going side by side. While parents had a different life style. The most hectic routine was of the university students who had an entirely different living style. Among them were some who also worked. So each set of user model had different life style than the other and had to face various types of problems. By discovering their day-to-day activities and way to communicate with each other, we were able to add functions and features that would support them and improve the communication within the household.

Prototyping:

The integral part after the development of an idea is prototyping, if the idea can be practical or not. Our prototype is a low fidelity prototype. Following are some characteristics of the developed system which we proposed keeping in mind the requirements of the user model.

The device's major purpose is to smooth the progress of convenient audio and written communications between members, fellow mates etc within a central location in the house. When unoccupied, the device will also operate as a digital picture frame to display user's favourite photos. In an attempt to keep the product simple, only 2 buttons were incorporated into the proposed design. The product, also in order to facilitate quick, ease of use amongst all users, has incorporated with a touch screen interface.

The idea for the product was to create a family/fellow mates-centered messaging system that would serve as a communication centre for all family/fellow mates living within an accommodation. The device will allow all the users to communicate asynchronously with others, as well as provide reminders for important events, dates, appointments etc. The most important goal of the product is to exchange current messaging system-handwritten notes, whiteboards, phone messages, text messages, paper calendars, etc. with the more versatile, technologically enhanced functionality of personal videos, creating a more dynamic, personal, interactive, well organized, and efficient mode of communication between all the users. (Greenberg, 2005)

This physical messaging system device would possess a trouble-free use design. The corporal interface will be created by using two bodily buttons-one to leave messages, and one to access messages- as well as incorporating a touch screen allowing users to access the full functionality of the device. The device is approximately the size of a normal gadget about 5 inches by 4 inches, and will be adaptable to either hang it on a refrigerator or a wall, stand on a table or countertop and even can be carried around. (Kristo Kuusela). The device will be equipped with a video camera located on the top centre of the gadget, allowing users to stand right in front of the gadget to easily type or record and leave messages.

The initial device function will be for client to create, retrieve, and manage video and text messages/reminders. To accommodate this variety of user interface activity, the device software can be accessed by using either the two physical device buttons or the touch screen interface. The physical buttons allow users to quickly create and retrieve messages without the need to look further into the interface menus or advanced functions. In concurrence, the touch screen interface allows users all of the functionality of the device buttons, but also allows users a more robust feature set, including organizing messages and other main options. Keeping in mind that the device will be always on, the video screen would typically show slideshows of pictures that users have loaded to the device, as well as an optional calendar display, showing the time and day. This screen will display a notification if an unread message has been recorded on the system, prompting a user to access the system and review pending messages. Through the software interface, users can simply touch the notification screen to access the message functions. Users then can view new messages, create new messages for others, and navigate through other options.

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The device will also be equipped with highly developed calendar and event utility. As described the device is always on, thus users may see a screen that displays both a slide show of pictures, and a calendar that displays the time, date, and additional options like pending and upcoming events. The availability of calendar utility allows a person to record and assign messages to specified days, creating reminder events, important dates, appointments and much more. When a person saves a message, they will be given options on how to save their messages. By selecting a Save to Calendar button, users can then submit a date and other activities necessary to save an event for a given day and date, thus further enhancing the messaging utility to create asynchronous communication among the members of a family or fellow mates.

Figure

Figure 1 will be the main screen, which can be changeable. Different pictures, slideshows and theme could be set on the main screen.

Figure

The figure above will be the second main screen on which all the application will be previewed through which the user can see, make and organize messages as reminders. Any application that a user set a reminder on will be visible on the right upper corner of the main screen with an alarm to remind. Date and time can be changed accordingly. Video and text reminder messages can be created for the convenience of the user according to his/her needs and requirements. Calendar can be used to set reminders for future important and notable dates, appointments etc. Post a note application can be used for urgent and important reminders as they would appear on the main screen as wallpaper.

Figure

Figure 3 shows the setting page on which the user can make changes in the settings according to his/her requirements.

Figure

Figure 4 shows the options available in the video messages application. Use can either take a picture or make a video to set as a reminder. It would display present as well as new messages in the folder. User can even make a video call.

Figure

Figure 5 displays setting to change time and date to set a reminder through an alarm.

Figure

The above figure displays the calendar which shows the reminders set by the user. The reminder set in figure 5 above is displayed collectively in the calendar as in figure 6 above.

Figure

All the duties set as reminders are shown in the calendar according to the mentioned date and time in the duties application folder. The icon of a dairy represents the icon for duties, if a reminder is set in the duties folder then the duties icon will appear on the main screen when a reminder for a duty will be set.

Figure

The above figure shows the message folder which includes create new message or email and an existing messages or email icon, with the option to delete the reminders from the folder too, as shown in figure 9.

Figure

Figure

The above figure shows the touch screen with an inbuilt keypad to enter data to set reminders and notes.

Figure

New message appears on the second main screen as a pop-up.

Figure

Figure 12 shows the post a note option in which a user can write a note and set it as a reminder. Mostly the post a note is for reminders of urgent category so it will appear on the main screen where it can be more prominent.

Prototype evaluation:

With a workable conviction regarding the device idea, problem space, and planned physical locations of the device, the team focused mainly on creating a device that may be used by various collections of ages and technical skill sets, all within the context of a common set up, such as a household kitchen or entrance. The team choose to create a touch screen device that did have a nominal number of physical interface buttons, while using both large buttons and interface icons. The team decided to make use of the entire possible space for a video touch screen rather than having plentiful amounts of available white board or physical frame space. Through looking at these determined design rudiments, the team created various versions of how best to represent our proposed outcomes through the overall layout and design.

Each team member arranged a volunteer to perform three tasks, as approved by the team. The three test subjects, while not representing a broad spectrum of age range, did have a varied technical comfort level and did have a theoretical reason to leave messages on the device itself.

• A Couple

• Parents, living with family

• University students, living in a shared accommodation

A quick re-evaluation of the main findings that were discovered by the tests in whole disclosed the following:

a. Users were able to review messages appropriately. On the other hand, all seemed to desire additional functionality once a message has been seen, like adding a reviewed message to the calendar or pausing a message/reminder.

b. With the device displaying both a picture slideshow and the calendar, users attempted to set a calendar message via pressing the touch screen in the calendar itself. There may have been probable confusions when the main menu screen was displayed to the user afterwards, rather than "Record Calendar Message" functionality. Since the calendar functionality was currently considered secondary functionality at the moment, it may be considered for future versions.

Revised prototype and discussion:

Demographics of test subjects

• A Couple

• Parents, living with family

• University students, living in a shared accommodation

Task 1: Create Video Message

Goals/Output

Create a message for a reminder and leave it for the family or fellow mate

Inputs/Assumptions

Device is setup and ready to use

Steps

a. Hit the Create New Message button (or tap the main screen then go to messages then click create new message)

b. Speak your message

c. Hit the Create New Message button (or touch the screen)

d. Hit the save Button

User Instructions

Leave a message for your Mother

User was successful. User pressed the Create New Message button at top of device, but did not approve the idea of pressing Save button to save the message. If message is to be quick (ie, snooze button quick), then the 2nd button press should automatically save the message, but if user presses the touch screen, then the redo, save, save call, exit selections can be displayed. If user pressed the button, left a message, and walked out without doing anything else, could there be a 2-3 second "no activity" thing, to stop/save message, and auto delete those seconds w/ no activity? Might be able to create a REAL quick message on the run. "Mom - here's where I'm am - gotta go - see you -DOORSLAM."

User was partly successful. This task proved difficult for the user, and took a good deal of questioning the system and understanding the interface. Test effects are present as the user was more easily able to perform tasks 2 and 3 after struggling with this task in order to learn and understand interface. User talked through process and misunderstood create message button as Send message and talked around why NOT to push it until the message was ready to send. User tapped the screen while noting that there was nothing to do really. User recorded message just fine, and saved successfully.

User was Successful. User had no trouble using the "Quick Message" button to start creating the message, but heisted to click the "Quick Message" button to stop the recording. Found it confusing which save button to press to save the message.

Task 2: Create Future Video Calendar Entry

Goals/Output

Remind your son to do his chores after school by the end of the week

Primary Steps

a. Hit the Create New Message button (or tap the main screen then go to messages then click create new message)

b. Speak your message

c. Hit the Create New Message button (or touch the screen)

d. Click save to calendar

e. Set Date for next week

f. Set repeat to never

g. Set Delete to after event passes

h. Click save entry

Expert Time

1 minute

User Instructions

Record a message for your son for the coming week

Notes from user experience:

User was successful. Test might have been better if we would have the day selected in acetate (overhead), so that date can be moved if/when needed. User seemed fairly confident in performing the task.

User was partially successful. **Prototype issue: User wanted to complete this task by clicking on the calendar. The prototype really allows for the calendar to be accessed only after recording a message. She wanted to do it the other way. User was driven to think about how to record a message. This resulted in immediate understanding and easy navigation to how to record and save to calendar. Worked the calendar save screens very well. Noted that the user wanted the message to delete the day after it was viewed, but when faced with the choices to delete after event or when space is needed, she talked herself out of after event because it seemed to mean immediately after the event occurred and that did not seem appropriate.

User was successful. User tried to click on the date using the calendar to record a message to. Once he figured out that click the calendar just took him to the main menu he was able to move forward. When recording the message he didn't know to just tap the screen to stop the recording, instead he pressed the "Quick Message" button. He thought that was confusing.

Conclusion

Prototype Changes

We mainly focused to create and view messages as simple as possible. During the three user prototype tests, the team noticed four noteworthy changes we would like to update and test in the next iteration of our prototype. We believe these would help the product achieve the main goal of simplicity.

1. The "Quick Message" button

While creating a quick message, all users found pressing the "Quick Message" button would start and stop the recording. However, after stopping the recording, users found some confusion in which save button to use, "Save" or "Save To Calendar". One user recommended that hitting the "Quick Message" button again should save the message as well.

2. If we display it, it should be quickly accessible

When asking users to create a message for next week, two users clicked directly on the date they wanted to save the recording for. One user even tried to click on the recording in the "Events" section of the main page. From this, the team decided to change the way the main page worked using both the calendar and the "Events" as interactive areas.

3. Add buttons where actions should take place

In concurrence with the "Quick Message" button change mentioned, we found that users chose to click the physical "Quick Message" button instead of tapping the screen to end the recording session. We also found that while viewing a message, users looked for a pause button. We would like to add buttons to the interface where actions could take place to display possible options to the user. (teamfabb.blogspot.com)

4. Add Manuals

For a lot of users, the manual is the most readily available source of information outside the on-line interface. For some users, the first place to go for information is the on-site support person or another, more expert user, but those experts gains much of their knowledge from manuals. In general, a fine manual is the most significant addition to the on-line interface.

To help understand what a good manual is, it's helpful to imagine doing a cognitive walkthrough on a manual and noting points where the manual could fail. First, the user may be looking for information that isn't in the manual. Second, the manual may enclose the information but the user may not be able to find it. Third, the user may not be able to identify or understand the information as presented. A task-centered design of the manual can help overcome all of these problems. If you understand the user's tasks and the context in which they're being performed, you'll be able to include the information the user will look for in the manual. This will be first and foremost task-oriented descriptions of how to use the system itself, but it may also include descriptions of how your system interacts with other software, or comments about operations users might want to perform that aren't yet supported. Knowledge of the users will help you present this piece of information in terms that make sense to them, rather than in system-oriented terms that make sense to the software designers. To repeat one of Nielsen and Molich's heuristics, you should "speak the user's language." The problem of users not being able to find information that's in the manual is probably the most difficult issue to address. Speaking the user's language will help some, and keeping the manual "lean," including only material that's relevant, will help even more. Without a doubt, brevity is the touchstone of an important approach to documentation, the "minimal manual," which we discuss under the heading of training. But the problem goes deeper than that, and we describe a further solution in the section on indexing.

Deciding on the top-level organization for your manual should be another place where the principles of task-centered design come into play. Using a manual is just like using the on-line interface: people can transfer the skills they already have to the system you're designing. When you're getting to know the users and their tasks, look at manuals they're comfortable with, and watch how those manuals are used. Make sure to look at the manuals users actually rely on, which are often task-oriented books written by third parties to fill the gaps left by inadequate system documentation. Design the manual for your system so it fits the patterns of seeking and using information that users find active. The manual has three parts. First, there's a section that describes common procedures in a narrative style. This section is organized around the user's tasks. Then there's a detailed description of each command, a section that's organized more in terms of the system. Finally there's a "Super Index," a section specifically designed to overcome the "can't find it" problem that users so often have with computer manuals. We can also include a reference card, if a user expects one. As a more convenient alternative, however, we'll assume that brief reference information is included as online help. However, many of the principles that apply to the design, such as briefness and speaking the user's language, will apply to manuals of any size. (Rieman, 2008)

Deciding on the top-level organization for your manual should be another place where the principles of task-centered design come into play. Using a manual is just like using the on-line interface: people can transfer the skills they already have to the system you're designing. When you're getting to know the users and their tasks, look at manuals they're comfortable with, and watch how those manuals are used. Make sure to look ae w