A 15-week UX research-driven project aims to help people who primarily work on the computer to maintain good posture and take breaks in between for long-term health benefits. As a result, we developed Work Buddy, a behavioral tracking desktop app to support user postural stability.
Role: UX designer UX researcher
Team: 4 HCI master's students @ Gatech
Methods: Contextual inquiry Prototyping Usability testing Data analysis
Tools: Figma Qualtrics Tableau Miro
Computers have become the primary equipment for many people to work, communicate, and entertain, and people spend more time sitting in front of the computer nowadays than in the past. Asa result, it raises the problem of physical position and postural stability while interacting with computers.
“How to help people maintain good posture when they are working on computers to improve long-term health?”
We designed a behavioral tracking and intervention app with a ‘desktop pet’ named Work Buddy, and it monitors and optimizes people's posture, reminds users to take a break from working on a computer, and educates them about good posture and stretching techniques.
Set up Work Buddy
Users can turn on and off Work Buddy on the home page and navigate between the home screen and Work Buddy on their devices to optimize user experience.
Initiate break reminders
Users can create break reminders based on their schedule, and the system would activate Work Buddy and remind users to take break in between.
Learn good posture and stretch
The system contains a library of posture and stretch knowledge for users to explore and learn about proper posture and methods to relieve bodily pain.
We came to a realization of common postural problems that we all faced after studying on computers for a long period of time. We began with a vague idea of helping people, especially those working primarily from home, maintain good sitting posture and prevent bodily discomfort.
To explore the problem space and understand user behavior of interest from various perspectives, we determined to conduct 4 user research methods: exploratory research, public observation, interview, and survey.
literature reviews and study of existing systems
10.8-hours observation session at 3 different public spaces
40+ interview questions, 4 participants, affinity mapping 200+ data
online survey, 40+ responses, and qualitative data analysis on Tableau
Key Research Findings
Although we employed 4 different research methods to collect data, we discovered many similarities and common interests in the different sets of research data. We summarized them into 5 high-level key research findings that helped develop our design solutions in the next phase.
01.Feel bodily pain across categories
There are no apparent trends in the relationships between the demographic factors we surveyed—age, hours per day worked, proportion of work being remote—and respondents’ experiences with pain, satisfaction with office furniture, or level of comfort.
02. Lack knowledge of good posture
Most people generally feel like they understand what good posture is but without great clarity or confidence. They were mostly aware of bad postures contributing somehow to their discomfort and recognized sitting and working in positions which they did not consider good posture in the time.
03. Prefer to change positions while working
Remote workers tend to adopt different positions throughout the day and make smaller adjustments to their sitting positions and equipment over time. Laptops and tablets can easily be moved, and this movement could be in response to a change in posture or the cause of it.
04. Focus hard on work leadingto poorer posture
We found that the most common expression of subjects focusing hard on work was to lean forward and put their faces closer to their screen. Depending on the level of exertion, this position might only last a few seconds, but it can also be adopted on a longer period of focus.
05. Have mixed satisfaction with ergonomic solutions
People described several current pieces of ergonomic equipment they use to help with maintaining better posture or generally be more comfortable, but others had trouble finding an appropriate solution for their needs or being unwilling to spend more money on such products.
To understand who we are designing for, we created 3 fictional characters to represent our potential users and generated personas for them based on the research data.
Then, we wanted to understand how these 3 potential users feel about our product. We make 3 empathy maps that list their attitudes and behaviors in response to some postural challenges.
Based on the personas and empathy maps, we defined 5 design requirements that we would frequently look back into when prototyping the product.
The design should encourage users to stretch to relieve pain and educate them how to stretch properly.
The design should educate users about the importance of sitting with good posture.
03. Adjusting postures
The design should educate users about the importance of sitting with good posture.
04. Taking Breaks
The design should remind users to take breaks in between work in a non-intrusive way.
The design should advise users in evaluating different seating options for working comfortably, based on the user’s specific needs and preferences.
We ideated 2 rivalry design solutions that address the 5 design requirements from different aspects and invited users to evaluate these two design concepts.
Posture Optimization App (left) is a mobile-based application integrating AR technology to help optimize sitting posture. Users can use phone cameras to scan a chair, and based on their input data, the system provides personalized instructions on how to sit on it.
Posture Reminder (right) is a desktop application with a screen accessory, consisted of both digital and physical forms. The computer camera is activated to track user posture, and the system can read the data and remind users to sit properly and take work breaks.
We conducted a 60-minutes testing session with 4 potential users to evaluate the 2 design concepts. We presented the design to the users and asked 15 follow-up questions about their thoughts and reactions. Then, we summarized the feedback and turned it into a chart to compare these two design concepts and evaluate whether they meet the listed design solutions.
Overall, users expressed a positive attitude toward both design concepts. However, they found Posture Reminder more useful, because they believe the use cases of Posture Optimization App are limited to acquiring anew chair, which is not a frequent event for them. Further, based on their feedback, Posture Reminder does a better job of fulfilling the 5 design requirements. Therefore, we decided to move on with Posture Reminder and turned the latter design concept into a wireframe.
Based on the feedback we received from the users, we turned Design Concept 2 into a wireframe and iterated the initial layout, key features, and user flow maps on Figma.
Before moving further with the wireframe, we wanted to hear what our users thought are on the features and user flows. Therefore, we invited 4 target users, of which 3 of them were UX professionals and 2 experienced chronic back pain, to participate in 60-minutes cognitive-walkthrough. We walked them through the flow diagrams and asked them 18 follow-up questions to evaluate whether the design provides viable solutions to their postural problems.
Based on the wireframe feedback we received, we iterated the prototype to streamline the user flows, enhance user experience, and redesign the visuals. The hi-fi prototype is the closest representation of the final product, demonstrating how users can interaction with the final product.
Navigate from home screen to desktop reminder
Remind users to take breaks in between work
Track metrics of user postural progress
Educate users about good posture for work
Encourage users to stretch to relieve pain
Help users to adjust sitting posture with camera
To test the usability of the main features and collect user feedback, we conducted 3 testing methods and invited 9 participants from different fields (2 UX professionals, 1 physical therapist, and 6 target users). Each testing session was an hour long and taken placed both online and on-site, depending on the availability of the participants.
3 methods: heuristics evaluation, think aloud, and subject-matter evaluation
8 user tasks and high-fidelity mockup on Figma for participants to interact
6 areas for product iteration based on the testing results
01. Tailored testing to user groups
We made the mistake of assuming everyone has prior knowledge of UX and usability testing, so I learned that customizing usability tests according to user groups can make the best out of the testing sessions.
02. Users are the best teachers!
Our users helped us to investigate the problem deeper and gain valuable insights of the design. They were also able to offer ideas and resources that no one else would do.
03. Cross-functional collaboration
Teamwork is the key to success, and I was lucky to work with 3 amazing team members with different expertise. We were able to bring our skill sets to the project and worked on the areas that we were good at doing it.