Digital Service Design
The challenge we were presented with was how could be bring value to the Department of City Planning (DCP) through a mobile service that would satisfy an unmet need
Role: Service Designer and Project Manager
Client: Pittsburgh Department of City Planning
Team: 2 service designers and 2 ux designers
Duration: 4 week sprint
Skills: Guerrilla research, Semi-structured interviews, Conceptual modeling, affinity diagramming, market analysis,
The DCP's Goals
To kick this off, my team and I did some background research to understand the domain better, understand the goals of the DCP, and how they market themselves. So I learned that the DCP has 3 main goals - one is to continuously enhance the city. Second, Pittsburgh has a rich culture and history so leveraging that to make it an enjoyable city for its residents. And lastly, maintaining environmental sustainability.
Some of the key internal stakeholders include neighborhood planners, the zoning board, and the art commission. The neighborhood planners act as an intermediary between the residents and the department. The Zoning Board assesses proposals for development and decides what will be built next and where. The Art Commission approves and decides the placement of public artwork. Ofcourse, the mayor, director, and city council are part of the greater local government network.
In order to understand all the interconnections and communication channels between the internal and external stakeholders, I created a conceptual model. Creating models allows me to think visually and deconstruct the current system, the players, and responsibilities to then identify gaps or potential opportunity areas for innovation.
Opportunity Area #1
One thing I immediately noticed was that the line of communication between residents and the government is time consuming. I saw an opportunity to streamline the relationship between the DCP and residents with a potential service.
Opportunity Area #2
Second, the Zoning board and Art Commission were two key parts of the DCP and their functions are super important to the development and culture of Pittsburgh. I wanted to find a way to promote their efforts within the DCP by bringing them to the public in an engaging way.
Opportunity Area #3
Knowing art and culture is near and dear to most Pittsburgh residents as well as the DCP, there could be an opportunity to co-create value between the DCP, artists, and the general public.
Since the heart of the DCP’s goal is making the city better for residents, my team and I decided, we should speak to Pittsburgh residents to learn about their experiences and how involved they are with the DCP’s initiatives.
We talked to students, early professionals, and a few professors, finding an overwhelming pattern. Students seemed to be out of the loop about Pittsburgh events and activities. Early professionals and Professors, however, were pretty aware of Pittsburgh’s offerings.
Takeaway: Students are in a bubble
The student demographic is not as well connected to all that Pittsburgh has to offer.
This is most likely because students are in a bubble where they are only surrounded by other students, all of who are probably not native to the city.
Reframing The Design Problem
How might the DCP reach the student population to encourage exploration and enjoyment?
Service Concept and Value Exchange
Here we have our external stakeholders and the internal DCP stakeholders that my team is focusing on. The DCP provides local events, public art spaces around the city, and development for enhancement of the city. Through the mobile service students will be able to better discover these local business and artists. In turn this will allow artists and businesses to gain visibility. To use the app, students are allowing the DCP to access there geospatial and temporal data that will then in turn be used to inform new business development as well as placement of public art. The DCP will be able to analyze user’s behaviors and patterns to encourage government spending on appropriate initiatives. Value would be co-created all these different stakeholders and help the DCP meet its goal of creating enjoyment for this customer segment
We created a user flow to guide the design of the low-fidelity screens. We outlined the goals and the different actions users can take as well as what screen they would land on throughout.
User Flow and Screenflow
My team and I started by doing some sketching to start ideating on what the interface would look like. After discussing our ideas, and agreeing on a concept we made low fidelity screens.
Prototyping: Low Fidelity Wireframes
The home-page is where users can find spots nearby by clicking on the map. The home screen is connected to the spot collection page which is where the user can view all the spots and artwork they have already visited. The home screen also navigates to a settings page.
The map page shows where all the nearby spots are. If a user clicks on a spot (indicated by the yellow dot) it will take them to the spot overview page where they can read details about the spot. After The user navigates to the spot and they’re close by, it will appear on the map as shown on the third screen. For the third screen, we were envisioning an AR experience that guides the user to the spot. The fourth screen is the spot collection overlay showing that the user has completed the experience.
After walking through the flow during a cross-critique with my peers, my team and I were given three main pieces of feedback. Our peers thought we could play into the discovery aspect more, by making it challenging for users to discover spots. By doing this, it becomes more of a puzzle, that would gamify the process. We were told the feeling of reward needs to be more prominent, confirming that the spot collection screen needed to be iterated upon and lastly they said to add a social component to the app.
Prototyping: Mid-Fidelity Wireframes
Iterating on Discoverability
For the Mid-fidelity Prototype, we added color, which was in line with the DCP’s design system.
Additionally, we established a fun but direct voice and tone because it is a government department.
One feature I added is that on map screen, the spots will only reveal themselves when the user get close by. This adds an element of surprise and discovery.
Second, the spot collection page will notify the user when a new spot has been added to encourage curiosity and urge users to explore.
Iterating on AR Experience
I started to prototype out what the AR experience could looks like. When users click into the map view, they could choose between 2D or AR view. For the AR view, think Google Street View with overlaid icons/rewards/popups. We created both versions to test with students. Once the user arrives at the event, we envisioned an additional AR experience, whether it’s AR art or an immersive experience.
High Fidelity Prototype
We tested our prototype by conducting a think-aloud usability test with students. We found that users did not know they were going to be presented with a unique AR experience once they arrive at the spot. So they exited the app once they arrived at the spot, obviously this was a problem so I decided on bettering the onboarding flow to mitigate the confusion. We also created a privacy consent screen as the DCP would be accessing user data.
Feedforward and Micro-interactions
Some of the smaller refinements we made were to improve specific interactions. In the mid fidelity design, we used the concept of “levels” to gamify and incentivize discovery, but there wasn’t much feedforward with that. So in the hi-fi design, I added a visual and text that shows they can improve their level providing feedforward and a better sense of affordance.
Second, in the mid-fi design the collected hidden spots were static and didn’t really afford an interaction. So in the hi-fi design, we created a swipe gesture so that users were actively interacting with the collected spots and would feel like they want to complete any empty spots.
This was a short academic project, so we didn’t have get to quantify impact. But if I had more time, I would...
1. Usability testing with users
2. Measure the click-through rate to see what screen users spend the most time on and whether the call of action on each screen is being clicked.
3. Explore new potential features, like how artists can sell art within the app or how discounts could be used as rewards for exploring new businesses.
1. Be Creative with Native Capabilities of Phones
Pushed me to be creative to solve a problem that involves multiple stakeholders with a product-service system and not to shy away from "blue sky ideas" like AR/VR and spatial data exchange.
2. Service-thinking Mindset
This project encouraged me to adopt a service thinking mindset as most products today are part of a greater product-service ecosystem.