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Project Overview

Arlo Baby (CES 2017 Innovation Awards Honoree - Smart Home) is the newest addition to NETGEAR's Arlo product line. I'm the principal User Experience designer for this product's companion application on the iOS, Android, and Web platforms.

The original Arlo product line is comprised of a series of smart survaillence cameras that are most relevant to customers in search of extra protection for their homes. Arlo Baby on the otherhand entails a completely different set of user stories that are driven by love and care as opposed to distrust of strangers. How can we combine lifestyle features such as nursery sound player, RGB nightlights, and enviornment monitoring with technical surveillance features in a natural way? It immediately becomes apparent that this project is an interesting design challenge. 

The key design contraint: I need to integrate all the baby camera features into the existing Arlo eco-system and ensure the same mobile application can support baby monitoring use cases without affecting the home security use cases. 

 

Step 1: Research

I always start my design projects with research. While the product manager and marketing team may have already generated a list of attractive features that they think will sell the prodcut, I still believe it's the UX Designer's job to verify how relevant these features are to the user. Because truely great exprience stems from relevance.

The timeline of the project was very aggressive, but I took any opportunity I can to do the research. I read through an extensive amount of parenting articles, Amazon reviews, news articles and tracked down all the parents and parents-to-be in my social circle to chat about babies and baby monitoring. From this I concluded there are 5 types of customers who may engage with a baby monitor:

  1. Expecting Parent: this group of people may purchase or think about purchasing a baby monitor, but they will not actively use one until the baby is born.
  2. New Parent: their baby monitoring behaviour is highly dependent on the age of their baby and the size of their living quarter.
  3. Parents and Guardians of Bedridden Children: baby monitors would be very useful and relevant for this group of people
  4. Seasoned Parent Guardians: baby monitors would be most useful for this group of parents if they have more than one child. Having an older toddler and living in a house greatly increases the parent's need for a baby monitor
  5. Gift Buyers: this group of people may or may not be actual users of the baby monitors, but can play a key role in an actual user's experience journey.

Based on the information I gathered, I constructred a User Journey Map to serve as the cornerstone of my design activities. This journey map highlights the needs and pain experienced by the potential customers at any touch-point with the product and the company.

 

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Step 2: Project Planning

Another outcome of the research phase is a list of relevant user tasks. For the Arlo Baby project, I cross reference my list of user tasks with the product manager's user tasks and the development team's user tasks. From this I came up with a more contexual list of user tasks. Using this final list, I planned out the order in which I will need to design the features. 

Features are rated based on implementation difficulties and relevance to user. Difficult and highly relevant features get the highest priority. Difficult but irrelevant features get the lowest priority (or pushed back all together), so on and so forth.

 

Step 3: Kickoff Meeting

While I was preparing project plan, I also held short one-on-one meetings with the relevant project stakeholders. I needed to understand the vision each team member had for this project and establish rapport. 

Once I finish speaking with all the stakeholders and finished preparing the research documents, I called a formal Kick-off Meeting. This meeting is important for benchmarking everyone's expectations. It ensures we all start the project on the same page.

During this meeting I talked about what I had learned during the research phase. I described our target user groups to the team, and pointed out the challenges of this project. I also shared potential solutions and what kind information and support I expected from the stakeholders and everyone on the team.

I incorporated a few collaborative design excercises into the meeting to help none designers understand how design worked and also gathered their ideas and thoughts on the Arlo Baby project. 

Lastly I wented over the project plan for the design phase to inform the team of what I plan to do. This transparency is important for building trust.

 

Step 4: Research, Design, Test & Iterate.

After the kick-off meeting I began my design process. As I had experienced the benefits of a true iterative design process first-hand in past projects, I follow an iterative approach diligently.

First I conducted an experience audit of the Arlo ecosystem. Then I examined various other ecosystem apps like Fitbit, and Nest for inspiration. I also analyzed many baby monitors and nursery sound machines on the market by both testing out the product or filtering through it's relevant Amazon reviews. Throughout the project, I conducted informal product research whenever it was needed.

I always started my design with a high level flow that didn't have exact screen designs. I will review these flows with the product team and the engineering team to get feedback. This premilinary activity allowed me to discover false assumptions and miscommunication problems early on. The intentional ambiguity also helped the team focus on critiquing the flow instead of things like detailed layout, button placement, or colour schemes.

Once the flow's first design draft was robust enough, I begin layout and interaction design by creating wireframes and interactive prototypes. At this point I ran some quick unmoderated tests on Usertesting.com to validate specific interactions. I also held cognitive walkthroughs sessions with some of the team members to further review. Once the design matures, I called stakeholder meetings to review the design. 

When the wireframes passed through a 2nd round of review, many questions and issues surfaced. I addressed each issue and continue onto the UI design stage with a fellow UI designer. Once the high fidelity mockups is ready, we created a few interactive protoypes based on this mockup. I ran some quick usability tests to validate our design again and updates the design based on the issues we identified from the tests. Then another review meeting is called.

This highly collaborative process repeated for each feature set, until all the components of the Arlo Baby's mobile app was designed. 

For confidentiality reasons, I cannot showcase the final design of Arlo Baby before the product's actual launch. However, I would be happy to share the design process I have established for this project and talk about how we dealt with the challenges relating to designing for IoT with any fellow UX enthusiasts. If you are interested in some solid UX talk, let's connect! Feel free to drop me a line at lucia.lu.yu@gmail.com.