This project was completed for a semester-long course as part of my Master's degree in Human-Computer Interaction at Georgia Tech. I worked with another designer and two researchers to complete this project over the course of the Fall 2021 semester. My role in this project was Lead Designer, and I led insight discovery, user research analysis, feature ideation, design system construction, and high-fidelity prototyping.
As a part of Georgia Tech's mission to bring awareness to sustainability, we were tasked to research, identify and design a solution to sustainable management of old electronics, or e-waste. Since Georgia Tech is home to a large community of gamers, we decided to focus in on e-waste as it is applied to PC gaming so that our solution could make an impact in our local community.
Each year, hardware processing speeds begin to dwindle, and new computing parts become available to purchase. When gamers stop using this hardware, much of it ends up in landfills, often polluting natural environments with toxic chemicals that come from electronic waste. In order to mitigate this problem, we conducted extensive research on the PC gaming community's e-waste production and decided to tackle the following problem statement:
We designed an app to help that would combine the digital with the physical to allow PC gamers to donate and retrieve used PC parts at local community centers.
I was greatly unfamiliar with the impacts of e-waste, so I spent the first part of this project researching more about it through several different avenues.
I began delving into the problem space through a literature review, identifying the main concerns surrounding e-waste and assessing opportunities for a technological intervention to frame the research process of the project.
To identify tasks involved for PC gamers to sustainably manage their electronic waste, we referred to the lifecycle of electronics to point to areas of interventions for proper disposal. The above chart refers to the schematic depicting the electronic device lifecycle, from manufacturing to consumer usage, and finally what happens after being discarded.
In order to narrow our scope and define our problem statement, we broke down the electronic device lifecycle’s stakeholders to represent different tasks and task environments, assessing where it was most feasible and most worthwhile to implement our solution across these stakeholders.
Since our team was unfamiliar with the e-waste management process outside of the consumer perspective, we visited Novus Solutions in the greater Atlanta area, an “Electronics Asset Disposition” that allows consumers, corporations, and governmental organizations to recycle e-waste. The managing director was able to give us a tour of the entire facility and explained each step of the process, which gave me a lot more insight into how e-waste is recycled and what happens to it on a more local scale.
We conducted an audit of existing solutions that help consumers—particularly PC gamers—recycle their old PC parts. We analyzed both digital and analog solutions, including marketplace platforms, online user-run buy/sell communities, in-store electronics recycling programs, recycling apps, and donation systems.
We assessed the data we collected from our preliminary research to arrive at two main key findings that we used to to help craft and guide our primary, user research.
Before beginning our user research, we utilized the data from our preliminary research to construct an idea of our target user to narrow the scope of our problem.
After identifying our target user and drawing upon our initial research in order to narrow our problem space, we reframed our problem to be:
We utilized both surveys and interviews to better understand the needs of our target user group.
Our primary goal in distributing a survey was to retrieve quantitative data on our target user group. However, we also had a secondary goal of using this survey to screen and recruit for user interviews. We distributed our survey via Qualtrics through snowball sampling and received 92 responses. The questions on the survey comprised a mix of demographic questions, questions about participants' PC part purchasing habits, and questions about participants' usage and disposal of PC parts.
We used our survey data to better inform the questions we wanted to elaborate on in our user interviews, filling in our gaps of our knowledge of our target user group.
We conducted 9 semi-structured interviews to understand users’ attitudes and behaviors towards:
We used an affinity map to organize our findings from our user research, grouping related themes together to construct our key findings.
We concluded the following key findings from this synthesis exercise.
In order to ensure that we were meeting our target user group's needs to the fullest extent based on our user research, we realized that we needed to narrow the problem space even further to be:
We further reframed the target user groups and began to map out the different needs for each of them:
Wants to get rid of their old parts
Wants to get receive a refurbished part
Based on our new knowledge of the target user group and their needs, we began the ideation process by establishing both functional and non-functional requirements for the design, ensuring that we were advocating for the user.
My teammates and I quickly began to ideate design solutions based on our research and design requirements, regularly meeting to discuss the benefits and tradeoffs associated with each solution.
There are two parts to the eCycle Hubs system: the physical drop-off location and an electronic service that users can search and post available parts. Our physical context of use for the drop-off location is in various community centers.
We ultimately chose this idea because we felt that it best met our design requirements with modifications.
To identify opportunity areas, we created user journey flows to visualize each target user group's perspective.
After understanding the mental models associated with users' tasks throughout both the donation and receiving processes, we constructed more user flows to determine which features and pages to prioritize in the design.
Based on these user flows, we began creating interactive, low- and medium- fidelity prototypes, as they were less costly than going straight into high-fidelity and allowed us to test and make changes easily.
In order to ensure that our design adheres to the principle of consistency, meets users' expectations and matches their mental models, and allows for easy learnability of the system, I integrated a design system.
After conducting a session of moderated usability testing on our wireframes, users noted that it was difficult to understand how the process of picking up an item and scanning the QR code would work.
I implemented an informational guide to address this. Users also noted that some language was confusing, such as the term “Base” to refer to the landing page and “Dropping Off” to refer to donating items. We changed this language to be more inclusive and accessible.
We conducted a task-based usability test to understand whether our design met our design requirements, asking users to complete the tasks of searching for an eCycle Hub near them, donating an item, and finding a part to pick it up and claim it.
Although the system is new, participants were able to learn the system’s functionalities as they progressed through each task without much cognitive effort.
Participants noted that eCycle Hubs provided enough error recovery for the overall process to be completed.
While participants had little difficulty completing assigned tasks, they reported the need for more helpful information and error messages regarding the pickup process.
In order to address participants' need for more helpful information and error messages regarding the pickup process, I iterated on two aspects of the pickup flow, making design changes that adhere to usability principles as well.
Because not all users required extremely detailed information on the process, the addition of a help overlay that allows users to decide whether they want more detailed information or not reduces information overload and the amount of steps it takes to reach their goal. Additionally, more precise language and visual representations in the page heading and instructions page help clarify the system.
During testing, users noted that they felt that the design did not provide adequate information on how to determine whether a particular item was coming from a trustworthy source, corresponding to one of our previous research findings. They also felt that they did not have enough information to make a proper judgement on which items they wanted to claim. To alleviate this, I integrated a rating system for the pickup process.
The key features of the prototype correspond to the user needs we identified throughout our research process. After testing, we iterated on these to best fit technical constraints, potential business needs, and user feedback.
As hardware is constantly improving and requirements to play certain games are changing, PC-building gamers are constantly having to upkeep their systems. Purchasing new parts can be very costly, so many PC-building gamers look to used and refurbished parts as opposed to purchasing new ones. Finding the parts they need can be very tedious and time consuming, so eCycle Hubs provides a simple, centralized method for PC-building gamers to do so.
Trust is a core principle embedded into the PC gaming community, especially important for those within the community who are seeking out used or refurbished parts. The gaming community values transparency and prefers to make informed decisions before choosing to integrate any new hardware parts into their valued PC setup. eCycle Hubs utilizes a robust verification system for item pickups to build trust in the system and provides as much information on both the item and the process as possible to users when picking up items.
Many PC-building gamers who want to get rid of their old PC parts think that the process of selling their parts on e-commerce sites like eBay or Craigslist is too tedious and intensive, so they often give their old parts to friends or leave their old parts in storage without using them. eCycle Hubs allows PC-building gamers to donate these parts and drop them off at a local community center near them, easing the process of getting rid of their old PC parts and preventing them from going to waste.
A primary factor in PC-building gamers' hesitation to sell their old parts online is that they don't want to go through the process of having to ship out their items. By allowing them to find nearby community centers where they can donate or recycle their old parts, eCycle Hubs helps PC-building gamers reduce confusion and exert less effort while helping them reach their goals of getting rid of their old part.
The PC-building gaming community is a very close-knit, supportive community that thrives off the share of knowledge. eCycle Hubs provides a safe, open environment for PC-building gamers who are exchanging their parts with each other to share knowledge with each other, supporting the cultural values of the community.
We were able to meet the majority of our design requirements in our design, which we noted earlier in our project process would deem our project successful. However, I wouldn’t call it a complete success.
While our prototype provides enough information for participants to complete tasks, our prototype can greatly benefit from a more robust design focused on error prevention, which would add to building more trust in the users when navigating this application and overall e-waste management process. Therefore our current prototype needs more work to better meet this requirement.
Now that we have narrowed our scope, we should conduct more research on existing solutions in the circular economy and donation spaces.
Creating and testing an in-person prototype to model the physical interactions that would happen in this space is necessary to understand how effective this solution is.
We should ideate on how to better emphasize social interaction between donors and receivers in order to strengthen the sense of trust associated with eCycle Hubs.
During parts of our project, there were times during which we felt that some of the data we collected may not have been representative of the entire population, but we still ensured that our design and research decisions were based on that particular data, also noting our limited sample sizes to qualify such decisions.
Because we met and worked on our project both virtually and in-person, we were able to take advantage of both virtual and in-person collaboration tools, such as Microsoft Teams, G-Suite (particularly Google Docs and Google Sheets), WebEx, Figma, and Miro. By utilizing these different collaboration tools, we were able to strengthen our skills and knowledge of such tools to help prepare us for future projects in other courses and ultimately in the workplace.