NYC BigApps 2.0, Fundamentals Studio with Chris Fahey, Fall 2010.

Challenge

In response to the NYC BigApps challenge, we were tasked to design a mobile application using at least one source of data from the NYC.gov Data Mine.

Approach

I have to admit that I definitely struggled with this project. From data selection to concept ideation, I found myself continuously getting stuck.

I first began my process by sifting through the available data sets. The data that I could associate the most seemed to fall into two categories: 1) Development and 2)Public Health and Safety. Pending, future and available contracts along with pre-qualified firms had the potential of creating a more direct connection between NYCEDC and its contractors. Public school zones, day care centers, and general health and safety data sets pointed to an app that’s geared towards parents with young children.

After much deliberation, and seeing how the RFP and contracting process really wasn’t ideal for a mobile app, I decided to move forward with the parents-oriented mobile app. While I was most interested in the contracting data sets, I wanted to try something new. Having designed webbased applications for public sector clients, I felt that pursuing a mobile application for parents would definitely force me to step out of my comfort zone and learn how to approach interaction design from a different angle.

So, I began by thinking about what could be interesting for parents. Initially, I started off with the idea that the mobile app could primarily generate crime and health risk information, such as what crimes have taken place nearby or what outbreaks have occurred in the city. Given that my own mother was an overly protective hypochondriac on my behalf, I played around with the idea of parents being concerned for their children’s welfare and the tools that could be supplied to streamline the process.

After reviewing my concept with my classmates, I decided to steer away from the emphasis on safety (and indirectly, the encouragement of paranoia), and focus on providing information that’s tailored for parents. As a result, kidEase NYC (as a public health and safety app for parents) became Strollers (a parental guide to NYC). However, I struggled primarily with the user scenarios. Despite thinking through different scenarios and ideating with even more classmates, I could not seem to capture the essence of my app and its concept. And unfortunately, I think that this ultimately manifested itself in the final prototypes.

In retrospect, while I wish that I could have broken through this struggle, I do think that this project yielded valuable lessons. For one, I’m more aware of the areas in which I should strengthen. Second, designing for a mobile app requires a kind of simplicity and focus in the concept that I’m still getting used to. Third, it might be worth challenging myself to build something more whimsical and creative around the data. And ultimately, my biggest takeaway is that data without a story or point of view is just data.

Outcome

A mobile application designed for the iPhone, Strollers is the parental guide to NYC.

A Social Platform

While Strollers pulls data from the City of New York to populate its foundational content, such as shape files and GIS layers, the mobile app’s real power lies in its network of parents. Harboring the philosophy that it takes a village to raise a child, the Strollers mobile app creates a more credible and accountable app for parents in need. Who better to get advice from than other NYC parents who are equally invested in the welfare of a child and understand the city just as well, if not better, than you? United by a common network, including free membership opportunities for increased transparency, parents can work together for a better and safer NYC.

Tangible Features

For modern parents on-the-go, mobility and efficiency are of utmost importance. Add to that the all-inclusive smartphone technology and you have the need for a compact but quick experience. Push notifications with optional vibration/sound components play a central role in delivering relevant and user-customized alerts directly to the user.

Intelligent Ubiquity

A real-time map populates information based on the user’s location. The location can either be automatically determined using current location or shaped by the user. As the user begins to customize the app to his or her preferences, the app will respond with intelligent content and alerts.

    Concept mapping the data input and output

    Concept mapping the data input and output

    Establishing the user's process flow

    Establishing the user's process flow

    Initial wireframes for first app iteration, kidEase NYC

    Initial wireframes for first app iteration, kidEase NYC

    Strollers, a parental guide to NYC

    Strollers, a parental guide to NYC

    Parents can view and add real-time alerts and recommendations

    Parents can view and add real-time alerts and recommendations

    Push-notifications of customized alerts

    Push-notifications of customized alerts