A smart hub for parenting, which connects different smart devices and enables them to work together. Octopus frees parents' hands, tracks their baby's growth and centralizes parenting life.
Feifei Deng, Dee Song, Jade Zhao
Lead in UX/UI design, Product manager
12 Weeks (Dec.2019 - Mar.2020)
Intrigued by the problem space, I initiated this project and recruited the other two talented designers to join my team. As the person who drove the project direction from end to end, I was able to
The transition to parenthood is extremely challenging for first time parents.
More than one in seven mothers and up to one in 10 fathers experience postnatal depression or anxiety
Approximately one-quarter of Millennial Moms say they would pay $50 per month to have someone manage their busy lives.
Around two-thirds of couples find that the quality of their relationship declines within five years of the birth of a first child.
How might we empower first time parents to make parenting easier and to promote happier relationships in the first year of parenthood？
Octopus - A Smart hub for parenting
Free parents' hands. Track baby's growth. Centralize parenting life.
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As the one who initiated the project, I completed a project roadmap at the very beginning to help the team align with the plan and milestones.
We reviewed 19 papers and articles related to parenting, IoT, smart home.
We sent out probes to 5 couples whose kids range in age from 3 months to 2 years old
We interviewed 5 couples whose kids age from 3 months to 2 years old
We reviewed 7 digital parenting devices/Apps and 5 Smart home hubs.
After coding the quantitative data through primary research, we distilled four insights to answer our research question: what are the challenges first-time parents face?
Millennial parents struggle with time management in balancing their work and family lives.
“Actually, this is just an outline of my day. I always got distracted by clients’ calls, baby cryings, or other interruptions during working. That’s really annoying and low efficiency”
Parents don’t fully perceive each other's contribution
“Her dad is much more laid back than me”
Tasks are tedious and replicated in taking care of newborns and tracking their growth
“I’m confused with different size of diapers ”
Every baby is very different and there is no-one-size-fits-all solution in parenting
“I don't like people tell me how to take care of my girl. It makes me feel more anxiety, and usually what they said doesn't work for my baby”
To better build empathy with the user and to establish a shared vision of the critical challenges we were looking at, we formed a user journey story based on our research insights. I drew this map to visually present the story and tried to map out integrated touchpoints and potential design opportunities.
With these research insights in mind, we studied the market and tried to figure out consumer behaviors and preferences in digital marketing.
We found the vast majority of first-time parents are Millennials, digital natives who were born between 1980 and 2000.
71% of today's parents own at least one IoT device and three-quarters of those without IoT are interested and want to learn more. 57% of parents said they purchased their IoT device to make their life easier. 37 % of parents with IoT/smart devices want to buy another in the next two months.
95% of Millennial parents choose to use an App to track the baby's growth. Compared to the previous generation, they are more obsessed with quantifying their kids. Feeding, sleep patterns, wet diapers, milestones, even every Poop. They love to use Apps to track every single thing in their baby’s development
The findings from our market study helped us identify competitors. We decided to focus on 7 digital parenting devices/Apps and 5 Smart home hubs.
parents need to have multiple devices and applications installed in order to track more comprehensive data.
The gap between smart devices and smart hubs is our opportunity.
Smart hubs are mainly intended to integrate devices like webcams, lights and thermostats. They focus on smart home scenarios instead of parenting
Based on all these insights from our user research and market study, we summarized our design principles and set the frame work for our future design work.
Streamline and optimize parenting life to free parents’ hands and save their time
Empower parents to manage tools/data/tasks related to parenting in one place to simplify their life
Raise parents’ awareness of each other’s contributions to collaborate better and build mutual support
Bring specific efficient solutions based on parents’ unique needs
Guided by our design principles, we generated 90 ideas in the ideation stage. After a couple of rounds of discussion and voting, we narrowed down to the final concept based on feasibility, desirability, and viability.
Octopus - A Smart hub for parenting
It connects different smart devices from different manufactures to the central hub
It enables different devices to talk to each other and work together in new ways to free parents' hands
The cloud-hosted appliance assimilates real-time data from the disparate devices used to help parents to collaborate and understand their baby's growth.
How it helps in real context
After connecting devices with the Octopus App, a preset night care routine is automatically generated by the system.
When the webcam detects Nora is about to wake up, it sends out data to the bedside lamp to wake up Melissa. Meanwhile, the webcam catches Nora sucking her fists, which usually is a sign of a hunger baby. In response, the webcam triggers smart milk bottle to warm milk at the preset temperature
Eric wakes up and receives a notification from Octopus, regarding what tasks Melissa completed last night. Meanwhile, it reminds him that he can help with - “baby laundry.” He uses the pre-set routine made by Melissa to finish it quickly before leaving home.
Eric goes to work. It’s a busy day full of meetings. In the break, Eric receives a notification from Octopus. It’s the webcam that captured a short video of Nora’s smiling. Eric enjoys this fun moment. Octopus also reminds him to buy diapers and lets him know what happened at home
Implementing the concept through features is another big challenge. I directed the team back to research insights and design principles to map out product features that could truly reflect our research insights and meet users' needs.
Octopus is a comprehensive product with a broad range of features. Before diving into details, we decided to map out the structure of the app to clarify the big-picture.
We started with the App sitemap. Our team aligned on 6 key content sections in the App: Homepage, Routine, Device management, Task management, Baby's growth and development, and Profile .
Equipped with the content foundation of the site map, we created user flows to think through possible paths for each feature. These five key flows including:
Users will start the journey with Octopus from the Web. Here, they can learn what Octopus is and how Octopus could help with their parenting life. By simply completing a questionnaire, Octopus customizes solutions that fit the users' unique needs in parenting!
After connecting devices to the App, Octopus generates customized smart routines to make devices talk with each other and work together to make parenting life more manageable. Users can customize the routine to fit their needs better.
At the device management center, parents can manage disparate devices in one place. They also can quickly start a device for one-time use.
Octopus provides collaborative task management not only for daily tasks but also integrates these tasks with smart routines to help family members better collaborate.
Cloud-hosted appliance assimilates real-time data from the disparate devices to help parents to track and record their baby’s growth and exciting development
Parents will not miss fun moments of their baby and will better understand each others’ contribution by highlighting actions and sharing activity history.
We did 5 rounds of user tests in different fidelities with 12 participants. We iterated based on feedback and previous research insights.
"Routine" is a core feature of Octopus. I was independently responsible for this feature from end to end. I struggled with a lot in the process but eventually reached the successful solutions through iteration. Next I would love to share with you the two most significant iterations and my design rationale in this process.
Previous research informed us there is no-one-size-fits-all solution in parenting. It's essential to enable users to customize their routine to fit their unique needs. However, the result of our testing with our the paper prototype showed customization process is too challenging for users due to its complexity and unfamiliar concepts.
Thus, balancing the tension between functionality and learnability is the first challenge I was facing.
Based on user testing feedback, I identified that the primary use case is novice users who want to enable a routine with the least effort. In response, I simplified the flow. The system will now automatically generate a preset routine right after connecting the devices with the App. Meanwhile, I kept the flexibility to customize the routine settings and to create a new routine for intermediate and advanced users
Another big challenge I faced is managing information density. Too much information on the page will put users in a mental straightjacket. It’s exactly the mistake I made in the Mid-Fi. As one of our participants said, “Too many action buttons on one page, I don’t know where I should start”.
However, if there is too little information, it will become cumbersome to reach meaningful insights.
Thus, striking the right balance between Cleanliness and Clarity is the second challenge I faced
It’s the nature of the beast: Complex flows require the prioritization of features at the expense of visibility to others. I adopted the principle that user’s interest should drive information priority.
We started building our visual identity by identifying the main brand adjectives that would represent the product: Caring, Innovative, Reliable.
With the established design direction, we created a Style Guide and UI Kit for Octopus. These are living documents that can be updated and added to as the site (and brand) develops and evolves. By documenting the UI patterns and components we use in the design, we can better ensure that they are repeated and, therefore, consistent across the product
At the beginning of this project, I didn't expect a smart hub would be this complicated. I thought we could just connect different devices and let them talk to each other and work together. Our four month project deepened my understanding of smart home and IoT technology. There are still a lot of things we couldn't cover in such a short time. If I had a chance to continue, I would keep working on data privacy, compatibility and reliability of the system, and multiple-user scenarios.
The success of designing a complex system is to seek a balance between simplicity and functionality. The designer needs to make trade-off carefully while holding a big picture in mind.
While dealing with a complex system, the designer needs to understand and act from micro to larger macro sizes, from short periods to long ones(like product life spam). This allows the product to serve multiple stakeholders in different situations. Moreover, there are interactions between the levels of scale and abstraction..