Responsibilities: UX research, interaction design, mobile UI design, iOS development
Research & Design Process
1. Identified the key problem, opportunity, and target audience
2. Wireframed, prototyped, and designed the app concept
3. Design reviews
4. Refined the app concept (three iterations)
5. Developed the app EnergyHome
6. Design evaluation with behavior change measurements and interviews
7. Analyzed data and reported findings
More than 32% of American adults live with housemates. In particular, more than half of the residential area of a college town (e.g., Ithaca, NY) is student housing, where those who do not belong to the same family live in a house together. However, energy consumption of housemates is often overlooked.
Previous research suggest that individual energy feedback (e.g., personalized energy-saving goals) and collaboration (e.g., a family working together to save energy) are two promising strategies to motivate families to save energy. In family environments, energy-related activities are in part shaped by family dynamics. For example, previous research suggests that there is a "family leader" who manages the energy for the entire household and pays attention to others' energy needs.
However, we do not know if those two strategies will work in non-family households where housemates equally manage the utility. For example, instead of having a "family leader", every housemate can independently adjust the energy settings without attending to others' needs.
In this study, I designed a mobile app to evaluate whether those two strategies can successfully promote energy conservation among housemates, a different household structure compared to a family.
Healthy adults aged 18+ who live with at least one non-family housemate
App Design and Iteration
EnergyHome mobile app design has two key features to promote housemates to save energy, incorporating the two successful motivation strategies for family energy conservation:
1. Individual challenges: individuals personalize energy-saving goals that are tailored to themselves; they can customize reminders to keep track of energy conservation progress
2. Group challenges: housemates collaboratively set energy-saving goals and work on energy conservation as a group; they can customize reminders for others to support their energy-saving process
EnergyHome design has three iterations (see below) on changes in layouts, information organization and architecture, functions, and how a user interacts with the app. I made wireframes and prototypes for each version, iterated based on design review sessions with my advisor and other UX researchers.
EnergyHome Interactive Prototype
After finalizing the design, I worked with three software developers Yu Li, Yu Tang, and Donald Hu to develop the app EnergyHome in iOS 7.
To evaluate the two design features, individual challenges and group challenges, on promoting energy conservation, I designed a user evaluation study with the following four components:
1. Screening and recruiting qualified users for the study; pilot tested study protocols
2. Pre- and post-surveys to measure behavior change on energy consumption
3. Users interacted with EnergyHome for a week
4. Follow-up semi-structured interviews with users to understand their experience and interactions with EnergyHome, whether or not they chose to save energy by themselves or with others, and the reasons why
I designed a screening surveys to select qualified participants based on the following criteria:
1. Must be at least 18 years old
2. Live in a shared household with at least one non-family housemate; not in a romantic relationship with any of the housemate(s)
3. Participate in the study with their housemate
4. Own an iPhone and are willing to install the app
14 households of 2 housemates participating in the study
Among the participants, 43% are in favor of individual motivation strategy and 57% prefer collaboration. The general feedback indicates that housemates have different assessments of EnergyHome design features. Those preferences are rooted in housemate dynamics:
Whether housemates choose to participate in energy conservation individually or collaboratively is deeply influenced by the social dynamics of housemates.
1. Housemates choose to save energy individually in the following dynamics:
Leader-Reluctant follower: one is active (leader) and one follows reluctantly (reluctant follower)
Conflict avoider-Conflict avoider: both perform independently to avoid conflicts
“I feel like maybe it (refers to group challenges) crosses like a boundary that’s a little difficult.” (Jane, female, housemate with Emily)
“I feel I’d probably just like mention it. Like, ‘Oh, can you turn off the lights, or can you cover the bare floors,’ instead of doing it in a passive-aggressive way (refers to creating a group challenge.” (Emily, female, housemate with Jane)
Independent contributor-Independent contributor: both are self-motivated and perform independently
2. Housemates prefer to save energy collaboratively in the following dynamics:
Leader-Follower dynamic: one is active (leader) and one follows as told (follower)
“The reason why I wanted to do [group challenges] with her, is because she’s totally not eco-friendly. So it frustrates me.” (Ellie, female, housemate with Jackie)
“I feel like if I get more suggestions from my roommate, I will be more willing to do that. Because my roommate told me to, I feel like I should at least try it. The group one is more definitely motivating. When you are just yourself, you have more freedom [to do it or not].” (Jackie, female, housemate with Ellie)
Collaborator-Collaborator: both are active and collaborative
Considering social dynamics in promoting behavior change, e.g., a system can dynamically adapt to and adjust design features based on identified social dynamics
EnergyHome successfully increases their awareness and interests on energy conservation. No matter what motivation strategy they prefer, all of the participants express their interest in continuing to use EnergyHome, even after the study ends. More than half of them invite their family or other friends to use EnergyHome.
"Can I share this [refers to EnergyHome] with my parents and sisters? I think they will love it." (Becky)
This study is published in MobileHCI 2017. If you are interested in more about the research and findings, you can check out our paper: Wang, X., & Fussell, S. R. (2017). EnergyHome: Leveraging Housemate Dynamics to Motivate Energy Conservation. In Proc. MobileHCI'17.