In the beginning of summer 2014, Dr. Gringas of the Evelina Kids Hospital in Waterloo approached RMA with a problem. As a professor of children’s sleep medicine and neurodisability, he often requires precise information from parents on how their kids sleep. Before coming to us, Dr. Gringas was asking parents to track their kids’ sleeping habits on a print-out chart.
Since tracing complex information on paper is not the most efficient method, the Doctor was looking for a suitable iOS application. Using the ‘finger painting’ concept, RMA put me in charge of this design project. Working closely with Dr. Gringas and the iOS developer I explored and designed different solutions for the application. I had access to real users, parents of kids affected by a sleep disorder, with whom I could verify my design assumptions.
The ‘finger painting’ concept is an innovative way of indicating a time range on a touchscreen device. The main interaction revolves around selecting a color - like ‘dipping’ a finger into paint - and using it to paint a canvas. Each color can have a different meaning - e.g., sleep or awake states - and the canvas size can be split into different units.
The principal challenge behind this new design paradigm was explaining the feature to first time users and keeping the commands simple, by adding different controls and allowing a precise input. I created several prototypes to explore how to achieve a communicative animation and give proper feedback to the user after each command. These solutions then had to be tested imagining a stressful environment for the users - e.g., a parent holding a crying baby at 3 a.m.
Finally, I paid close attention to the selection of colors. By conducting tests in a specialized lab, we were able to select a color palette that would reduce the production of blue light to a minimum- the primary factor that suppresses melatonin in the brain, reducing the ability to fall asleep. Thus, a parent can use the application with minimal impact on their sleep.