/ Interaction Design / User Research / User Testing 

smart pen ixd.png



As part of my Interaction Design course, we were tasked with completing the CHI conference's annual student design competition. For this, we were to study a group and design an interactive device to strengthen their social bonds. Our professor requested it not be an app or website. 

We chose the political volunteers for the Liberal Democrats of Teddington & Hampton Wick as the group we would study. 


User Research

I drafted a user research plan and met with the others to fill in the details. Our goals with this document were to design our study and create a shared understanding of the project and its scope. 


Our research plan initially consisted of semi-moderated interviews and direct observations. However, due to the difficulties we encountered in observing political volunteers in action during our course's timeframe, we decided to complement our interviews with a survey instead.

Problem Definition


Our research identified challenges around consistent participation, incentives, and a general disconnect from the work's impact. 


So, we wondered, how might we incentivize political volunteering in order to encourage greater group cohesion?


We used our research to develop personas and current user journey's.



We utilized several ideation techniques (e.g. brainstorm, lateral inspiration) to imagine possible solutions, evaluating our best ideas against the artifacts we developed. ​

Initial Solution


Our initial idea was to create a Bluetooth-enabled smart pen that would allow them to record written notes about their experience while volunteering.


These notes would be wirelessly transmitted to an online server where all of the volunteer notes from a single event could be reviewed by an editor and compiled into a letter after an event along with a map showing the routes volunteers took or other impact statistics.


The letter would then be printed and mailed to the volunteer's homes. This would serve as a tangible reminder of a volunteer's impact and not just be another unread email. 



Once we came to a consensus on a potential solution, I designed a diagram and schematic of our solution, the memory pen.  Later on, a teammate improved upon the drawing (seen at top). 


User Testing

With the prototype ready, we wrote a user testing plan and conducted four testing sessions in the field with a pen to emulate the experience of using the memory pen. Users would then thinkaloud their thoughts about the experience. Afterwards, we gave users a mock letter to see their reactions. 


Based on our user testing, we realized that volunteers who are dropping off leaflets at people's homes don't have a free hand to write down notes. So, we adapted the memory pen to include a microphone and the ability to capture spoken notes. 


Our project asked for a low fidelity prototype and an evaluation so we did not take this further. However, based on the results from our testing, the next steps would have been to further refine the product and conduct more testing with a larger group of volunteers.