Smart Soles

From chance to choice: designing a sensor-embedded wearable and app for senior healthcare

User Experience Design
User Research & Interviews
Product Discovery
Semi-finalists at UW HHIC 2020 in Seattle & Winner of Wolfram Alpha Award at nwHacks 2020
09/2019 - 04/2020
(8 months)

Smart Soles

Smart Soles is a sensor-imbedded wearable insole and app designed to help seniors track and improve their balance over time. I joined as part of UBC's New Venture Design program (capstone) to develop a product from scratch to MVP with a team of 6.

Working closely with teammates from engineering and business backgrounds, my role included user research, UX/UI design, technical research and product discovery.

As we age, our cognitive, physical and sensory coordination decreases. This makes it difficult for people to accurately know how their balance is changing over time.

Every 11 seconds, an older adult is treated in the emergency room for a fall.
Every 19 minutes, an older adult dies as a result of a fall.
By the end of 2020, falls are estimated to cause a financial toll of $67.7 billion on the economy.
the challenge
How might we help aging individuals monitor and improve their balance in an accessible and preventative way?
Starting with seniors - understanding their painpoints
Starting with seniors- understanding their painpoints
Talking to users

Product discovery started off with user interviews with seniors aged between 60-70+ years old. We wanted to learn more about how seniors are currently taking care of their balance.

To get the team aligned, I encouraged my engineering and business teammates to partake in user interviews as well.

Our assumptions

Seniors are adverse towards using technology or adopting new products. The current solutions are working well and seniors are satisfied with their healthcare habits.

Key findings
  • Many seniors are accepting of using technology and 85% of them own and operate smart phones
  • Available senior balance tools are often reactive in nature eg. using a walking cane (at the point of physical dependence) or fall alert systems (at the point of a fall)
  • There is no way to consistently monitor and view their balance over time → visits to healthcare professionals provide only snapshots of their balance health, not the holistic picture
Validation through market research - What are the opportunities?
Key findings
  • Products that are involved in the insole wearable space are catered towards athlete performance training
  • Popular wearable apps lack user education and personalized recommendations
  • Wearable apps are cluttered with too many features
  • Most wearables and its apps are complicated for seniors to use, as they cater to a wide range of use cases eg. tracking calories, time, pop-up notifications
INsights & takeaways
  • Based on their user habits and needs, a wearable in an insole format fits their needs best → would not require constant usage or small screen interactions
  • Lack of education resources and catered content leads to low motivation for balance improvement
  • Exercises/aftercare given by healthcare professionals are often forgotten by seniors → there is no concrete way to track patient self-care
  • Out of the 3 senior user segments identified, fall-conscious seniors are the most likely to adopt our product for long-term use
Process of iterations
Click on images to expand and see different iterations
Game plan

Early on, our goal was focused on validating the user flow and technical feasibility. This dictated the early designs and functions of data collection and outcome.

Designing the home page

Based on our notes and brainstorming, we wanted to remove all other nice-to-haves to deliver on the feasibility of hardware and software working.

This defined the main user flow of data collection, data interpretation and receiving a personalized exercise recommendation.

Visual Design

All UI elements are in fonts over 16px and visually spaced out to account for senior eyesight and mobile coordination. Colours are in black or dark blue to ensure visual contrast.

Designing the exercise page

I focused on implementing cards for exercises, as this contains more information in one related container and the larger size would be easier for individuals to select.

Mental hierarchy

Secondary research indicates that seniors need more prompts to create a mental information architecture in their mind, which is why I've added sticky nav bars through out the screens.

Showcasing our MVP

We got featured on TV for like 2 seconds, made a working but definitely not comfortable insole and had a great trip to Seattle!

Smart Soles works as a seamingless tool of any senior’s lives. We envision the insoles as being powered by low-energy, long-lasting batteries with automatic power on/off so that individuals could literally just set it and forget it.

For the final designs, I continued to develop through the iterations and notes to refine the user flow towards 3 main user and product goals.

Educate older individuals about the consequences of falls
Help users improve their balance through personalized exercises
Lead to lasting habits and follow-through on their balance care
Provide easy access to education

Following our interview notes, seniors mentioned they often have trouble finding relevant information on their balance health or forget details from their clinician visits.

In addition, older individuals are less inclined to divide their attention between multiple tasks, which is why I've designed in multiple cards of long-form texts.

Automating balance tracking

As individuals age, their level of cognition decline and impact different areas of memory. They may inaccurately remember the state of their balance at each doctor's visit or forget to follow through with recommended routines.

In order to help improve their prospective memory (remembering to do something in the future), having Smart Soles automatically track and cue seniors to improve balance will largely reduce the user effort to remember changes and progress.

Give peace of mind

Often times, their children, family and friends are also worried for them. However, some seniors admitted that they don't want to burden or worry their family by sharing about their health.

By sending triggered notifications based on previous data and trends over time, loved ones can be informed of any unusual activity and take proactive measures before things get worse.

Next steps & reflections
Usability testing

Due to the pandemic, we were unable to test our MVP and final designs with end users.

However, if it was possible, I would have conducted moderated sessions with seniors to go through an interactive prototype.

Starting with seniors
Visual design

In retrospect, some of the colour choices and visual design elements I chose may not be the best. For example, shades of blue/grey are not accessible to individuals with eyesight issues. Card box shadows may also be too faint to be visually visible.

For next time, I would test out colours and visual design much earlier through more user testing and research.

Be aware of paralysis analysis

With so many options and directions to go, it can be easily be overwhelming. Although that's fine, I would tell myself to take bias towards action and to pick the strongest starting point.

Define your success

As a team, we had so many ideas and aspirations towards this project. I think it was good to have created our definition of a successful project from the get go so that we could achieve it in measurable steps!

Thanks for reading!
See my other projects →