During Round 2 of testing, we found ourselves in Philadelphia’s beautiful Rittenhouse Square Park, begging innocent passerby to give us feedback.
A tricky part of creating a product is designing amidst wide variation in personal preference. If there are 10 basic reasons why someone may not continue use a product, for a product of the home, there are 20. Aesthetic, feel, texture, comfort, style, durability, washability, functionality, size, fit, match with the curtains, match with the walls, match with the dog. As we continue discussions with product design firms, we sought feedback from 52 people in Philly and 10 patients and providers in the hospital.
Our goal was to collect as much real-time, qualitative feedback as possible, to better inform our design. Height of our mats and bevel (the slope leading up to the highest point of the mat) were key variables in this test. With pink insulation boards, a heat knife, and masking tape, our crafty engineers made six prototypes of our bathmat scale; 3 different heights, 2 different bevels, and 6 deceivingly equal bathmats placed on top.
We asked all 62 to step up onto each mat, imagining the ledge before them as a sink in their bathroom. Participants were asked to imagine they had just woken up in the morning and were going about their daily morning routine. Their responses were insightful and often hilarious, including:
“This one feels more stable. I have a sense of balance.”
“[in reference to bevel and ease of stepping for disabled persons] This one is a lawsuit waiting to happen.”
“This one’s hard and rigid. I’m used to bathmats being soft.”
"You’re not going to like this, but they all feel exactly the same to me.”
“Is this a trick? Is there a camera?”
“I’m more concerned about another world war than I am about bathmats.”
In all seriousness, this experience was a great one. From our feedback, we began to distinguish between universal themes and personal preferences. We were able to eliminate one of our tested heights and focus our efforts on bringing the combined scale-mat height to as low as possible. We have plenty more testing to do and plan to interview nursing home facilities and the like to learn more about trip hazards, safety, and comfort for our ambulatory users. Returning to our design principles, we were reminded that patients are people - people who have things to worry about other than how fluffy their bathmat is. That bringing health out of the hospital and into the home means more than creating a scale that lowers costs and reduces readmissions. It's our job to generate invisible design - the kind of design that honors our users as whole people with complicated, busy, fulfilling lives outside of their diagnosis.