HomeHealth is an iMessage app that is both a hub for tracking information on all household tasks and acts as a mediator between people who share a living space to ensure those tasks are completed on time and in an efficient manner. In addition to helping housemates complete household tasks, HomeHealth also provides regularly scheduled reminders and tips on how to create a more sustainable household.
4 Hour Challenge
Design an experience that helps people be more conscious about their environmental impact considering factors such as water consumption, carpooling, CO2 emissions or food waste.
Paper & Pen, Photoshop, Sketch and Undraw
I approached this design challenge by determining where people would deal with all the factors outlined in their everyday life, and how this information could be presented in a tangible way that would be relevant to users. As a recent University graduate, the first thing that came to mind was student housing as we must deal with all of these factors. Water consumption and CO2 emissions are connected to shared utilities, carpooling for when housemates coordinate picking up groceries or supplies, and lastly food waste being connected to poor food management practices.
As a housemate, our actions are directly represented in fluctuating utility bills each month and our food waste is represented by the amount of food that we let expire due to lack of interest or forgetfulness. This data provides an opportunity for users to be held accountable to each other rather than just themselves as it is a shared space.
I reasoned that if I solved another pain-point associated with student housing, I could promote sustainable practices as an accessory goal of the experience. Thinking back to my own experience living with housemates, the times that we were held accountable to each other were when we had to pay our bills or when we had to determine whose turn it was to take out the trash or recycling.
Who It Is For
This app would likely be for young adults who share a living space with one another, possibly as housemates, during university, college or during post-grad. The target user would likely be unfamiliar with how to approach housing practices (i.e. utilities, billing, etc.) or would be looking to find an app to help mediate housing tasks between housemates. These users might not initially be searching for an app that is built around teaching sustainable practices but they would be open to the potential of reducing their environmental footprint should they not have to go out of their way to do so (assumption 1).
What it Does
Paying bills and completing chores are recurring actions that happen in each household (assumption 2) and would keep users coming back to the app periodically on a weekly, monthly and yearly basis. Since the ultimate goal of this app is to help promote sustainability practices, building off of the more frequent weekly chores with knowledge of sustainability practices could have the most impact. Aside from this core experience, I looked at other apps that provided a similar experience to determine other features this product would need. The most effective app I came across was Roof:
Roof allows users to invite friends to a shared space where they can effectively coordinate some household tasks. The app is built around a central hub that displays tasks that housemates need to complete, outstanding bills, shopping lists and reminders for when stuff needs to get done. The app also features integrated chat where users can send message to one-another or even to their landlord for when maintenance or repairs need to be done on the property.
How It Adapts to A USer
Users would have to connect their housing billing records during an initialization process in order for the app to track their utility information. How utilities are calculated is specific to an area, type of house, amenities and a variety of other criteria, so determining exact usage in a measurable form would not be easy. However, since utility costs typically fluctuate depending on the amount of usage, (assumption 3) there is some way it is being calculated on a house-to-house basis. Calculation issues aside, information gathered from household utilities on a monthly basis would allow the user to track progress and allow the app to suggest opportunities on how to improve specific areas, or even allow users to create their own target goals through household challenges.
When they will use it
Based on my experience living with housemates, the only time that any of these tasks came up was when a housemate directly approached me over something that had to be done or when one of us put a message into our group chat. It is at this moment in time that users would most likely follow through and interact with an experience like this (assumption 4). With this in mind, I reasoned that since communication is a large portion of this experience, I could just build upon an already established chat infrastructure rather than design a standalone app. Both messenger and iMessage allow for app integrations within their chats but I decided to focus on iMessage having previously created assets for an iMessage app before.
iMessage allows users to access limited features of specific apps within their iMessage chats. Using this space, users wouldn’t have to go out of their way to complete tasks related to the app as they could complete it in the house chat where they were just asked. This system would reduce the amount of steps needed for a user to access our app and learn more about good sustainability practices.
Using the framework for what the experience would do, I came up with the idea of HomeHealth. The “Home” in the name takes on a double meaning as users are in a larger sense becoming more conscious on how their individual actions can impact their household, and in a broader sense, their planet. The “Health” furthers this idea as it frames the experience as being a state that has the ability to fluctuate based one’s actions. By connecting a user’s positive or negative actions in their household, to how it impacts the planet at-large, I hope to give a user agency in a space that can sometimes feel like we have no control over. In addition to crafting this feeling, this app provides value to a user through:
Ease of access
Since housemates typically have group chats (assumption 5) for when they need to have a discussion, being able to quickly access these tasks when talking about them would provide a streamlined experience. Since iMessage apps are typically for quick tasks or sharing features, this app allows users to quickly view the status of home tasks in one quick scroll and take action right then and there if needed.
The first step to limiting our environmental footprint is to improve the collective conscious of how our everyday actions affect the environment on a larger scale. This app would help alleviate this problem by gradually introducing this knowledge about something that we normally do (household chores and tasks) that might seem like a small endeavour, but in reality can have greater ramifications as they are repeated on a daily, weekly and monthly basis.
Even if users aren’t motivated by the sustainability of their actions, there is direct financial benefit connected to their increased sustainability practices, as all the data they are being presented reflect their utility costs and food management practices. Since students, the primary target user, are likely trying to keep their living costs down (assumption 6), they presumably must be more conscious on what they are doing and how much it costs them.
Due to time constraints, I only spent a few minutes on sketching a few of the ideas I had on what the experience would look like. Of the sketches I did make, you can get a rough idea of how I was looking at integrating the experience into iMessage at an early stage (left). Furthermore, the actual layout of content didn’t vary much from the initial sketch (right).
Using all the information above, and the rough sketch I made, I created a quick mockup of how a user would interact with this experience. The specific task that I focused on was a user being prompted by housemates to update the app to show that they had completed their weekly chore. I decided to focus on this specific task as it would showcase how a user could seamlessly transition from chatting with their housemates to quickly completing a task and gaining knowledge on good sustainability practices, all without skipping a beat. The full task flow can be seen below:
Step 1: OPEN CHAT
Users would receive a text message from one of their housemates drawing them to view their house chat, which in this particular case is on iMessage, asking them if they have completed their scheduled chore for the week.
Note: While the HomeHealth app would have notifications to remind users to complete their tasks, the goal would be to rely on the mutual accountability of housemates to keep each other on track rather than bombard them with push notifications. This would also provide a more natural interaction with the app.
Step 2: Open App
In this particular case the user has already physically completed their chore, but since they didn’t communicate that to their housemate or update the app, their housemate was unaware. This prompts the user to open the HomeHealth iMessage app directly from the current chat to update that the chore is complete.
Note: The objective here is to get the user in the habit of updating that the chore is completed so that they won’t have to deal with being reminded (or called out for it) by their housemates which once again plays into the mutual accountability of this space.
Step 3: MArk Chore
With the HomeHealth app open, a user is able to update that they have completed the chore that they were assigned for that week. Once they do, they are prompted with positive encouragement in the form of a note and a fun fact to keep note of going forward on how they are making an impact.
Note: The chores are set up in a way that puts the focus on what they are currently scheduled to complete this week but allows users see what is coming up next in the rotation at a quick glance without any additional actions by the user.
Step 4: Complete Tasks
Since users are already on the app, they are able to complete other tasks they might have been putting off or were unaware of. Visibility is really important here as even if users aren’t actually clicking on each section, they are able to get a quick overview of tasks they might need to do or work on at a glance. Some of the tasks they are able to complete are the following:
Progress (A): Users can view areas in their household that need work and ways to improve.
Challenges (B): Based on household problem areas, users can set house challenges.
Bills (C): Utilities or rent can be paid for through Apple Pay or with a card that is already linked to their phone.
Groceries (D): Users can input what groceries are theirs so other housemates don’t take their stuff or keep track of expiry dates.
Repairs (E): Using Apple Business chat, users can connect with landlords to organize maintenance on their homes.
Step 5: ReTurn to Chat
Once the user has completed updating their chore or completing other tasks, they might have decided to do, they are able to quickly return to their group chat without skipping a beat.
With the core experience established, the question left is where to go from here? If the ultimate goal of this app is to promote good sustainability practices on the collective conscious of society, the best way forward would be to expand our target audience to the youth. By expanding our audience to a younger demographic we could establish good sustainability habits early on so that they would be an integrated part of life going forward into the future. This could be achieved by introducing the app to young, tech-savvy households and providing tools to encourage their kids to use the app through:
Some households encourage their kids to help out around the house through chores which are sometimes incentivized (allowances, candy, etc.) when they are completed (assumption 7). As kids are increasingly getting their own phones at an earlier age and families are growing up with technology, this whole process could be done through this app. When a user finishes a chore, they could be presented with quizzes based on what they have learned so far or even a game of how to sort recyclables before they are able to “redeem” their rewards set by their family.