The UX of an Urban Space

TEAM: Daniela Navaes | Tiffany Chau | Byron Sin | Yiheng Du

The third brief was “The UX of an Urban Space”, and the task was to design a digital intervention into a public environment of our choice.

The Location
Our chosen location was Abbey Road Zebra Crossing, immortalised by The Beatles on the cover of their album Abbey Road, since it has a very interesting dynamics between tourists, cars and pedestrians that we felt it would be very rich to explore. It was a suggestion of mine quickly accepted by the group.

abbey road album cover.jpg       Copyright: EMI Music Publishing

The Research
The research methods used were behaviour mapping and interviews. The first one is based on observations, and consists on staying in the place for a while and simply observe and map people’s movements and behaviours. The second was interviews.

Behaviour Mapping

We observed each group of people individually, how many attempts to take a picture they did, as well as the behaviour of the photographers and the cars. We concluded that people’s behaviours vary a lot in terms of how big are the groups and how many times they cross to get a picture. It depends on how many cars are passing and the behaviour of the drivers. We also mapped the reaction of the drivers. The yellow cars represent drivers that didn’t manifest themselves; the green ones showed approval by smiling or gesturing, and the red ones showed no patience or anger.

Interviews
The interviews with tourists took place on a Tuesday afternoon, between 1pm and 2pm and on a Wednesday morning between 11am and 12am. I conducted all of them with Byron’s assistance. We used semi-structured questions in order to get informations of the nature of:

– What were they expecting to find;
– Their relationship with The Beatles;
– How was the experience of crossing and posing;
– What would they change/add to that place to make their experience more fun/engaging/immersive.

We talked to 12 groups of people. Most were in groups of three.

Half of the people interviewed were young looking and seemed to be in their 20s/30s.

Half the people we spoke to were Brazilians.

50% of interviewees related liking the Beatles, but not being big fans.

When asked about what were their expectations about Abbey Road, most people said they were expecting it to be crowded with people, but not so busy with cars.

When asked about what it felt like, people who said to be “big fans” were more likely to use emotional responses such as “it was a dream came true” and “amazing”.

When asked about changes they would do in the site to make the experience of the crossing more fun and immersive, most people mentioned they would put Beatles’ songs playing. One person in particular said that what she would really like is to go back in time and cross it with The Beatles. 

People from older generations said they wouldn’t change anything, as that would be changing history.

Some said how it would be easier to have a picture taken if someone was organising it, or if there was a device that could take your picture automatically.

In order to get perspective from the drivers, we interviewed two bus drivers who pass by that location daily. They said they didn’t mind it, partly because they received instructions to be patient with that area.

The Physical Model

In order to represent the complex dynamics of that area, we crafted the above physical model of the crossing. Each layer is one snapshot of one of the interviews. The layers together represent the atmosphere of friendliness and congregation of people from all over the world.

The Digital Intervention
At first, we were temped to design an installation that would allow people to automatically take their pictures, while in some way helping them to stop the cars. But then we realised that it would probably kill the thrill of the shot-taking, which is the best aspect of the experience. It would be an utilitarian and artificial solution to something that’s not even a problem.

So we went back to the interviews and decided to bring to life what one of our interviewees said: what if you could go back in time and cross the road with The Beatles? How can we do that? AR seemed to be our best try, since most people are already using their phones to photograph.

Our digital intervention was two part:

FOR THE CROSSERS
First, to put a sensor under the white stripes of the crossing, that would play the following track:

That way, we would be playfully suggesting the users that that is enough time for an attempt, and after that they should give space for the next group. 

FOR THE PHOTOGRAPHERS
The other part would be the AR. When the camera locates the crossing, the user could choose filters, such as the original picture background, as well as The Beatles walking down the road along with the crossers. That way, not only the photographed people would have a unique picture, but also the experience of taking the picture would be fun and engaging.

To simulate the concept without actually using AR, we made use of printed pictures of The Beatles and ourselves cut out and glued on cardboard and coffee stick.

 

Conclusion

This was a very exciting project to work on. The place has so much history and that made the conceptualising process much easier. The whole experience was highly engaging and fun. As user experience designers, it’s important to be aware that sometimes things that people consider to be problems (angry drivers, disorganisation, lots of people at the same time), are what make a place unique. When we stopped trying to solve said problems, the real design solution came. Sometimes the best design process only comes after the realisation that some things are already perfect as they are, and only a little bit of enhancement is already enough. 

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