Mumii is the final project I worked on in my capstone course of the Global Business and Digital Arts program at the University of Waterloo. I worked on a team with four other designers over the course of five weeks. The task we were given was to redesign the hospital waiting room experience. This choice of which hospital ward to design for and what we wanted to create was left up to us.
After considering our options, my team finally settled for the maternity ward. Early on in our research we discovered that pregnant mothers are often asked to walk around the hospital in order to help induce labour before they are ready to be admitted into the ward. We decided to design a tool to help the mother through this situation, with the support of a partner.
Through our process of field research in hospitals, further user research, and continually redesigning our concepts and testing with users, we created the Mumii mobile app.
In the project’s early stages, I conducted research to better understand our users. We needed more information on the process of childbirth in hospitals and to understand what the mother and partner can do at each stage. I interviewed both mothers and partners who had been through the process of giving natural birth in a hospital, so that we could have both perspectives. Together, my teammate Abbie and I asked questions and recorded the answers in order to gain valuable insights that helped shape our project.
We wanted to begin user testing early on and at this stage we didn’t know exactly what our product would look like, but we had a general idea of how it might work. For our first user test, my team designed an experiential prototype to better understand how our users would react when given tasks while dealing with the added complication of contractions.
The test involved two users: one roleplaying as the ‘mother’ while the other acted as the supporting partner. The tasks involved going to various areas in the campus, located on different floors. About every minute or so, a timer would go off, indicating that the mother was having a ‘contraction’. During that time the user acting as the mother would have to close their eyes and wouldn’t be able to move at all.
I introduced our users to the test, provided them with tasks, answered any questions they had, and conducted a short interview at the end. My teammates helped with recording video footage and taking observational notes.
We made a few key observations from conducting this test. Firstly we found that the supporting partners lacked direction and simply didn’t know what to do during the contractions. Secondly, we noticed at times hesitancy to walk around the “hospital” or a lack of cooperation between the partners. This was a problem for us as we needed the mother to keep walking in order to help induce labour.
At this stage, we decided we would provide these tasks through a mobile app. The app would provide information and context to better guide the supporting partner. We also had the idea of introducing a wearable device which could possibly monitor the contractions so that users don’t have to do this manually. After a visit to the local hospital, my team was inspired by the CTG devices already used in hospitals to fulfill this idea.
To deal with the issue of hesitancy and cooperation, we decided to create a goal for the mother and partner to complete together. We designed an augmented reality (AR) experience where users would walk around the hospital and discover educational content to learn more about the process of pregnancy and childbirth.
Having decided on these concepts, we prepared for another round of user testing.
Before our second user test, my team split up the responsibility of sketching different sections of the app for our paper prototype. I took on the task of designing the onboarding experience for first time users. I prioritized by identifying the core components of the app and explaining them, as well as leaving room for connecting the app to the CTG device.
I then assembled all the sketches into a clickable prototype using InVision. I added transitions and animations to better communicate our concept to our users. I also designed the main navigation menu to ensure consistency between all the different screens. For this I distilled it to the three key functions within the app: viewing the contraction data, viewing the tasks, and interacting with the AR experience.
For the second user test, we ran a simple usability test with our clickable prototype on an iPhone. We had the participants go through the onboarding process and then explore each of the main sections. During this test, I operated the video equipment and took observational notes as well.
When going through onboarding, users were a bit confused or unsure when it came to connecting the app to the external device. This was partially due to the nature of the paper prototypes, but also showed me that this process needed to be made much clearer and more intuitive for users.
Another major issue in the app was that of the AR experience. Firstly, users didn’t really know what this section of the app was meant for, and they didn’t know how to interact with it properly. Secondly, the AR concept was fatally flawed. Participants didn’t understand what the purpose of the educational content was when they would (in theory) already have gone through nine months of pregnancy and already know all this.
We wanted to keep the AR component of the app as we thought it would be the best way to get users walking around the hospital, but we knew we had to rethink the idea. What we decided was to move away from an educational experience and more towards an emotional experience. From our field visits to hospitals we knew that art was sometimes placed in hallways, so we decided to base the new AR experience on this. By scanning the art, the user could interact with it and complete activities to calm or relax themselves.
However, there was still the issue of introducing the user to the AR experience so they would know what to do and why they should do it. I took this on by first conducting research into existing AR apps and how they onboard new users. I downloaded Layar, Aurasma, and BlippAR onto my phone, which are a few of the major mobile AR apps on the market. I took screenshots and noted what they did well and what they didn’t do so well.
I sketched out some rough concepts and then a potential flow of UIs to introduce users to the AR section of our app, which can be seen below.
After verifying with my teammates, I then formalized these sketches into a set of wireframes. I did this in order to more clearly communicate my idea to Amina and Sam, our UI designers.
After conducting more research and looking into the practical costs, we decided to move away from designing our own wearable device. Instead we decided we would use an extension that would connect hospital’s existing CTG machines directly to our mobile app.
Near the end of the project, I created a conceptual model of what the Mumii extension would look like. I began by sketching out various ideas with input from the team. As I modelled the extension in OpenSCAD and Blender, I maintained communication with them to ensure I was going in the right direction. This rendering helped communicate our concept to the audience of our final presentation, as well as among the team for clarification.
Note that the final UI designs were not created by me. My sketches, wireframes, and discussions with the other designers ultimately influenced the UI, but Sam and Amina were the ones to create the final designs in Sketch. I linked all the mockups together in InVision to build our prototype.
Mumii is a mobile application that improves the hospital waiting experience for expectant mothers and their supporting partners during the early stages of labour. When mothers have their water break but are not yet ready to be admitted into the maternity ward, they are often instructed to keep walking to help induce labour. The Mumii app helps them through this experience in three ways.
Firstly, it connects to CTG (cardiotograph) machines that hospitals own and expectant mothers already wear during this time. A small device called the Mumii Extension sends a signal from this device to the user’s phone. The app then displays the data from this device in a meaningful way, including the baby’s heartrate and the timing of contractions.
Secondly, it provides a list of suggested tasks the mother and partner can do together (e.g. getting a snack, massage techniques) to relieve the mother during this time. These are provided in a list view and can be expanded for more information, or swiped away to go to the bottom of the list.
Lastly, there is an augmented reality component where the user can explore artwork throughout the hospital to encourage them to walk. They can then use the app to interact with this artwork. For example, scanning this painting a tulip prompts a breathing exercise, where the user breathes in and out as the petals open and close.
The Mumii company would offer to set up and maintain this solution to hospitals on a paid-subscription basis. We have made it easy for hospitals to buy into this system by leveraging existing technology they already have and fitting into their goals to improve patient experience. Overall, Mumii helps create a more meaningful pre-delivery experience for both the mother and supporting partner.
This project was a really great empathy exercise for me. I have never witnessed a labour scenario first hand, so I was forced to design for a scenario totally unfamiliar to me. Undergoing lots of research at the beginning of the project and throughout the process helped me to better understand our user base and what they are going through.
This project gave me the opportunity to try new methods of user testing. I had never run an experiential prototype before, but I really discovered the benefits of testing our idea before it was even fully formed. Even though our test was not conducted in an actual hospital, having the participants in that mindset brought up important considerations of how our app would actually work in context. We were designing not just for the usability of the app, but for the labour experience as a whole.
Overall this project was a great experience for me to practice my existing skills in design and user research while trying new things and learning from my mistakes. Designing digital products requires a delicate balance of meeting user needs, being practical and realistic, and always considering the context of your users. Working on Mumii taught me the importance of all of these factors.