Role: Product Designer
PANDA Guide is a Tech4Good startup aiming to make the world more accessible to people with visual impairment by providing them the right technological tools necessary for their autonomy.
The main product is a wearable analyzing your surroundings to help you avoid holes and obstacles. It is paired with an app which provides an onboarding of the product, the ability to modify setting preferences, and updating the software for new features (text reading, object recognition…).
As the sole product designer of the team, my role was broad and consisted in:
• Ensuring the relevance and consistency between the products (wearable + mobile app)
• Designing the “companion app” from scratch
• Conducting qualitative & quantitative user research
• Defining and prioritizing needs from these inputs
• Writing stories and planning future sprints (SCRUM method)
• Creating new features and interfaces (visual, audio, haptic) for both products
• Planning and running user testing sessions
• Collaborating with external stakeholders (design & mechanical office, sound designer, locomotion instructor)
One of the most interesting aspects of working at PANDA was the target group. Before joining, I hadn’t met any person with visual impairment and I discovered a very interesting, yet challenging, niche of users to research and test our products with. Interesting, because I learnt a tremendous amount of facts on their daily life and pain points they’re facing. Challenging, because I was limited in research and testing tools due to their handicap, so I had to get creative to find alternatives.
I conducted a series of phone interviews to understand better their lifestyle, their type of visual impairment, the pain points they are facing on a daily basis and their relation to technology. Based on my findings, I created four personas, two of them being our core target and two others as secondary targets:
I also conducted several user testing sessions to explore different ways of guiding them through audio and haptics:
The core of my work was to design the “companion app” for the wearable, based on my user research. This app has different main functions: tracking the product during production and delivery, onboarding the user upon reception, adjusting setting preferences for a custom experience, and managing updates of the software as new features come along.
Most products for people with visual impairment, such as electronic canes, require someone to help the user get to know the product, making the onboarding process expensing, time-consuming and restrictive, as it requires some planning and a diversity of locations. To overcome this, we decided to make a fully remote onboarding via an app. To make sure the user feels accompanied nonetheless, a help button is available all along to be able to contact our team by phone and mail at anytime.
Setting preferences and updates
In addition to an in-depth onboarding, the app also provides the possibility to adjust the setting preferences – it is also doable directly on the product – and a way to make updates for the software inside the wearable, in order to access new functionalities as they come along.
Accessibility at the core
Users with visual impairment have different ways of using their phone, depending on their impairment. Some can see the screen (fully or partially, with more or less clarity) while some need a screen reader (VoiceOver on iPhone, TalkBack on Android). We have thus adapted the app to provide different options depending on the user’s phone’s settings, while using large fonts and dark, contrasted visuals to maximise their comfort.
My 24h-blind experiment
In my first month at PANDA Guide, I spent 24h blindfolded to experiment the feeling of living as a person with visual impairment. Of course, 24h is quite limited and didn’t allow me to explore most pain points a blind person can encounter, such as doing their groceries, but it gave me very interesting insights on some aspects of their daily struggles.