A Study in User-Centered Design

“By putting the user first you can transform your product into something truly remarkable.”

Experience designer Matt Reamer makes an excellent point in his article on user-centered design that recently appeared on Smashing Magazine. He looked at a problem in an unconventional way, and by thoroughly understanding the needs of his end user, he was able to come up with a creative solution that has a demonstrably positive impact.

Matt wanted to do something to make communication easier for his brother, who is autistic and unable to speak. Reasoning that the key would be to replace a difficult interface—in this case, that of vocal expression—with one that his brother might find more familiar and comfortable, he set about designing a device that his brother could use to make his thoughts known. After considering several ideas (and gathering as many insights about human-centered design in the process), he produced a prototype that looked and felt like other objects that his brother used on a daily basis. It’s a tactile alternative to speech that encodes ideas as pictograms: six clean, white buttons arranged into two rows of three on a smooth, shiny metal box, each bearing an image that represents a common feeling or need.

To power his device, Matt turned to Temboo and our Twilio > SMSMessages > SendSMS Choreo. By hooking the buttons up to an Arduino Yún, he was able to program his communicator to send a different SMS message to his parents’ phones via Twilio for each button pressed. Now, all his brother needs to do is push a button that represents the thought he wants to communicate, and that thought will be conveyed to his parents in SMS form. You can take a closer look at the project on Matt’s website.