This week’s assignment:
Design a physical object that can sit on a desk that allows a user to count up or down (one object accomplished both behaviors). The target audience is someone who wants to keep a numeric tally and have a physical reminder of their progress to display for themselves and others on their desk.
Research & Insights
I started with analyzing three aspects of this physical counting object, where to put it, what's its function and what's the reflection that users are supposed to get by using it. I used a mind map to help me have a clear mind of what kind of object I should design.
Then I started to think about user's work flow. I drew plan 1 first, but I realized that there is a repeated step. In plan 1, the setting to "0" step is after every restart, before users choose between counting up and counting down, which means if the user wants to count down after a counting down, the object requires them to set to “0”. But obviously, if the user has just finished a counting down, the number has already been "0", so there is no need for users to set to "0" again.
So based on plan 1, I drew plan 2, in which I put the setting to "0" step in counting up flow only.
Another thing I considered is how users' emotion change when they are using the object. After considering the possible reasons why users want to use this counting object, I got four possible user scenarios. These four user scenarios can be summed up in two different patterns: Users are happy when they are at "0" and they are upset when they reach the target number, or users are upset when they are at "0" and they become happier when are getting close to the target number.
I looked around at examples of existing counters, both digital ones and physical ones. I found that the biggest difference between a physical counter and a digital one is that the former always has a maximum. But when counting with a digital counter, the number is unlimited. So when designing a physical counter, I should consider the largest value users may need to count up to. And also I collected some other design examples that inspired me.
Design & Develop
Option One (A bad one)
I got inspirations from the Connect Four game.
Users can drop colored discs from the top into a vertical grid to count up, and remove discs by pulling out the plate below to countdown. The box at the bottom can store extra discs. Two pieces of plates with holes and patterns can hold the discs. The patterns on each one are different. One of them has a smiling face at the top, but another has an upset face on the top. This is designed for different user scenarios.
I didn't choose this option because users can't count large numbers in this way. Although I came up with an idea that I can make extra parts to add the height, but it's still not a good choice. So I gave up this idea.
To count large numbers, I came up with this idea. I realized that counting up and counting down are two opposite behaviors. If I have a certain amount of items on one side (the original side), and then I move one of them to the other side (the new side), when I look at the new side, I am counting up. When I look at the original side, I am counting down.
I designed a long rectangular box and divided it into two sides. Either users count up or count down, they always look at the right side. For the items to count, I decided to use binder clips, which are very common in office.
The following image shows how it works.
How to reset and restart in different user scenarios.
What users should do to continue the same counting behavior as the last one is same. Move the bottom plate to the top. Turn the box upside down. Rotate the box 180 degrees. Open the top plate. All set.
The bottom plate has grooves to hold the binder clips.
Setting Target Number