Research shows that apps offering visual reminders and prompts can empower individuals with Alzheimer's, foster their independence, and support their cognitive well-being.
We were awarded the runner-up prize at the BrainStation hackathon sponsored by Google for the plug-in we created to help individuals with Alzheimer's disease remember the functionality of an app.
Meet Our Team
What's the Problem?
According to the World Health Organization (WHO), there are approximately 50 million people worldwide with dementia, and Alzheimer's disease accounts for 60-70% of all cases.
We want to empower communities with access to information, education, and digital tools to increase accessibility to current services.
We want to develop a universal browser plugin that can be integrated with existing Google apps to help those with Alzheimer’s disease keep track of their activity and relearn app functionality.
Insights and Findings
Based on the quantitative research conducted, we were able to gain a better understanding of our target demographic being users with Alzheimer's disease and of some of the potential pain points that they may experience when accessing information and resources.
Approximately 16 million caregivers provide unpaid care to individuals with Alzheimer's or other dementias, providing an estimated 18.6 billion hours of care valued at $244 billion.
About 1 in 9 people age 65 and older (11%) have Alzheimer's disease, and the prevalence of the disease doubles every 5 years after age 65.
Mentally stimulating activities, such as puzzles, memory exercises, and brain-training games, can help improve cognitive function and slow down the progression of the disease.
Challenges in Existing Apps
Through our analysis of negative user reviews of existing Google apps, we identified common obstacles that users encounter in terms of the apps' accessibility. By examining the words that were most indicative of negative feedback, we were able to determine the main challenges that users face.
Accessibility features are not user friendly and are buried in complex menus or require specific knowledge to activate.
Use of accessibility features results in crashes and lag due to compatibility issues, software bugs, or device limitations.
Accessibility features are hard to disable when not needed due to complicated menus, unclear instructions, or hidden settings.
With the time constraints for this project, we were not able to reach real users, which pushed us to heavily rely on our research. This is something that we would like to revisit given the opportunity.
Through our research, we identified several key themes and challenges that individuals with Alzheimer's disease may experience.
Difficulty in recalling recent activities or events.
Repeating questions previously asked due to inability to retain information.
Experiencing longer completion time for daily tasks.
How Might We
leverage digital solutions to assist people with short-term memory so that they can navigate the digital space efficiently?
Meet our User
Now the real question; who are we designing for?
Given the timeframe for this project, we developed a user persona solely from our research that would establish a clear relationship between users with Alzheimer's disease and their inability to remember app functionality. With this consensus, we were able to guide our decision-making process and ensure that our product had great potential for further exploration.
Billy Harrison, a former military veteran, has been diagnosed with stage one Alzheimer's disease. He has been experiencing mild memory loss and difficulty with everyday tasks. Despite his usual independence, he has had to rely on his children and grandchildren for assistance with internet use due to his condition.
Remembering how to perform daily tasks.
Repeating previously completed tasks.
Forgetting where he left off on incomplete tasks.
Visual queues on how to proceed with his tasks.
Clear descriptions of what functions do.
Ability to customize reminder frequency.
Uses the internet only when assistance is readily accessible.
Jots down notes by hand when learning how to perform activities.
Relies on older technology due to its familiarity.
Our User's Experience
With our user persona in mind, we developed an experience map to visually highlight the key points of Billy’s journey to achieve their goal.
What we discovered was that people with Alzheimer's disease retain information better when learning visually, which is what the design entails.
Context and Solution
Next, we developed a user task flow that would help users with Alzheimer's disease remember how to use YouTube and continue watching video from where they left off.
This would involve the user going through a virtual walkthrough that showcases the functionality of YouTube and gives the user an option to continue to YouTube or see where they previously left off.
Sketching the Experience
To begin the design process, we began developing rough sketches of how we wanted the screens of our prototype to look based on the user task flow.
Next, we refined the sketches and developed a set of solution sketches that we would use for the development of the lo-fidelity wireframes.
Taking our sketches, we developed a series of wireframes as the foundation for what would eventually become our final prototype.
For the purpose of this project, we created a minimal viable product (MVP) that would help validate any design assumptions during the early stages of product development.
With numerous reiterations and refinements, we arrived at the final rendition of our prototype for this project.
Introducing Google Kandula, a revolutionary Google Chrome plugin that helps people with Alzheimer’s disease remember the functionality of a site they last visited and their previous interactions with it.
Additional accessibility feature to customize the user experience for each individual, including language preferences, colour blindness settings, and text size adjustments.
Explore integration with existing Google apps and browser platforms to increase user base and improve overall user experience.
Develop cross platform integration with other devices to provide convenience and improve user engagement.
Time is of the Essence
I quickly learned that I needed to be proactive and intentional with the work that I did to prevent any hiccups along the way.
I recognized early on that each team member had their own strengths and weaknesses. From this, I was able to position myself to help leverage their strengths.
Communicate is Key
I was working in an entirely new team from different backgrounds, which taught me how to collaborate and adapt to their working styles and preferences.
I learned that in chaotic environments, creating a positive work culture helps boost team morale and the overall enjoyment of working on the project.