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Family Room 

As part of the Technophiliacs team for The University of Melbourne's team in the 2013 OzCHI Student Design Challenge, we designed a solution called Family Room. This solution addresses the problem of email, the brief, by eliminating some of the burden currently on email. 

Our full solution is documented on our blog 


We determined that we would provide a niche product for our solution, focusing on a MVP for disparate families.  

UX Process

We first understood the problem space by performing a literature review, and then underwent ideation through brainstorming. After defining our target we performed semi-structured interviews with 6 participants to understand their behaviours and needs related to use of email and other systems for management and archiving of content across dispersed families. 

From this was performed affinity mapping to understand the data, identify motivators and triggers, realise opportunities and potential barriers to success. From this data we created a rich picture, persons and a picture scenario to help create the prototype. The prototype was subject to a cognitive walkthrough and guerrilla testing.


Motivations and Triggers

For sharing content with family:

  • Showing the kids to remote family
  • Share family events with remote family
  • Show parents what I’m up to 

For reviewing or archiving content:

  • Show distinctive items to others locally
  • Look at amusing items again
  • Sister will look back at things and show my parents offline
  • Social network content: if someone comments on it
  • Periodic clean out and save ‘the good ones’
  • Prompted by talking about an event on the phone

Email perceived benefits

  • I only use email, no SNSs or other tools (2 Ps)
  • I look back through old emails, can search by remembering content of email (1 P)

Email perceived disadvantages

  • I inhabit Facebook more; email is too formal (2 Ps)
  • Too many adverts, circulars in email
  • I don’t look back through old emails (2 Ps), but I do through Facebook (prompted by social activity) 
  • It’s hard to find items of a specific type, for example photos of my nephew

Targets for enhancement / fixing

  • Filing email or saving items to e.g. iPhoto is hard
  • Searching to find old stuff is not easy
  • Lost all my old emails (including photos) when I reinstalled software on my PC
  • Younger people use Facebook for sharing, despite some concerns about longevity
  • Older people (and some re often don’t use Facebook; this means sharing and managing items across multiple platforms

Barriers to success

  • I don’t know how to use email / send attachments / download items for printing, saving
  • Parents don’t have access to email or internet
  • Long-term preservation not a priority; given little consideration
  • Little advance thought given to future needs of the individual and of the family

Related publication

Family room: reducing email overload
Webber, S. E., Heffernan, K. J., Yeganeh, B. R., Estrada, F., & Augstkalns, D. (2013, November). Family room: reducing email overload. In Proceedings of the 25th Australian Computer-Human Interaction Conference: Augmentation, Application, Innovation, Collaboration (pp. 407-408). ACM.