In the last week of October we performed our second user research (UR) session, where existing Vibe-ing garment was introduced to two women representing our target group. From this session we expected to find out how women would use the existing vibe-ing smart textile garment to fight the menopausal symptoms and to comfort themselves. We also wanted to evaluate the physical properties of existing garment, such as looks, feel of vibrations and textile.
The meeting took place in a small town in Noord-Brabant – Uden. Each woman was interviewed separately for approximately one hour.
- Observation: we observed our participants interacting with the garment
- Semi structured interview: we interviewed women, while asking them to perform a number of prepared tasks with a garment.
How would you use Vibe-ing if you had pain in neck/shoulders/lower back/lower belly?
Vibe-ing is heavy, seems to be too warm, too tight and thus probably not suitable for women undergoing menopause. However sensation of vibrations are very comforting. How did we get to these conclusions?
While observing women it was extremely interesting to see how both of them were exploring Vibe-ing. They were touching the vibrating spots, saying that it feels nice – “I like the feeling of the vibrations when you touch it with your hands”, exploring the shape, asking whether they have to wear the garment – “But how do you wear this?” – or if they can use it as a scarf or a blanket, and then, finally, put it on. During this phase of the UR session both ladies said that current garment is too warm and heavy – “It’s so hot!<…> Oh my god, that’s heavy!”. Moreover both participants mentioned that existing shape of Vibe-ing is not necessarily the best choice for women in menopause. Mainly it’s very tight, too close to their body and thus could be rather annoying and disturbing when the heat wave comes – “Not everybody can handle/stand wool well..”. Even though the shape of the garment was not appreciated, the feeling of vibrations was perceived as very pleasant and comforting – both participants said it feels very nice and gave us a smile – “I like the feeling, feels good. <…> It creates a nice, relaxed feeling.”
Flexible shape (shawl, blanket) would be better to be able to position it directly on the spots of discomfort. Vibrations are felt more, if garment is used as a blanket or scarf. It is relaxing and comforting.
In the second part of the interview, as already expected form the exploration part, both women seemed to prefer the garment as a blanket or shawl. They said that garment shaped this way will be more appropriate for them, because they could easily put it on the places where they need it the most (e.g. if they have a complaint in shoulders or neck, then they’d wrap Vibe-ing around it) – “When I have tension/stress in my body, I would use Vibe-ing as a stole, wrap it around my shoulders.”. In addition, if the garment would be a shawl they could easily put it on and off when struggling with hot flushes during a menopause – “Although it’s hot during a hot flash (I would go outside or stand in the garage), afterwards I would be a bit cold as well. So then it might be nice. That’s why we like to wear jackets and cardigans, and shawls.” Finally they both said that vibrations feel better and stronger when they are not actually wearing the garment, but wrapping themselves into it – when he garment was on her knees one participant said, “Now I can feel the vibrations more clearly”.
- Vibrations can cause a lot of sound if the surface of Vibe-ing is pressed to another surface, e.g. wearing Vibe-ing and leaning against the arm chair.
- From the interviews it seemed that women would be keen on using Vibe-ing at home in the evenings – during their relaxation time. Although, if it would be properly designed (no inappropriate sound, not too warm, etc.) the users mentioned that they would be willing to use it at work as well.
- Women prefer interacting with Vibe-ing by themselves and not involve other parties (e.g. their husbands).
In summary, this user research gave us lots of qualitative information and guidelines for the future steps in our design process. We had the opportunity to observe interactions and behaviors which were specifically targeted on menopausal women. For example: the vibe-ing having an unsuitable shape and weight for menopausal women experiencing hot flushes or the added quality of comfort for them. Some of the most interesting experiences were captured in a video so we can communicate the experiences of menopausal women with experts as well as our client.
The information as well as experiences gathered from the UR session is being added to the affinity diagram. The findings from this UR session as well as the expert interviews and the first UR session will be merged and analyzed in order to derive conceptual design opportunities. These will then lead to defining a more concrete direction that we will take in the coming phases of our project.