Our design project was an attempt to find solutions that can assist the adult illiterates in providing the ability to perform daily tasks on their own.
User research, contextual Inquiry, sketching, personas, design synthesis, brainstorming, paper prototyping, usability testing, high fidelity prototyping, interviewing and needs assessment
A mobile application that can assist the user at any context and situation
For most people reading this report, it might be hard to imagine what it feels like to be illiterate. In fact, most, if not all, tasks of daily life in a modern society involves literacy skills: using Google Map to find out the itinerary to a place; reading ingredient information on a package of food; filling in information on an application form. For people with an insufficient level of literacy, these tasks can be difficult, and they might need help from other people.
Our team was curious about the problems faced by these people and shaped a solution that can help and empower them.
The word “literacy” is understood as the ability to read and write. However, the extent of literacy can be far more complex. UNESCO defines three different levels of literacy.
Person who can engage in all those activities in which literacy is required for effective function of his or her group and community and also for enabling him or her to continue to use reading, writing and calculation for his or her own and the community’s development.
Adult illiteracy refers to the proportion of the adult population who cannot, with understanding, both read and write a short simple statement on everyday life.
Ability to identify, understand, interpret, create, communicate and compute, using printed and written materials associated with varying contexts.
Adults in US cannot read, write, or do a basic math above a third grade level.
young adults drop out of high school every year
Adults in US cannot read, write, or do a basic math above a third grade level.
of immigrants that come to US lack high school education and proficient English skills.
Children whose parents have low literacy levels have chance of being at the lowest reading levels themselves.
of programs are struggling with long student waiting lists, and less than 10 percent of adults in need are receiving services
Literacy experts are people who lead literacy programs and work with learners. Due to their rich experience with illiterate learners, they have highly valuable insights about the characteristics and need of our target user. For the purpose of our research, we interviewed two literacy experts
Interviews with Literacy Experts
Literacy specialist at Detroit Public Library
Program manager at Washtenaw Literacy
Interviews with Target Users
In order to get a closer understanding of our target users, we conducted a 45-minute interview/contextual inquiry with literacy learners at a literacy program in Detroit Public Library. Additionally, we asked them to walk us through how he conducted some specific tasks in his daily life.
Key Findings - Target Audience
Who is our target audience?
People who are struggling to do some everyday tasks due to illiteracy issue.
People who have trouble reading, but ok with everyday tasks
the dominant age group of the community.
Below 3rd Grade
is the general English reading level of targeted community.
generally more willing to seek help
usually also suffer frompoverty, learning ability issues, poor education
From our research, it is clear that a significant section of the US adult population does not have the literacy skills required to perform many basic tasks. From our interviews came essential findings related to our target community. The key findings include the pain points faced by the targeted users and the leverage we can use to shape a design.
Key Findings - Pain-points
Struggle with navigation as they have trouble reading signs and tend to stay in the area in which they live and only travel to familiar places.
Face problems in reading the menu at a restaurant or labels in a grocery store. Due to this, they tend to refrain from new stores/restaurants.
Most immigrants lack proficient English skills, limiting their admittance to colleges and particular jobs, in-spite of professional skills
Multiple interviewees brought up the lack of learning tools available that are focused on adult illiteracy, which was also confirmed during our research.
We found that many users use the calculator application even for basic mathematics
User has a basic knowledge of using a smartphone and usually owns one. They use google search and voice assistant when with an unfamiliar task.
Based on the critical findings gathered from literacy review, competitive analysis, and user research, we conducted brainstorming and evaluated design ideas.
As our design solution, we are introduced 'Litebox', a mobile app that provides both immediate help with daily tasks and also long-term assistance with learning. The app includes two main sections: daily assistant and learning assistant.
The Logo of LiteBox
To help with daily tasks which might be difficult for our target user, Litebox provides a helper camera which has two modes.
The information mode of the helper camera is designed to help to recognize and saving information.
The text scanning function is designed to be an instant text helper. It allows the user to scan a line of text
Apart from daily assistance, Litebox also offers support in long-term learning. The learning assistant focuses on three aspects:
Vocabulary exercises with pictures
Litebox provides vocabulary exercises with pictures. Each group of exercises contains ten words and for each word the user has ten seconds to choose the best picture that represents the word. The words that appear in the exercises are based on user’s level indicated, and advance as the user progresses
Litebox provides a list of audio textbooks for different levels of literacy. The user can listen and read the book at the same time. A dictionary function is integrated into the audiobook.
A visual calculator is a tool for the user to understand addition and subtraction. It uses a familiar scenario: calculating money, where icons of common US currency. The user can drag and drop the icons on the addition or subtraction line, which will be shown as bars of different lengths, and the result will be automatically shown on the result line.
Also, visual aids can be used on tapping the icons if the user faces difficulty
Why did we design a mobile app instead of other forms of interactive products? This decision is made based on our user research. As most people in our target community own a smartphone and know the basic usage of it, they can just download the app on their phone, which doesn’t create an extra burden for them. Throughout the design of Litebox, we followed the following principles:
Taking the specificity of our target user, we aim to remove all the barriers for them to use our app and enable them to use it with minimum learning cost. For example, the app uses simple words and regular interaction.
Strengthen long-term memory
The app provides support for long-term memory, for example, the scanned information is saved as cards, which can be reviewed
Litebox tries to provide context to facilitate learning. For example, the visual calculator uses the context of money calculation, which is a familiar scenario for the user.
We developed a video for the competition which provides an overview of the project.
We believe that our solution, Litebox, will help the adult illiterates to perform the daily activities efficiently than before. Understanding and learning by themselves without any other help can boost the user’s confidence and make them use the application more frequently. We intend to shape a solution that can be accessed whenever required and we believe that the availability of Litebox will make the users learn the unknown and develop a curiosity to learn more. In conclusion, we believe that the application can both help and empower people with literacy problems.