Milestone Tracking Research - Act Early App


This research project suggests that through user testing and full deployment of a previously developed app, Act Early, I will be able to better understand on how parents of young children use a mobile application to engage in milestone tracking for their children. These developmental milestones include kids' cognitive, emotional, and motor progress. This project is being advised by Dr. Rosa Arriaga. 

Duration: Ongoing

Skills Being Exercised: Research, Focus Groups, Cognitive Walkthroughs, Data Analysis, Design Mockup and Proposal


The Process

Three Phases:

Goal #1: Conduct a usability study to see how parents use Act Early mobile application. These results will make up my baseline study.

  • Understand how people use the current application
  • Cognitive Walkthrough with 64 people
  • Gather user's thoughts and conceptions having never used the prior to the study

Goal #2: Deploy the Act Early mobile application and evaluate how people use the app over time.

  •  Check in with some after a month with some ~ 20 users
  • Check in with some after 2 months with some ~ 20 users
  • Check in with some after 3 months with some ~ 20 users

Goal #3: Understand what would encourage more usage and propose design improvements.

  • Conduct data analysis
  • Propose features for updated system
  • Create mockups for new design


Current Application


Why A Cognitive Walkthrough?

Cognitive Walkthroughs are typically used by evaluators, but they also provide a very rigorous system and systematic way of evaluating the goals of a given tool. In this case, I am using it to evaluate the usage of the Act Early mobile application. I decided on this method of evaluation after reading Wharton, C., Rieman, J., Lewis, C. and Polson, P. (1992). Cognitive Walkthroughs: A Method for Theory-Based Evaluation of User Interfaces, which is a seminal article and regarded as a classic study in Human-Computer Interaction. This paper offers prescriptive, step-by-step information about how to properly conduct a cognitive walkthrough. In this study, I am performing my cognitive walkthroughs with users. These users will have experience using mobile applications before, so they will have the knowledge base necessary to engage with the application. This approach provides an interesting baseline study for my project.

Goal of Cognitive Walkthrough:

  • Ensure that users can easily perform tasks that the system is intended to support
  • Evaluate the app's design 
  • Gauge the ease at which users can perform tasks with little or no formal instruction/coaching

What is needed to facilitate my evaluation and analysis?

  • A design description of the user interface
  • Task scenarios for users to perform
  • Assumptions about the user population
  • A sequence of actions (sub-steps) that lead up to users' successful completion of task during the evaluation

What do I intend to gather from my baseline study?

  • Understand how the interface affects the user
  • Recognize how the user interacts with the interface
  • Identify the actions that would be hard for the average user to complete
  • Identify places in action sequences or sub-steps of goals where a typical user would fail
  • Characterize causes of typical failures
  • Pinpoint design problems

The underlying foundation of the cognitive walkthrough methodology is based on the theory of exploratory learning and Norman’s cyclic model of action. Based on the tasks presented to users, I will observe as these users generate of a plan for action, execute the action, evaluate feedback of the interface, revise goals, and repeat the cycle for varying tasks. My goal is to understand to gulfs that users experience between these identified stages. The goal is then to bridge the gulf of execution, where users try to figure out how to complete the task, and the gulf of evaluation, where the users try to understand the system's response as a result of their actions.