ChaCha (www.chacha.com) is an Indianapolis-based company offering mobile Q&A information services. Users can submit any question (which supposes a possible answer) via website, text message or voice call and, in less than 2 minutes, an answer is returned via website or text message.
As the final project of HCI II class, the task is to conduct a field investigation of how the basic ChaCha service is used and use the results of the investigation to envision and shape new design solutions that can deliver an enhanced user experience.
Our first step was to take a look at current Q&A products on the market to explore design opportunities.
We decided to focus on one particular area of social Q&A service, that is, “how-to” Q&A. And we also target solely on the mobile end.
We had in-depth interviews with 2 smartphone users, and conducted a 10-day diary study with 4 participants. We also sent paper questionnaire to 8 people to implement our user research data.
We employed the sequence and artifact models to represent the information gleaned from our study. We also created a journey map to depict a user’s general mobile usage throughout the day.
Based on the research, we began to design How!, a smartphone application. We did a visioning for our product and produced the User Environment Design Diagram.
We built our low and high fidelity prototypes to showcase our ideas. Four users were invited to evaluate the design and we improved the product according to feedback we collected.
When it comes to Q&A, Google seems to be the dominant platform. Yet there have been services that try to leverage semantic search, such as Yahoo!Answers and Chacha. On the other hand, service such as Quora narrows down on in-depth Q&A, and Formspring will let you find your friends to answer your questions. Other vertical markets include social recommendation services such as localmind and crowdbeacon, and platforms that focus on a specific domain such as programming (stackoverflow) and law (LawPivot). Most of these services support both web and mobile use.
With the above landscape in mind, we decided to focus on the mobile end, as well as on the specific area of “how-to” Q&A. According to Wikipedia, “how-to” question refers to “an informal, often short, description of how to accomplish some specific task”, which match with the “on-the-go” nature of mobile content consumption. Also, with the prevalence of smartphones that enable easy capture of image and video, we want to take a user-generated content model for our product, so that an interactive community can be created to encourage deeper engagement rather than simply treat the product as an information access tool.
We conducted a diary study to better understand the context and the major breakdowns of using mobile phone for finding answer to “how-to” questions. The study lasted 10 days, and 4 participants contributed 2~3 questions each day through a structured questionnaire. Two of the participants were asked to use the mobile application of Chacha on their cellphone to find answers, two were asked to use whatever resource they want to. In the end, we gather 94 entries, 46 from Chacha participants and 48 for non-Chacha participants. We also had follow-up interview with the participants to probe deeper.
Through our fieldwork activities, we were able to collect data about the categories of question asked, and identified the major contexts when the participants raised their questions. We also analyzed the tools and resources they’ve used, and the breakdowns in their experience.
How is an application catering to user’s mobile content consumption during their short time slots between life happenings. Typical usage contexts include commuting to work, cooking, etc. The major functions of How! include asking/browsing questions and creating guides that serve as answers to questions. Guides can be in any of the following three formats: text, photo and video. Last but not least, How! enables users to form a community
We invited the four users who originally participated in our dairy study to evaluate How!. We first introduced the product to them, and then ask them to complete three tasks with our prototype directly on an iPhone.