Task Marshall

A collaborative task management system for firefighters designed to ease workplace stress.

Timeline 

3 Months

Team

Nicole Zhao, Stephanie Lee, Taylor Scavo, Me

My Role

UX Designer, Research Support

Skills

Personas, Empathy Maps, Wireframes, Prototyping

01

Overview

the problem

Firefighters often face mental health challenges due to the stressful nature of their jobs. Staying on top of their many responsibilities is important for proving themselves in the workplace, but trying to juggle so much creates an even more stressful environment.

Current solutions like therapy address traumatic experiences after they happen. However, everyday, cumulative stressors can be just as harmful (Sawhney., et al., 2018)Despite this, Firefighters are expected to stay composed and clear headed in critical situations while staying on top of personal tasking in the firehouse.

the goal

Develop a product that helps firefighters manage work-related stress by assisting them with the day-to-day responsibilities of their job.

02

Our Solution

meet task Marshall

Task Marshall is a collaborative tasking application designed to help firefighters stay organized, and lessen the mental strain of workplace responsibilities. Task Marshall helps firefighting teams organize firehouse tasking so that team members can perform better, worry less about

creating tasks

Firefighters can add new personal tasks. They can quickly choose from frequently used tasks, search for existing tasks, or create a new task.

task collaboration

Firefighters can collaborate on team tasks. They can assign sub-tasks to one another, monitor task progress, and review tips from other firefighters.

organization

Firefighters can sort tasks by priority, duration, or manually.

geo-tracking

When firefighters leave the station, notifications are paused. When they resume tasking, they can view what they where last working on.

03

Process

Discovery

User Research
Affinity Mapping
Personas
Empathy Maps
System Requirements

Ideation

Concept Sketches
User Feedback
Concept Revision

Prototyping

Key Features
Wireframes

Validation

Usability Testing
Iteration

04

Discovery

surveys & interviews

We kicked off user research with a series of over 50 surveys and 5 interviews with firefighters across the united states, which helped us to understand firefighters' workdays, sources of stress, and places they may want assistance. The survey gave us information about overall stress levels, causes of work-related stress, existing resources that firefighters use to manage work-related stress, and the context where they prefer to manage work-related stress.

We followed our surveys with a series of semi-structured interviews. We wanted to learn how macro experiences like fire calls and micro experiences like mundane or typical tasking contribute to workplace stress.

user characteristics

We created an affinity map to analyze trends in our initial research. We discovered key characteristics, goals, and needs common among firefighters, and learned about the contexts that they prefer to manage stress in.

01.
Firefighters don’t trust ‘outsiders’ to help with stress.

02. Firefighters rely on family, friends, and coworkers for managing stress.

03. Firefighters prefer casual contexts for handling stress.

04. Cumulative stress is a major cause of breakdowns.

05. Personal tasking is a major source of stress.

06. Firefighters prefer to manage stress themselves whenever possible. They resent being told how they should manage stress.

personas & empathy maps

Based on user characteristics derived from our affinity map, we drafted three user personas and empathy maps to illustrate different user needs.

Creating personas helped to differentiate challenges faced by firefighters at different life stages. For instance, younger firefighters often worried more about job performance while middle-aged firefighters worried about spending time with loved ones.

system requirements

With a better understanding of user needs, pain points, and places that needed intervention in our problem space, we laid out some system requirements.

01. Support personal tasking.

Our solution should support personal task organization and management.

02. Support self-management of stress.
Our solution should support access to stress management resources that firefighters know and trust.

03.  Managing stress using social support.
Our solution must enable access to social support networks.

04. Support mobile, flexible interaction points.
Because of firefighters' unpredictable work structure, a solution must be able to support flexible interaction points.

05

Ideation

concept drawings

After outlining requirements, we started brainstorming ideas. We eventually ended up with two concepts that we felt could add novelty to our users’ experiences and support them in distinct ways.

idea 1. loved ones wearable

Loved ones is a wearable device that firefighters can use to send confidential, coded messages to their closest friends and family while at work.

idea 2. task marshall

Task Marshall is a task management solution that helps firefighters organize and accomplish personal and team tasking despite their unpredictable schedules.

user feedback

In order study whether our proposed solutions met firefighters' needs, we conducted two user feedback sessions using our sketches. These sessions revealed a number of oversights in the wearable solution, including the challenge of creating a wearable device durable enough to withstand the extreme conditions firefighters experience daily.

Feedback on Task Marshall was much more positive than the wearable device. Firefighters revealed that there is currently no organized system for task-management, and believed one would help them stay organized, collaborate on tasks, and succeed in the workplace, so we decided to pursue this solution.

06

Prototyping

key features

We started off prototyping by drafting a list of key features. To determine key features, we reviewed our system goals as well as firefighters' pain points and needs.

01. Task list

A list of personal and assigned tasks.

02. Task organization
Tasks can be sorted by priority as well as duration.

03. Social support
Firefighters can see task tips from other firefighters.

04. Time-lapse for on-going task
Firefighters can see how long a task typically takes, and how much time they've spent on a task.

05. Geo-tracking
Tasks are paused when firefighters are away from the station.

wireframes

Next, we created wireframe flows to demonstrate how each key feature would be supported and encountered in the app.

flow 1. onboarding & creating a task

When first opening the application, firefighters select their shift length and station location. They can create personal tasks and and organize tasks on the home page by priority or duration. Tasks assigned by supervisors can also appear on the task page.

flow 3. geo-tracking

When firefighters leave the station, the system pauses tasking for them. The elapsed time for a task will not continue to run and notifications from the application will be muted until the firefighter verifies that they are ready to begin again.

07

Validation

usability tests & iteration

We conducted a series of usability tests, as well as heuristic evaluations, to highlight any design oversights and accessibility issues, and used our findings to iterate on our design.

We found that firefighters wanted us to incorporate a way to designate tasking to teammates. We also found that there was a need for a more clean, clear, and uncluttered UI.

08

Reflection

lessons learned

01. Take advantage of existing design systems.

Task Marshall uses a drag and drop interaction when firefighters start a task. We spent a lot of time trying to figure out how to make this interaction obvious and consistent in our interface, until we realized that there is a ton of information available on the web on the "do's and don'ts" of drag and drop interfaces. The lesson here - don't reinvent the wheel, take advantage of existing resources, and save energy for other challenges in the project.

02. Get user feedback from your target demographic whenever possible, but be prepared to compromise.

Firefighters weren't always easy to reach. They have overwhelming schedules, and Covid-19 only added to that. We got feedback from them when possible, but sometimes wound up with no one available. The lesson I learned here is that feedback is crucial, but you need to be flexible, especially in a time-crunch. We ended up using our peers in our Masters program for feedback sometimes - luckily their HCI knowledge came in handy!