Task Marshall

overview

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

Timeline - 6 months

My role - UX design

Skills - Personas, empathy maps, sketching, wireframes, prototyping, remote collaboration

The People

Firefighters are expected to stay composed and clear headed in critical situations. However, when not on a call, they are also expected to manage personal tasking in the firehouse. Staying on top of their responsibilities is important for proving themselves in the workplace, but trying to juggle so much creates an even more stressful environment.

The problem

It is no secret that firefighting is an incredibly stressful job with negative impacts on firefighters’ mental health. Current solutions are therapeutic and address traumatic experiences after they happen. However, these solutions fail to consider cumulative stress from everyday occupational stressors, which can be just as harmful
(Sawhney et al., 2018)

Context

Our goal

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

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.

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.

Task Marshall

A collaborative tasking application to help firefighters stay organized.

Solution

Interviews

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

Challenge
It was very difficult to access Firefighters for surveys and interviews during the Covid-19 pandemic. When testing later prototypes, we often had to compromise by re-inviting firefighters from previous interviews or even asking our classmates for feedback when no firefighters were available.

Survey

We started user research with a survey. We wanted to learn more 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.

Research

Synthesis


User Characteristics

We created an affinity map of user research findings in order to synthesize our users' needs, goals, and concerns.

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 these user characteristics derived from survey and interview data, we drafted three user personas and empathy maps to illustrate user needs.

Addressing User Needs

After synthesizing our users characteristics and needs, we laid out some features our system should support.

01. Support personal tasking.
Our solution should support personal tasking 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 accessibility 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.

System Goals

Ideation

Process

We started off by generating as many ideas as possible. We combined our ideas into a total of 10 concepts.

We narrowed these ideas into two concepts that we felt could add novelty to our users’ experiences and support them in distinct ways.

Sketches

01. 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.

concept feedback

In order study whether our proposed solutions met firefighters' needs, we conducted two user feedback sessions using our sketches.

We found that firefighters generally weren't interested in the wearable, but that they thought a task-management system would help them stay organized, collaborate on tasks, and succeed in the workplace.

Final Concept: Task Marshall

Feedback to the task management system was much more positive than the wearable device, so we decided to pursue this solution.

02. Task Marshall

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

Key Features

First, we defined the key features our prototype should have.

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.

Prototyping

Wireframes

After defining our key features, we drafted wireframes following 4 separate user flows that users would go through when using the task management system.

Flow 1. Onboarding and 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 2. Complete a task

Firefighters can work on both individual and collaborative tasking. When working on a task with others, they can assign teammates to a task and monitor task completion.

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.

Usability Tests

We conducted a series of usability tests to highlight any design oversights and accessibility issues, and used our findings to refine our design. We found that we needed to make improvements to collaborative tasking, and also needed to prevent information overload by creating a clean, uncluttered UI.

Conclusion

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!