Communication for all

A Study in User-Centered Design

“By putting the user first you can transform your product into something truly remarkable.”

Experience designer Matt Reamer makes an excellent point in his article on user-centered design that recently appeared on Smashing Magazine. He looked at a problem in an unconventional way, and by thoroughly understanding the needs of his end user, he was able to come up with a creative solution that has a demonstrably positive impact.

Image of the project

Matt wanted to do something to make communication easier for his brother, who is autistic and unable to speak. Reasoning that the key would be to replace a difficult interface—in this case, that of vocal expression—with one that his brother might find more familiar and comfortable, he set about designing a device that his brother could use to make his thoughts known. After considering several ideas (and gathering as many insights about human-centered design in the process), he produced a prototype that looked and felt like other objects that his brother used on a daily basis. It’s a tactile alternative to speech that encodes ideas as pictograms: six clean, white buttons arranged into two rows of three on a smooth, shiny metal box, each bearing an image that represents a common feeling or need.

To power his device, Matt turned to Temboo and our Twilio > SMSMessages > SendSMS Choreo. By hooking the buttons up to an Arduino Yún, he was able to program his communicator to send a different SMS message to his parents’ phones via Twilio for each button pressed. Now, all his brother needs to do is push a button that represents the thought he wants to communicate, and that thought will be conveyed to his parents in SMS form. You can take a closer look at the project on Matt’s website.

Device with the person who made it