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Water Quality Monitoring

Design Envisioning | User Research | Interactive Prototypes | Usability Testing


My Role

Human Experience Designer

Project for User-Centered Design class at CU Boulder collaborating with classmate Lucy


For this class, we were tasked to solve any user problem which we found valuable. We chose to explore how design thinking could help address the water quality needs in Boulder, Colorado.


The course project consisted of the following tasks:  ​project proposal, formative research plan, interactive prototype

1. Formative Research Plan

We gathered data for the project through the following research methods:


We used the research method of structured user interviews to get an in-depth understanding of the water quality issues in Boulder, Colorado. We interviewed three individuals with expertise related to water quality - a CU hydrology graduate student, an employee at the Rocky Mountain Anglers fishing store, and a stormwater supervisor at the City of Boulder. We learned which data metrics are important when it comes to water quality and what data the city tracks. There are many different resources available to residents to understand the current water quality patterns. Our goal was to simplify the process by taking all these sources and putting them into one ingestible source for users.

Contextual Inquiries

We used the research method contextual inquiries to observe people using the Boulder Creek and Boulder Creek paths. We observed how people interacted with the environment - noting their activity, group size, and any devices/gear they were using. We captured photos of the environment for further reflection and went to social media to note any other observations.

Unstructured Interviews

We performed semi-structured interviews with four individuals to better understand their purpose at the Creek. We spoke with 2 adult fishermen, a father and child fishing, and a woman walking her dog. These conversations and observations helped us better understand our user and their needs at the Boulder Creek.

Note: The picture below shows a map where we walked down the Boulder Creek with 4 different stars indicating unstructured interview points. Also pictured are informational signs we found while walking.


Formative Research Plan Results

Project Summary

Our goal based on this research was to develop a public display of real time water-related data to match public informational needs at the Boulder Creek for those who use waterways for recreational activities. This public display will integrate data from existing sources, as well as data provided by the public via a citizen science activity.

Design Recommendations

After gaining more insight on our user's needs, we came up the following key design recommendations for our prototyping:

  1. Design to support the information needs of fishers

  2. Design to support the information needs of families and the public

  3. Design to support engagement between the public and the environment

  4. Design to support knowledge transfer between scientists and the public

  5. Design public displays to integrate with the existing built environment

2. Sketching

Mobile Application Prototyping

Public Large Mount Display Prototyping

3. Interactive Prototypes & Usability Testing

We created interactive prototypes for our users to test for the mobile and public display experience. We ended up finding a few informational and navigational breakpoints as a result. We used this feedback and improved our designs accordingly.

​Tasks Included:

  • Viewing the current fishing report for the Boulder Creek

  • Viewing recent reviews of the Boulder Creek from local fisherman

  • Viewing a water sample from the Creek

  • Finding out if high turbidity is bad for your health 

  • Etc.

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