PATH is an international, nonprofit organization that creates sustainable, culturally relevant solutions, enabling communities worldwide to break longstanding cycles of poor health. By collaborating with diverse public and private-sector partners, PATH helps provide appropriate health technologies and vital strategies that change the way people think and act. With headquarters in Seattle, USA, PATH has 28 offices in 18 countries and is funded by private foundations, the U.S. and foreign governments, multilateral agencies, corporations, and individuals.
Quicksand was commissioned by PATH, Seattle to conduct an Extended User Testing (EUT) study (funded in turn by Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation under the Safe Water Project), over ten months – between March to December 2009 – across rural, peri-urban and urban settlements in Andhra Pradesh, India. The purpose of the EUT Study was to inform the Safe Water Project team at PATH about user experiences that are key to a successful and relevant product strategy for low cost household water treatment and storage (HWTS) products targeted at base of the pyramid markets. By studying how participants interacted with and used selected products in their home over 6 months, Quicksand helped the Safe Water Project team in integrating these findings into product commercialization and product design.
Quicksand was subsequently brought in to lead the product development phase to convert the research findings into tangible proof-of-concepts for a low cost, gravity fed, multi-stage water treatment device. The project involved collaboration between Quicksand, as industrial design and user experience experts, and engineering, manufacturing and project management teams based in Seattle. More detailed description on the new product development activity can be found in a follow-up post titled “Product Innovation for Base of Pyramid”.
Extended User Testing
As part of the User Experience (UX) study, five commercially available, multi stage gravity filters were placed in 20 low-income households as surrogates to understand users’ expectations and interactions with HWTS products.
The Quicksand study team employed a wide variety of UX research methods to document the everyday lives of users and understand the usage of these filters as time progressed. The methods used were:
- Video ethnography & shadowing sessions (by following users at work and home over several days)
- In-depth and in-context interviews and discussions with household and community members
- Role plays
- Participatory design workshops (focus groups and co-design workshops)
- Feature preference exercises (to elicit users’ aesthetic preferences, comparative evaluation of products & hypothesized responses to scenarios)
- Self administered probes (through disposable cameras handed out to participants)
The key stages of the study were as follows:
- Location reconnaissance (March 2009) to understand the use context and identify suitable locations for the research. The locations were selected on the basis of water availability or scarcity in that region, water quality, incidence of water related problems and the economic status of residents of that region.
- Establishing the baseline context (April 2009) with respect to the water ecosystems (water sources, public utilities and government or civil society interventions if any), individual awareness and adoption of water treatment practices, consumer behavior towards durable products and their lifestyle aspirations and ambitions.
- Product placement (May 2009) of selected water filters in each household and observing initial interactions of users with the products, device setup, assembly & problems faced therein.
- Codesign workshops (June 2009) to involve potential users in creating their ideal filter concepts.
- Revisiting households (July-September 2009) to study changes in use behavior, product breakdowns, adaptations & user workarounds after one, two, four and six months of product use.
- Assimilating research findings into top level insights, product concepts & systems (October-November 2009) to help extended teams understand implications of observed user behavior and to kick-start preliminary product development
- Detailed synthesis and documentation (January 2010) to create report formats that make the study findings accessible to a larger community of commercial partners, academics, public health experts and health practitioners. The deliverables consisted of a narrative report formatted in web and print medium.
While the EUT study conducted by Quicksand provided critical findings & recommendations that facilitated a holistic HWTS product strategy for BoP markets, it also provided a framework for an insightful process of research and design pertinent to product development for low-income populations.
Film on Codesign Workshop
Product Placement Observations
Film on product placement
TAGGED AS: base of pyramid, BoP, design research, ethnography, household water treatment and storage, product innovation, sanitation, user experience research, water