Coco is a social network APP for users to create & keep their digital legacy and commemorate the deceased, it's designed for people to cherish every moment and celebrate the magic of life. This was initially a research-heavy course project of a team of 4, I spent some time exploring the digital solutions for it later on and all hi-fi screens in this piece are my work.
How might we help people to create & keep their digital legacies as well as to be remembered? How might we provide a comfortable channel for people to commemorate their deceased beloved?
Evers since I watched the movie Coco, I've long been fascinated by the concept of mortality. That's why in the Social Web course, I chose to join the project focusing on building a social network that focuses on generating, curating and presenting people's 'legacies', showing what people cherish most in their life. Our team realized that with us human-beings demonstrating our life and leaving our traces more and more in the digital space, the digital world had a lot of potentials to carry both proofs our 'existence' and our reminiscence of those deceased beloved. So we were wondering, how might we help people to create & keep their digital legacies as well as to be remembered? And how might we provide a comfortable channel for people to commemorate their deceased beloved?
Inspire people to face mortality and celebrate life.
By establishing a social platform for people to keep their legacies and commemorate those who passed away, we hope that we can convey the idea that death is not something to be afraid of, but a nature of life. Just as what movie Coco tried to tell us, we also believe that death is not the end of everything, and one is still 'alive' in a way as long as they're still remembered. We hope that through Coco, our users can gain an awareness of how beautiful and treasurable life is, therefore reflect more on themselves rather than being dominated by routine and monotony; we hope that they, whether young or old, healthy or not, can all bravely face mortality and celebrate life.
After examining the current practices, we dived into generative research to gain first-hand insights. We sent out surveys (n=105) and executed 7 in-depth interviews to inform our design decisions. We spread out the survey through multiple channels including Reddit, Facebook, WeChat, etc to gain diverse samples and reduce bias in results. We then filtered out 7 participants who were willing to talk with us and did the interviews with them.
Our project topic is highly sensitive and personal, making it hard to talk to potential users.
After kicking off the project, we soon realized that the biggest challenge we would be facing was the sensitivity of our research topic. In many cases, people may not be comfortable talking about death and related topics. Therefore we had to be highly aware of ethicality and make sure our research participants don't get hurt. We finally came up with the following two approaches to partially solve this problem.
To avoid being intrusive, we asked people to what extent they are comfortable talking about death in the first place.
Our first approach to the above-mentioned problem was to ask a pre-screening question in our survey. Once a person entered the survey, we would ask them to evaluate to what extent are they comfortable talking about death. This question served as a filter, and those who were not comfortable would be warned about the following contents and could choose to exit the survey at any time.
We used a metaphor to make the topic more approachable: instead of asking directly about 'death and legacy', we asked people to imagine 'a museum about yourself'
Another approach we took was to use metaphors throughout both the survey and the interview instead of directly asking people sensitive questions. We used the metaphor 'a museum about you', and the exhibits inside it to gain insights on people's opinions on life, death, their social connections and legacies.
What people consider as 'self' has a lot to do with their connections with their loved ones.
Throughout the generative research, we found that a large amount of our survey & interview participants proactively mentioned their social connections to be a significant component of their personal museum. Even though we only prompted 'a museum about you', people mentioned a lot about how their loved ones, be it family, friends, or pets, should be an indispensable part of it.
People have conflict opinions on how private their 'museums' should be, therefore the flexibility in privacy settings matters a lot.
We also noticed from the user research that people have very conflict ideas on who can have access to their personal museum. Also, considering once a person passes away, there's no way they can redecide the access authority, it's gonna be a prudent decision to make. Therefore, we realized that flexibility in privacy settings of our product matters a lot.
People expect to receive from their loved ones two kinds of legacy:
1) Tangible items that speak for the person’s uniqueness & existence;
2) Things that store the connections between the person and them.
In both the survey and the interview, we asked people about what they would want their loved ones to leave them, and the majority of people mentioned 'last words specifically for me'. This means people cherish things that store the connections between the person and them. Also, many people would like to have their loved ones' personal belongings--things they've used, touched or had special meanings. Tangible items act as proof that the person ever lived, and speak for their uniqueness.
After the ideation phase, we started the lo-fi prototyping process to turn our ideas into concrete screens. We framed our scattered ideas into three main user flows: 1) Create & manage users' own legacy presents; 2) report others' death; 3) explore others' legacies & commemorate others.
Even though the Social Web course came to an end after we finished the lo-fi prototyping, I spent some extra time exploring the visual appearance of this platform.As the initial experiment, I tried out a dark theme simulating the ambiance of the movie Coco. As the designer, I would like to convey to users that entering Coco, they are diving into an immersed new world, where death is no longer something to be afraid of, where people celebrate existence itself and share to each other the magic of life, where the deceased could be remembered, therefore 'exist' in a different way.
I tested the initial version of the hi-fi prototype with some potential users and got the feedback that the colors are too busy and distracting for people to focus on the contents. Based on such feedback, I then did more research and realized that the dark theme (usually a dark background + highly saturated colors as main colors) perform better on tool-oriented products and video platforms. As for text-heavy APPs, the visual design shouldn't take over users' attention from the content itself. Therefore, I abandoned the initial version and changed it to a new color scheme. This time I choose the greenish and yellowish colors to evoke a sense of hope and evergreen.
Explore the Preserved Legacies of Other Users
At Coco, you are able to explore the preserved legacies of those passed away users worldwide, dive into their stories, and share their wisdom and joy of life.
Create Your Own Legacy Posts
Coco also provides a channel for you upload your own highlights of life and keep them safe as your future digital legacies. You can share your life wisdom, write your life stories, upload important photos & videos, etc.
AR Showcase: Present Your Memorable Possessions & Creations
For some physical possessions or creations that you cherish a lot, it might be hard to keep them forever in the real world. Coco enables you to build 3D models through the 3D-reconstruction technology and keep them in an 'AR Showcase'. This helps other users to appreciate your possessions/creations in a simulated real-world setting as well.
Concrete Privacy Settings
Coco provides high flexibility in the privacy settings of each present you create. Deciding what to present to others as legacies is such a significant decision to make that we want to make sure we provide to users both detailed and changeable options.
Light up (Commemorate)
Light up the candle for your deceased beloved to commemorate them. People would never really leave us as long as we still keep them deep in hearts. Besides lighting up the candle, you can only write eulogies to commemorate the deceased as well.
Last Words Message
At Coco, you can edit and save your last words to specific users. Similarly, your beloved ones are able to do the same for you.
Using metaphors is a wonderful way to avoid being intrusive when user research involves sensitive topics.
Due to the sensitivity of our research topic, we chose to use 'a museum about you' as a metaphor in our survey and interview questions for legacy and death. This innovative way turned out to be quite effective and got positive feedback from both our participants and our instructors. This experience taught me that for sensitive topics similar to this, using metaphors is a wonderful way to approach potential users, keep them comfortable and stay ethical.
Sometimes as product designers, we might be too 'addicted' to digital solutions, yet the tangible physical world has its uniqueness that can barely be simulated by a digital product, at least for now.
During the research process, we realized that for many people, they cherish tangible possessions from their loved ones a lot. Largely it was because those possessions are used, touched, or even kept the scent of their loved ones. The meaning behind was deeply bonded with the tangible existence of these items, therefore very hard to be simulated by a digital product. We tried to design the 'AR Showcase' feature for people to keep their physical possessions/creations, but still, there's a huge part missing in there. From this project, I realized the power as well as the limitation of digital solutions.