StuffSwap is a platform that connects outgoing tenants and incoming tenants in Cornell University’s collegetown to share and reuse items within the apartment. Outgoing tenants can use the StuffSwap to post items that they would like to leave behind. Incoming tenants can use StuffSwap to accept or reject the items that are offered by the outgoing tenants.
Before StuffSwap, students threw out things when moving out of the apartment at the end of every school year. These things are often in good conditions but hard to be taken home, and new tenants buy the exact same things when they move in. With StuffSwap, outgoing tenants can save the efforts of throwing items that they don’t want to carry with while moving out; incoming tenants would know exactly what items are available to them when they move into the apartment.
Most of people are reluctant to change their lifestyle completely to live sustainably. It also takes too much efforts to live sustainably in their past experience. Our design goal is to use technology that could nudge people to live more sustainable without causing too much times and efforts.
To explore people’s point of views of what sustainability means to them, we asked our participants to take pictures of when they were doing something sustainable over a 24 hour period and to email those pictures to us. We then used these photos to trigger our participants to provide the story and specific details behind their images.
The results showed that “convenience” and “benefit to me” are major barriers for students when they are making choices related to sustainability. Our design should help people overcome these barriers to motivate them to make sustainable choices.
During the brainstorming session we came up with around one hundred ideas, then revisited each idea to find common themes among them. We also grouped similar ideas together to see how to consolidate the similar ideas in one solution.
To depict the scenario and persona of the promising idea, we created storyboards to describe the user goal and user contexts using the promising solution. We also presented it to the entire studio for comments and feedback.
After receiving initial feedback from our our class, we conducted several tests with our target users to validate if the design concept is receptive.
We asked participants to use sticky notes to label what types of items they want to leave behind when they move out of their apartments. Then we conducted a card sorting task to ask users about what types of items they’re willing to accept from former tenants of their apartment. In addition, the users were asked to list what types of items they would like to receive when they move into their apartments.
We also interviewed a landlord to understand her thoughts and concerns about StuffSwap’s concept.
The Venn diagram below shows a synthesis of our tests results. The left section contains items that current tenants want to leave but future tenants would not accept. The right section contains items that current tenants would like to have waiting for them in the apartment that have not been offered by any outgoing tenants. The middle section represents the types of items that our users would swap, which is the niche for StuffSwap.
The landlord told us that StuffSwap made sense to her because she saw “a lot of things were being thrown out.” and “I’d rather see all that used again than thrown out”. The positive feedback from the landlord indicated that StuffSwap could be a promising solution to reduce waste and reuse items.
At this low-fidelity prototype step, StuffSwap was originally designed as a Web application. However, we got feedback that it would be easier and faster for users to take photos of the items that they want to leave with their smartphones and directly upload the photos from their smartphones to StuffSwap.
In the medium-fidelity prototype phase, we used Fluid UI to build interactive prototype and tested it with the studio class.
Based on paper prototype testing feedback, we redesigned the user interface for tenants as a mobile application in our next design iteration. The user interface for landlords is still a web application since it’s easier for landlords to enter tenant details such as lease information and tenant’s contacts with a larger screen.
To align visual consistency between various screens, we used a grid designed for the iPhone 4. By overlaying this grid on top of each of the screens, we could ensure that our application was visually pleasing, as can be discerned from the screens below.
Besides StuffSwap application itself, we also created a web presence for StuffSwap to explain our concept and onboard users. Our website includes a top navigation comprised of three major navigation items, and each of them represent the a use case of our application. By having a separate page for each of these use cases, the visitor can discover how their specific needs can be catered by the StuffSwap system.
The website of StuffSwap was inspired by the Square (http://squareup.com) and WhatsApp (http://whatsapp.com).
StuffSwap is an exploratory project in sustainable HCI field. The positive feedback from tenants and landlords shows that this exploration is promising and exciting. The future step would be how to launch StuffSwap and make it as a sustainable business. To actually implement the idea of StuffSwap, we not only have to take user interface design into consideration, but also need to propose business models to provide StuffSwap with financial support.
We brainstormed several means of financing the operation that could help StuffSwap break even. We attempted to calculate the specific amount of tons of carbon dioxide that would be saved per item by reusing it rather than recycling it or throwing it away and sell these credits to carbon trading company to make profits.
Another idea was to register StuffSwap as a non-profit organization and solicit donations. We believe that we would appeal to the same segment of the population that is interested in purchasing carbon credit through websites like TerraPass.