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Indoor parking can be stressful. Fortunately, our 3D maps of over 100,000 buildings in 86 different countries (and growing!) can help us navigate those narrow lanes and maze-like structures. But location data isn’t the only tool for understanding the indoor concept. By exploring the experiential factors through a series of design-led investigations, we reframed some of our core assumptions about what makes a parking experience safe and smooth for everyone. The results were surprising.
First, you could say we needed a macro understanding for a micro problem. The layout and geometry of indoor venues can be complex and differ dramatically from city to country. We know car sensors and accurate maps offer the technical solutions. Dead-reckoning technology in particular offers a promising approach as it doesn’t require infrastructural changes.
But we needed to identify general "pain points," or driver frustrations, and how they change with design. We needed a better understanding of the experiential issues of indoor navigation. Our pilot study included five participants visiting two indoor parking venues around Berlin. Initially, we assumed wayfinding would be a central concern. We also assumed that increased capacity would increase the need for assistance.
We were wrong.
By designing a prototyping process that helped us test on the fly, we were able to see what was desired, helpful and problematic apart from the sometimes sketchy GPS data that complicates life just about anywhere. Ultimately, pain points and corresponding expectations shifted in ways that technological research might have missed.
Here are five design principles that we learned from prototyping indoor parking experiences:
In the end, you could say our study reframed our navigation assumptions by articulating two central design approaches: a) let users think ahead; and b) make the parking spot sell itself.
It’s safe to say we don’t always end up where we started, even in a parking garage. The results from our design-led exploration helped us define the experiential factors for designing a useful, usable and desirable product. It also helped us identify critical sensitivities for designing an indoor navigation system with early stage product-based prototyping.
Check out the full report of the whole journey at the MobileHCI 2018, the premier academic conference on mobile interaction in September.