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- A grocery store’s voice service designed for senior citizens 

- Prototype using Actions on Google with Dialog Flow

In this project, we are improving a grocery store phone application so that itis easier to use for senior citizens.

Date: Dec.2019

Type: Course project / Group project

Place: Brown University

Course: User experience  and user interface

Group member: Yutong, Zhuoyan

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​made with Adobe XD

01 About


Voice-controlled devices are becoming increasingly popular, like the personal assistant “Google Home” or the “Despacito” playing device “Alexa”. As with every form of human-AI interaction, voice UX designers make intrinsic ethical judgments in each of their design choices.

In this project, we focus on the two relevant values: the transparency and convenience of the design. These values become a tradeoff when prioritizing one conflicts with the other —i.e., making a more transparent service results in it being less convenient.  For better user experience, we need to find a balance between these two values - one might be more important than the other according to different scenarios.

02 Design Choice

Design Choice

- The Scenario

Improving a grocery store phone application so that itis easier to use for senior citizens

- Transparency and convenience

Transparency is important in this context. People can make wiser choices if they have more information in a transparent system. Since we are designing for seniors, transparency is even more important. Seniors are more skeptical of online-shopping. Increasing the specificity of the product descriptions helps the seniors know what they are buying and in turn, trust on the platform more.

Convenience is one of the most important factors that attract people to use this service, especially for seniors. It conflicts with transparency sometimes. For example, people have the right to know when, how and what information the service is taking, but a real-time warning or reminder might interrupt the purchasing process. Convenience is critical for people to get in the flow and finish the task. In the context of this question, we can increase convenience by showing only the most important and relevant information to users that they can capture the necessary information quickly with no confusion and hesitation. It provides a better shopping experience.

- Design choice

In the case of voice service for senior citizens,we think convenience plays a more important role than transparency.


For direct users, the quality and price of the same category in groceries are so similar that spending a long time reading and comparing products may not be beneficial. Taking convenience first increases the usability of the Voice User Interface, which makes it more accessible to potential users. Seniors who can’t go outside on their own now can order groceries by themselves via our service conveniently. It not only provides their life with convenience but also with dignity, in the sense that they don’t have to rely so much on others.

By reducing unnecessary information, the interface would be easier to use. This may encourage young people to teach their parents how to use the service because it seems easy to use
Nursing workers who taking care of these seniors may be affected indirectly. If the seniors can’t understand the specifications, they need others’ help to read and explain. Our increase in convenience reduces the nursing workers’ work to explain the products.

Traditional grocery store owners may never come in contact with our interface. If we can organize our information and make the whole service more convenient, the users may use our service more than going to a grocery store. Our concise and convenient service may take a group of their customers away. They may lose their source of income.

03 Design


- The state model

State 1 idle:

Nothing happens

State 2 shopping:

Service starts.

The transition between state 1&2: invoke Go-store service. Invoke words include: “Gostore.” “Hey, Gostore” “Grocery.”

State 3 suggestion:
The system gives buying suggestions to users.

The transition between state 2&3: invoke smart recommendation. Invoke words include: features(such as “recommendation”, “on-sale”, “special " ...) or category(such as “fruit”) or scenario(“cooking” “cleaning” " dinner time”)

State 4 supplement:
Ask for extra information.

The transition between state 2&4: If the user is clear about what they are going to buy but haven’t mentioned the weight or quantity they want, state 4 is triggered.

The transition between state 3&4: When the user finishes selecting from suggestions, it comes to state 4 to have extra information such as the weight/ quantity/ ...

State 5 confirmation:
Ask for confirmation about the item.

The transition between states 4 & 5: when full information is gathered, all information will show again for the user to double-check.

State 6 Edit:
Edit shopping cart.

The transition between state 5 & 6: keywords: “change the cart” “edit”

State 7 payment:

Confirm payment detail & total price.

The transition between state 6 & 7: keywords: “confirm” “checkout” “sure” “yes”

Error states:

If the words can’t be recognized.

Shown as “unclear repeat” in the graph. If the words can’t be recognized, it will go back to the current state and ask for an answer one more time.

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04 Reflection


- The balance

In this model, transparency is sacrificed. It increases the convenience so much that people can easily get into the flow. However, when people suddenly find their data being read but they are unaware of it, they would easily get annoyed. When all decisions are made by the smart system, there is no way for users to know based on what evidence the suggestions are made. However, these annoying features that lack transparency make a great advantage of convenience possible.

For most of the users, the tradeoff is not worthy. Young generations have deep concern about data safety in general. Before they enjoy the convenience, their concern stops them from trying this service. On the other hand, people have a desire for autonomy to make choices. It’s not lovely for a tool to in charge of all decisions.

For senior users, especially those who are incapacitated, the tradeoff is worthwhile. Most seniors don’t know the technology well. Their ability to learn and memorize is decreasing as well. The biggest concern for them is not data safety, but learnability. The extreme convenience is a good solution to this challenge. For those incapacitated people, the highest priority is to buy groceries easily. If one cannot afford to pay for a nursing assistant, and a virtual system can finish the same task easily at a very low cost, then why not sacrifice transparency for the service?

Bad design example

Design only value the convenience and sacrifice all transparency

- Bad design

If we prioritizing the convenience so much that it infringes on transparency will cause a design to become a bad design.

A bad design in this context, the system will have a default setting on reading the shopping history and all other users’ data to make smart shopping suggestions. All settings are set the first time when users registered and won’t show up until receiving users’ requirements. To enforce “convenience” to an extreme level, users don’t have to do any selection and comparison. Only the name and quantity of the grocery is required. The whole shopping experience will be so convenient and smart. The greatest advantage of using it is that it is very familiar to the experience in reality when you are asking someone to buy something for you. You trust the one who makes the decision that you only need to tell him/her what you want and how much you want. Especially for our senior users, they can easily learn and remember how to use our service.

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A bad design's state model

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