top of page


Helply is a three-part system (tablet, mobile, and watch) that help guardians manage their multiple roles and responsibilities in their household while developing their children’s sense of ownership and independence to accomplish tasks in a creative, collaborative, and educational way.


  • Mobile design

  • Interaction flow 

  • Video prototype 

  • Content creation

  • User research

  • Usability testing


  • Figma 

  • iMovie 

  • Miro 


  • Nathan Keyes

  • Angela Xu


  • 10 weeks

  • Sep - Dec 2020

For this project, we were given an ambiguous task of speculating the idea of a future household. We focused on guardians and their children at home since the idea of a "home" was a sense of feeling for those who dwelled in it. This was a fitting topic during the height of the global pandemic when families’ routines and realities (structure) were flipped upside down, a phenomenon that continues to change their lifestyle today. 

Project Overview

Designing for a future household. 

On average, parents are more stressed than non-parents due to additional roles and responsibilities. But this feeling has only been heightened as of late. While social distancing and quarantine measures have been effective in mitigating the spread of the COVID-19 virus and illness, they have exacerbated the levels of stress experienced in families, especially among guardians with young children between the ages of 2 and 6 who are dealing with increased parental demands, changing work roles, and changes in their routine. 

Problem Space

The COVID-19 pandemic have intensified the levels of stress experienced in families with children. 

American parents are more stressed than their counterparts.

A study by the American Psychological Association found that when comparing parents to non-parents, American parents on average feel higher levels of stress than their non-parent counterparts (i.e., 6.7 on a scale of 1 to 10, compared with 5.5).

Why 2 to 6 year olds? 

We chose this children’s age range of 2 to 6 because it is during these ages that children require interactions beyond the basic needs of food and shelter, including education and moral reasoning support.

This means more work for parents to accommodate during COVID that otherwise would have been addressed in schools and from children’s peers.

As a result, the normal forms of coping and problem solving have been altered, making these changes even much more invasive. 

How might we (HMW) assist families in managing their private, professional, and familial responsibilities in a constantly shifting environment?


Helply is a three-part system (tablet, mobile, and watch) that aims to help guardians manage their multiple responsibilities by shifting tasks to their children in a creative, collaborative, and educational way.

Design Response

I conducted over 20 different literature reviews that examined how the global pandemic has impacted families with children in addition to numerous papers my teammates read and reviewed. 

Secondary Research

We mapped out potential primary, secondary, and tertiary stakeholder groups to identify and analyze different members of a family household. These included guardians, their children, and their support systems (i.e. family and friends). For each of these groups, we brainstormed the challenges they faced, their preferred outcomes of those challenges, and the negative outcomes they wanted to avoid. 

But ultimately, we decided to focus on the guardian-child relationship because we discovered that the shift to remote work and online schooling resulted in restricted access to external support systems (e.g., daycares, sport clubs, family, and friends). ​ This meant that third-party resources is unpredictable and constantly changing. However, the guardian-child relationship is always present.


Stakeholder Mapping

Defining our key stakeholders: guardians and their child(ren). 


The pandemic has elevated the levels of stress in families. These changes have caused our participants to feel lost, overwhelmed, and exhausted. 

In addition, the constantly shifting landscape have collapsed the normal forms of coping  and problem-solving mechanisms, making any change much more invasive. 

Guardians feel stretched thin and exhausted by the constant shifting of roles and tasks in their daily lives.

"All these roles, jobs, and expectations are not made clear to me…I feel like I’m trying to shoot a moving target all the time…it’s very exhausting."

Participant 4

Young children require extra guidance, assistance, and support in their daily tasks, which has been more prevalent with their guardians around at all times

“Sometimes I just have to snap at [child's name], because how many times do you have to ask a kid to brush his teeth or go to bed, before you are just ready to like throw something across the room?” 

Participant 1

Children still have access to their teachers online, but their physical support and management falls on the guardian, beyond the typical caregiving duties.

 “I'm not only there as her test manager, I am her teaching assistant. I'm her short order cook. I'm the principal, I'm school counselor, and those are things that I was not told to anticipate doing.”


Participant 4

Guardians feel they have an increased amount of tasks than before, but external support from families and other resources have diminished.

“I had lots of great strong friendships and family relationships outside of the household that I leaned on. But then this pandemic really just shrank and collapsed that world.”

Participant 2

In order to keep these concerns at the forefront, we established initial values to guide our solution during our design decision making process. 

Design Principles 


Reduce guardian responsibilities


Fosters community building 


Reclaim children's sense of ownership


Provide personal time for guardian

During this process, we shared our thoughts with parents in casual conversation. Soon after, I realized that the ideas of “reducing responsibilities” and “providing more personal time,” were unrealistic and naïve. Since I am not a parent myself, I realized I was making unchecked assumptions that simplified the struggles of parenting.  

For example:

  1. We can’t create more time for parents when they already don’t have enough time.

  2. We can’t wave a wand and make all the responsibilities disappear.

  3. We can't assume that external support systems are what families need especially during this tenuous time. 

This meant we needed to revise our design principles that was realistic and attainable. 

Revised Design Principles

We revised our initial design principles because they were biased by assumptions we had about what guardians struggled with and what they needed.

Much of the secondary research focused on the effects of the pandemic on mental health, but few have addressed ways that guardians have adapted to cope with these changes. In response, we interviewed guardians to examine the ways the pandemic has impacted each family household in regards to their emotional and mental health, routine, their relationships with one another, and methods they've used to respond to these changes.


For full details of the research plan, view here

Primary Research

We conducted five semi-structured interviews and contextual inquiry to gain a more intimate experience of families with children during the pandemic.


of parents had to adjust their personal and professional routines

(out of 1,000 parents).


of parents have reported increased anxiety since the start of the pandemic (out of 618 parents)


of mothers have reported increased feelings of depression

(out of 1,301 mothers)


Shift guardian responsibilities

Instead of reducing the amount of responsibilities, we can shift some tasks through delegation.


Make tasks fun and enegaging

If we make the tasks feel less like a chore and more as a learning and bonding experience, then we can encourage repeated use.


Adapt to shifting environments

The solution must be able to adapt with the guardian's needs as their landscape continues to change.


Extend the parental reach 

If we extend the parental influence, we can encourages self-ownership in their children while helping guardians regain a sense of control.


We individually brainstormed over 40 ideas, generating more than 120 ideas.

Now that we were aware of our assumptions about parenting, we wanted to brainstorm as many ideas as possible so that we can refine and merge to create an ideal solution. We used several methods including braiding, sketches, and 8x8. 

First, we used dot voting and a barometer rating to indicate our interest and rationale for why we liked each idea. We then affinitized the concepts that were similar. After the initial pass, we decided to filter our concepts by how much they aligned with our defined design principles, and then discussed how and why the decision was made. 


We narrowed down to three main ideas through multiple rounds of downselection. 

Task Flowchart

We created task flowcharts to identify our key flows and all the steps needed for guardians and their children to use our solution successfully across three platforms (tablet, mobile, and watch).

Since our solution was task-centric, we mapped out a task flowchart to identify important steps needed for guardians to accomplish the goal from downloading the application to having their child successfully accomplish their delegated tasks. This was especially important because our solution involved three separate technologies that needed to seamlessly work together. Without a clear flow, the content experience would be disrupted across different platforms, and therefore affecting the overall user experience.

Once we had a general overview of the process, we broke down the process into a typical day and week timeline from our stakeholder's perspective. This system overview helped us form our core flows that made the entire ecosystem cohesive. 

We paper prototyped the four key paths across the three different systems and tested it among two families with children between the ages of 2 and 6.

Prototyping & Testing

After numerous long discussions, we were able to narrow to three main ideas.  

A physical booklet and digital app that provides guardians guidelines, resources, and frameworks to manage traumatic stress. These can include questionnaires to identify their feelings and thoughts and ways to respond to them. In addition, it includes activities and resources for guardians to engage in including workshops, toolkits, or access to local organizations.

Crisis Management Toolkit

A voice assistant AI that detects emotional states and stress levels of guardians. Once it has made a detection, it asks guardian what he/she is doing and associates it with the detected response. The AI will then suggest recommendations to lower their heightened emotional and stress levels. 

AI Voice Assistant 

A smartwatch for children that allows guardians to input educational tasks for their child to complete. It encourages the child to take ownership of their responsibilities by giving them rewards both digitally and in reality once they accomplish a set task. 

Children's Smartwatch
Dot Voting & Barometer

Dots indicated by blue circles.Barometer indicated by colored stickies (i.e., red - lowest interest, lime green - medium interest, blue - highest interest). 

Design Principle Alignment

Dots indicated by blue circles.Barometer indicated by colored stickies (i.e., red - lowest interest, lime green - medium interest, blue - highest interest). 

Why the smartwatch?


Toolkit was too generalized

The Crisis Management Toolkit didn't address one particular need. While collecting and condensing a wide range of different resources into a single place is useful, it may also incur more cognitive load on guardians who did not have the time or effort to find the resource they need.


Wary of the "magic" of AI solutions

While the idea of an AI detecting a person's mental and emotional state and then corresponding it to related activities and incidents was hopeful, it was wishful thinking. We wanted a solution that was realistic and could be attainable with existing technologies. 


Smartwatch involved both parties

The smartwatch concept was the only one that addressed both sides of the guardian-child relationship. The other two focused on the guardian, but did not involve their children in any of the process. We liked the idea of fostering the relationship they have with one another 

The following are our four core flows.


Task Alignment 

An onboarding process in which the guardian and their child align on expectations and responsibilities for the week on the tablet.


Task Learning

Process of introducing and teaching the child a task and then letting them attempt the task at hand using the tablet and the smartwatch.


Task Management

A way to track the child's progress on agreed tasks and providing this information to their guardian using a smartphone device. 


Task Reward & Debrief

The child earns incentives for their efforts and both partieis are engaged in a reflective process to encourage continuous learning.

Task alignment paper prototype

Task learning paper prototype

Smartwatch wearable prototype

Reward and debrief prototype


Both guardians and their children were asked to verbally express their thoughts and feelings as they went through each of the task flows.  

As a result, we made sure our next iteration involved scaffolding through an engaging narrative. We also added more customization, visuals, and kid-friendly texts. We also even added reports and voice memos to increase the parental reach through technology. 

Leverage scaffolding techniques to breakdown tasks into smaller chunks.

"Show the steps as you move forward so they know where they are going and what's to come."

Guardian (Family 1)

Create a narrative/story to keep children engaged in the learning process.

“Show me a picture of me back in time [with dinosaurs]” 

Child (Family 1)

Provide reports to encourage guardian engagement.

"I would love to see charts of what he’s done. So maybe a report card of see that he’s thriving, that’s a good feeling."


Guardian (Family 2)

Add more customization to allow flexibility for changes.

“But if there’s a day that it wouldn’t work on him and didn’t care about pizza or watching more TV...those things will just fly out that day.”

Guardian (Family 1)

Input more visuals for children because they are easier to understand than text.

“Having a picture or adding a photograph...having a visual chart of what needs to be done is highly recommended so that he has a visual of this”

Guardian (Family 1)

Make texts kid-friendly by changing words, assist with images, or use text-to-speech.

“What’s an ice cream parlor?” 

“What’s a pizza party?”

Child (Family 2)


Task Alignment 

How it works

At the beginning of the week, the guardian and the child align on tasks they want to work on for that week along with the expectations and rewards associated with that task. All the tasks, expectations, and rewards can be customized and adjusted.


Our goal is to increase the child's involvement in the decision-making process, encouraging responsibility along the way [shifting responsibilities]. The customization feature also accommodate the family's needs and available resources at any given time [adapting to shifting environments].


Task Learning 

How it works

On the first day of a new task, Helply recommends the guardian to model the task for their child by doing the activities together. The child begins their adventure through a story-driven narrative and is given a digital companion that they will complete the adventures with.


Then, the smartwatch prompts the child to attempt the task in real life within a given timeframe through its voice assistant and haptic feedback features. After the child confirms that the task has been attempted, LEDs will light up on the watch, prompting the child to use the up and down buttons to select the perceived difficulty of the task. Each attempt earns the child  in-game currency.


The goal is to scaffold the child's learning experience and help them reach higher levels of skill acquisition and independence through incremental levels of temporary support [extend the parental reach].


The digital companion helps the child develop a sense of responsibility and ownership over their tasks as they take care of their friend [shifting responsibilities]. Additionally, the storyline keeps the child engaged throughout their learning exercises [make tasks fun and engaging].


Lastly, the wearable gives both guardians and their child feedback on their progress to discuss at a later time [extend the parental reach].


Task Reward & Debrief 

How it works

At the end of the week, the child earns rewards that was agreed on at the beginning of the week. Rewards can be purchased using in-game currency earned by completing tasks, but rewards are based on real items and activities that can be done within the household or with their family. 

Additionally, Helply engages the guardian and the child in a discussion about the past week. For example, the child's difficulty ratings prompts them discuss what parts were easy, challenging, and areas that could be improved. 


By providing customized real-time reward, we create incentives for the child to learn. It also adapts to families' changing resources because the rewards are not monetary-based [make tasks fun and engaging, adapt to shifting environment].

The reflective process help the guardian and their child develop communication and problem-solving skills [extend the parental reach]. It also offers a way for them to bond and further develop their relationship.


Task Management 

How it works

The guardian is notified about their child's progress through the mobile app, including the details of the storyline, which day they are on, and how difficult the child reported the task to be when they performed it. In addition, the guardian can send their child words of affirmation to encourage their child throughout the day through a voice-memo feature.


We wanted to provide guardians with a way to view and stay in touch with their child as they progress through these activities, allowing them to be supportive from a distance, but also intervene when they child needs more guidance and support [extend the parental reach].

This was my first project where I went through the entire design cycle from research to ideation to design and testing. While I am proud of the work, there are some clear limitations. 


Feasibility & Inclusivity 

A three-part system that requires families to not only have a smartphone, but a tablet and a smartwatch is unlikely to be feasible for many families. This is especially true as COVID-19 has financially impacted families. For this reason, this product is geared towards more affluent population.

Oversimplifying Parenting

None of us are parents ourselves and we tried our best to consult with parents about their experiences. However, because we have no idea what it is truly like nor do we know how Helply functions in real life, we worry that it may cause another "chore" or "task" for families to take on and that is the last thing we want.

Reality of Kids' Items

We learned that children often lose items and smartwatches are expensive to replace. By having our product depend on a smartwatch, we risk the system failing if a child were to lose or misplace the item. This would disrupt the entire day and week timeline of our product. 

If I had the time to revist this project with my team, I would address the following questions and items.

Next Steps 

This project taught me two key takeaways that would affect how I approached future projects.

Lessons Learned

Simplify the three-part system

How can we minimize the number of additional devices while providing the same level of functionality?


Which features are a necessity vs. good to haves?

Test with stakeholders

How does the Helply system actually function in a household across different socioeconomic statuses? 

What parts can be streamlined? 

Consult subject matter experts

How can we incorporate existing research in gamified learning into our design? 


What are the advantages and limitations of this approach?

Determine level of customization

How much choice is too much, resulting in burdening the parent with an extra task to do?

Brainstorm non-wearable alternatives

Is there an alternative method besides smartwatches that is durable and cost-effective for families?

Test and refine narrative

Are current storylines interesting to children between the ages of 2 and 6? What needs to be changed and adapted to different age levels?

All the families we interviewed and received feedback from were more affluent and privileged than the general population. All of them had a college education, with majority of them holding a post-graduate degree. Additionally, all the families were able to either afford daycare or have one guardian to be a stay-at-home parent. 

The struggles that these families faced are very much valid, but they only offer one perspective. Unfortunately, many families do not have this luxury and may experience problems that we did not encounter. By default, this excludes a large part of our stakeholders and our data is inherently biased towards affluent families. 


In the future, I want to interview participants from a larger variety of backgrounds to address a wider range of perspectives. 

Be aware of sampling bias

Since the Helply system involved products for both adults and children, I learned that the design for both of them needed to be different even when they're a part of the same system. This meant that all the language and visuals used must be directed at the user who is using it.


For example, bright visuals, more assistance, and less texts are needed for child-facing products. In addition, young children have reduced motor skills, which means they rely on easy gestures (e.g., swiping, tapping, and dragging) rather than typing letters on a keyboard. They also rely on muscle memory to learn which requires interactions to be repeated multiple times. 

In the future, I want to base the design considerations off of who my stakeholder is, how they interact with interfaces, and what goals they're trying to acoomplish.

Distinguish the design between adult & child products

Using these insights, we created Helply, an educational-based solution that teaches children important life skills and helps them foster a sense of responsibility and ownership over the skill itself. 

Product Walkthrough

Helply includes a mobile task manager and tracker for the guardian, an interactive iPad game, and a wearable for the child.

bottom of page