As part of my second project with Berkeley Innovation, I had the unique opportunity to work with Samsara alongside my teammates Ivy Nguyen, Dylan Lew, and Phoebe Lin under project mentor Maitri Shah. Samsara is the leading industrial internet of things (IoT) company working to increase the efficiency, safety, and sustainability of various industries. For this project, we focused exclusively on Samsara's products for the long-haul trucking industry.
To guide our initial explorations into this niche market, we were given the following how might we question:
How might we improve the quality of life for long-haul truck drivers while at U.S. truck stops?
As student designers, most of us were completely unfamiliar with the long-haul truck driving experience. As part of our research guide, our first step together was to try to fill in some of the gaps in our knowledge by conducting some initial secondary research.
In an attempt to understand the nuances of the long-haul trucking industry, our team pored over articles, interviews, and forums to evaluate the trucking experience, and to learn about the unique challenges experienced by drivers when on the road. Our research mainly focused on general industry observations, life on the road, and the role truck stops play in the lives of long-haul truck drivers. From our grounding research, we discovered that:
Following the advice of our client, we decided to visited the SF Oakland Truck Stop to start talking to drivers face-to-face to verify our findings and gain some first-hand insight into the trucking experience. With the help of Samsara's UX researchers, we crafted interview questions that would help us better understand the long-haul experience. We were even lucky enough to participate in an interview role play with the Samsara team to understand how to conduct ourselves in a casual interview setting.
Before long, on a rainy Saturday morning, we packed into a car and headed to East Oakland to conduct our very first set of user interviews. Over the course of four hours, we interviewed eight individuals.
Talking to these drivers helped us better learn first-hand the unique challenges of long-haul truck driving. Holistically, we gained insight into the difficulties many drivers faced in spending long hours on the road separated from family and friends; their frustrations with the emergence of new technology and government regulations; or even their dislike of truck stop restaurants. Having the opportunity to engage face-to-face helped us understand the trucking experience and its challenges at a more personal level.
After finishing up interviews, we headed back to Berkeley to collect our insights and organize our findings.
Shoutout to Ivy for leading the research sprint (and for the breathtaking photos!).
After concluding our interviews, we created an affinity map to pull together all related key information, and categorize them according to what they had in common. In the end, we had eight different categories:
After synthesizing the most relevant points, we arrived at the following key insights which encapsulated the major challenges that long-haul truck drivers face on the road and at truck stops.
After extracting our key insights, we worked together to identify the most feasible and exciting insights we could tackle in our solution to the problem. While there wasn’t much scope for us in this project to actually improve driver quality of life at truck stops, we found that we could improve truck stop discovery and navigation based on drivers’ preferences, incorporating the feedback we received from our interviews.
Based on our key insights, we went off on our own to brainstorm different potential solutions to meet drivers' needs. After a couple brainstorming sessions, we converged together as a team to share out our ideas and identify individual and team preferences for our project.
After zeroing in on the top four most interesting ideas, we began sketching to get a feel for what our project would be. In the end, we presenting four ideas to the Samsara team:
After getting feedback from the Samsara team, we ultimately settled on a solution that would combine the first two ideas: an app that offered turn-by-turn navigation and routing for drivers, as well as a Yelp-style interface for choosing truck stops for mandated rest breaks. In doing so, we would be meeting three key needs:
Before jumping into low-fidelity prototyping, we decided to write a design specification together that would detail the problems we would be solving, the product requirements we had to meet, the competition, as well as general resources to help guide us.
Shoutout to Phoebe for leading this sprint!
I had the exciting opportunity to lead the prototyping sprint. Keeping our insights in mind, we hopped into Figma to prototype the user flow of the app.
Iteration 2.0: Refining placement and user flow.
Iteration 6.0: Exploration of alternative user flows. Focusing on all-in-one interface with bold, large buttons for accessibility.
Iteration 7.0: Refining overall experience.
Before moving forward, we decided to conduct some user testing to validate our designs to ensure we were meeting our goals. Our biggest challenge, however, was the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic which had begun in the Bay Area not long after our first set of interviews at SF Oakland Truck Stop. Instead of returning to the truck stop to conduct our user testing in person, we instead opted to recruit testers through UserTesting, online forums, social media, as well as our own personal networks.
Despite our best efforts in recruiting testers, we received mixed results. However, in the end we were able to conduct one real-time interview with a truck driver in Southern California, as well as additional tests through UserTesting.
Working on this project with the Samsara team was incredibly rewarding and helped me grow so many ways as a designer. The mentorship we received from the designers and researchers at Samsara, whether through user research workshops or rigorous weekly critiques, enabled us to take our idea from a few scribbles to a comprehensive prototype in just a few weeks.
Throughout this process, I learned how important it is to court feedback from both users and fellow designers as early and as often as possible, especially when working in a new space (such as the trucking industry) that none of us had prior experience designing for. I also had the chance to improve how I communicate my design process through weekly critiques with Samsara.
By far the most challenging hurdle was navigating teamwork with the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic — especially when it came to sourcing interviewees for user testing. However, in just a few weeks, we were able to transition our workflow to one that is fully remote (with a lot of help from Zoom and Figma).
Huge thanks are owed to my amazing team and project mentor, as well as Emily, Merlyn, Bec, Andrew, Ishaan, Grant, and Natalia from Samsara for all the support and feedback.