Drawing families together - as ducks

Technology may help family members stay connected, but can it improve their bond? Two classmates and I designed DuckLink, a mobile application, as a way for families to go beyond having conversations to having a quality interactions.

  • UX design
  • needfinding research
  • visual design
  • prototyping
  • interaction prototype
  • navigation flow map
  • design spec
  • presentation

with Truc Nguyen and Doug Roche


Design a mobile application for parents to monitor children

This project was part of an interaction design studio class for my master's degree in Human-Computer Interaction. We were asked to design an application that would allow parents to track their children through social media and sensors commonly found in smart phones like GPS, accelerometers, etc.


Needfinding, Literature Review & Competitive Analysis

My teammates and I were curious whether there was a market for the product our assignment described. We created a survey to explore the role technology plays in family dynamics and distributed it online. We interviewed parents and their children about how they felt about the way they communicated.

In addition to speaking with potential users, Doug, Truc and I analyzed current family-oriented apps and social networking apps and reviewed several academic papers about family communication.

What We Learned

When we reviewed our interview and survey data, it became clear that parents and children were wary of monitoring applications which might be interpreted as "spying." Whether the children were thirteen or thirty, most felt that they needed to curate any information they tell their parents regardless of platform - phone calls, text messages, and social media. Both parents and children felt their interactions were lacking:
  • It can be hard to find common ground to talk about beyond the impersonal and mundane.
  • Many conversations are checking in, week at a glance, major life events, decision points.
  • Interesting day-to-day vignettes get lost in the shuffle.
  • Many want a glimpse into the other person's environment or physical space.
These findings led us to wonder whether we could design something that would help family members develop stronger ties. We hadn't found any applications during our competitive analysis that helped families bond.
Images of competition

We interviewed a mother and her adult daughter who live hundreds of miles away from each other. The mother wished she could see what her daughter and granddaughter did day to day.

Design Goals, Personas & Storyboards

We thought we could design an application that might improve the relationships between all family members by:
  • Bridging the distance between people
  • Increasing how frequently family members contacted one another
  • Broadening the content shared
Doing this would strengthen the bond between family members. We created personas whose desires and motivations helped ground us as we designed.

I drew storyboards that illustrated how a mobile application might accomplish these goals and how our personas might interact with them. When my teammates and I showed people these scenarios, they identified with the problems the personas encountered and were intrigued by the solutions we proposed.

Click here to see our storyboards.


We iterated on the design over several cycles, from multiple paper prototypes to wireframes to several versions of the high-fidelity design. Our early concepts focused on how people could share experiences and how family members could learn more about one another's interests.

After our early speed dating and prototyping activities, we added a fourth design goal: Make it fun. Rather than thinking about the project as an application, we began to think of how families bond in real life - through games, jokes, and shared experiences.

We tested our prototypes with classmates and families. Click here to see how the prototype evolved!

Universe of DuckLink & Video Prototype

The design evolved into a cartoon universe in which family members' goofy duck avatars deliver message-filled balloons to one another. The recipient "pops" these balloons from his or her home screen, revealing the message - text, photo, video, etc. The sender can create messages triggered by an event or location and can include a reaction-cam setting, which would capture the recipient's response to reading the message. Another feature, called "BirdsEye View", allows the person to see what interests he shares with a particular family member and what topics they discuss the most. This video prototype demonstrates how the user would interact with the design.


DuckLink strengthens relationships through fun.

DuckLink allows parents and their children to communicate through play at any age, sharing moments, jokes and pranks. This app also gives the family members the oportunity to reflect on the quality of their conversations in order to improve them.

We presented our findings and high-fidelity prototype to our classmates. Below you can find the final visuals, concept video, application/site map, and sample design specification.

If you are interested in learning more, please contact me at tucker [dot] judith [at] gmail [dot] com.