Our work: National Autistic Society

Empowering people with autism to communicate choices

Campaign: Content and experience management | Experience: Design and prototyping, Research and strategy

The National Autistic Society wanted to create a piece of assistive technology, The Choices App, to help empower the people they support to make and communicate choices about the activities they participate in.

What we did

Initially we immersed ourselves in what the National Autistic Society wanted to achieve, we also understood aspects of previous work they’d done in this area and also why some previous technical solutions to this challenge hadn’t worked. This involved interviewing subject matter experts and research back at our studio.

From this we developed an initial prototype in just a few days We believed the most important thing was to get early user and subject matter feedback and that’s exactly what we used this for.

Following a research and user testing period and some analysis of this we put shape around a project to develop Choices in to a working product.

Essentially composed of two interfaces – one for Facilitators to set up sessions and one for use in those sessions – Choices can be used on any device but is designed to be used on touch screen devices during sessions. Activity choices are presented to users with varying levels of information based on their needs, empowering them to indicate their feelings to the Facilitator through their interactions.

NAS Choices app tile view

A simple tile view for users with greater difficulty understanding and processing language or complex imagery.

NAS Choices app complex view

A complex view, suitable for users with more sophisticated language and visual processing skills.

How it went

We worked on a blended team on this project where the National Autistic Society made up the development part of the team and Manifesto the product design, user experience and running of the Agile process.

The backlog was managed with an ongoing refinement process and new user stories created from regular feedback and user testing. Regular retrospectives, daily interactions, a wiki and instant messaging helped to maintain collaboration within a distributed team.

The system was tested in one of the National Autistic Society’s centres in Northamptonshire and they’ve now built a team to support its roll out. The application is nominated for Best New Technological Innovation at the NAS Professional Conference 2015.

How this helps us on your project

We can help define a set of needs for a wide range of different user roles from both the end-user and business/organisation domains and use them to create a product vision that aims at providing maximum value to both.

We can facilitate an Agile process which takes a product through discovery, prototyping, user testing, development and delivery with regular demos to keep stakeholders engaged.

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