Tracey — Shopping-related navigation aid for visually impaired people

Inclusive Design

Designed together with Jelena Helbling, Rosina Brosi, Andreas Hänggi, Lea Birrer

My role in the project: concept, prototype, screen design, communication

Project duration: 2 weeks interdiciplinary design course, BA at ZHDK in 2015

Tracey is a concept for a grocery-shopping navigation aid for blind and visually impaired persons.

With a specific designed app, iBeacon & RFID technology installed, it should make it easier for visually impaired people to buy grocery independently and find the products they need.

Conceptvideo (1 minute pitch video, only in german)

Field-Research: Shopping with no sights

Through some interviews with blind and visually impaired people we found out that it's very difficult and nearly impossible for those people to buy grocery on their own. Most of the time they need help of other people which takes away a lot of self-reliance and can be frustrating.

We wanted to find out for ourself, how it is to buy grocery in a store when you can nearly see. We blindfolded ourself and tried to navigate through a local grocery store. We quickly jumped into a lot of borders, not knowing where we are, so we commissioned someone to help when help is needed. With this help and a little bit of sight, it was easier to navigate through the store, but especially in front of shelfs with same looking products it was nearly impossible to choose the right item.

You Personas
Field research and self experiment of how to find products in a grocery store

As we also found out through the interviews, mobile phones can be a big help for visually impaired people in everyday life. There is already a small market for such apps as well as some basic functions that help people using their phones to navigate through a city, find specific products at home or check if food is still valid to eat.

With all information gathered from out research, we decided to design our own app to help people with bad sight navigating through a grocery store.

You Personas
User Interace Design, bold colors and contrast between text and background dominate the interface

An app designed for people with bad sight

We made a quick research to learn from trends and functions of already existing apps on the market and how blind people use those apps. A lot of people with iPhones make use of the already pre-installed voice-over function, furthermore good contrast and big fonts and signs are mandatory, so the user can recognize what's displayed on the phone.

You Personas
Listmode, new items can be added to the list through speech-to-text

With Tracey the user can create a shopping list through voice recognition and is later guided to those specific products in the grocery shop. We made use of easy readable bold fonts and a lot of contrast between the typo and the background. Furthermore we tried to use real colors of the products added to the shopping list. The app should not include too many functions but rather focus on the important parts while grocery shopping.

Therefore we intended to focus only on the navigation in a shop and design an easy to use shopping list, to add or remove products at any time. Furthermore a bread crumb at the bottom of the screen shows the user how many products remain on the list.

Initial prototype

Through invision we constructed a first working prototype of the app. We were able to test different interaction patterns and see were we still needed to improve our design as well as the user experience.

In a further prototype, build with After Effects, we were able to present a simple use case. We also intended to use the animation for the final concept video.

Additional technology installed in the grocery store

An iBeacon-System installed in the grocery shop would be of necessary to navigate the user through the shop. With bluetooth connection enabled the user gets navigated to the specific iBeacon Hotspots. Futhermore a RFID-System would help choosing the right product of a shelf. A reader device attached to the phone case is scanning for RFID-Chips and is simulatously communicating back to the user via voice-over and vibration signals. Furthermore product information could be trasmitted to the user through the same technology.

You Personas
A case with an integrated RFID Scanner as well as a cord to casually hang the device around the neck and always keep free hands if needed

Case & cord

We also designed a cord and case for the phone. For simulatously integration of the people that would make use of Tracey, the cords could be manufactured in workshops for blind people.

While the phone case would be used as an RFID scanner, our intention behind the cord is that impaired people would always have free hands to grap for products, baskets or their cane.


As time was very limited, we couldn't yet made use of real user test with visually impaired people. This and further research into the topic of designing for and with people suffering from such problems would be necessary.

In a further vision, standardized frequencies of RFID systems & uniform EPC numbers would be of need. Also labeling of products would need to be effected with international SmartLabels and grocery stores would need to be equiped with beacon transmitters.

However it was already possible for us to communicate an initial idea with a video and working prototype to gain the interest of possible investors.

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