Structure Sensor Demo Apps

Usability Audit

Conducting user interviews and usability tests

Assessing the impact of demo applications for a mobile 3D sensor through user research, usability testing, and interface improvements/2015


  • Client Occipital
  • Role UX designer


  • Research User interviews, usability testing, mental models, heuristic analysis, competitor analysis
  • UX Personas, user flows, wireframes, paper prototypes

Case study—Encountering the limitations of interface improvements

The client

Occipital is a San Francisco-based company working to integrate spatial computing into everyday life. Their Structure Sensor (a wireless 3D sensor that attaches to phones and tablets) is the hardware component of a platform that provides first-of-its-kind mobile 3D technology at a consumer-level price.

The opportunity

Developers building iOS apps for the sensor work with demo apps that show how the technology functions through simple examples of working code. Since these demo apps are often the first introduction to the sensor and its capabilities, some developers will decide whether to pursue this platform based on their experiences with them. The Fresh Tilled Soil project team* was tasked with finding opportunities to improve this first-time experience with a thorough usability audit of three demo apps.

Project team

*Fresh Tilled Soil project team: Islanda Naughton, Luke Selinger, Suzanne Wu, and me (Fall 2015 UX apprentices)

Demo apps to evaluate

  • Scanner (object scanning)
  • Room Capture (spatial scanning)
  • Fetch (augmented reality game)
User flow diagram for the Scanner app

One of the first steps: identifying areas of risk within the original user flow for the Scanner app

Initial insights

We began with user interviews, usability testing, and a heuristic analysis of each demo app. After analyzing and organizing our findings from research and testing, we constructed user personas and created a mental model that we used to identify where the motivations and expectations of the users diverged from actual experiences with each app. From this emerged a set of principles that would guide the UI improvements.

Our guiding principles for a better UI

  • Make an unfamiliar technology feel comfortable
  • Increase excitement
  • Set expectations for quality
  • Make outcomes meaningful
  • Don’t let users blame themselves
A slide from the documentation: A chart showing the heuristic evaluation criteria and risk level

Heuristic evaluation

A slide from the documentation: A diagram showing where user expectation do and do not align with the application flow

Mental model for object scanning

A slide from the documentation: A persona called Lu Quan with his background and motivations

iOS developer persona

A slide from the documentation: A diagram showing the 3 primary features of the sensor (mobile, positional tracking, depth perception)

Three primary features of the sensor

A slide from the documentation: A before and after look at the welcome screen for the Scanner app

Wireframes that show a new approach to the welcome screen for Scanner app that is intended to help create more purpose when using the app

Building something testable

With our guiding principles in mind, we designed user flows, wireframes, and live prototypes. We then conducted more interviews and tests with iOS developers to determine the impact of our UI improvements.


Continuing to optimize the UI of the current demo apps would certainly benefit early adopters who already have a purpose for the sensor. But when targeting developers who don’t have a direction in mind, it’s important to address the assumption that engaging with the sensor technology through the demo apps alone provides sufficient inspiration—especially since our findings suggest that when the capabilities of the sensor are experienced separately and without any rationale, it’s difficult to imagine a plausible use case for the sensor.

Scanning a person's head with the Scanner demo app Planning user flows on post-it notes
Organizing wireframes on notecards Making a physical prototype

Our recommendation

We identified an opportunity to further strengthen the Structure platform by encouraging participation from developers who may still be figuring out what to do with the sensor. A more effective way to demonstrate the potential of the sensor could be to show how its features work together to solve a real-world problem.

We recommended that Occipital keep the demo apps within the SDK and develop more complete, consumer-level applications that provide purposeful and compelling introductory experiences.

See Part 2—Individual efforts to identify a use case for the sensor and design the onboarding process for that app.

Audit documentation

The project team captured our research and recommendations in a usability audit document for Occipital.

Full documentation (PDF)