Waternomics - Usability Testing and Re-design Recommendation

ICT for water resource management

Project Brief

Waternomics is an ICT enabled end-to-end water resource management project, funded by European commission. The primary goal is to increase water usage awareness among end-user (Irish middle school and college students) and persuading them to consciously utilize water. The project was funded by the european commission. I was involved in the final phase of the project where my main focus was to perform usability testing of the applications developed aiming to increase water awareness, for the pilot site Galway in Ireland.  


European Commission


Sustainable development

Design Process

Usability Testing
Ethnographic research
Behavior change analysis
Concept ideation


8 Months


The global freshwater demand

This project focuses on the applications developed for Galway pilot site only

Galway Pilot site applications

Public Display for University. The National University of Galway Ireland's (NUIG) engineering building was chosen as pilot site for applications designed to increase water awareness among college students.

This is the initial concept was proposed and designed by the Waternomics team for university students

Public Display for School. The CNAC school in Galway was the chosen pilot site for school children water awareness application.

This is the initial concept proposed and designed by the Waternomics team for middle-school children


The ux goals were to, 
1. Conduct usability testing for Waternomics applications developed for Irish students (both middle-school children and college students). 
2. Analyse the results and identify the motivators for increasing water awareness
3. Provide redesign recommendations for apps

UX Process

An iterative testing and re-design process was followed in the project

Heuristic evaluation

An expert evaluation was conducted to identify interface level errors. Nielsens heuristics was used.

Heuristic Evaluation helped in eliminating errors primarily with system's navigation and visibility

Usability Testing

The usability testing was done to identify usability problems and verify whether the system is triggering any water awareness. For Public display for university, the test was conducted with 5 participants (all PhD students from NUIG). For Public display for school the study was done with total 5 participants (2 middle-school children and 3 subject matter experts). The usability testing session lasted for 30 minutes per participant. Methods such as think aloud, observations and semi structured interview were used to test.

None of the participants realized that the application is interactive. This is because the interface as well as the display does not provide any affordance.

Literature study informed us that displays tilted to an angle of 45 degrees provides a natural affordance for users to interact with the display (thereby informing them that the interface is interactive).


The usability testing informed that the interface does not trigger any water awareness (none of the participants mentioned neither about the costs involved in cleaning water nor even the difference between freshwater and drinking water. Participants were also ignorant about the water processes before and after domestic usage)

Stakeholder discussion

The stakeholder discussion focused on the information which are to be presented to increase the water awareness among Irish students

Water cleaning processes, chemical footprints & carbon footprints involved in cleaning water emerged as topics to increase water awareness

Contextual Observation

Context always tells a story. The pilot site - NUIG in Galway is located right next to a river, the meteorological department of Ireland reports that Galway records rainfall for more than 200 days a year. There was no water bill in Ireland until 2014 and currently there is the right2water silent protest going on against introduction of water bill.


Fogg Behavioural Model was used as the theoritical framewaork in the project


Gamification, water level indication and water-footprints were initial concepts for triggering motivation to preserve water.

Initial validation

The initial concepts were validated to identify if they trigger any motivation to preserve water.

Participants were quick to understand the concepts during the testing phase. They also provided feedback on the mock-ups which were inputs for subsequent iteration