Contextual Inquiry-Group:iGroup

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Group Members

  • Charlie Hsu scheduled interviews with Dance Groups A and B, conducted the interview with Dance Group A, wrote up the Target Users/Interview Descriptions parts relevant to Dance Group A, drew the sketches for various views in Interface Design, and helped in the Interface Design collaborative process.
  • Conor McLaughlin conducted the interview with Dance Group B, wrote up parts of Interview Descriptions, worked on Analysis of Tasks, participated in Interface Design brainstorming and wrote up the ID summary and descriptions.
  • David Zeng conducted interviews with Dance Groups A and B, wrote up parts of Interview Descriptions, wrote Task Analysis answers, drew storyboard for Scenario 2 and helped in the Interface Design collaborative process.
  • Vidya Ramesh went to the interview with Dance Group B, scheduled and conducted the interview with Dance Group C, wrote up the Analysis of Approach section, helped in the Interface Design collaborative process, and drew the storyboard for Scenario 1.
  • Wei Yeh went to the interview with Dance Group B, worked on Analysis of Tasks, helped in the Interface Design collaborative process, and drew the storyboard for Scenario 3.

Target Users

Dance Group A

We chose Dance Group A because they were a dance group that seemed to have a heavy reliance on music and practiced dance routines in preparation for performances. Groups that practice routines often need to drill certain parts of a song, and our application specifically targets reducing repetitive music seek time for dance group instructors. Dance Group A is an UC Berkeley student group that focuses on a variety of styles, from jazz to hip hop, as well as tap and lyrical dance. The group choreographs their own routines in preparation for performances. Their main priority was practicing a certain routine set to a certain song to perfection. Other priorities included maximizing the amount of dance time they could squeeze into their 2 hour practice, and being able to learn new dance moves effectively.

Dance Group B

Dance Group B is a dance group that has a very different style than dance group A. Their group performs a variety of different styles all different from the other target users. However, instead of coming up with original dance routines that seek to be independent from others', dancers from their group seek to master pre-defined movements that is common to all dancers in their area. They have a variety of goals: winning at dance competitions - team and individual, teaching other students about dancing, and training future dancers. While current technology does allow them to find and play music of a certain type, they identified that they would like to be able to create a playlist on the fly, instead of having to go back and search for potential songs to add to a playlist.

Dance Group C

Dance Group C is more similar to Dance Group A than Dance Group B, but still has some very unique needs. They perform choreographed pieces for performance and will often need to practice parts of a song repeatedly. Dance Group C is a UC Berkeley student group that uses a fusion of Indian music and hip-hop in their performances with a heavy emphasis on stunts and props. The dance is choreographed by the group's captain and they prepare intensively for their competition. Their main concerns were being able to identify exact sections of their songs and replaying them from a given point as well as being able to easily send video to all the members of the dance group. They also identified the problem of having to start the song and not having a countdown before it starts, as well as the lag between time when the person who starts the song presses play and their ability to reach the correct position within the group.

Problem and Solution Overview

When dance groups gather to rehearse dance routines, a large chunk of their time is wasted seeking, playing, pausing, and rewinding their dance music. In order to streamline the rehearsal process, our solution is an app that offers dance groups the ability to easily cut and splice music, play/pause/replay music, and create playlists of routines.

Contextual Inquiry - Interview Descriptions


When conducting our contextual inquiry interviews, we began by observing the audio setup of the dance group. What sort of technology/interface were the dance groups currently using to manage and play music? What sort of hardware produced the actual sound (portable iPod station, boombox, etc.)? In all the dance groups we observed, the hardware of choice was an iPod connected to some form of external stereo speakers.

We then shadowed the instructors/leaders, who usually managed the music and flow of the dance group practices. We observed the way they manipulated the iPod interface, and the ways in which they integrated music management with teaching/leading the dance group. During breaks, we would ask questions about certain trends/events we noticed in the music management area.

We noticed a significant trend of time lag in all groups where the instructor would switch between managing the music and instructing the group. All the hardware setups required power outlets, which forced the instructor to move back and forth between the audio setup and the dance group. Apart from the physical time needed to move between managing music and the dance group, Dance Groups A and C had occasional trouble with the iPod interface when seeking for certain parts in songs. Dance Group B used music more as a background element; they simply required beats characteristic of certain types of music, like waltzes. However, since Dance Groups A and C practiced routines set to certain songs, a higher degree of seeking and interaction was required.

Errors in music manipulation varied in type and effect on the dance group's practice. Dance Group A's errors were limited to seeking errors such as cueing the music to a spot too early, too late, or completely wrong, and the instructor could quickly correct these errors as soon as she heard them. Dance Group B had trouble with the iPod itself and was forced to use a different iPod than normal, which didn't contain the necessary songs for the context of the practice. Consequently, time was wasted looking for specific types of songs that fit the style of dance they were working with. Dance Group C mostly had trouble switching between sections of music that they were rehearsing. Each individual section was cut into a different part and in order to switch between sections, they had to go to a different song entirely. To spend 10 seconds looking for a section which lasts 20 seconds is a large waste of time.


We received valuable feedback when asking questions about features and suggestions to the dance groups. Dance Group A mentioned that a tempo analysis feature we had considered might not be very useful for dance groups practicing routines, but when prompted about a member who had asked for the instructor to demonstrate a set of moves in slow-motion, the instructor for Dance Group A thought the ability to slow down/speed up music might be useful. When asked about common problems concerning music management, the leaders of Dance Group A told us that enhanced playlist options would be extremely useful: allowing the user to specify whether the playlist automatically played through the sequence of songs, or whether a prompt was needed to being playing the next song. Adding set amounts of whitespace between tracks would also be helpful to allow the dance group to reset after a segment's routine.

Dance Group B, when asked, mentioned that while our cutting and splicing feature might be useful for choreographed dances, ballroom dances like the waltz, tango, cha-cha, etc. rely on a consistent beat or tempo for the song. This means that as long as a song has a waltz tempo, the song can be danced to at any point without need for a specific seek feature. However, one of our interviewees mentioned that some songs that are not traditionally thought of as waltz may still have the necessary tempo, so a feature to tag a song as a waltz would be enormously helpful. They also mentioned our suggested feature of an overlayed track with either a defined clap or count (could specify the tempo and range of the count) would be useful only if it was used for the first few bars, and then only in beginning classes, as part of the process of learning to dance is being able to hear the tempo of the music. Because of this and Dance Group A's reaction to specifying tempo, we may hold onto it as an optional task, but it is no longer a necessity.

Dance Group C mentioned that the main portion of our application that would appeal to them was the fact that music could be marked and played back from a given point in the song. This is because the main problem they faced was trying to find the perfect point in the song to start playing from and running back frantically to stop the music once the correct section was over.

Task Analysis Questions

1. Who is going to use the system?

  • We will target dance groups that have dance routines which go along with a defined choreography. The fact that they dance to a specified choreography means that they will be forced to repeat sections; a problem that our application targets.

2. What tasks do they now perform?

  • All of our dance groups currently use some combination of iPod and speakers/boom box. The leader usually starts the music and then turns it off when needed. To get back to the start of the music they will usually manually seek back to the part of the music using rewind. If it is not exact, they will most often let the music play out.

3. What tasks are desired?

  • From the people we interviewed, many of them would like to be able to create a playlist: either with similar music, or with some sort of spacing in between music. The option of counting into the music also seemed to be popular. Lastly the idea of going to a specific place in the music would save them lots of time while rehearsing, as well as allow them to be more accurate. Saving those specific places in the music for later use also seems very popular.

4. How are tasks learned?

  • The leaders often practice beforehand, learning the sections of dance and matching them up to the choreography. When practice comes, they know where to go and can accurately pinpoint (to a degree) where to start. If the exact section of the song is not known, a trail and error method is carried out until the right spot is found.

5. Where are the tasks performed?

  • Practices are held in a variety of places, from outdoors to a dance studio. Often, the music player is placed in front of the dancers and that is where they start and stop the music.

6. What is the relationship between the user and the data?

  • The dance group needs the music in order to perform their routines. Music is often acquired by what people have on their CD's or what they can buy on iTunes.

7. What other tools does the user have?

  • Users current use a boom box/stereo/iHome or some other form of speakers in conjunction with an iPod or some other form of mp3 players. The group leaders also use software like Audacity to create the music that they will dance to.

8. How do users communicate with each other?

  • The leaders or choreographers often direct the pace of the practice. Fellow dancers may ask questions about the dance sequence or request to see something being done over again.

9. How often are the tasks performed?

  • This highly depends on the stage of the practice. In early stages of learning, the majority of the time is spent on learning the movements. Subsequently, music is not played that much, maybe once every 15 minutes. However, towards completion, there will be a focus on accurate and precise movement that can only be done w/ repetition, so much will be played very often.

10. What are the time constraints on the tasks?

  • There are no exact time constraints. Having to seek through to music does take up time that could be spent on other more important activities.

11. What happens when things go wrong?

  • There are not too many consequences when music is incorrectly played. Often, it is a minor error and more time will be spent on trying to find the correct track or section. There could be issues when the iPod breaks or errors, but we feel that those issues come from hardware, and it is not a problem we seek to address.

Analysis of Tasks


  1. Play back playlist from either your music library or prebuilt routines: Users want to be able to add routines to their music library and then create playlists using either original songs or their own routines. The inconvenience of having to switch back and forth with the iPhone/iPod music library would make having playlists cut down on the time switching between different software packages. The playlist ability would also afford the user greater use for dance-specific tasks such as autostopping between tracks (suggested by Dance Group A), or an autorepeat function where someone can specify how long it waits till it repeats and what mark or song it may start from. This is an easy task because the main functionality of building and playing playlists is already easy to do on an iPhone or iPod Touch; however, our application offers different options specifically tailored for dancers for those features, and we want those to be as easy to do as possible.
  2. Marking and jumping to specific points in music: For specially choreographed pieces, a choreographer does not want to continually seek in a song for the specific section of music they are learning for the dance. Having easily creatable and accessible marks in a song would let a choreographer just click on his or her specified mark and immediately be taken to the right part of the song. They can create these marks by either placing a finger on the appropriate spot of the song's timeline, or by just pausing the song and selecting an option to mark this point (which would then allow the user to store and name the mark). It is currently incredibly opaque as to how to do this on an iPod, and one can only specify a single starting point versus multiple start and end points. Despite this, as it is by far the most needed task for dancers who work with choreography, we want the task to be as simple to navigate as possible in our application.


  1. Cutting and labeling music segments by choosing starting and ending points of a song (a.k.a making a clip): Dance routines typically make use of short sections of songs. Thus, instead of add a whole song to a routine, users want to be able to choose a portion of that song to add to the routine. This is impossible to do right now without a music editing program on an actual PC, but for choreographers we wanted them to be able to experience direct manipulation of the song as they cut it up and label their new cuts. This way a choreographer looking for just the right selection of music can easily experiment with new music by quickly cutting up the clips using appropriate markers.
  2. Tagging music in library and playing music by tags: In order to dance to a certain set of songs, all with the same tempo needed for something like a waltz, users need to be able to tag songs in their library with certain qualities. For instance, it is often found that songs not normally thought of as waltzes actually have the necessary beat, so being able to tag it as a waltz and later playback all waltz songs would be enormously helpful, as suggested by Dance Group B. This can currently be done by creating a playlist with all your waltz songs, but the information that it is a waltz is not associated with the song itself, so when you're scanning through your songs you miss the fact that it may be in your waltz playlist. With our application, it would be a special option, hence the medium difficulty, but it would still be easily accessible and visible.


  1. Sequencing clips to be played back in order (a.k.a. creating a routine/playlist): A user wants to be able to build a playlist to be played back for a dance routine. To do that, he or she would arrange clips of songs in an order based on the choreography. With all their clips and tracks at their disposal, they could then directly manipulate the clips and move them around till they have them in the order that is most pleasing to them as choreographers. This task is currently only done by PC-oriented audio editing software, which is incredibly dense and difficult to navigate due to the large breadth of options. By focusing down, we hope to vastly decrease the difficulty of the task, but understand sequencing music will be the most difficult of tasks to initially figure out. By using direct manipulation and making it as visual as possible, hopefully this will counteract the effects of such.
  2. Inserting whitespace or fade within sequence to automatically pause or meld music: Pauses within dance sequences are often necessary for a break, to give instructions, or just as a transition between two songs. Not only this, but fading between two songs or controlling the volume of a transition would be advanced options of sequencing. Like the above task, this can be done by PC-audio editing, but such software is targeted at production versus the simple needs of most dance choreography. So while it is difficult, we wish to maintain our direct manipulation theme to allow the user to pinch between two clips to insert something in between, etc.

Our design philosophy is to cover only the bare essentials for dancers and choreographers, so all of these tasks should be very easy to execute after the first or second use of the application. Our target user group should not have to wade through unnecessary options.

Interface Design

UI Description


  • Create a playlist that can be played back using various options
  • Marking specific points in music to easily be jumped to
  • Cut songs into clips using starting and ending points
  • Tagging music in the library with customizable qualities
  • Sequencing clips to create a new routine
  • Adding whitespace, fade, or volume control between sequenced clips


  • Slow or speed up a song during certain sections
  • Allow specification of the tempo for a song (used for something like piano)
  • Overlay a track over a count with counts or claps (perhaps only beginning)


Part of the advantage of having such a focused target user group as dancers is that they do not need the bulk of options available by music editing software. The majority are not looking to produce their own audio, but use songs and tracks already out there to do so. With this in mind, dancers need their songs, their playlists, and their ability to mark and cut music. A tab-based application allows them to navigate between all of these swiftly, and in the effort to address the needs of their primary tasks, the tabs correspond to Playlists, Favorites, and Songs. The Favorites view will be the initial screen upon opening up the application, as dancers practice to the same few songs repeatedly in order to master their routine or footwork (depending on the type of dance). As the initial screen, it minimizes the number of clicks to access either their favorite songs, favorite routines, or favorite playlists. This means if they're starting practice they can immediately access whatever they need without navigating through multiple menus.

Everything is thought of as a product or manipulation of songs or playlists, so when one accesses a song they are brought to the Play/Edit view. Here they can either play the song, mark a beginning and an endpoint, or export as a clip to one's clip library. This means if someone is trying to mark music on the fly, they can do so on the exact same view that they would use to play the song. This again minimizes the number of clicks while keeping the user's view of the application's hierarchy strictly limited to the two spheres of playlists and songs. Direct manipulation in landscape view will be used for marking the track with two start and end scrubbers. If one so chooses, though, they can also enter the start and end times by the actual time stamp; not only this, but the options to specify the number of repeats and the speed of the song would be available. If you do not like what you've created, you can always delete everything and start all over.

Once you have all the clips you need from your favorite songs, you press the playlists tab and bring up the Playlist Library view. A couple routines and playlists you have created are in alphabetical order, although you can filter out just playlists or just routines, but you need to create a new one. The edit option in the top-right corner expands a menu on the right side of each playlist or routine where you can remove or rename on the fly. Kept as simple as possible as the view's purpose is purely utilitarian. The create a new playlist button takes you to the Playlist view, where a user can now start adding the clips and songs they have available in their library. The pencil signifies a link back the Play/Edit view for that song, just in case a user does not like the exact cut of the clip. Straight forward functionality of play/pause and skip to the next song are available at the bottom of the screen, the standard format will be employed as that is what the standard user of an iPod is trained to use. One can can just drag their finger on a song to move it and reorder the playlist. An edit button in the upper-right corner will hide the pencils so the user will not accidentally go to the Play/Edit view when dragging songs around. A pinch motion will also create whitespace between songs, which displays increasing time stamps as two songs get further apart, but the option to add whitespace through the pluses is also available. Dance Group A suggested an option to prompt for the next song be available, so we implemented it along with repeat at the bottom. Options will also be further expanded to include specifying how much time will progress before it repeats.

When one does select the plus button, and then library, the application takes the user to the Song/Clips view. Songs and clips are displays in alphabetical order. One practice would be to name a clip after the lyric it starts at, suggested by Dance Group A, but the application will automatically tag clips with the clip quality, in case a user hypothetically wishes to filter out everything but clips. This isn't supposed to be an application to replace iTunes, so it is expected that not a lot of music will be accessed by the user for the routines being created. Now just putting a finger on the appropriate song will add it to your playlist and take you back to the Playlist view. Before then, though, you can select the time stamps on the right to take you to the Play/Edit view to change around the clip. This makes the application more gentle in recovery of a bad cut of a clip. You can simply change it to whatever the appropriate length needs to be. As a prototype, more organization for music should not be needed given the small number of songs being used, but should the need for sorting by certain metadata beyond tagged qualifiers arise, it will be put in for all views with song selection.

Finally with all your clips and songs sequenced in the playlist under the Playlist view, you're ready to play or start your routine for dance practice! When saving, the option to add it to your Favorites view will be available. Just before practice, however, you realize you cannot remember if you put Bad Romance in the application's library or not. Going to the Song Library view, you quickly scan through to the B section of your alphabetical ordering of your songs. While it is not there, an options button in the top right corner expands a bar at the bottom for importing more songs. The options button (not shown in pictures) also makes visible a spray paint button next to each song that one can use to tag the song with a new qualifier, like Waltz, for sorting and playing later. The Waltz option would pop up as a playlist in the Playlist Library view after such a qualifier was created. Ballroom dancers can now tag music as they wished, suggested by Dance Group B, while they're listening instead of having to create a new playlist and go through the slightly more meticulous process. Clicking on the song title itself, to stay consistent with other views, will take you to the Play/Edit view.

As a prototype we believe this keeps our tasks streamlined to exactly what they need to do in as few steps as possible, but we still wish to perhaps make our application more visual with clip editing (like move clips around on screen and kind of crush them together in a timeline) and get some of our language between marking, tagging, routines, and playlists more precise. However, we believe going through this process has laid the foundation for concrete decisions in the near future.

UI Sketches

Sketches for various views on our interface are shown below.

Home Page / Favorites and Song Library

Playlist Library and Play/Edit (songs)

Song Clips and Playlist Song List

Scenario 1 - Marking a Song


Sally, the choreographer had been busy before practice and had forgotten to cut a track down to only the segment she needed. She remembers her incredible new application and navigates to Just Dance under the Songs tab. After pulling up the song, she uses the option to 'mark' the actual beginning she needs after moving the slider to the appropriate spot. Practice may now continue as she can always start at the point she needs with only the play button! Sally loses finger muscle mass because she no longer has to seek for starting points fifty times per practice.


Scenario 2 - Cutting and Labeling Clips of Music


Adam is the team leader for his break dancing group. He knows exactly what he wants to cover during practice, but he has had a hectic week and totally forgot to set up the music clips that they would be practicing tonight. Instead of panicking, he directly goes to his iPod application that would allow him to cut music. He picks out the song that he wants to dance to and is immediately able to slide the markers to the spots he wants to start and stop. He also puts in any notes that he has for the specific clip. Afterwards, he chooses to save the clip with a label. Taking another 2 minutes, he does this for the other 3 clips needed for practice. Now he can access all the clips in the clips view. BAM, he's done and he still has 28 more minutes to slack off.


Scenario 3 - Creating a Routine


Jake is a choreographer who has assembled a series of clips and tracks he would like to compile into a kickin' rad routine. He now needs to meld them into a single routine, but he does not want to deal with uploading the songs/clips to his computer and then have to navigate through the bulky audio software. He pulls up his dance application and accesses the Playlist tab where he can then create a new routine. He adds the necessary clips to the routine and then goes a little more advanced by adding whitespace between specific clips (his dancers need time to rest, after all). He saves his routine and is now ready for tomorrow's practice!


Analysis of Approach

Our application takes advantage of the fact that the iPhone/iPod Touch is small, mobile, and already associated with playing music. Since the target user group for our application will be practicing outside of technologically accessible areas, the iPhone's mobility becomes very useful. Users are already used to associating their iPhone/iPod Touch with music so interacting with their music while practicing or choreographing through their iPhone or iPod Touch is a small logical step. The touch interface also allows for direct manipulation of the music in a very obvious manner. For example, the touch interface allows users to drag songs into a different order and easily mark songs for later reference. Our application can also take advantage of the iPhone's network connectivity by finding songs in online libraries, and adding songs to the application through a web-interface as well as through the iPhone application.

Other potential solutions that our target group already takes advantage of are programs like Audacity that edit music on one's computer. Most of the groups that we interviewed used Audacity or a similar program to cut songs, mix them together, and change tempos of individual songs. The iPhone's native music application and iTunes already comes with a native seek function that allows users to find particular portions of the song. However, this functionality is greatly limited since only a single point within the song can be marked for future reference. Our application allows users to edit their music wherever they are despite their access to a full-fledged computer, which allows them to edit their music while at practice with their dance team, or when choreographing in a dance studio. However, we are limited by the small screen and the limited functionality of an iPhone application.

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