OverviewBackgroundResearchIdeationWireframesUsability TestingFinal Product

Clean Air Tool

UX Case Study
Project Overview
The Clean Air Tool is a product that helps users find effective portable air cleaners that are customized to the dimensions of their indoor space, with a purpose of mitigating the risk of the spread of the COVID-19 virus. Created during the peak of the COVID-19 pandemic, we recognized the increase of airborne diseases and pollutants around the world. Now more than ever, it is crucial to create a product that helps implement extra safety precautions for the wellbeing of individuals and businesses.
Go to Figma document
My Role
UX Designer & Researcher
6 months

Background & Context

During the COVID-19 pandemic, maintaining healthy air quality has become a crucial factor in mitigating the spread of airborne disease and viruses.

Taking on this problem space for my final capstone project, my team and I were sponsored by the University of Washington Information School to redesign an existing product called Air Cleaner Calculator, created by the previous year's capstone team.

Small businesses were a vulnerable target during the peak of the pandemic. They lack the resources to stay operational during the extreme phases of COVID, causing them to shut down temporarily or even permanently for some businesses in extreme cases. According to a study published by PNAS in July 2020, 43% of small businesses have temporarily shut down or closed permanently. Across the sample, the most prominent reason was due to COVID-19 related concerns.

My Role

My role in this project was the lead UX designer & researcher.

I worked with a cross-functional team of 7 others including a project manager, database pipeline manager, graphic designer, and software developers. I led the weekly design jams, usability testing sessions, and stakeholder meetings throughout the product development.

The original product focused on helping small businesses owners to maintain safe air quality in order to operational during the COVID-19 pandemic. Since then, we have redesigned and expanded the versatility of our product for general use, as research shows the benefits of air cleaners for factors other than airborne diseases. The new product, rebranded as the Clean Air Tool, can be used to find portable air cleaners and achieve cleaner air for any indoor space, from a bedroom to an office building.

Problem Statement

Here, is our mission statement for this project...

How might small, independently owned businesses achieve cleaner air quality in indoor spaces so that they can maintain safe air conditions for their employees and customers?

Who are we designing for?

Meet Ali, a small business owner.

Ali Nguyen is the owner of the award-winning restaurant called Hai Pho in Seattle, Washington. She wants her restaurant to be local and cozy and since her restaurant is close to the highway intersection, she cannot have patio seats due to pollution. During the peak of the pandemic, Ali had to close down her restaurant due to COVID spreading to multiple employees. Although the restrictions have died down, Ali still experiences problems with mold and poor ventilation. She wants to ensure that her indoor space has healthy air quality to create a better environment for her employees and customers.

With Ali in mind, we began our design journey- first by analyzing the existing solution & product.

Key Challenges & Constraints

Let's take a look at the original product.

The link to the original product can be viewedhere.

The main features include finding an air cleaner and testing an air cleaner. Below are some quick snapshots (select to expand view).

Feature Flow

Select find/test air cleaner -> Presented with a form to enter in room dimensions -> See efficiency dashboard of air cleaner -> Presented with a list of suitable cleaners

Main Critiques

1. Fails to educate users on the "why" of the importance of air quality maintenance
2. Has a risk of form fatigue (too much scrolling)
3. Needs a friendlier, personable touch to the user experience.

Key Constraints

The challenge of this design being in the health quality space is that we had to collect complex information from the users and deliver accurate results while also maintaining an intuitive, user friendly design that is easy to use and understand.

A huge pivot: The biggest challenge of this project was managing the ambiguity of the time we were in.

As a COVID-centered project, there was so much ambiguity and rocky factors throughout the process. The most significant change was that COVID restrictions and phases in Washington state were lifted during the course of this project. This required us to completely redesign and pivot our project into a more general air quality tool rather than strictly a COVID-19 tool.

Finally, we were ready to begin our extensive research journey.


First, meet our stakeholders.

To ensure that we were utilizing the most accurate and up to date information for this problem space, we organized an project advisory board of our main stakeholders including health experts, air quality experts, and small business owners:

  • Sarah Lee, Governor's Advanced Manufacturing Sector Lead @ Washington State Department of Commerce
  • Lisa Goodman, Co-Founder and Board of Director @ Restart Partners
  • Dr. Edmund Seto, Associate Professor @ University of Washington Environmental Health Sciences
  • Marissa Baker, Assistant Professor @ University of Washington Environmental Health Sciences
  • Joey Fox, HVAC Engineer
  • Julie Reinhardt, Small Business Owner
  • Tresa Thomas-Massiongale, Consultant @ Peacefield
The first phase of research included literature reviews, stakeholder interviews, and moderated usability testing sessions of the original prototype. Here are our findings:
43% of small businesses had temporarily shut down during the peak of the COVID-19 pandemic.
Reasons include a decrease in demand and health concerns of employees & customers.
Research has found that air cleaners can reduce the aerosol exposure by up to 65%.
A combination of HEPA air cleaners and universal masking it can reduce aerosol exposure by up to 90%.
The original product fails to educate users.
The biggest takeaway from the usability testing was that stakeholders didn't understand the purpose of the product, or what it does.

Solution Approach & Strategy

How should I approach this design space, given these insights?

These are the key features of the product.

The key features stayed the same, however we redesigned it using a different approach. including a more user friendly form experience, and personalized air cleaner recommendations page.  

Design a user-friendly form.
Hold the user's hand through the process of entering in their information, minimizing drop-off rates.
Create a personalized journey for the users.
Instead of spitting out an extensive list of air cleaners, explain the best options and the why.
Educate the users on the importance of air quality and how to maintain their portable air cleaners.
So a user purchased an air cleaner based on our recommendation. Then what? Education on the maintenance of these devices is crucial in maintaining safe air quality for the indoor space/business.

Usability Testing

We created the first version of our web prototype, and for the next 2 weeks, conducted usability testing sessions with six of our stakeholders.

My teammates and I recorded feedback and opportunities that arose throughout the validation sessions. Participants vocalized their actions as they completed the tasks we listed.

The biggest takeaway from this session was that some users don't have the capacity to physically measure the dimensions of their indoor space. We explored other approaches to the design where can generalize the data and still provide the user with helpful information of suitable air cleaners for their indoor space.

Final Product

Here is our final product, the Clean Air Tool.

Embedded Prototype

Unfortunately, after the project was handed off to our sponsors, they have failed to maintain the domain of our product (cleanairtool.com). Although this isn't the ideal outcome for a product we worked so hard on, it doesn't disregard the work that we accomplished. Here is a prototype demo video of the website version that walks through the content.


What are the next steps?

We have met with Sarah Lee, the manufacturing sector lead at the Washington State Department of Commerce, and discussed how we can begin to introduce this to the public and possibly have the state department of health share this resource. As of now, the project has been handed off.

What went well?

Overall, we effectively communicated with stakeholders and integrated the feedback into the features of our product. We conducted so many usability testing sessions over the course of this project, and for each piece of advice we were able to create creative and effective solutions to address a user's pain point. Speaking with industry professionals became quite comfortable at first, despite it being an intimidating at the start. Looking back, I believe my team did a great job of collaborating and helping eachother in so many different aspects.

What could have gone better?

Unlike other capstone teams with a team of four, our team consisted of eight people with different roles. Although it was a huge blessing to have the moral support and individual skills of each member, it was a challenge working with such a large group. Communication became absolutely crucial to pass off tasks to meet the deadlines.

Takeaways 💫

This capstone project was an amazing experience where I was able to apply all the raw skills I've learned in courses as well as from internships into another real world project. This time, we were the leaders and made big decisions alongside our mentors. Despite the struggles we went through as a team, it was extremely fulfilling working on a project that could have a real impact on the community around us. Last but not least, I learned that capstone isn't necessarily about creating a flawless product by the end-- it's about the meaningful relationships and connections you get to make with the people around you.