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Using Cultural Probes for Service Research

Exploring Stakeholders' Experiences Regarding ATM Services through Creative and Engaging Activities

Project Brief

The project aimed to design an ATM utilization assistance service for the elderly in Iran who were not familiar with technological devices. The research was conducted using a cultural probe kit to gain insight into the real-life experiences of older adults and their interactions with ATMs. The study focused on redesigning the ATM's appearance, environment, software, interactions, and hardware to make them more user-friendly for senior citizens.


To uncover the needs of older adults, the research team used a cultural probe kit and conducted behavioral observations and follow-up interviews with 9 participants. The kit consisted of various materials such as a disposable camera, storyboard cards, muddy cards, letter cards, and a booklet. Designing each activity and presenting it was essential to encourage participation. The collected data was analyzed using an affinity diagram to organize the information gathered from the probes.

Cultural Probe Materials

The Probe kit is a plastic folder contains:

  • a booklet

  • a disposable camera

  • storyboard cards

  • muddy cards

  • a letter card

  • a bottle with five colored paper

  • a small notebook

  • a  reminder card

  • a shopping Bag gift(environmentally friendly)

  • an envelope and a pen.

Careful design and presentation of each activity was crucial in motivating participants to complete the tasks.

Aspects of the Design Kit

The booklet included a section for participants to disclose any physical issues they may have had by using red labels instead of having to respond to written questions. This approach proved to be effective as participants found it to be more engaging and enjoyable, almost like a game. During the interviews, it became evident that participants were hesitant to discuss their physical weaknesses. However, this activity created an opportunity for open discussion, which allowed them to feel more comfortable sharing this information with me.

Another exciting element of my probes was a disposable camera provided to participants with a list of topics to photograph. The camera had two possible labels to choose from to indicate whether they felt comfortable working with certain electronic devices. This activity was much simpler and more enjoyable than traditional methods of cultural probes that required participants to write the picture number on the back of the camera. Overall, these design elements helped to facilitate open communication and engagement with participants in a way that was both efficient and enjoyable.


The outcome of the project was a list of policies and strategies that banks in Iran could consider to design better services for older adults. The study provided insight into the real-life experiences of seniors and their interactions with ATMs, which were used to design an ATM utilization assistance service that was active from the moment they received their card until they finished their interactions with the ATM. The study resulted in redesigned ATMs that were more user-friendly for the elderly in Iran, leading to valuable and pleasant experiences.

The Designed Cultural Probe Kit for this Research

The Materials Included in Cultural Pakage of this Study 

Wishful Thinking - Exploring ATM User Needs through a Cultural Probe Activity

Capturing User Experiences - A Photography Activity to Explore Electronic Device Challenges

From Delivery to Discussion - A Step-by-Step Guide to Using a Cultural Probe Kit for User Research

Sharing Research Findings - Poster Presentation at the 47th Canadian Association of Gerontologists Conference

Designing for Feedback - Using Low-Fidelity Prototypes to Spark Discussion and Refine Design Services

Visualizing the Designed Service: A Big Picture Perspective with Elements Needed in Each Part of the Service