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Tattoo Planning UX Research

About the Project

This project outlines our team’s investigation into how people research for a tattoo with the goal of developing a technology-based tool to help with their tattoo planning. A shortened version of the results of our observations, interviews, and surveys are detailed below, along with our implications for design. Please click on the button below to view the report in its entirety.

Click Below to View the Full Report

Tattoo Planning Report – Full

Client
Personal Work

Created at
DePaul University

Project Teammates
Julie Rochelle
Sup Suh
Kevin Zimmerman


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I. Executive Summary

Tattoos are increasing in popularity in the United States. In our research, we found people usually plan and research tattoos prior to getting one. While online resources can help with planning, there is no single resource available that helps people plan a tattoo from start to finish. Research challenges include finding the right style of a tattoo, finding an artist/tattoo shop, and booking an appointment with an artist. In this project, we aimed to investigate how people research for a tattoo with the goal of developing a technology-based tool to help people with their tattoo planning.

In September 2017, our team observed four participants as they used a laptop or mobile device to locate a business or tattoo artist that would fit the style they are looking for. We observed the participant’s actions and behaviors. During the observations, we recorded notes and used the AEIOU framework to organize and analyze our data.

In October 2017, our team conducted four interviews with participants who have at least one tattoo and were currently looking to get another tattoo. We asked how they had researched tattoos, and what challenges they faced when doing so. We audio recorded the interviews, transcribed them, and inductively coded each interview to identify common themes.

In November 2017, our team conducted a survey directed at participants who have at least one tattoo. We asked about previous tattoos, how they researched, and what technology they had used. We analyzed our survey using descriptive and inferential statistics.

We found that our observation, interview, and survey participants planned tattoos using a variety of methods. We organized our findings into five themes:

  • Motivations – An individual’s motivations for getting a tattoo influenced their priorities when planning their tattoo.
  • Search – People looking to get a tattoo begin with a search to start gathering information.
  • Exploration – An individual’s level of exploration into subject matter, styles, and tattoo artists greatly influenced their experiences.
  • Selection – Decisions and choices are made based on criteria that person has in mind.
  • Interactions – An individual’s interactions with the tattoo artist and the tattoo shop environment greatly influenced overall experience and satisfaction.

(See Figure 1 for the relationships among the data collection methods when themes were explored.)

Figure 1: Themes and Data Collection Methods

Tattoo Planning Themes

Our observation, interview, and survey results inform the design of a technology-based solution that will assist people in planning their tattoo. Specifically, the solution should help people research tattoos based on style, location of artist, availability of artist, reviews, and price, and support communication between customer and artist. Planning a tattoo can vary greatly among individuals, and thus the solution should be created for a catered planning experience.

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II. Introduction

People get tattoos for a variety of reasons that include self-expression, a visual display of a personal narrative, and to get attention (Fisher, 2002). According to The Harrison Poll, 47% of Millennials, 36% of Gen Xers, and 13% of Baby Boomers (30% overall) in the US reported having a tattoo in 2016 (Shannon-Missal, 2016). With more people getting tattoos there is also a higher chance of ‘tattoo regret’; Laumann (2006) estimated that one-third of people regretted (at least one of) their tattoo(s). We believe that there is a need for an information tool/service to help people learn about and choose where and by-whom to get a tattoo they will not regret. We are asking “how can the process of planning tattoos be improved?” In this project, we aimed to investigate how people plan a tattoo with the goal of developing a technology-based tool to help people with their tattoo planning.

Tattoo information is widely available on many different platforms that include social networking sites, blogs, and apps. While the abundance of resources has inspired individuals to independently research their tattoo ideas, we have found that it is still difficult because there is no one system or tool for an individual to plan a tattoo from start to finish. For example, to book an appointment with a tattoo artist, one might have to go to a Facebook page, Instagram page, the tattoo shop, and/or email the artist. There is one major website resource called Tattoodo that we identified as a competitor; we also identified Instagram as a tertiary competitor.

Tattoodo (https://www.tattoodo.com/) displays (a) different types of styles, (b) a search database, and (c) includes relevant articles. However, we argue that the application is lacking in three areas. First, it does not fully layout the start-to-finish process, that is, it fails to educate users who are new to tattooing. Second, it lacks contact information and users cannot use the app to book an appointment. (The app only provides references). Last, the app does not afford filtering; e.g. if searching for a specific style of tattoo, users cannot filter down by an area in the United States to get the style of tattoo of interest.

We also identified Instagram (https://instagram.com) as a tertiary competitor. This is the primary social media site where tattoo artists display their online portfolios. It does a good job of listing contact information and previous work. People can use the social media platform to find points of interest by hashtags in the search query. This platform can be used as a reference for a user to get ideas about the subject matter. However, Instagram does not educate users about the tattoo process or provide reviews and ratings for the artist. It also does not allow for filtering of hashtag search results.

We found there is a paucity of academic literature focused on the process of acquiring tattoos. Goulding (2004) explored the nature of customer interactions and the development of client/provider relationships in the tattoo industry. The authors, however, did not address external factors that may come into play and did not discuss how informed consumers were before getting a tattoo. Sanders (1985) discussed the issues of consumers not understanding the full process, but failed to report how people should conduct research. Velliquette (1998) explored what motivates people to participate in this subculture and what was involved in the experience of acquiring a tattoo. However, the author did not examine how people researched choosing and getting a tattoo.

After our competitor research and academic literature search, we observed four users who were in the beginning stages of planning a tattoo. We then conducted interviews with four participants to gather more insight, and finally surveyed eighty-five participants to analyze data from a larger sample size. In the following sections we present our methods and findings, and discuss the implications of our findings from our observations, interviews, and surveys for people planning a tattoo.

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III. Methods

Please see the full report for our (A) Observation, (B) Interview, and (C) Survey methods.

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IV. Findings

In the following section, we will present our findings for our (A) Observations, (B) Interviews, and (C) Surveys. We also include sections describing our (D) Personas, and (E) Experience Maps. (For additional items, including a Features Matrix and User Scenarios, please see the full report.)

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A. Observation Findings

We found three consistent themes related to our research question: How can the process of planning a tattoo be improved? The three themes are:

  • (1) Search – People looking to get a tattoo begin with a search to start gathering information
  • (2) Exploration – Results are evaluated and explored by the person based on their individual goals
  • (3) Selection – Decisions and choices are made based on criteria that person has in mind

Each of these themes are discussed below.

1. Search

In all observations, participants conducted a search to locate a business or tattoo artist that fit the style they were looking for. Three of the four participants—Henry, Joey, and Michael—opened a browser on their laptop and immediately used Google to search. All three continued their search inside Google Maps to look for tattoo businesses close to their location. The remaining participant, Ashley, did not use Google, however she did use the search functionality inside the application Instagram on her mobile device to search for specific styles and tattoo artists.

Search was not only conducted in the beginning, but was an ongoing activity throughout each observation. All participants conducted multiple searches. After the initial search, Henry then used search to also view ratings and reviews of businesses to narrow down his list; he told us that he “would next search forums and Reddit to read more about the specific artist or shop.” Joey and Michael both used search during the middle of the observation to cross-reference their results from the Google location and/or article search to Instagram results. In doing this, both participants were attempting to gather more information about a business or artist or view more of their previous work. Finally, Ashley continued to conduct a new search each time she viewed a different business or an artist feed in Instagram.

2. Exploration

During the observations, all four participants explored the results of their search, evaluated the information based on their personal criteria, and then either continued a cycle of search and exploration, or moved forward to the selection of an artist.

Three participants, Henry, Joey, and Michael, explored tattoo artists/businesses based on their location at some point during the observation, and each viewed Google Maps to see where the artist/business was in relation to where they live. These same participants also viewed tattoo business websites either from the map view or in Michael’s case, after viewing recent articles on expertise.com. Information such as artist profiles, images of artist’s work, and reviews of artists were viewed on business websites.

Viewing images of artists’ previous work/portfolios was a common activity in this theme. All four participants viewed artists’ portfolios at multiple times during the observation. Also, during the wrap-up section of the observation, all participants were asked what criteria they look for to make their decision, and all four stated “artistic ability.”

The application Instagram was a common tool used for exploration. Three participants—Joey, Ashley, and Michael—used Instagram at some point during the observation. Ashley used only Instagram during the activity, while both Joey and Michael continued to move back and forth among different websites and Instagram.

During the wrap-up section, we asked participants if there were any methods they would use that they couldn’t demonstrate to us. All four participants mentioned their friends. Henry, Ashley, and Michael all stated they would talk to friends and ask them for their recommendations, while Joey stated he would have a friend do a sketch or mock-up of a tattoo if he couldn’t do it himself.

3. Selection

Participants felt they had enough information gained from exploration in the tattoo planning processes we observed to establish contact with the artist.

Joey visited the artist’s profile page found through the tattoo business’ website, and sent a message to that artist through the online form. In the message he stated where he would like the tattoo placed on his body and he included a sketched idea; he asked to discuss it further with the artist. Ashley located the email address for the artist she was interested in on their Instagram profile. She said, “I would email the tattooer to check availability.” Michael stated during the wrap-up questions that he would go to the business/artist he found because “their prior work looks nice.” Henry stated that at this point he would like to do more research and get more advice before making an artist selection.

We created a combined flow diagram of the planning process that we observed. (See Figure 2: Tattoo Planning Flow Diagram below.)

Figure 2: Tattoo Planning Flow Diagram

Observation Flow Diagram

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B. Interview Findings

We categorized our interview findings into three themes related to our research question regarding how the process of planning a tattoo can be improved:

  • (1) Motivations – An individual’s motivations for getting a tattoo influenced their priorities when planning their tattoo
  • (2) Exploration – An individual’s level of exploration into subject matter, styles, and tattoo artists greatly influenced their experiences
  • (3) Interactions – An individual’s interactions with the tattoo artist and the tattoo shop environment greatly influenced experience and satisfaction

Each of these themes are discussed in the next sections.

1. Motivations

Our participants had varied motivations for getting their tattoos. Motivations ranged from highly personal and sentimental to simply aesthetically pleasing. Three of the four participants got tattoos with and/or about their family members. For example, Duncan said, “The arm bands on the left arm are my family birthdates…and underneath is two Latin words saying ‘unshakable foundation’, which is the importance of families.” Keith and his twin brother decided to get matching tattoos of a coffin with roses around it that says “Womb to Tomb” and their birth year in roman numerals, which was sentimental to both of them. Ali and her cousin both got tattoos of a half bicycle because they used to ride bicycles around Chicago together and he was “like a big brother” to her.

Three of four participants were motivated to get a tattoo to represent an important event in their lives, such as a marriage or finishing a postgraduate degree. Keith stated, “The fourth tattoo I got post-graduation…so I got something symbolically representative of something that influences my daily life and impacts me.

Other motivations among the participants included: (a) representations of emotional feelings; (b) liking how something looked visually; and/or (c) getting past tattoos covered. In an example of the first motivation, Ali stated, “I got a tattoo of a sun because I used to feel like as long as the sun was out I could always find a reason to be happy.” In an example of the latter two motivations, Mark described his tattoo of a joker, stating, “Saw the picture, liked it, thought it would make a good tattoo, and now that I’m older, not so much. I would like to get that one covered up next.”

2. Exploration

Participants’ levels of exploration into the subject matter, style of tattoo, and tattoo artists influenced their overall experience in the planning process. The amount of research was varied not only among each participant, but also among each tattoo they had obtained. For instance, when Ali and her soccer teammates decided to get similar tattoos together, Ali said the artist, whom was a friend to some team members, was already selected and they let him decide how to represent the subject matter they chose. She stated, “The tattoo artist designed it for the team but [each team member] has a different component. Mine has a rainbow spider in the background and I am the only one that has that.” However, for the new tattoo she would like to get, Ali is looking to go to a European artist that is in high demand, which has involved a considerably higher level of exploration and planning than her previous tattoo. Ali said, “…it would be like the best kind of souvenir if I’m having a good trip, and she is in high demand so that would make me feel like it was more unique. It’s an appointment only kind of system and she tends to be fully booked.

Mark also had varied experience in the level of exploration for each of his tattoos. When discussing how his research for his most recent tattoo was different than his previous tattoos, he stated, “On my previous ones, I just went to any tattoo shop and said, ‘Hey can you do this?’ and they were like, ‘Oh yeah, sure.’, but this one [pointing to the half-sleeve tattoo on his left arm] I actually researched.” He also talked about why his most recent tattoo was his favorite. Mark said, “Because of…the amount of research I put into it. There’s more time invested into it. So I knew it wasn’t a spur of the moment thing, I knew this is what I wanted.”

Duncan’s exploration was framed by his own artistic direction; once he had a concept of a tattoo he would like to get, he designed his tattoos. When discussing his most recent tattoo, he stated, “I wanted to get elements on my arm. So the first thing I come to is a periodic table…on Google Images. Then I take this image and put it in like Photoshop or Illustrator and then recreate it.”

All four participants used technology-based tools to explore and plan their tattoo. Three out of four used Instagram; two used Google; and one used Facebook. Other resources mentioned included Adobe Photoshop and Illustrator, Tumblr, and Reddit. Two participants, Mark and Keith, used both their laptop and phone, while Ali primarily used her phone, and Duncan primarily used his laptop.

Participants that used Instagram (Mark, Ali, and Keith) stated it was “helpful” overall but they also mentioned some downsides. For example, Keith stated, “I feel it can be helpful, but with the pure volume of artists on Instagram it can be overwhelming. Its filtering and trying to find an artist is something that can be hard, especially if you are looking in an immediate area, like within city or state.

Google was mentioned by participants as a good resource for inspiration and a place to start your search, but participants felt it was also overwhelming. For example, when discussing Google search, Mark said, “Just everyone is lumped into one group…if you were to search for cover-up artists you might find one or two, but then they are lumped in with all artists and you have to go into each site to see if they have any experience with that and what not.

3. Interactions

Interactions among participants and tattoo artists and/or shop environments greatly influenced overall experience and satisfaction. All four participants mentioned the artist and tattoo shop when discussing both their good and bad experiences. When discussing a good experience, Ali said, “Oh man, the squirrel one was good because the artist was just as excited about giving it to me as I was getting it. Tattoo parlors and artists can be kind of intimidating sometimes, so it was sweet to have an artist that was stoked to be putting it on me.” Keith mentioned that during his most recent tattoo “the tattoo artist was very personable, asked me questions, let me be quiet, and was comfortable with the silence.

Negative interactions with an artist or tattoo shop always led to bad experiences. When Duncan talked about why he didn’t choose certain artists he stated, “Mostly, it’s because I think that something threw me off, like…I don’t know, the environment that I walked into I just didn’t feel…it just didn’t feel right for me.” While describing a bad experience, Keith said, “I reached out to a tattoo artist before they were going to an area for a stop and they didn’t respond. I never got a response back and I thought that was too impersonal. It wasn’t very professional.

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C. Survey Findings

We categorized our survey findings into four sections relating to our research question regarding how the process of planning a tattoo can be improved: (1) Experience, (2) Exploration, (3) Testing of Hypothesis One, and (4) Testing of Hypothesis Two. (For additional survey findings, please see the full report.)

1. Experience

Participants’ previous tattoo experience was analyzed for design implication and future work insight. We examined experience-related survey results by investigating key aspects: (a) History, and (b) Partiality.

(a) History
More than half of all participants (about 52%) had either one or two tattoos (26% had one tattoo, 26% had two tattoos). About 19% had six or more tattoos. (See Graph 3.)

Graph 3: Participants Current Number of Tattoos

Current Number of Tattoos Graph

 

Almost a third of participants got their first tattoo at the age of 18 (about 29%), with the second and third highest percentages being the age of 19 (about 14%) and the age of 21 (about 12%). (See Graph 4.)

Graph 4: Participants Age of First Tattoo

Age of First Tattoo Graph

 

Most participants (about 64%) got their most recent tattoo one year ago or more, while 36% of participants got their last tattoo one year ago or less. (See Graph 5.)

Graph 5: How Long Ago Participants Got Their Most Recent Tattoo

Most Recent Tattoo Graph

 

(b) Partiality
Most participants have a favorite tattoo (60%), while 40% like all of their tattoos equally. (See Graph 6.) Only about 11% of participants had a tattoo they regret, while about 89% do not regret any tattoos they have. (See Graph 7.)

Graph 6: Do Participants Have a Favorite Tattoo?

Favorite Tattoo Graph

Graph 7: Do Participants Have Any Tattoos They Regret?

Tattoo Regret Graph

 

2. Exploration

Our interview research indicated that participants had varied methods of exploration. As a result, we wanted to examine this theme in our survey by investigating the key aspects: (a) Time Spent, (b) Importance of Types of Information, (c) Resources Used, and (d) Challenges of the Tattoo Planning Process.

The survey results confirmed our previous findings that emphasized the role of technology in exploration, which we also discuss in this section.

(a) Time Spent
We asked participants, “How much time did you spend researching your first tattoo?” Participants were presented with the following choices:

  • None
  • Hours
  • Days
  • Months
  • A year or more

A majority of participants (39%) spent months researching their first tattoo. A smaller percentage of participants spent hours (20%), and 17% spent no time, 12% spent days, and 13% spent a year or more researching their first tattoo. (See Graph 10.)

Graph 10: Time Spent Researching First Tattoo

Research First Tattoo Graph

 

In order to further investigate the differences between time spent getting the first tattoo and getting their most recent tattoo, we asked our survey participants, “(If you have more than one tattoo) How much time did you spend researching your most recent tattoo?” Participants were presented with multiple choices:

  • None
  • Hours
  • Days
  • Months
  • A year or more
  • N/A (Participants were directed to select this option if they only had one tattoo)

About a third (28%) of participants spend months researching their most recent tattoo, while only 9% of participants spent no time researching their most recent tattoo. One quarter (24%) of participants spent hours, 24% of participants spent days, and 15% spent a year or more researching their most recent tattoo. Although “months” was the highest percentage for both first and most recent tattoo, “none” was a higher frequency in first tattoo, with a year or more being a lower frequency for the first tattoo (see Graph 10), when compared to the most recent tattoo the inverse was true. (See Graph 12.)

Graph 12: Time Spent Researching Most Recent Tattoo

Research Recent Tattoo Graph

 

(b) Importance of Types of Information
In order to further investigate the conditions in which participants plan their tattoo, we asked participants, “When researching your tattoo(s), how important were the following types of information?”  We asked the level of importance on a five-point Likert scale for:

  • Typical Cost
  • Placement on Body
  • Medical Implications
  • Effect on my skin
  • Precautions/Aftercare
  • Amount of Pain/Tolerance of Pain
  • Sterilizations
  • Skill of Artist

We found that the most important types of information were skill of the artist (81%), sterilization (67%), and placement on body (66%). The survey also indicated that the least important types of information were amount of pain/tolerance of pain (34%), medical implications (33%), and effect on skin (28%). (See Graph 14.)

Graph 14: Importance of Type of Information

Information Importance Graph

 

(c) Resources Used
To get a better insight of how participants used resources to gain information and ideas for looking for a tattoo artist we asked, “When looking for a tattoo artist, how often have you used the following resources to gain information and ideas?” Participants ranked resources on a five-point Likert scale:

  • Friends/Family
  • Online Search
  • Visit to Shop

We found that 34% of participants always used a visit to a shop resource the most to gain information when looking for a tattoo artist. The next highest resource always used was online search (29%), followed by friends/family (23%). Most surprising was the fact that 19% of participants never used friends/family or an online search as a resource. (See Graph 16.)

Graph 16: Resources Used to Gain Information and Ideas

Resources Used Graph

 

To get a better insight of how participants used technology and on what platform while planning a tattoo we asked, “Which device do you use most for researching a tattoo?” Participants were presented with multiple choices:

  • Computer
  • Mobile Phone
  • Tablet
  • Other

The survey results showed that participants primarily used a computer (48%) or mobile phone (45%). Only one participant used a tablet (1%) while 6% of participants reported “other”. This finding shows that we need to design for both mobile and desktop since both are main platforms for planning a tattoo. (See Graph 17.)

Graph 17: Device Used Most for Researching a Tattoo

Device Used Graph

 

To gain insight of what technology participants use while researching a tattoo we asked, “When researching your tattoo(s), how often have you used the following tools?” Participants ranked tools on a five-point Likert scale:

  • Facebook
  • Instagram
  • Pinterest
  • Reddit
  • Google
  • Tumblr

The survey results showed that participants primarily always used Google (36%). A smaller percentage of participants always used Instagram (13%) and Pinterest (13%). An even smaller portion of participants always used Facebook (9%), Reddit (4%), and Tumblr (2%). A large amount of participants reported never using Tumblr (66%), Reddit (66%), Facebook (60%), or Pinterest (46%). Surprisingly, 40% of participants never used Instagram and 12% never used Google. These findings for the survey were unexpected, as during our observations and interviews almost all participants always used Google and/or Instagram for tattoo planning. (See Graph 18.)

Other tools mentioned by participants that weren’t listed as options were Yelp, the tattoo shop’s website, the BBB (Better Business Bureau), and state licensing websites.

Graph 18: How Often Technology Tools Were Used

Tech Tools Used Graph

 

To understand what features participants want while researching tattoos we asked, “How important are the following things to you when researching a tattoo?” Participants ranked importance on a five-point Likert scale:

  • Ability to filter your search based on style of tattoo
  • Ability to search for artist by location.
  • Ability to view an artist’s portfolio
  • Ability to see reviews and ratings of artists
  • Ability to see artists endorsed by friends/family

The survey results showed that participants primarily want the ability to view an artist’s portfolio (68%) followed by having the ability to see reviews and ratings of artists (47%). Another important measure was the ability to contact the artist (44%) and ability to search for artist by location (33%). The ability to filter search based on style of tattoo (27%) and ability to see artists endorsed by friends and family (18%) were the lowest rated. (See Graph 19). This provided insight into what should be considered in a possible solution to help with the tattoo planning process.

Graph 19: Importance of Features in a Technology Tool

Importance of Tech Features Graph

 

(d) Challenges of the Tattoo Planning Process
We asked participants an open-ended question, “What challenges have you had when planning a tattoo.” There was variability of responses but one key theme emerged. Participants had a hard time tracking an artist and being able to set up an appointment. One participant responded, Finding an opening in the artist’s schedule in comparison of my schedule. My favorite tattoo took a full day to complete but there was a four-month waiting list to get into the shop.”  While another participant stated, “Some tattoo studios do not have a good online presence. It’s also hard to find appointments, because sometimes you don’t find out there is a wait list until you want to book an appointment.” The results both confirmed and exposed previously unknown pain points in the tattoo planning process.

 

3. Testing of Hypothesis One

Spontaneous, cautious, and vigilant persona types research different attributes while planning a tattoo; specifically, we examined (a) Pain and (b) Sterilization. (For a more in-depth explanation, please see the full report.)

The three groups of participants were determined as follows:

  • Spontaneous (n=28): Spent none or hours or days researching their most recent tattoo
  • Cautious (n = 44): Spent months researching their most recent tattoo
  • Vigilant (n=13): Spent years researching their most recent tattoo

For the respondents that only had one tattoo, we added their data from their first and only tattoo to the groups.

Table 3: Results of Hypothesis One

Hypotheses 1 Results

The cautious group ranked the importance of pain/tolerance of pain higher than the spontaneous and vigilant groups. The cautious and vigilant groups ranked the importance of sterilization higher than the spontaneous group.

 

4. Testing of Hypothesis Two

Spontaneous, cautious, and vigilant persona types have different preferences of technology features; specifically, we examined importance of (a) Filtering by Style, (b) Viewing Artist By Location, and (c) Viewing Artist Portfolio. (For a more in-depth explanation, please see the full report.)

The three groups of participants were determined as follows:

  • Spontaneous (n=28): Spent none or hours or days researching their most recent tattoo
  • Cautious (n = 44): Spent months researching their most recent tattoo
  • Vigilant (n=13): Spent years researching their most recent tattoo

For the respondents that only had one tattoo, we added their data from their first and only tattoo to the groups.

Table 4: Results of Hypothesis Two

Hypothesis 2 Results

The cautious group preferred ability to filter by style more than the spontaneous and vigilant groups. The cautious and vigilant groups preferred ability to filter by location more than the spontaneous group. The cautious group preferred the ability to view an artist’s portfolio more than the spontaneous and vigilant group.

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D. Personas


We created three personas based on the themes from our research findings. The first persona is Natalie Novice, a spontaneous/early canvas/low-informed researcher (Figure 3). The second is Eddie Experienced, a vigilant/experienced canvas/high-informed researcher (Figure 4). The third is Chris Creative, a cautious/creative researcher (Figure 5).

Figure 3: Natalie Persona

Natalie Persona

Figure 4: Eddie Persona

Eddie Persona

Figure 5: Chris Persona

Chris Persona

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E. Experience Maps


Based on our findings and the personas we built, we created two experience maps. Our first experience map (Figure 6) shows a persona’s current journey planning a tattoo. The second experience map (Figure 7) shows their journey with the suggested solution based on our feature matrix.

Figure 6: Current – Experience Map

Current Experience Map

Figure 7: After Solution – Experience Map

After Solution Experience Map 

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V. Discussion/Conclusions

In this project, we aimed to understand the process of how people plan their tattoos; i.e., find information on and obtain a tattoo. Our participants mentioned using search tools that included (a) social media networks (Instagram, Tumblr and Facebook), (b) forum based tools (Reddit) and (c) search engines (Google). They also discussed frustrations with existing search tools indicating a need for a tattoo-planning tool.

In our observations, we discovered that the process of obtaining a tattoo can be broken down into three phases: Search, Exploration and Selection. While all the phases were relatively consistent amongst the participants, the search phase was the most dynamic. Participants searched by multiple variables, typically starting with location or style, then refining their search to a specific artist or shop. Once participants discovered an artist or shop to explore they would scroll through the artist’s portfolio to determine whether the style was to their liking, and eventually have enough information to make an artist selection.

We categorized our interview findings into three themes: Motivations, Exploration and Interactions; the interviews also supported observation findings that search capability and the ability to view an artist’s portfolio were very important. We discovered that an individual’s motivations for getting a tattoo influenced their priorities when planning their tattoo. Our interviews revealed that the amount of exploration varied by participant type: novice, experienced, and creative, as well as by tattoo. Some tattoos may be more involved or require an artist to have certain artistic strengths, whereas more simple tattoos may require less research. Three out of four participants used Instagram in their research, all three agreed it was helpful when viewing the artist’s previous work, however, filtering through artists on Instagram was perceived as difficult. Almost all participants mentioned the tattoo artist was a major part of a good experience they had when getting a tattoo. Therefore, interaction between a person researching a tattoo and the artist/shop is very important.

Our survey data revealed similar findings to our interviews. First, the survey results demonstrated the importance of research within the theme of Exploration. When asked about the importance of types of information, a majority of participants rated the skill of the artist (81%), sterilization (67%) and placement on body (66%) as very important. We discovered that when it comes to technology-based exploration, 36% of participants used Google when searching for a tattoo. Our survey findings also revealed that 68% of our participants rated ability to view an artist’s portfolio to be very important, which was consistent with interview data. Finally, while our interview results showed participants generally favored friends/family when looking for a tattoo artist, the survey results showed that only 24% of participants reported that friends/family was their resource to gain information and ideas. Using the survey data, we were also able to expand upon our original personas, and create the categories of spontaneous, cautious, and vigilant. Using these new persona types, we found significant differences in the data using inferential statistics, which have several implications for design.

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A. Implications for Design


Our observation, interview and survey results can be used to inform the design of a technology-based solution that will assist people in planning a tattoo. We found the following elements necessary for our to-be-designed service/product:

Search Filters: We discovered that individuals planning a tattoo may have a wide or narrow range of qualifications when searching for an artist. The importance of different search filters was also varied among the three persona groups (spontaneous, cautious, and vigilant). Certain users may only need to search for artists that are capable of a particular style while other users may need to search based on style, location, availability and ratings. In order to satisfy all types of user needs, a key feature of our product is the ability to perform a simple search or an advanced search. A simple search would likely involve style and/or location only. An advanced search could involve style, location, availability and ratings. A search including ratings could be broken down to include artists that have a high rating in a certain area. For example, a user seeking an artist who likes to do collaborative work could specify that in their search.

Location Finder and Map: Based on our findings during the observations, people often use Google Maps to aid in their location based searches. Our survey findings also confirmed that cautious and vigilant persona groups feel the ability to view artists by location is important. A feature to pinpoint the user’s current or preferred location needs to be included. An interactive map also needs to be present.

Interactive User Accounts: Creating user accounts will allow different types of users to interact with other users. Many of our participants, especially during the interviews, mentioned interacting with others as an important part of their process. Suggestions or recommendations from friends can help during artist exploration and selection. Also, creating a connection with an artist can lead to having a better experience altogether. Therefore, two user account types exist, customer accounts and artist accounts. Interactions between users include:

  • Customers can chat with artists and other customers. (See Chat Feature below.)
  • Customers can give commentary on an artist as well as endorse an artist they have used.
  • Customers can rate an artist based on a rating system with multiple parameters (artist attitude, sterilization, design of tattoo, fairness of price, etc.).

Chat Feature: Customers can chat with artists to discuss a tattoo or with another customer to share information about past experiences, etc. The messaging system will have the ability to send and receive files to allow the discussion of ideas, mockups, or previous tattoos.

Artist Pages: The ability to view an artist’s portfolio was ranked highest in our survey results, especially within the cautious persona group, followed by the ability to read reviews and rating of the artists. Therefore, Artist accounts will have a public page that includes their portfolio as well as previous customer reviews and ratings. Some participants mentioned not trusting reviews because they can be subjective. To help enhance the effectiveness of reviews, endorsements made by other accounts within a Customer’s social network will be shown on the Artist’s page. This page will also include other important information including the availability of the artist and their contact information.

Mobile and Desktop: Our survey showed that 93% of participants used either a computer or their phone when planning a tattoo. A solution needs to consider both laptop and mobile device screens.

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B. Limitations and Future Work


We had limited time when both observing participants (15 to 30 minutes) and interviewing participants (30 to 45 minutes), and used a small sample size (four participants during each). While we had a more diverse range of participants for the interviews, for the observations, participants were all around the same age (23-28 years old) and most lived in the same city (Chicago, Illinois).

For the surveys, we were able to gather data from a larger sample size (85 participants), and the participants were located in many different cities, however about 73% were between the ages of 18-29, therefore did not gather very much data from those 30 years old and above. Many of our participants had an art or design related occupation (13 participants), or were students taking the survey through the CDM/COMM Participant Pool (11 participants). These factors may have skewed our results. After reviewing the results, we feel that some survey questions could have been designed better to measure certain data. For example, we asked participants their opinion on how important it is to research certain attributes, however we feel it would have been more insightful to ask about frequency instead, so we could measure one’s cautiousness. We also feel it would have been better to ask number of current tattoos and their age in an open-ended format so that we could’ve used the interval data to conduct more accurate statistical analysis. In future research, we would make an effort to recruit participants of different backgrounds and ages, especially 30 years old and above. We would also make an effort to learn from our mistakes and take more time to evaluate how a question is worded and how we would like to receive the answer for best results.

In a future iteration of our research, we feel it would be helpful to continue gathering data based on our newly expanded-upon personas (spontaneous, cautious, and vigilant). This would be helpful since, using the data from our survey, we were able to determine significant differences among these three groups. Since many of our participants throughout our research already had tattoos, we feel we should get more insight from people that have zero tattoos and are new to tattoo planning. It would also be helpful to start gathering data about tattoo artists, since they would be an integral part of any technology-based solution.

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VI. Bibliography

Fisher, J. A. (2002). Tattooing the Body, Marking Culture. Retrieved November 14, 2017, from https://doi.org/10.1177%2F1357034X02008004005

Goulding, C., Follett, J., Saren, M., & MacLaren, P. (2004). Process and Meaning in ‘Getting a Tattoo’. ACR North American Advances.

Laumann, A. E. (2006, June 12). Tattoos and Piercings Go Mainstream, But Risks Continue. Retrieved September 30, 2017, from http://www.northwestern.edu/newscenter/stories/2006/06/tattoos.html

Sanders, C. R. (1985). Tattoo Consumption: Risk and regret in the purchase of a socially marginal service. ACR North American Advances.

Shannon-Missal L. (2016, February 10). Tattoo Takeover: Three in Ten Americans Have Tattoos, and Most Don’t Stop at Just One. Retrieved September 30, 2017, from http://www.theharrispoll.com/health-and-life/Tattoo_Takeover.html

Velliquette, A. M., Murray, J. B., & Creyer, E. H. (1998). The tattoo renaissance: An ethnographic account of symbolic consumer behavior. ACR North American Advances.

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