Role: Project Manager and User Interface Designer
Process: Double Diamond, research and ideation through hi-fi-prototype
Competitive / Comparative Matrix
Link to Prototype:
My team and I ideated the problem space in which we wanted to work, toying with a few ideas, but ultimately deciding on a method to reduce the stress of time and task management. This is a familiar problem space for me, and one that I have experimented with finding useful solutions for a long time. It was tempting to try and design a solution that would be most useful for ourselves, so our team went to extra care to screen for a representative sample of interviewees for the research phase.
We screened for respondents who had used a time management/productivity app in the past, as well as respondents who self-reported as very busy or extremely busy during their work week and moderately busy to extremely busy on the weekends. We also wanted a mix of respondents that really needed help in time management as well as ones who were extremely organized in order to glean insights and habits from both. We hypothesized that the persona we were designing for would be in the former category.
I interviewed 8 participants about their scheduling and time management habits. 8 interviewees, screened from the 29 respondents to the survey, indicated that they put work first before anything else. Then came family and personal errands. The biggest pain point we found was all of our interviewees struggled with their social life — being able to hang out with their friends. Work and social life pulled at each other from opposing ends of the spectrum.
Procrastination and overscheduling were the next most common pain points when it came to organizing their day. What users found most motivating to stay on schedule was to be able to spend time with family and friends.
The team explored the glut of scheduling and timeboxing apps in the world, and marked down their features and characteristics in a Competitive/Comparative Matrix and Chart.
We had a hunch and verified that users were not going to abandon their current time and task management systems, so we needed to find a way to enhance and build onto their current one.
The features that interviewees appreciated most about their current systems (Mostly Google Calendar, iCal, and native phone reminders) were:
Ability to organize tasks by color and task type
Aggregate time counters in addition to due dates (e.g. Toggle.com)
Synchronization with other systems and apps.
We used the insights from the interviews and created a persona that fell within the mode of ages and gender of our interviewees and developed a problem statement around her.
Most importantly, Avery was relatable and representative of the pain points our interviewees expressed.
Avery needs a way to schedule her time in a proactive way to help her stop procrastinating and enjoy more control over her day.
How might we provide Avery with the motivation and tools to keep her productivity high and to protect time for the activities she loves?
The team developed a journey map to visually represent what our interviewees and Avery found both difficult and triumphant about their current systems for time management.
Much of the strength of this potential app solution to Avery’s problem would come from the ideas developed through design studios. We were searching for the potential solutions that would differentiate our app from others and hold our users accountable to their schedule, as well as what those solutions could look like.
From here, I prioritized the features using the MoSCoW method, a system of comparing feature necessity against cost of development.
Our problem statement guided the prioritization of features for staying on task, social accountability, and estimating how long various tasks would take. Interestingly and perhaps tellingly, some of the features we “stretched” to include in the MVP ended being cut back later in the process due to the inherent limitations of time and scope.
Understanding that we would be building on top of the successful calendar apps helped guide our decisions and limited us trying to reinvent the wheel.
We used graph paper for our initial wireframes to cut down on time and cost, and to burn through potentially problematic design solutions.
At this point, we began developing wireframes in Sketch and prototyped using InVision.
Our first screens were designed around a holistic weekly breakdown that allowed one to compare current productivity and free time use to previous weeks (similar to Mint.com’s budget breakdowns), an accomplishment garden that gave a visual indication of how well the user was doing at task completion and timeboxing compared to their friends, and a calendar view reminiscent of most other scheduling apps with customizable notifications and task categories.
We also developed a Venmo-style social feed that allowed users to publish accomplishments and receive affirming feedback from peers.
The feedback achieved through usability testing for the two prototypes showed our team some of the problem areas of our design and convinced us to scale back the scope. We pivoted to focus more on the solution for social accountability to keep Avery, our persona, on task throughout the day. Many of the changes were for clarity, ease of navigation, and general usability, though some were structural in nature.
I removed the “Accomplishment Garden” to reduce overall scope, as I believed the social accountability aspect could be achieved through the social feed and the group calendar. I also enhanced the group calendar feature so that the user refined social and calendar pages — it was necessary to narrow the scope and refocus on the social accountability aspect
The team also modified the “Add Task” button from a two-tiered radial design a single-tier overlay due to the limitations of InVision and to streamline the process of creating a task.
For the final prototype, the color scheme was decided and standardized based on our research that users wanted to be calmed by the organization and the design.
We ideated several different app name ideas, including “weTime”, “TickTalk”, and “Timeback”. The goal was to capture the idea of a collaborative scheduling solution that would hold schedule-makers accountable as well as being fun to use and facilitating greater mental health through free time.
The name “our.ly” managed to hit both of these points, emphasizing timeboxing and low-maintenance scheduling as well as the social component of sharing calendars and events.
On the technical side, our team chose to develop first for iOS, as 65% of our representative interviewees used iPhone. I decided to use Cronofy to aggregate various calendar APIs to two-way sync with major calendar applications, including iCal, Outlook, Exchange, Evernote, Google Tasks, and Google Calendar.
We also planned to implement additional APIs for Remember the Milk and Fantastical 2 connectivity for the calendar side. In addition, we sought Google Maps APIs for location services and implementation of “Do Not Disturb” API for iPhone hardware.
The reception for the app and its execution was well-received, though our late pivot to limit scope could be felt in the final design. We were ambitious and tried to solve Avery’s problem with several different tools to make sure one of them hit instead of ensuring that one tool was the best solution.
Our visual design was another area of improvement that I would’ve liked more time to hone. I was pleased with the color scheme and navigation, but the different filters, categories, and colors assigned to friends began to clash when added together. If I revisit the project, I will modify these choices for the user to be based on a color scheme that follows the application’s.
Featuring calming color scheme in logo
Featuring details per category
Monthly View - Color-coded by task type
Sorted by friend groups
Able to see the group-facing calendar items from friends, seeing gaps in schedule for potential social events and encouraging friends at difficult tasks
Social Event Screen
With clear RSVP options, linked to calendar
Create New Task Screen
Visibility options clear, time estimator based on previous tasks and other users' task duration
For next steps, we planned to communicate with Fitbit to utilize the sleep, step, and GPS elements of their trackers to help their users more easily understand how well they follow their schedule throughout the day. We sought the the option to turn on smart task switching to give users more awareness of time use. We also hope to utilize data to help users make better schedule decisions, for example, if certain tasks often run over time.
In addition, we planned to utilize Fitbit’s market position as #1 Health and Fitness app on iPhone and Android and their command of the wearables market (half of all wearables trackers sold) to help propel our.ly onto more devices. From our.ly, Fitbit would receive more data about users, if the users chose to share it, and additional reasons for the user to wear their Fitbit all day long.
The team and I will now continue to refine the visual design for the application to increase clarity, visual conformity, and usability.
Link to Prototype: