Screens of Good

Bridget Davis, Jenna Cooper, Kristina Hodges

Defining the problem

As a team we discussed our personal experience with technology, and discussed both the negative and positive aspects. We all seemed to have a similar experience when it came to social media in particular. We found that most of our negative experiences with technology stemmed from social media use. We also discussed that we noticed the same negative experiences with social media that we were having, was also occuring in a lot of our classmates.

While we had positive experiences with social media such as keeping up with old friends, being exposed to lots of information, and ease of communication, there are aspects of social media that are not so great. We all agreed that at times social media can be overwhelming, cause insecurities, and stunt productivity.

We decided that the problem we wanted to focus on for this project is the addictive qualities of social media and how these can cause the negative feelings and experiences we have all dicussed. We want to learn which social media sites are the most addictive to their users, and see if we can find similar features within the sites that could be changed or omitted to make it a more positive experience for all of us.

Researching the problem

We all agreed that the best way to go about researching this problem is to go straight to the users to see how they feel about their favorite social media sites. To get this information we want to use research methods such as surveys, observation, and interviews.

As mentioned above, we began observing our classmates and friends when using their phones or computers both in class and in social situations. We all noticed that classmates (especially in studio classes) tend to check their phones and social media sites quite frequently during a class period. I noticed in particular that they have a hard time not checking social media when they receive a notification that catches their eye. I also have noticed that I can go on social media at any point during a class and see an instagram post or story, or snapchat story, posted by my classmates during that same class period. the same issue is noticed when we ar hanging out with friends in social situations. It is not hard to come across a situation these days where you and a group of friends are sitting at a table or just hanging out, but everyone is looking down at their phones.

Along with observing those around us, we also sent out a survey on a variety of different sites so we could make sure we hit people from all social media platforms. The questions asked about what sites people used, how they view social media’s impact, and how it personally effects them. We found that most people think that social media can have a positive impact with connecting people but they also report that it stunts their productivity. Moving forward I think that we need to find a solution that allows us to stay connected, but isn’t such a hard thing to put down when we need to be productive.

Here are some of the survey results:

Design and Evaluate Round 1

We decided to create an app, Break Time, for our paper prototype. The Break Time app is designed to record your app usage on your phone, and allow you to customize and restrict your media usage. The app allows you to set restrictions on how much time you want to spend on each app in a given day.You can decide which apps you want to set restrictions on and each app can have different restriction settings based on how much the user wants to use them. The app is connected through bluetooth to a bracelet you wear.

We chose to use a a vibrating bracelet rather than a pop up notification when the time restriction is reached, because through surveying users, we found that a pop-up on a phone is much easier to ignore than a physical interuption such as a vibrating bracelet. The bracelet only stops vibrating if you close out the app you’ve hit the limit on, or you can snooze it through the Break Time app.

The app consists of a homepage, from there you can go to a usage page that shows your usage in the last 24 hours. Also from the homepage you can go to the settings page where you can select the apps you want to make restrictions for. The bracelet also has a small screen that displays how much time the user has spent on their phone in the last 24 hours, this is helpful to remind the user of their screen time.

To test our prototype, we will use people who are directly affected—college students. Positive feedback that students gave was:

“The app was simple and easy to understand.”

“It wasn’t hard to figure out how to use the app.”

“The concept of a physical deterrent is good because phone pop-ups are easy to ignore.”

“The app gives lots of flexible options of how you want to restrict your app usage.”

Constructive feedback we got was:

“I don’t know if it would stop me because I could just hit snooze.”

“I don’t know if I would want to wear a bracelet all the time.”

“I wouldn’t want to pay for a bracelet when I could get a similar app for free.”

Design and Evaluate Round 2

In order to address these concerns, we decided to get rid of the bracelet that connects to the app and instead, have the snooze function connect with the internal phone vibration. So when a user has exceeded their allotted time on an app, the phone won’t stop vibrating until the user exits that app or returns to Break Time and hits snooze.

Our new prototype has a new snooze settings page so the user can control which type of vibration they want their phone to perform when they have exceeded their usage. We tested this prototype and got the following comments:

“I think I’d like to choose how long it snoozes for.”

“I might need a sound alarm instead of vibration, sound bothers me more.”

“Easy to use, I think it would work for me.”

To further expand our app, we need to add alarm features and make the snooze settings even more customizable.

Reflect

Our final prototype consists of our app with a home screen and pages of overall usage, restriction settings, app specific settings, and snooze settings (with new sound alarm options and changing the amount of snooze time). If our prototype was produced, it would be usable based on the feedback we have gotten from the prototypes.

Through this process, we learned that most people lose productivity because of social media usage and don’t have a resource to help them combat their screen adduction. We also learned that prototyping and testing is a successful and valuable way of gaining insight into the usability and success of solutions.

If we had to give our group a grade from 1–10, we would humbly give ourselves a 10. We feel this is rooted in our equal and fair division of work along with our practical solution. Following the rubric, we feel that our project explored every avenue of the assignment by talking to classmates and learning the needs of social media users.