Mobile Organiser App: Projects 1 & 4 Case Study

Sebastian, General Assembly classmate.

Seb finds it hard to get organised. He has tried using online calendars in the past but finds them boring and easy to ignore. He needs something with a bit of personality that is going to incentivise him.

Design Solution is an motivational organiser which lets Sebastian assign goals to his tasks and delivers him regular prompts throughout the day to tell him how he’s doing. If he completes everything then he gets his reward, but if he fails then no treat for him! delivers Seb a bit of carrot and a bit of stick… with just a touch of quirk.

Duration and Team
2 weeks, individual project.

Methods and Tools
User interviews, concept mapping, participatory design, user flows, storyboarding, sketching, rapid prototyping. Pen and paper, Marvel, Sketch, Keynote.

Sprint 1: Research and Prototype

Sebastian’s problem (concept map and storyboard)
My client was Sebastian. We sat down and I got to know him a bit better by asking him about his life. While we talked I created a concept map.

It was quite clear from our conversation that Seb’s biggest problem was getting himself organised when it came to his to-do list.

“When I’m organising what needs to be done in a day and then revisit that… I find that I’ve completed some of the tasks but have forgotten some of the others altogether.”

Seb’s pain in pictures:

How did we come to a solution from this?

Interviews and user research I conducted several rounds of user research with Seb before we got to the heart of the problem. I was wary of over-complicating what could have been a simple solution (i.e. use iCal) so I went back to him several times to try and pull out the real reason why he was having so much trouble in order to design something which was going to be valuable to him.

The real a-ha moment came from this quote:

I’ve tried using online cals like ical and outlook before but I get too bored with them and if I put reminders in I can easily dismiss them and there’s no personality there. I feel that if something gave me an incentive whether it be by freeing up my time or helping to ensure that more is completed that would make a big difference to me.

This led me to the thought that what Sebastian needs is an organisational app that he can relate to, rather than a boring old calendar. Something engaging that is going to help him get his stuff done with incentives and regular prompts.

I would have liked a bit more time to delve into what’s already on the market as there are a few organisational apps out there which gamify your to-do list, although not quite tailored to what Sebastian is after. I have more thoughts on how to improve on the product for the second phase of the project which I will detail in the Version 2.0 section.

Participatory design: user flows and initial sketches

Seb and I brainstormed the core features he would like to see in an app, and then I started on some initial flows and sketches to try and get everything down in a logical order, and start to see what functionality was key to the app, what was redundant and what could be moved to a future iteration.

I originally had an idea for a ‘Quick Notes’ feature whereby, if you’ve suddenly remembered something but aren’t in a position to write a detailed task, you can just click on a Quick Note category and it would send you a reminder later that you wanted to set up a ‘Finance’ task, for instance. After chatting with Seb we decided this wasn’t a priority at the moment but it’s worth thinking about for the next iteration with voice-activated functionality as finds he sometimes thinks of a task when he doesn’t have his hands free, like when he’s attending to his child or doing DIY.

We also played around with the incentives functionality and wider visual cues to figure out what is going to make Sebastian take notice of the task prompts. Plus, we looked at where it would be appropriate to share tasks and lists with users. This was one of Seb’s priorities so that he could sync up with his wife, and they could share jobs between them.

Iterative UI sketches Based on Seb’s feedback I made several changed to the initial sketches, including refining some of the icons to make them more intuitive and simplifying some of the actions.

When talking to other people about the app I was asked how would the app know you have actually done your tasks, and not just lying to get the treat? One potential solve to this is that the user you have shared your task with would get a notification when you have ticked it off your life and could confirm that you’ve done it. If not, it gets added back on! This is going to be explored more fully for version 2.0.

Prototype and user testing

The prototype was developed from these UI sketches in Marvel. It can be viewed here.

Feedback from Seb was that the hamburger menu was redundant, and some of the icons were not very intuitive. We also discussed some future updates, below.

Sprint 2: Iterative Wireframes and Branding

In Sprint 2, I concentrated on developing the wireframes by actioning user feedback, implementing some of my future updates and branding the app.

Iterative Wireframes
Based on the user feedback, I made some changes. This included:

  • Swapping the tick circle for a square as it was felt the circle looked too much like a radio button.
  • Simplifying the list screen and removing some of the clutter that was there before.
  • I also added a new home screen which gives a snapshot of how the user is progressing with their tasks that day, and a preview of what’s coming up tomorrow. This home screen changes throughout the day as more tasks get completed.

The brand concept focused on the idea of being playful but efficient, reflecting the feature of gamifying an otherwise boring task of working through your to-do list. This was the core focus of the app, as it had to be something that users would pay attention to. I created a mood board to reflect the kind of feel I wanted:

I wanted the quirkiness to come out of the copy tone and visual iconography, with the colour palette reflecting a more reliable and efficient feel.

I created a questionnaire made of adjectives and used these for testing by asking people to choose from the adjectives they thought best reflected the design.

Initial Designs and Testing
I used Sketch to create the first set of designs, which were darker in colour palette than the final product. I tested these initial visuals with users against my brand questionnaire and found that the playfulness and friendliness was not coming through. The colour scheme made the app feel a bit gritty, and not as welcoming as I would like.

Second Designs
I subsequently changed my style tile to reflect the feedback:

The designs were then updated, below, and in testing I found that they reflected my brand personality much better:

The Future

  • Smart organisation of your day. Priorities change all the time, so it would be useful if the app could automatically push something off your list if you needed to and found a more appropriate time for it later in the week.
  • Auto sync with iCal if people are using another online calendar, for work for instance.
  • Voice activation.
  • Task-confirmation from another user (or a way for the app to know that you have done your tasks, and are not lying!).
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