Startups, What can ADHD teach you about UX?

Yeah, life sometimes sucks. I recently daily journaled my behavior and actions and my distracted ADHD self was found in those writings.

I have evidently had ADHD since childhood, several decades in fact. How bad? Bad enough as life failures in my past are C-grade-student-highschool, burned-out and flunked-out of a BS-MS-MolecularBiology program at Purdue, working for startups that I probably should have not worked for and of course some personal relationship failures.

No, do not feel sorry for me as I somewhat got some roses with this bed of roses and thorns which I will explain in a bit. Right now, I want to describe ADHD in a more reachable way.

Okay now I am borrowing an explanation from a HackerNews post:

But I’d like to describe my
 own experience of what having ADD is like.

Imagine a scheduler that has many tasks to schedule, and 
 more incoming work than it can schedule in a timely 
 fashion. The scheduler is designed to consider all tasks, 
 but will give a higher priority to tasks that provide 
 immediate feedback. A consequence of this design is that 
 tasks which require a lot of time to complete, but provide 
 little to no feedback until after the task is completed, 
 are typically starved for resources. Often, they will 
 never complete, or even start running.

Not too bad of description, in most medical lit stuff both ADD and ADHD will be describe this way but they use the Executor term for the Scheduler term.

There are 3 kinds of ADHD, the double dose of ADHD that has both high level of attention deficiet and hyperactivity. The other two ADHD kinds have either high attention deficient or high hhyperactivity. I have the high attention deficiet and medium hyperactivity one.

I got lukcy since I do not have super high hyperactivity and can food-diet get my stimulant of green-tea infused Brisk StrawberryMelon Icedtea plus ginsenc and ginkgo tablets. Basically, the stimulant of caffene is being combined with things that increase my dopamine levels to address the level of focusing ability. However, its generally still not enough and I have to put into place artifical UX-workflows to re-harness my ADHD focusing and creative powers.

In short terms with my ADHD uncontrolled I fail at planning anything and in general completing long-term tasks. But, at the same time with my ADHD I excel at seeing connections between systems. AND, I do not even have to understand Zen or Budhism to do that hat trick; you the nomral person however have to constantly get your mind to stop categorizing to see it think of it as I can see Koans as far their solution right away without thinking about it.

Now, back to my ADHD-UX-workflow part. So I did a deep-dive into cognitive science to see what new brain interaction models were purposed. Most of you co-founders are aware of the S Pinker Think-Fast-And-Slow theory as that is where the abused gamification movement came from when his book was introduced in 2011. I knew that I wanted something better than always keeping limbic triggers on all the time and being addicted to some activity.

In Life coaching-productivity, the GettingthingsDone(Allen) and Atomic Habits(james Clear) are based on the new cognitive science discoveries. I do not use the manual version of those two workflows but a combined together system of a tiddly-based GettingStuffDone implementation and pair that with a software pomodoro timer to time block my tasks in 4–20-minute sessions separated by 5-minute breaks and than a 20-minute break.

It works, but I have to constantly manually keep track of metrics of my task completion so that I see when I need to break down the size of tasks or reduce the task choices. So how is this related to app-UX-UIs and mobile app-UX?

As we get more modern in terms of interruptions to any activity most app users experience modern-life-induced adhd as far as completing tasks to get to a decision in the app. Basically, all adhd sufferers are in-fact the perfect model of the typical app user especially if they use an ADHD-UX-workflow like I do as than we adhd sufferers see the core of UX and what it can do for an app as getting the app user to making an easy decision.

At this point let bring up the major take-away’s as if you are a cofounder that is why you are reading in the hope of getting some major value-thing to re-apply to your startup. First, the meta-level part of the take-away’s:

Designers and App coders are not programming computers butr 
 programming humans.

Computers do not understand the OOP that most app coders user as the interpreter or compiler only translates the oop to machine One-and-Zeros. And, the computer does not understand the visual graphical UI that most humans prefer to use. WE Designers and AppCoders are in fact programming the human layers above the Ui and not this is at the basic core of UX.

Second, meta-level take-away:

UX, Teaching and Learning, Story-construction, Argument-construction and in fact all human communication share this core concept that we are programing or re-programming humans. We as humans are using human communication to extend our own brain-based programming.

Now for the other part of why you as a startup cofounder might be reading this. The Product Innovation part. Part of my ADHD super powers of focusing and seeing relationships between multiple systems and non-linear stuff allows me to see Product stuff in a different new way.

Let’s take an example from my own stuff that I am working on. Everyone knows the Todoist popular todo app for people and businesses. Than of course there all sorts of clones including the mobile quire project app for android.

Based on my ADHD what is the one missing thing that could turn any of those apps from the 18million to 10,000 downloads to say 180million or higher in app users?

There is one thing that I need at high levels to manage my ADHD-task-completion workflow and that app users with modern-life-induced-adhd need to be a more successful super hero powered human in completing tasks.

A way to re-impl task-and-project-collaboration software in such a way to collect the right task competing metrics and than automatically suggest re-sizing tasks and task choices based on those metrics. I am on-purpose being vague to protect myself as than I will not have to face someone doing a certain trademark before I get a chance to do a trademark registration and to prevent someone attempting to jump the gun and do a product implementation before i get to it.

I do not have a fancy product name yet, internally I am calling my product concept Kathy-Sierra-badAss-Todo but obviously that is too long of product name for marketing and branding purposes. I already know what the version One-alpha implementation has to be to match my level of resources that I have available without having to go the full SAAS-route without the right resources.

Its not a startup right now as I am in stages of figuring out the smallest implementation parts so that I can come up with some way of market testing some of its features. Something of a side project to have users teach me about productivity app features that they want.

But back to why you are here. My using my failure at becoming a scientist to research cognitive science to come up with a UX-adhd-workflow has born some roses in my deb of roses and thorns in that this is the common UX things I came up with:

Core Of UX Based On my ADHD Experience

  1. Minimize(Minimalism-overall) tasks and choices of tasks in a UI-UX and or design- 
    dev cycle, ie info chunking.
  2. Only trigger limbic and front-brain triggers to get a small task 
     completed and get out of the zone-of-focus to allow the app 
     user to get back to their real life as the long-term MAU effects of 
     them telling the story of that wonderful app only happens when 
     one does this!
  3. User-social based feedback if possible. For a good example see 
     the Amazon web app.
  4. Integrate the Mental-Shorthand(S Pinker calls it Mental-ese) into 
     the UI-UX that people form about the activity the app is being 
     inserted into.
  5. Visible UX is branding and cueing and is only the small tip of the 
     UX-iceberg as the UX-UI-workflow for the app user is not only 
     independent of the visible screen-space its the other 
     palette we have to really effectively use.

Side Note on Cognitive Science: Be careful folks, brain interaction models measured by AI theories have to be taken with a grain of skepticism. AI is based on digital discrete boolean logic as implemented on today’s computers.

Our brain’s switching units, neurons, are not discrete digital logic based, however. The theorized logic unit is called a memristor. The first CMOS version was produced by researchers in 2012. The probable new logic probably is more fuzzy logic based rather than discrete digital logic.

In short-terms you cannot view any proposed brain interaction model as absolute truth,its the approximate truth known now given all the research conducted.

This is by far just a brief brushing of the surface of how cognitive science and my ADHD applies to UX, Agile code development, Agile design cycles, etc. Hopefully, at some point the longer essays are coming.

The fuel that helps me get to the next steps is the follows, claps, and comments from YOU the readers. I can be followed at:

and my very small portfolio site is at: