Design Project

Context: Information Overload in February 2017!

The 21st century is considered to be the age of information. Indeed at no other time in history has so much information been so easy to get especially considering the range of digital media channels & devices in which we can consume information. Consider the following digital devices:

1. Smart-bracelets (e.g., FitBit)

2. Smart-watches (e.g., Apple Watch)

3. Smart-phones (e.g., Samsung Galaxy)

4. Tablet computers (e.g., IBM Yoga)

5. Laptop computers (e.g., Microsoft Surface)

6. Desktop computers (e.g., Dell)

7. TVs (e.g., Sony Bravia)

Design Brief

The Design Brief titled, “Glance,” invites a designer to consider how technology might be able to show us essential information at a “glance.” It asks if there’s a way to quickly navigate through the noise to get at what we really want perhaps by continuously scanning, filtering and presenting the information that matters most to us.

Design Mission

The Design Brief mission is to “find people and design a personal dashboard tailored to their needs.”

User Need

A dashboard tailored to their information needs

URL of the final prototype

Design Process Overview:

Phase 1: Need Finding Approach

Phase 2: Ideation/Brainstorm: List 15 user goals or jobs to be done

Phase 3: Create Point of View (POV) Strategic Statements (Design Framing)

Phase 4: Create Inspiration Board

Phase 5: Create Storyboard

Phase 6: Create Paper-Based Prototypes

Phase 7: Conduct Heuristic Evaluation

Phase 8: Create Mobile App Prototype

Phase 9: Create Mobile App Development Plan

Phase 10: Create Online Test Plan

Phase 11: Conduct A/B Tests

Design Process Details:

Phase 1: Need Finding Approach

To investigate this problem space, I observed 3 individuals as they engaged in consuming information in 3 different environments: walking in the city; home office; and a professional office. I wanted to learn about their information needs, activities, tools, channels, habits and environment.

After the observation phase, I interviewed each to hear directly from them what information they sought. I captured this information in my notebook and present it below.

The 3 individuals are of different ages, backgrounds and professions but to whom I had relatively easy access: Piper, Maddox and James.

As my design exploration continues, I will seek to observe lead users, marginalized and/or extreme individuals to help generate more creative ideas.

Interviewee #1: Maddox


Maddox is a 40-something single male. He is the Chief Research Officer at a leading research and management consulting firm focused on the consumer retail sector. He spends his time assessing the consumer market and provides his clients with strategic advice to help them win in the consumer market. His focus sectors include: apparel, footwear, media and retail. Maddox needs to maintain a comprehensive view of the economy, financial markets and consumer sector to meet the broad information needs of his clients. He resides in Los Angeles, CA. His job is very data-demanding and thus has little time for non-work activities.

As a trusted advisor to the world’s leading consumer brands, Maddox is heavily reliant on current if not real time data about the clients he advises and their competitors. He not only analyzes a broad and deep volume of data but eventually needs to synthesize it all to generate creative strategic and investment ideas. The two exhibits below show Maddox working in his home office. I’ve annotated the photos to catalog information-related data points in order to help better understand the breakdowns and potential opportunities.

Exhibit: Maddox working from his home office on a Sunday morning, 8am (View-Point #1)

1. Maddox checking his smartphone based on an marketing moving alert he received

2. Maddox’s primary computer screen where he does his client research

3. Maddox’s Ipad device services as third screen in which he receives information

4. Maddox’s daily calendar diary in which he jots down information

5. Maddox’s “material to read next” area

6. Maddox’s “material to read” in the next week area

7. Maddox’s key research reference information

8. Maddox’s reference information

9. Maddox’s notes that he scribbled while in the car. Later he re-transcribes them into Evernote or his daily calendar

10. Maddox’s TV in which he watches CNBC and other related news stations

11. Maddox’s stack of newspapers to read (eventually)

Exhibit: Maddox working from his home office on a Sunday morning, 8am (View-Point #1)

According to Maddox, his key information sources are:

1. CNBC network Television for market and economic news

2. Wall Street Journal, New York Times & similar publications for real time business and political news

3. SEC company report filings

Maddox admits that there are many times that he feels overwhelmed with data. Indeed, I did observe throughout the morning that his attention seemed to continuously oscillate from device to device. For example, in one hour I noted the following:

1. He looked at his cell phone at least 10 times

2. He viewed 7 different web sites or mobile apps on his tablet

3. He surfed his desktop web browser to find several images to help him create 3 PowerPoint slides for a client presentation

4. He streamed a business network Sunday news program on his TV (in the background) and peeked at the show about once every 5 minutes

5. At two different points, he got up and shuffled a variety of papers and books to organize them in order of what to read next.

Maddox organizes his home office environment to some degree in terms of “screens” and “piles.” This method of organizing would appear to be a major opportunity to reimagine how Maddox could better navigation information, accomplish his goals and feel much less anxiety about the fear of missing out (FOMO)!

Phase 2: Ideation/Brainstorm

List 15 user goals or jobs to be done

1. Maddox, a Chief Research Officer, needs a way to make certain he’s aware of the most current information about his clients’ industry, trends, competitive moves and business events. (Currently his client list consists of 4: Nike, Burberry, Nordstrom’s, and LMVH Group.)

2. Maddox, a Chief Research Officer, needs to be able to synthesis large amounts of data or information to generate insightful ideas and written reports (i.e., 2 to 20 pages) for his clients.

3. There is only so much time in the day, so Maddox, a Chief Research Officer, needs a way in which to prioritize what information to read.

4. When Maddox, a Chief Research Officer, sees information that he wants to read but doesn’t have the time to read it, he stores it in a variety of ways (e.g., piles of paper on his office floor, stacks of books, etc.) and thus he needs a way to better organize his information.

5. When Maddox, a Chief Research Officer, is away from his office (or home office), he needs a way to communicate new insights to this clients

6. When Maddox, a Chief Research Officer, is disconnected from the Internet, he needs to be able to keep informed about his clients (and related data such as competitive information).

7. When Maddox, a Chief Research Officer, is doing errands (e.g., shopping) he needs to be able to learn about new trends affecting his clients.

8. When Maddox, a Chief Research Officer, is away from his office, he needs a way to digitize the shorthand notes he takes on various analog media (e.g., paper notebook, paper napkin while at meals, etc.).

9. When Maddox, a Chief Research Officer, is driving his car, he needs a way to digitize the client-related information he hears on his SiriusXM Satellite radio.

10. When Maddox, a Chief Research Officer, is at his desk, he needs one solution that surfaces the information he needs at the moment from the devices he currently uses (i.e., cell phone, tablet, TV).

11. Maddox, a Chief Research Officer, he needs a way to digitize the client-related information he hears on his SiriusXM Satellite radio.

12. Piper, a certified public accountant and Fortune 500 finance director, needs to be able to communicate with her friends in a safe manner while walking (i.e., on the move) around busy city streets.

13. Piper, a certified public accountant and Fortune 500 finance director, needs to be able to better organize and optimize the 107 mobile apps (!) that she uses (!!) on her iPhone.

14. Piper, a certified public accountant and Fortune 500 finance director, needs a way to understand what fitness information is best suited for her.

15. James, a busy data scientist, needs a way to keep track of this children’s activities while consulting at is client site.

Phase 3: Create Point of View (POV)

We are surrounded by information. Some might even call it overload. The Glance Design Brief asks:

§ Right now we are doing the filtering and finding ourselves, why not let our devices do it for us?

§ How can a screen summarize information and present just the most relevant parts (especially if it is tiny)?

§ How can these devices use social and physical context to more effectively have the key information ready at a glance?

The Glance Design Brief mission is: design a personal dashboard tailored to their needs.

Based on this design mission statement, I’ve listed 4 high-level strategies below. These are not specific solutions. Each suggests different possibilities to improve a person’s information experience. They are all “human-centered in that they address a deep user need (the underlying issue), rather than a surface issue.”

Initial POV Strategic Statements (Design Framing)

1. Let’s make information consumption more like meals, where 3 key time periods during the day we “consume” the right mix of “healthy” information.

2. Let’s make information consumption similar to breathing air — it’s always happening, although sometimes we get winded (i.e., after a hard fitness session)

3. In this information-rich environment, consuming information is innate, so let’s embed it onto/into our body.

4. In this information-rich environment, let’s surround ourselves in key information that we need at the right time in the right context.


According to, the median length of a book is 64,000 words. If we assume the average adult reading time to be 250 words per minute, and we considered reading books as a full time job and read, non-stop, for eight hours a day, then it would be possible to read roughly two books per day, or 14 books per week, or 728 books per year. (Please refer to my analytical model below which represents an alternative calculation.)

The United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) monitors both the number and type of books published per country per year as an important index of standard of living and education, and of a country’s self-awareness. It estimates that 304,912 books were published in the United States in 2013. Therefore, one could only consume (728/304,912) 0.239% of the information published in books each year. Obviously, this doesn’t consider all of the other information channels: TV, news, social media, personal interaction, etc.)

Taking a much broader view of information, leads me to the following chain of logic. As we age, the question of how to measure one’s life increasingly surfaces. And, subsequently, how can we be sure we are consuming the most relevant information to meet our life’s objectives? For example, are we consuming the most relevant information to find satisfaction in our personal relationships and professional career?

Thus, ultimately we need a personal information dashboard which prioritizes our unique information needs consistent with our life goals. Thus, understanding one’s prioritized set of life goals, will guide our design strategy of a personalized information dashboard.

Phase 4: Create Inspiration Board

Next, let’s research the current ways in which someone can solve their needs.

Visual Inspiration:

The NFL QB playbook-at-a-glance is a great shortcut to find the appropriate play at a glance. However, only a limited amount of information is shown. It also appears to rather cumbersome.

Exhibit: NFL QB’s “Playbook-at-a-Glance”


The Yahoo personal portal is decent approach to organizing information. It’s been around for 10+ years. I wonder how many people find it useful?

Exhibit: Yahoo Personalized Portal

Google Glass eyewear is decent approach to visualizing information at a glance. However, privacy concerns rendered this product obsolete. It’s design also looked a bit odd from an aesthetic point of view.

Exhibit: Google Glass

Exhibit: Virtual Monitor (Ironman™)


Phase 5: Create 2 Storyboards

Storyboard #1: Prioritizing Information @ a Glance

Sample Storyboard Panel

Phase 6: Create 2 Prototypes (Paper-Based)

Prototype #1

Phase 7: Conduct Design Heuristics

Phase 8: Create Mobile App Prototype

Phase 9: Create Mobile App Development Plan

Phase 10: Online Test Plan

Hypothesis: Users prefer pre-populated goals.

Experiment: Dropdown or Free-Form Entry Interface element.

Our user testing data showed the some participants found the goal entry screen confusing, or at least difficult to populate. This may be a perception by few or many people. The small sample size of the user testing group doesn’t help to generalize and answer this question. However, using an online test, we can increase the sample size, gather more data, and see if this perception is held by a significant population of people.

In order to test this, we will have two interfaces to A/B test. One interface — the “A” — will be the original implementation of the goal input screen as it was in our original user testing.

The alternative screen design — the “B” — will include a drop down with pre-populate goals.

The following key measurements will be made:

1. # of Goals Entered

2. Time to Enter Each Goal

3. Time to complete the Goal Screen

The statistical dimensions of these variables will inform us whether there is a significant difference between the variables using the Chi-squared test.

From these measurements, we anticipate our online A/B test will inform us as to which version is preferred.

Phase 11: Online Test (A/B) Results

Summary of A/B Testing

Screen A is the original design. It enables the user to input custom goals. It’s a free form text element. In early testing, some users seemed to struggle with setting goals. The users spend a LOT of time on the screen.

Screen B is the alternate design. It prepopulates a range of common goals. The user can select multiple goals using the drop down menu design element. The aim of this design is to speed the task completion time.

From the limited TIME to COMPLETE test data below, there isn’t a clear difference between the 2 options. Obviously, more user data would need to be gathered. However, the website limited the number of tests available to be completed for free.

Note that above I’ve included some links to video clips of participants’ reactions to the app.

I found it interesting that the participants were overwhelmingly “kind” despite little or no incentive to be so considering the fact that it was simply a test. This is evidence of Experimenter Bias as discussed in the course lecture video.

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