There’s a time for everything!
In conversation with the developer of Peax — a scheduler with a heart
If you are looking to manage your schedule, there are already a great set of productivity tools out there. Some help you manage work, some help manage teams, and projects. While some even connect spirituality to productivity. In this clutter, there is one app that is trying to do something slightly different. Something that makes so much sense, its surprising nobody thought of it before.
We are talking about PEAX. It claims to sync a schedule to an individual’s body rhythm. Syncing the same across teams, and organisations. It presents itself as an enterprise solution, with the belief that the only way to find individual balance is to engage every person in the organisation.
It promises — Find your peaks. Find your peace.
Medium spoke to the creator and developer of this ambitious productivity app, Satish deSa. Here below is the transcript of our enlightening chat.
M: What got you started with Peax?
SD: This started off as a project for my online course in Human Computer Interaction, from the University of California, San Diego. I chose “Time” as my project theme. And our relationship with time. From the beginning I was clear that this had to be a productivity tool that took a more wholistic view of our lives. I found a lot of apps that together came close. But none, even when used together, did what I had in mind.
M: What was the first step on this journey?
SD: The course was quite rigorous. I wanted to dive straight into designing the app, having decided that I knew exactly what I wanted to do. The course protocol forced me to slow down, and take a step back. Several steps, in fact. I started with Needfinding. I spoke to a few friends, and strangers, across personnas. Speaking to them opened up new ideas. What started off as merely a productivity tool, blossomed into an enterprise solution. I realised that an individual’s schedule is rocked and buffeted by forces beyond his control — deadlines, seniors, incompetent peers, protocol, market forces, clients, organisational lethargy, to name just a few.
After a session of ideation with a few friends, I closed on the idea ‘an app that will sync your schedule to your body rhythm’ but with a company wide engagement.
M: How did you then go about bringing this idea to life?
SD: Well, it slowly came to life. In fact it saw many avataars before the final version you see today was born. Each step building on the last.
I created storyboards of likely user scenarios. Ran that past potential users to see if the thought, and the end promise, held any appeal. It was all positive thankfully. Then I made paper prototypes.
It was like going back to craft class in school. Two prototypes, in fact. Each used a phone, a smart watch and a table top console. This is where I realised that the app was too complicated, trying to collect and analyse data from too many places. So I moved the initial on-boarding and customisation to a desktop or tablet. And left the everyday scheduling and syncing for the phone/watch app.
Peer reviews really helped here. My co-students evaluated my paper prototypes and gave me indispensable Heuristic evaluations. This, in my opinion is where the final app found its purpose and definition.
M: Did you use any particular prototyping tools? And what was your experience?
SD: I used Balsamiq for the initial wireframes. It was so intuitive. I wish they had a hi-fidelity version too. For my later prototyping I started with inVision. And then moved to Marvel.
In fact, I have two versions of the final app. One on inVision, and the other on Marvel which you actually see. I thought both platforms were mostly at par. Just that Marvel allowed me to run through the app from any screen. That was a big plus. Switching to Marvel, I changed the entire look and user interface of the app. It was a complete overhauling. This is where I built on the concept of competently juggling schedules, expressing that thought as a key visual.
M: Tell us a little about the user testing you undertook?
SD: That was the most testing time (laughs). The in-person testing was so misleading. I think that, unknowingly I guided the users through the entire interface. The user testing on Usertesting.com was most revealing. Things I had taken for granted were revealed to me. Blind spots that I would have never discovered sitting in a room with the windows closed.
I also undertook and A/B testing to decide between two interface options. Mostly minor differences. But overall made a big impact on the final app.
M: Did you use any productivity tool to streamline this entire project?
SD: A google sheet. The course insisted on us making a development plan with goals clearly marked out. Some easy, obvious goals, and some goals which would be a stretch to achieve. The planning and scheduling actually helped me put a few more ideas into the final app. Like ‘the unexpected’ section. No app let’s you account for unexpected emergencies. Suddenly your entire schedule is out of the window. How do you manage that? I tried to take care of the same in the final app.
M: Now that your final prototype is ready, looking back, what are your learnings?
SD: The process is very important. Storyboarding>Ideation>Paper Prototypes>Heuristics>Testing>Hi-fidelity Prototypes>In-person Testing> A/B Testing. I have a long way to go, but it is reassuring to look back and see how far I’ve come on this journey. It gives me great confidence.
I hope to have a final product that can actually add value to human lives. Bring some respite to this manic corporate race. Holding organisations accountable for an individual’s work-life balance.
Thank you for this opportunity to feature on Medium. Here is the final prototype for your readers https://marvelapp.com/10d6ic9