Solving productivity woes with Rapid Prototyping in 3 days

This is a very interesting and challenging project because I was only given a short timespan of 3 days to identify the problems my users faced and design a solution that solves their problems and gives them good experiences. I was assigned to solve problems that could affect my users’ productivity on a daily basis. Since the topic given was pretty broad, my first step to start solving the problem is to narrow down the scope.

User Research

I started by doing a demographic analysis of my user group, which I narrowed down to users of age between 25–35 years old, educated and lived a fast-paced life. This group of users are often busy with work, social activities and to them time is of the essence.

My user research is done through conducting user interviews. This is the most direct method to gain an empathic understanding of the problems my users faced. Talking to them directly helped me understand their experiences, needs and desires better, however it is not easy to conduct a good user interview and it can be tricky at times. The first round of interview did not went right as I noticed some of my key questions were bias and leading, the results were not accurate because what I got was based on what I wanted and not what the users needed and it was not going to solve the actual users’ problems. I looked at my questions again, I carefully refined them and made sure they were unbiased and conducted a second round of interview. This time I started by asking them a generic question on productivity and worked my way to identify their problems. Below are my interview questions:

1. Which aspect of your life do you want to be more productive?
2. What did you do to improve it?
3. Could you describe the experience?
4. Did you achieve what you want from it?
5. If not, what are you looking for or is there anything you would like it to be better?
6. How often do you use it?
7. How long do you use each time?
Interview sessions with Nic & Doren

The results were great, I managed to see the problems they were facing, however I found the results too diverse. Everyone was telling me a different thing, ranging from email, calendar, organiser, note, to reminder and all the third-party apps started to come in too. I was confused and had no idea where to start. I consulted my user experience instructor, Zhenzhi and got a great advice from him. He removed my mental block instantly by asking me a simple question, he asked, “what are the common trends in your interview results?” He then told me not to get too focus on the individual tool and that I should look deeper beyond the surface of the results. I reflected on what he said and realised all my interviewees had similar concerns. Although the tools they mentioned were somewhat different, their needs were the same, which is to not forget important things.

Synthesise Research

Having a general idea is not enough, I had to make sure I did not miss out any essential information and also what other common trends there might be. I used affinity mapping to spot more trends by writing down the key quotes from my interview results and grouped them accordingly with the “I” statement from the user’s point of view.

Affinity Diagramming

After I have synthesised my user research, the problems surfaced and became clearer. I was able to define the core problem and came out with a problem statement:

Forgetting an important event is devastating.

My design direction:

It is almost impossible for anyone to remember everything even if you want to, especially living in a fast-paced city.
Thus it is important to have a one-stop solution where you can plan all the activities in the world and not forget any of it.

Ideation

I started brainstorming all sorts of ideas, good and bad altogether, ideas that seem impossible to work and ideas that I know will definately work. I asked myself many “what if” and “how about” during the thinking process. I ended up smashing these ideas together and came out with an interesting idea to solve my users’ needs and desires, which is fast, convenient, able to plan activites and be reminded.

My idea is to design a mobile app that can be opened and used concurrently with any other apps. It is a “floating controller” when activated and has three data recording features (Snap Data, Screen Cap Data & Note) and a calendar as the data base. My users can use each of these recording features to record important informations quickly without the need to switch between apps and set reminder.

User Flows

After I had an idea of what my app can do, I started working on the user flows. Designing an user flows was not easy because other than wearing a designer hat, I had to wear a user hat too. During the design process, I had to constantly picture myself using the app, one step at a time carefully, from login page to home page, then to each of the features. By doing this, I was able to cut down some of the foreseeable problems that my users will face, however it was not entirely foolproof until the user testing stage which will come later, but it was good enough for me to start my initial sketching of wireframes and prototyping.

User Flows

Lo-Fi Wireframes & Rapid Prototyping for Usability Testing

With the user flows, I was then able to design the interface of my app. During this stage, most of the design were done rather fast since the purpose of rapid prototyping is to quickly test out the usability of the app, get user feedback and make improvements. All I needed was the basic layout of my key elements and features, so I skipped away the visual style, typography and colour scheme.

Initial Sketches
Usability Testing with Alex

Design Iteration & Findings

From the usability testing, I have found out a number of issues my users faced when using my app. As my app is somewhat unconventional, without a physical home page can be confusing. Also, introducing the special features during the first login can help the users to have a better understanding of what the app does and having a simple tutorial could be very helpful and prevent confusion. Speaking to people from other specialised areas such as programmer has helped me to understand what technical constraints I might face on what features.

Without usability testing, I will never know what went wrong despite how many times I ran it myself because ultimately I am still the designer of the app. There are some things which I thought is obvious, may not be obvious to my users and the only way to find out is through the eyes of the actual users. These findings were extremely important, and I have learned that the amount of effort you spent on user testing will determine how successful and desirable your final product will be.

The next step I would take if this project continues would probably be the visual and interaction design. From the feedback I have received during the presentation, I might want to add one more special feature, which is the Voice Cap Data, recording information via the users voice directly to the calendar and set reminder. That would be version 2.0!

Here is the link to my presentation slide and final rapid prototype: