This is the best goal management app I have designed in last 3 years

Three years ago, I designed a time planning app. There are many highlights in this app. Firstly, it was a card-based design. Secondly, Icon replaced common events so that input pressure was reduced. Thirdly, to-do list was combined with daily schedule and it became more specific. Fourthly, efficiency information was visualized so as to let users know their efficiency. Fifthly, photo elements were added to to-do list. However, there are two important reasons why this app was eventually failed. First one is that I am lazy and have procrastination. The other one and also the most important one is that I kept asking myself whether I would use this app. The answer is no because I am a lazy person. Even if I downloaded many time or target management apps in the mobile, I would be too lazy to open and use them. When it came to a later stage, the apps sent many notifications every day to let me use them. I would feel annoyed and shameless that I couldn’t finish what I planned to do. So I deleted them. All of these illustrated that although time or target management apps were good (were they really good?), they still could not prevent people who are as lazy as me from proactively opening the apps and writing my goals.

In the latest three year, I have been trying lots of different ways to design my app, including some extreme ideas such as deduct money when users cannot accomplish the goals (btw this is a good way to make profit) and so on. But finally I give up all the above plans due to a problem which is that the app will truly help me or not. Probably it won’t. How would I recommend my app to users when I, as the designer, even don’t use it?

I always feel shameless after spending three years to design but without any achievement. But it is really hard for me to give up all what I am pursuing. So I decide to bring the app online on the day before April.

The whole product cost me 3 months to design from nothing. Here I want to talk about how I design and develop the app.

Demand Exploration:

  1. When someone needs time management, it indicates that he or she is unsatisfied with current situation. People can achieve their goals through time management. So I assume that goal management reaches a high level than time management.
  2. For those who don’t have time management awareness, the first thing came to their mind is that “I want to achieve XXX goals”. Later they will begin to consider dividing goals into smaller targets and time management. But for those who don’t have goal management awareness, time management is just decoration.

Conclusion: For people just like me, who are lazy and don’t have time management awareness, the first vital thing is to start doing goal management.

User Behavior Mining:

If I don’t realize to do goal management, I will not proactively use this type of product. I will not open the app to check my goal every day until I forget it. This product means nothing to me. (So asking lazy person to proactively manage his or her goals has nothing to do with habit or awareness, it is a false proposition) I’ve been asking myself whether I will use the app. Now I can answer that I won’t because I will not suddenly be aware to do goal management.

So another thought came into my mind. What if users passively accept the goals instead of proactively managing?

Since goal management has low frequency, the app can remind the user in scenarios with high frequency operation. The following scenario may leave a deep impression to everyone. When we are young, we often write our goals or dream on the desk (low frequency operation). Every time we sit down, we have a glimpse at the written goal and then keep on studying with passion. So the most important thing is to find the scenario and the carrier (such as the desk).

Scenario and Carrier Selection

Users often surf on the Internet, chat and unlock mobile phone. Since chatting is a waste of time and different countries have different chat apps, it is impossible to add functions to the chat apps. So this method is infeasible. The online surfing and unlocking mobile phone can be considered.

Filtering carriers on the basis of scenario means to select PC browser and unlock apps. Here are the reasons why I finally choose PC browser.

Unlocking mobile phone is a high frequency operation, but this app has push scenario(unlock) and management scenario(write goals). Since the interfaces of goal push and management scenarios are completely split, users would not be aware to do goal management. And this is a common problem that every PC and mobile goal and time management app has. What’s more, there are many distractions under the unlocking scenario, such as push from all kinds of message apps. So unlocking apps in mobile phone is not suitable to have goal management function.

PC browser can be divided into two parts, website and browser extension. There is no need to consider website because users would not proactively open a website and check their goals. Browser extension has a privilege that its content presentation frequency can be so high that once users build a new page (high frequency operation), it can present extended content (users passively accept the extended content). Therefore, adding goal management (low frequency operation) to browser extension (goal content will be presented with high frequency) is a wise decision.

Provide Motivation for Users

The ultimate aim for goal management is to let users achieve their goals. So goal management can be a motivation. I provide another source of motivation which is imagination for users.

The comparison exits when there is imagination. Then there will be goals. I hope that through something, users can make a comparison on their own current situation so as to have motivations. For example, making users imagine they being in a beautiful scene which they have never seen, or some kind of life and environments that users have never had before. I try to make users think about what it will be like when they have that kind of life. Maybe a picture of a poor beggar would make you feel determined that you cannot have that life. As a result, what you imagined may not be wonderful. But it can give you motivation to strive for your own goals.

Four Quadrants Rule

The famous managerialist Stephen R. Covey proposed a time management theory. Work is divided according to important and urgent level. Basically, there are four quadrants: urgent & important, important & not urgent, urgent & not important, not urgent & not important. This is Four Quadrant Rule of time management.

One of the important concepts in time management theory is that people can plan ahead by using main time and energy to deal with important but not urgent work. In the daily life, there are many chances to plan and accomplish something well. However, without doing it in time, work quality would decline because of time passing. Therefore, people should mainly focus on dealing with important but not urgent things and properly arrange time. One good method is to set reservation. Once we set reservations, our time would not be occupied by others’. Then we can carry out the work efficiently.

The above paragraph is copied from Baidu wiki. Four Quadrants Rule is an efficient and easy way to manage time. It can clearly display all the daily important things, future goals, and things shouldn’t be done.

When people write goals, they would write lots of goals but do not know which one to achieve first. So I set the number of future goals less than three so that users can temperately plan their future directions. In the same way, I set numbers of goals in other quadrant into three. For example, what the most urgent thing is and what the important but not urgent thing in your plan count for 6 items in a user’s daily mission. Fragmentary items, such as not important & urgent and not important & not urgent things, mean that these would impede your progress. People should overcome it little by little, and then try to do little or not to do.

Additionally, in order to let users pay more attention to their own long-term goal and bad habits, I separated the most important Two Quadrant (goals) and Four Quadrant (obstructions) from other quadrants. It can make users directly know what they should do and what they should not do. Users look at it and remember it in mind. In a long term, when users are watching American TV series or playing computer games, the goals they have written down would come to mind and let users stop thinking about playing.

Interface Design

After a round of product design, I consider more about disadvantages of Chrome extension when I design the interface. One is that users stay little time on this interface.

The advantage of Chrome extension is that users would open many tabs when they surf on the Internet; however, this is the limitation of Chrome extension. Because users’ purpose is to open new tabs, they would not notice what the content is. If you design many things in the extension, users would be interrupted by your product every time they open new tabs. This is the worst product design. Designers need to control the content of Chrome extension and it is a test of designer’s quality. So when I was designing, I put a little but the key information and a background image to the extension. Many of you may laugh at me when you see the product for I did little design. But I know for sure that this is the only right plan.

The style of the design is minimalist. I use images as background and pure text as button and content. I simplify all operations and add relevant animation to make the whole interface simpler.

In order to make interface cleaner, many operation buttons are hidden. This would increase extra learning cost for users; such as at first users may not know how to set goals, modify goals (I interviewed part of the users and most of them know how to do). But all of these can be taught. Through usability testing, users would know how to use it once been educated. So this kind of design is acceptable.

The Most Important Design

After many times of test, I found an important detail from users behaviors. This detail affects the whole extension product design.

1. When there are new pictures, users will look at the pictures in details so that they can have a look at their goals.

2. When users open a tab, the second thing they do is to focus on search box. Goals would not be seen by users.

Why users cannot see what they write? Because human’s eyes divide visual area into central vision and peripheral vision. Through central vision area, people can see objects clearly. But they see objects blurred through peripheral vision. However, peripheral vision is so sensitive that people’s eyes will quickly focus on changing areas when objects in peripheral areas are moving. Central vision area is very small, so when users click on opening new tabs, they focus on the button. Central vision area is near to this button. That’s why people cannot see the goals they have written.

In order to solve this problem, I strictly move important goals into central vision area when users open new tabs. Since users will find out that the change near central vision area, they will also take a look at the relevant change. In this case, I can show important goals to users. This method would interrupt users’ behavior. If every time I use this way to remind users, users would get annoyed. So there should be limitation on display frequency. Currently, there is a little probability for goals to move up. Later I will adopt more scientific measure to make sure that goals are sent to users.

Development

It is easy to do extension from the aspect of interface, but there are many hidden details. I try to list some vital functions. I feel happy every time I achieve the goal and cross it off my list because I think I am one step near to the accomplishment.

An excellent user experience not only needs user experience designers, but also developers. Take an development detail for example, a background image can just be a picture in the draft of user experience designer, but a huge amount of rigorous development logic needs to be considered.

  1. When it comes to Chrome extension, it needs to consider the scenarios with or without Internet. It becomes slow to download a picture when users firstly install extension. So related background images are necessary in the installation package. The advantage is that if users cannot use Internet for a long time, they can also change the background every day.
  2. Since users stay a little time when they open a tab, loading pictures needs time. So I cannot write the code on the interface (it would close when users open a web). Once users open Chrome, background of the extension will not run until Chrome was closed. Therefore, I can write the code of loading pictures in the background.
  3. LocalStorage has 5MB storage and each background image accounts for 1MB. So it is necessary to do background image management. At present, I try to download pictures for next two days in advance, then it automatically delete yesterday’s image. Users probably don’t open Chrome for a long time due to travelling or other reasons. Newly updated image will be the background image on that day and previous images will be deleted.
  4. Since LocalStorage can only use Key-Value structure to store and it is not similar to data table So I need a particular line of data to store Key value of every picture.
  5. If the image of the day cannnot be obtained, it will use 10 default image. The number is subject to the last day in the calender.

Product Screenshots:

Download Link and Installation:

If you can log in Chrome online app store, you can search “Focus Matrix” to install or click here.

Latter-phase Plan

As I mentioned before, people cannot start to manage their goals simply due to an app. So I hope that my product can imperceptibly influence you. I would make you learn more goal division and time management skills through latter-phase iteration functionality and then gradually control them. Finally, you can do goal management without any app. By this time, the ultimate mission of this product is completed.

Opinions and Suggestions

Since I designed the product by myself, please understand there are still many drawbacks of the product. I hope that you can give me opinions and suggestions to make this product better. Please contact me through Facebook 薛志荣 or e-mail address xue160709@qq.com. Thank you!