Completing tasks you don’t like to do — An interaction design case study

Arjun Menon
Oct 3 · 4 min read
Cover image
Cover image

Understanding the Problem

There are tasks in life that need to be done that we just don’t like to do; filling out forms, math homework, responding to emails, paying taxes, household chores and much more. To-do apps can help us organize and remember our tasks. But where is the joy? Where is the satisfaction?

The motivation to do these sort of tasks can often come from a sense of responsibility or obligation. If we don’t do it, there will be negative consequences. Thinking of these negative consequences or re-framing these tasks in a positive light can be challenging and in the moment often does not come to mind. Deep down we might know that it is the right thing to do, but something in our mind, body, or habits prevent us from doing it. And of course this feeling leads to procrastination which makes doing the task even harder or stressful. This understanding creates a clear opportunity to direct the design for the user’s emotional brain rather than the rational brain.

Exploring Solutions

Rather than fight our mind and repeatedly force ourselves to complete these boring task, lets sweeten the deal. Give the mind some incentive to complete them. I’m sure that if washing the dishes meant that you get $1,000,000, most people would happily wash the dishes. That might even be a fun design project to visualize. Although it is not exactly a feasible business idea, but we can still apply this idea of using rewards as motivation.

Some of the most mentally and chemically rewarding experiences are in video games. For example, the smallest interactions in video games like Fortnite or League of Legends are met with bright colors, animations, fancy sound effects, musical notes, and other sensory feedback. These small hits of dopamine create an experience where our minds are incentivized and are constantly(or even compulsively) seeking more. We can use these addictive or engaging qualities of video games to help users complete boring tasks and fulfill their real world goals and needs.

Bland and Boring → Fun and Satisfying

The act of physically crossing out or checking off tasks in a to do list can be very satisfying. There is a sense of completion and victory as that check-mark or line is drawn on the piece of paper. In a digital environment, the interaction of checking of an item on a to do list is much less satisfying. A single tap on a screen or a click on a mouse is so bland and emotionless.

Image for post
Image for post
Current to-do lists are just “meh”

In order to bring more emotion and excitement to the interaction, I have incorporated the delightful and satisfying concept of slicing fruits from the mobile game fruit ninja. The swiping gesture and subsequent animation deliberately rewards the user for completing a task.

App screens animated in After Effects
Dark Mode UI

As you can see, the visual interaction design was a key part of communicating the overall user experience of this task app. An otherwise basic interaction has been meaningfully elevated using gesture and animation. It was a fun way to explore various visual and motion design solutions.

Key UI design decisions:

  • An iris transition to the wooden(dojo) screen takes the user to another mode or area of experience in the app. The transition deliberately emphasizes a distinction between the functional state of the task list and the more decorative and delightful state of the fruit slicing arena.
  • Slight 3D spinning, rotating, and slicing effects of the watermelon were created using 2D shapes and transformations in After Effects.
  • The slicing sound effects in the fruit ninja games were a significant part of the experience of the game. A button to enable sound is included once the user enters the Task Ninja dojo as well.
  • Scaling, parallax, easing, delay and other animations were liberally used to balance out and add a dramatic, fun and bouncy feel to the otherwise flat and minimalist illustrations and UI elements.

This project was my attempt at bringing visual clarity and elegance to a quick and simple app design concept that seeks to motivate people to complete tasks that they don’t feel like doing, and ultimately help them achieve their goals.

Thank you for reading!

Check out this project on Behance

Let’s connect:

arjuna1am.am@gmail.com
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Arjun Menon

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Interaction Designer

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Arjun Menon

Written by

Interaction Designer

Bootcamp

Bootcamp

The best resources for designers starting in Design, UX, and UI. Bootcamp is a new product publication from the team behind the UX Collective (http://uxdesign.cc). To submit your story: hello@uxdesign.cc

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