Sketching, testing, iterating, more testing and more iterating — that was my mantra for the last few weeks. Coursera Capstone Project mode full on.

The task at hand was to create an app centered around people’s relation with time.

Time — so many people waste their time idly browsing on the web and can’t wait for the time to pass so they can finally get off work in the evening… as much as I feel for those people I decided to tailor my app for young and driven people with busy lives. I dived into field research and followed entrepreneurs and people working in tech for a day.

Boy, what a packed day that was for each of my research subjects. Goals and motivations differed but one thing showed up consistently — they had new stuff coming up throughout the day which they had to fit in or schedule for later, they work collaboratively and need to coordinate with a number of people, arrange meetings, work on-the-go — all this and more is a part of their daily lives. I knew it straight away that this is a niche worth designing for.

Challenge accepted

Several hours and boom — I am in a room filled with sketches of various interface ideas and concepts. From the moodboard-style apps to lists curated remotely by another person. I took my time, evaluated the ideas against real-life constraints and went for two different concepts — a more traditional one and a progressive one.

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With the chatbots gaining their fair share of attention in the tech and UX community I felt like testing the waters with the digital assistant-bot. My goal was relieving the mental strain from already busy people, letting them input key words such as ‘meet Pete end of the week’ and let the bot do all the heavy lifting. It would give you a calendar sketch with possible time slots outlined, propose a place convenient for you and create a notification for the event — everything would work around the locations and tasks you have planned to minimize timewaste.

The other app concept that survived the harsh realities was a collaborative planner which would allow to create distinctive lists — big goals and small errands that come up. The progress bar would indicate overall daily progress and play on the desire to complete the full bar thus urging the users to get more done. The app would also allow to create collaborative lists where you share progress on a common project or can schedule meetings easily.

Down to two runners-up

Having my two fully sketched-out paper prototypes ready I rushed back in the field for guerilla user testing. As usual the results were eye opening.

Excited as I was about my initial ideas I felt that I needed to redefine my concept since the needs I handpicked after my field research proved far more out there than the real user needs. Excitement in users’ eyes kept changing for alert and worry when testing the collaborative planner. They were concerned that the other person would see their personal lists as well — which was a big no-no for everyone.

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The chatbot got pretty neutral reviews — it was seen as easy and useful but ‘probably when I get so busy that I would need several assistants’. Users expressed their concern that the app is too work-centered while they usually forget about small stuff outside work — like buy groceries, pay bills, etc. they wanted their lists to be private and easy to manage.

Getting real

With the new information at hand I got down to more sketching and re-defining. UX is about helping people and making their lives easier, therefore, I wanted to create a simple yet efficient remedy for the busy and possibly forgetful ones.

I decided to strip my app off any irrelevant functionality — even though I kept some ‘nice to haves’ scribbled down here and there. These lo-fi babies came out of my creative session.

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At this point my fellow students had a chance to see and comment on my prototype. The main critique at this point was lack of interactivity of some app sections. I noticed a couple unused features and decided to eliminate them. I was still considering adding voice recognition and a chat-bot helper integration at a more advanced lifecycle step of the app.

Armed with new data I got down to UxPin. Keeping UX above everything I stuck to the successfully tested parts of the app and changed only necessary elements. UI being out of my competence I kept the look clean and minimal with a pop of color. Amazingly enough the feedback on the interface was positive — people enjoyed the uncluttered look with whitespace widely used. I tested a couple options of editing the list and got down to the idea that users want to interact with their task instantly.

Bringing users closer to accomplishing more during their day being my main goal, I cut the steps and created the edit function on the home page.

Takeaways from the experience

The process was such a rollercoaster ride — my mind was switching from excitement from interactions with users to anxiousness while waiting for remote feedback. Value of user-centricity cannot be underestimated in any project. Interacting with real users at every step helped me immensely — from needfinding to validating ideas to the final app.

Written by

Anything can be an adventure. UX Architect based in UK

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