Plan.it: the best approach to get things done is to plan it.

by Yi Wang ywa4@iu.edu, individual project, Apr. 2018 ~ Jun. 2018

my role: UX Researcher, UX Designer, UI Designer

research methods used: Competitive Landscape Research, Interview, User Test and Analysis, Affinity Diagramming

design software used: Sketch, Principle, Photoshop

 

 


 

Section 1: Executive Summary

The Design Space

I believe, everyone nowadays has the need for arranging plans, whether you just use paper and pen to sketch out your daily arrangements, or you use the alarm app on your phone to remind your plans, or you use professional plan GTD(Getting Things Down) apps like “Things”, “2do”, etc. However, I never find those GTD apps easy and intuitive to use, that’s why people always get tired of them after a try. So, I am going to design an app to solve this problem, and my goal is to help users arrange their plans easily meanwhile intuitively.

 

The Target Users

I want to design a GTD(Getting Things Done) app which can help people arrange their daily goals easily and user-friendly. So my Target User Population is all kind of people who have lots of activities or goals to arrange in their daily life.

However, I don’t want to make a complicated app with a bunch of functions, I want to focus on those light GTD users.

 

The High-Level Design Description

This system which I’m going to build will allow users to manage their daily goals and tasks super conveniently and intuitively.

Features will include more than: Minimalism User Interface / Shortcut for today’s tasks / Simple while efficient operation / Interesting Interactions. Supported Key tasks will include more than: Check Today’s To-do tasks / Quickly add tasks from homepage / Check all to-dos quickly / Create a new to-do using 3D-Touch / Change the default bubble radius.

I believe it will be better than the current ways of getting things done because I will simplify the process of creating, viewing and deleting tasks, also I am going to make the interactions intuitive and interesting.

 


 

Vision Statement

The best approach to get things done is to plan it. While we cannot help users doing things directly, at least we can make the process of arranging tasks joyfully. So, don’t wait, just plan it, we can get things done!

 


 

System Scenarios

Task Flow Illustrations

1. Check Today’s To-do tasks

After entering the homepage, users can just scroll up and down to view Today’s tasks by time range.

 

2. From the Homepage, add a to-do named “play badminton” to Drafts page.

Sometimes, users don’t want to add a to-do to a specific time, that’s why the Drafts page exists. If users don’t know where to put the to-do, they can just simply put it into the Drafts page.

 

3. Check to-dos of Today, This Week, This Month, and Anytime.

When users want to check their to-dos, they can pinch in/out to a higher/lower time level or just tap the group menu on the top.

 

4. Directly add a new To-do using 3D-Touch.

The 3D-Touch interaction provided an effective operation for advanced users.

 

5. Change the default radius of the task bubble.

Open users a choice to modify the User Interface in some way.

 

watch the demo video here

 


 

Section 2: Design Process

Activities Performed

Work out Needs Finding and Initial Concept -> Create Initial Prototype and Make User Test Plans -> User Test and Create Med-fi prototype -> Heuristic Evaluation, Create Final prototype and Design User Test.

Illustration Drafts (Selected, not all because there’s too many)

 

 

Research Methods and Participants

  • Competitive Landscape Research

  To understand how a service works, the best way is to study how your competitors operate. So, I studied some existed GTD apps, and created my competitive landscape.

  • Interview

In order to get a grasp of what exactly users want, interview is really a great tool. This process does not need to be formal, even some casual conversation interviews helped my understanding of users a lot.

  • User Test and Analysis

After I have completed my needs finding and initial prototype, the design iteration just begins. Design -> Prototype -> Evaluate, the evaluation process plays an important role in my design. I have always getting unexpected while useful feedback for my iterative design process.

  • Participants

As I have mentioned before, the participants I chose all have a basic understanding of Getting Things Done. There are usually 5 participants in each user test and interview. However, I think this study will be much more convincing if there are more participants.

 


 

Section 3: User Needs Analysis

Findings From The Study

1. Users’ Needs

First of all, all participants have mentioned that cross-platform support is a must. I can totally understand this need. There are different operating systems in the market, Windows, macOS, iOS, Android, Linux, and it is reasonable that one man owns multiple devices of different OS platforms. Although there are lots of GTD apps available in different platforms right now, however, if we add a cross-platform filter, then we would only have a few choices. The same dilemma happens to users. Because users are not always using one platform. For example, most of my friends are using iPhones and Windows computers, while some others are using Android Phones and Mac computers. Honestly speaking, my original intention was to make an iOS app, but after those interviews now I know that as a developer I must consider my users’ consists.

 

Affinity Diagramming

 

Secondly, I noticed that everyone has a different preference on how the GTD apps will work for them. For example, some people just need an app to provide him basic functions such as setting a reminder and prioritize them as time order, others want an app which has every function they need. So, I know it is impossible to take care of these two quite different need simultaneously. Either give up one group of users, or my app ends up with no user is satisfied.

“I have no needs to share my tasks with other people because they are all private” – P2 from Needs Finding

 

Moreover, all of my participants do not have the need to share their tasks with others. In my perspective, I believe I can give up this need in my app because there is an old Chinese saying, “Better lack than lame.”

 

Finally, all participants have talked about some whimsy, which means only a few groups of users would like to have those same needs. I will definitely consider that in my own app, however, they will not be my main focus.

 

2. Users’ Current Practices

I’ve noticed that all participants have their own practices in different ways using different apps, but only a few participants are power users. Most of them just want a light-weight tool to help themselves organize their daily tasks better.

Actually, there are lots of apps which participant could make use of, such as Wunderlist, Google Keep, Reminder, Any.do, Things, some participants are loyal fans to those apps, some haven’t found their favorite tools. Each app has its own focus and deficiency, some are simple and aiming at light users, while others are trunks and aiming at heavy users. For me, I believe there exists some balance between simplicity and functionality. That’s also where I’m aiming for.

 


 

Section 4: Competitive Analysis

Selection Criteria

Actually, there are so many competitors I can think of in a few seconds, I’ve used some of them, but it’s impractical to compare all of them. So, I decided to choose 4 direct competitors and 3 indirect ones. Then I just chose direct competitors from Apple’s App Store which were famous GTD apps, Things 3, Omnifocus 2, Microsoft To-do, Minimalist. For indirect competitors, I thought that Google Keep would be a strong opponent. Finally, I chose Apple’s stock apps, Reminders and Notes which could also become my competitors.

 

 

Summary

After selected competitors, I began analyzing my competitive matrix. Firstly, I did a lot of research in terms of the official intro of those apps, the pricing policy, ranking in App Store, supported platforms and etc. Then I experienced them all to know my competitors better. After that, I compared them in regard to key features, personalization features, competitive advantages, disadvantages, heuristic evaluation, questions to team and verdict. See the results above.

 

Key Learnings

– Different apps have different user groups

– All competitors support Multiple Platforms

– All apps follow heuristics principle

– Users are optimistic about paid apps

– It is hard to find a balance between functionality and usability.

 


 

Section 5: Design Goals

This system which I’m going to build will allow users to manage their daily goals and tasks super conveniently and intuitively.

Features will include more than:

  • Minimalism User Interface
  • Shortcut for today’s tasks
  • Simple while an efficient operation
  • Interesting Interactions
  • The balance between simplicity and functionality
  • Multi-platform support
  • Siri integration
  • And more…

I believe it will be better than the current ways of doing things because I will simplify the process of creating, viewing and deleting tasks, also I will make the interactions intuitive and interesting.

 


 

Section 6: Prototype

Key Tasks

– Check Today’s To-do tasks

After entering the homepage, users can just scroll up and down to view Today’s tasks by time range.

– From Homepage, add a to-do named “play badminton” to Drafts page

Sometimes, users don’t want to add a to-do to a specific time, that’s why the Drafts page exists. If users don’t know where to put the to-do, they can just simply put it into the Drafts page.

– Check to-dos of Today, This Week, This Month, and Anytime

When users want to check their to-dos, they can pinch in/out to a higher/lower time level or just tap the group menu on the top.

– Directly add a new To-do using 3D-Touch

The 3D-Touch interaction provided an effective operation for advanced users.

– Change the default radius of the task bubble

Open users a choice to modify the User Interface in some way.

 

Key Screens

Task Flow Illustrations

Check the System Scenarios part for details.

 

 


 

Section 7: Final User Test

High-Level Goals

The goal of this user test is to answer the following questions and :

– Can both novice and experienced users of Getting Things Done use Plan.it to plan their daily tasks?

– What problems do users encounter when trying to use plan.it?

– Does there exist any improvement in terms of user experience?

 

Participants

P1: Who has been using GTD apps for at least 4 years, absolutely a power user.

P2: A very light-weight and novice user, who just want to keep her tasks organized.

P3: He says that he is a tech geek, always want to explore productivity apps.

P4: He defines himself as a moderate user of GTD apps.

P5: Another light-weight user, he says that he cares UI more than functions.

 

Process

This User test will be recorded using cellphone cameras or/and microphones.

The tasks are designed to test the core functions of the plan.it app, the questionnaires are used to get a grasp of participants experience and current practices.

Considering the prototype made with the Principle app is not convenient to some participants directly, so, I’ll send them an online simplified version of prototype directly through the Internet.

Firstly, after participants have signed the consent form, there will be a short pretest interview with my participants as a warming up.

Then, I’ll begin asking them to perform some tasks in the online prototype. Meanwhile, I’ll ask them to think aloud, describe their feelings while interacting with the prototype.

Finally, there will be a short debrief asking participants how they feel after the user test and I will ask them to take a post-test questionnaire. After all those activities, I’ll send the participants some Amazon Gift Cards as incentives.

After all user test sessions’ completion, the data will be collected and analyzed together. Data will be processed into four different parts, which will be: Task Completion Rate, Errors Occurred Rate, Debrief Results, and SUS Results.

 

Results

Surprisingly, the task completion rate is considerably high compared to the completion rate from Milestone 4. One reason for that is because I have optimized the user interface and user experience for the app after a few design iterations. Another reason is maybe the participants in this user test are more experienced than the last user test.

But the lower completion rate of task 2 somewhat shows the design is still not optimal. For example, some users may not know what does “draft” mean in this app, after all, they are not using a word processing app.

Overall, the outcome shows that the design meets my goals very well. And participants said that they felt very comfortable and confident during the user test, this is a huge improvement compared to the last user test.

Table1: Task Completion (“0” for fail, “1” for success)

 

Key Finding

From the user test, I have selected the 3 key findings which are the most important problems in the system. They are ranked by severity from the most severe one to the least severe one.

1. In the last User Test, the concept of “inbox” is kind of hard to understand for participants who are not familiar with GTD apps, so, I changed the term “inbox” to “drafts”, but it seems it’s still not intuitive for some participants. I find it’s hard to explain to participants that why there should exist the “drafts” page. Maybe it’s because of the language barrier, my participants are all Chinese, they don’t see “inbox” and “drafts” much often in their apps. Maybe I should try to use other terms such as “pending” and make some quick interviews again.

Figure 1: Some users are not familiar with the term “Drafts”

 

2. For some light-weight users and novice users, they do want to quickly add a new task, but normally they don’t know how to. That’s because I did not try to guide them. At first, I thought everyone knows the 3D-Touch shortcuts/widget shortcuts / Siri shortcuts, however, the user test results show that only heavy users and very experienced users know how to use them to quickly add a new task. So, the tutorial must be redesigned to help all users use the app efficiently and easily.

Figure 2: Some users do not know shortcuts to add new tasks

 

3. Although the bubble idea is very appealing to me, however, some participants think that the user interface is lack of efficiency because it can’t make use of the maximum area of cellphone screen. For example, P1 says that “If I have a lot of tasks in one morning, then the user interface will be very chaotic.” That’s true, when I started to design this app, I wanted to focus on light-weight users and moderate users. They don’t have too many tasks in one day usually. So, this will inevitably annoy some super heavy users who have plenty of tasks in one day. This is a problem, but it is inevitable. And I believe there doesn’t exist an app which could satisfy all users needs and preferences. I just want my tool satisfies my target users, that’s all.

Figure 3: The bubble form cannot make use of the screen area efficiently

 


 

Section 8: Next Steps

  • Fix the known issues in the user test
  • Conduct a new user test
  • Find an app developer and discuss the development of the Plan.it app
  • And more…

 


 


Appendix Contents

⬆️Click to read details

 

⬇️ Table of Contents:

Personas & Scenarios

– Persona #1

– Scenario #1

– Persona #2

– Scenario #2

 

Competitive Matrix

– Selection Criteria

– Competitive Matrix

 

Final user study plan and supporting materials

 

User Test Plan

High-level test goals

Recruiting criteria and method

Test preparation

Pretest checklist

Pretest Interview

Task instructions

 

User Test Script

Pretest checklist

Posttest checklist

 

Introduction

 

Consent Form

 

Pretest Questionnaire

 

Task Instructions

 

Debrief

 

Conclusion

 

Post-Test Questionnaire