ForNow

Problem

Students are highly stressed about juggling all their tasks. However, many students don't use traditional organizational tools because they feel those tools constrain them.

Solution

A digital organization tool that lets students simplify their workflow and avoid stress and procrastination without constraining how they like to work.

Learn about
the problem
Brainstorm
solutions
Design, test,
iterate

Process

Role

UX Researcher & Designer 

Methods

  • Observational Research

  • Semi-structured Interviews 

  • Survey

  • Affinity Diagramming (sticky notes!)

  • Sketching

  • Wireframes

  • High fidelity mockups

Date

Research Spring 2016, Design Spring 2017

Learn about the problem

This started in a User Research class. We had to pick a problem space to investigate. I knew intuitively that some students structure their lives more rigidly than others. Some students live by their calendars, and others run away if you mention the word. I set out to learn the strategies that "disorganized" students use to manage their lives.

Contextual Inquiry

I sat with participants who self-identified as “disorganized” while they studied. If they did something interesting, I asked them about it. I found that students all had specific "fidgeting" behaviors that increased as they studied, and often reflected their emotional state. They completed one thing at a time, but used lots of Google Chrome tabs to do that one thing. But that didn't tell me much about how they organize their tasks on a daily and weekly basis.

Individual Interviews

I interviewed three students about how they handle tasks in their lives, how they juggle responsibilities, organize their schedules, and the role of stress in their education. Disorganized students often motivate themselves with guilt. They feel constrained by digital planners and calendars for academic work because those tools prescribe a fixed schedule.

Surveys

I sent out a survey to undergraduates at UW to validate what I learned. I asked them about the organization tools they used, how they liked to complete tasks, and their stress levels.

Analysis

I wrote everything I observed from all 3 methods notecards, and grouped them in a bunch of different ways, looking for patterns.

Data Analysis
I broke down what I heard...

I wrote all my observations down on index cards.

Sorted by themes!

I grouped similar findings together, then I gave names to these groups. E.g. "Planning Tools", "Motivation", "Stress and Emotions", "Excuses and Distractions".

Rinse, repeat!

Then I did it again with different groupings.

I analyzed statistics from my survey

It turns out, even disorganized students like doing one thing at a time.

Analysis of Survey data

More organization tools = more stress (also, everyone's stressed!)

Findings

Brainstorm

I thought about ways that a digital tool could help students juggle their busy lives, but reduce stress. I played with ways they could motivate themselves without using unhealthy amounts of guilt. I also wanted to give them flexibility of how they want to organize themselves. Essentially, the tool should be structured enough to keep disorganized students focused, without punishing them for not adhering to traditional tools.

Brainstorming

Idea - Reminders from your future self to keep you accountable
Idea - A timeline view of today's schedule
Idea - Label "big" and "small" assignments?

Idea - Give people sections that display what they have to do in different ways (flexibility)
Idea - Conceptually separate and emphasize high priority tasks, so they could focus in on those

Design, Test, Iterate

I made low-fi wireframes that incorporated ideas from brainstorming. Then I asked students who had been involved in my prior research to pretend they were using this interface to organize their coursework. From their feedback, I made simple high-fidelity mockups.

Design Decisions

Design Decisions
Wire-framing
Provide an organization framework that focuses on the present

Rationale
Students like to focus on one task at a time and get stressed juggling multiple task.

Wireframes
Optional timeline view

Rationale
Students like being able to organize themselves in multiple ways

High-Fi Mockups
De-clutter interface using navigation

Rationale
Students said: "There are too many options, I don't know what I'm supposed to do." So, I separated the Today section from other tasks to present a simpler interface.

High-Fi Mockups
Separate page for today's tasks

Rationale
Students prefer a linear workflow (finish one task, then start the next). An organization tool should make completing the task at hand the primary focus, bringing students closer to how they'd like to work

High-Fi Mockups
Divide tasks into manageable chunks

Rationale
Students have trouble juggling all their tasks and easily get stressed about work

What I learned

This research was so much fun. Every student has distinct study habits, and each student approaches organizing themselves in unique ways that are linked to their personalities. In interviewing, I had great long talks about the the pressure of being a University student, and students' experiences learning how to manage their hectic lives and find meaning along the way. Even if not all of this made it into my tool concept, it helped frame my thinking.

If I could do this again, I would incorporate card-sorting or a similar research activity before I made my first wireframes.

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