One-stop destination for all your mobile notifications
Timeframe: February 2017 - April 2017
My roles: UX researcher and designer
Platform: Mobile (Android)
NOTE - This was a solo Capstone Project completed as a part of the Interaction Design Specialization by UC, San Diego over Coursera. It was executed for Android 6.0 (Marshmallow).
My design brief was - “We are surrounded by information. Some might even call it overload. How might technology show us the essential pieces at a glance, so we can quickly navigate through the noise to get to what we really want?”
Find people and design a personal dashboard tailored to their needs
Everything from conducting initial research to designing and testing the final prototype.
What I learned
It was exciting to work on the project alone and execute it the way I wanted to. However, in retrospect, I would have preferred working in a team. Doing so would have helped me do a better job at every step of the process as I have now come to realize the value of working with diverse perspectives. Who knows, the solution proposed could have been entirely different or at least a better version of it. Additionally, I would have preferred conducting the initial research with users in-person which would have allowed me to observe them and correlate that with what they said.
Usability tests with users at different stages were insightful. They validated the design decisions I made. They also revealed aspects of the current design that needed improvement. Moreover, they revealed opportunities for including new functionality.
I conducted semi-structured interviews with three people over the phone. I did this to learn about their habits around dealing with notifications in an entire day. Also, to determine how the time of the day during which they check their notifications influences that. I used the insights from the interview to identify pain points with the way notifications are rolled out right now.
I brainstormed specific opportunities for design innovation by considering the pain points identified from earlier interviews. I articulated the opportunities as user needs. These opportunities went on to serve as potential seeds for designs.
I spent some time writing a problem statement. I ensured that the problem/opportunity is a deep user need rather than a surface need.
I worked on making an inspiration board. It included verbal and design inspiration. I did this to learn from what’s out there and understand the existing landscape.
I had now understood the existing landscape. I leveraged it to come up with two design ideas that addressed the problem statement. To illustrate the design ideas I sketched a storyboard for each one.
To figure out the information architecture and functionality, I sketched two paper prototypes. Each one instantiated a different storyboard.
Prototype 1 - It worked on the design idea behind Storyboard 1. A user could access all notifications irrespective of when they're received or dismissed. This app ensured that the user didn’t miss out on any notification and access them as per their convenience. How did it integrate with the traditional way of checking notifications? First, you would select your favorite/essential apps. Now, let's say you dismissed notification(s) from such apps when you first received them. Cubo would then send you a reminder to check those notification(s). One could also open Cubo themselves to check any notifications.
Prototype 2 - It was based on the design idea behind storyboard 2. In the app, the user could select categories and apps from which they want to receive notifications. This gave them better control over their notifications and their incoming flow. This also ensured they never “accidentally” missed out on their favorite notifications. That's because the “overload” of notifications would be prevented, thanks to the app.
I performed a Heuristic evaluation of my prototypes by using Nielsen’s Heuristics to identify potential issues with the prototypes. I then distilled the assessment into a list of concrete changes I wanted to make (not shown). Furthermore, I decided to work further on prototype 1 as I found it more useful than prototype 2. That's because it genuinely solved the problem of "notifications overload." It provided more control for a user over their notifications via filters. It also ensured that user could still access notifications later if they chose to do so. Prototype 2 provided no way to do this.
High-fidelity interactive prototype
I added more details to the prototype by designing the high-fidelity version of it using Adobe Illustrator. I needed to set up a navigational skeleton for usability testing. So, I made the prototype interactive using InVision.
Check out the first interactive prototype by clicking the button below!
A quick look into the first interactive prototype
I tested the usability of the prototype (especially its core functionality) to identify points for improvement. I developed a testing protocol. I then asked a couple of potential users of the app to test my prototype and observed them while using it. Later, I reflected on my findings from the usability study to come up with a list of potential changes.
Redesigning the prototype
I redesigned the prototype to resolve a couple of issues I identified in the usability test. Due to the inherent limitations of an interactive prototype, I could only incorporate these changes.
I subjected the original prototype and the redesigned prototype to a comparison test. I did this to check the effect of the manipulation made in the redesigned prototype. Also, to identify general potential revisions. I conducted an online A/B test with 4 participants over UserTesting.com.
I had designed this app considering Android Marshmallow in mind. Android Nougat and Oreo have improved how you deal with notifications. They still do not allow you to access a notification that you’ve dismissed though. Nor do they remind you to check the same at a later time. Additionally, Android Nougat and Oreo users can be interviewed. This will reveal opportunities on how dealing with notifications can be improved further. Accordingly, Cubo can come into the picture and do an even better job than it currently does.