Summary: I created an iOS app that helps forgetful people remember to do tasks that are easily forgotten. This is the design process.
Duration: 8 months
My Role: User Research, Design, Development, User Testing, Publishing
This happened a few years ago when I still lived in São Paulo, Brazil. I was alone at home playing a video game with my dog sitting next to me. The telephone rang and it was my grandma, who wanted to talk to my mom about something (I can’t remember what). I said I would relay the message to her as soon as she got home. I got back to playing my video game and as you would have guessed it, I never remembered to tell my mom.
The next day, we were going to my grandma’s for lunch and the one thing I remember was the disappointed look she gave me as she said: “You never told your mom, did you?” I was deeply saddened as I saw how I’d let her down. At that moment, I thought just how it all could’ve been fine if I had simply taken note.
I talked to a few friends and asked them if they ever ran into the same problem. To my surprise, most of them could relate and said they forget to do stuff all the time! I probed them further on what they forget and how they currently dealt with this problem.
I found that they marked down important things like meetings and appointments on apps like Trello, Google Calendar and even on post-it notes. These were things that they absolutely could not forget.
However, there was another category of tasks that went unnoticed. These were small tasks that they knew they had to do, but ended up forgetting. Since these tasks were trivial, they didn't put it on their usual productivity apps and, often times, forgot to do it when they intended to.
Examples: One of my friends mentioned she had physical exam results she needed to pick up, but kept forgetting to go get them. Another friend said she had library books to renew, but forgot to do it before the right time.
The reason these little tasks were forgotten was because they are so small that it’s not worth the effort of putting them up on Trello or Calendars. In these apps, users have to go through multiple taps and screens to set up a simple reminder.
Here is an example from the default Reminders app by Apple. You need to tap 6 different UI elements and go through 2 screens and 1 modal to set up a reminder (aside from typing the task and choosing a time).
That's a lot of steps and a lot of time! There are enough steps and interactions to make users think twice about whether it'll be worth the effort to set up the reminder.
What I noticed is that it comes down to the return on investment and the potential negative consequences. For example, you might not want to spend 1 minute setting up a reminder for something that'll have close to no negative consequence if you forget to do it. If that negative consequence increased, however, then the 1 minute might start looking like it's worth it. But what if we could decrease the investment (the time)? The negative consequences wouldn't need to be so high, for the investment to be worth it.
With this information, I had an idea of what the app needed to be.
It had to be fast so that users could spend as little time as possible setting up reminders.
It also had to be easy to set reminders, which meant giving users little options.
As opposed to the 2 screens and 1 modal from Apple, I wanted my app to be 1 screen and 1 modal. All the user would need to fill out was the task name and the time to be reminded.
With a layout like this, the Call-To-Action on the home screen is the text input. Once that's filled in, you get a modal with the time picker and a finish button. That's it!
With the main functionality and the flow defined, all that was left was to style the UI elements. Here's the design of adding and deleting reminders:
The empty state contains instructions on how to get started with the app. The flow of setting up a reminder is the same as the one illustrated in the low-fi design.
While adding a reminder is easy, deleting should be just as easy. Just dragging the item to the right will casually remove the reminder from your list.
Coding this app was a long journey, but one that I will not cover in this case study. With the design on one hand and XCode on the other, I eventually got myself to a working beta app.
I gathered a couple of friends and asked them if they wanted to beta test the app I was creating. This turned out to be very different from the usual user testing that's done on the spot.
Because of the time factor (users had to wait to receive the reminders), I let my testers use the app as they wanted for a few days. I came back to them and asked what they thought about it, if it was helping them, and if they had any other feedback. Turns out there was one key part of this app that I had forgotten about.
Most of them talked about how they wish they could act upon a reminder that was already sent. The way the app originally worked was that even after a reminder had already been sent, it still looked the same in the app. So, from their feedback, I changed the top bar color to gray to indicate inactiveness and added two actionable buttons.
After refining my app with my beta testers' feedback, I decided to ship my product. Publishing the app turned out to be much tougher than I expected. I ran into many rejections along the way, but ultimately found my way to the App Store!
This project gave me the opportunity to wear both the designer and the developer hat. I certainly learned a lot from having to work both these roles. For example, I had no idea that color codes on Sketch don't translate directly into Swift colors. There were many times where I did not understand why my app looked so different from the screens I had designed in Sketch.