Don’t Spill : A UX Case Study on Digital Distractions
In this case study, You’ll find out how we can solve problems related to digital distractions for working professionals.
So Sabeel why did you choose such a topic to bang your head on?
This was probably my 3rd personal project related to UX design and I wanted to tap into topics like human psychology and how habits were formed in humans. I had worked enough on habit-forming products, however, I wanted to do something different this time, that’s how I decided to work on something that would help to break habits instead. Apparently this case study also bagged me a job offer at the top UX UI Design Studio in India. Check out this badass place I work at Lollypop Design Studio.
In the flourishing world, there are lots of headway in technology. We can tell many inventions which lead to technological development. The necessity of our ancestors was just food and shelter whereas the need of the present generation is innumerable. Digital networking and communication have become a part of everyday life which has led us to complex state of multitasking within tabs and screens to an extent where we negatively affect our productivity. This applies to our personal lives and also at workspaces where employees notice that whenever they start working on something, they are interrupted by notifications coming from messaging apps or colleagues trying to fetch some information from an individual. In the study below I have tried to solve this problem with an app-based solution and also a little tweak in the physical space.
Yes, let me give an example.
Sakshi works in a product start-up. Her typical day at work consists of a daily stand-up, an hour of meeting and then 5–6 hours of core work. Lately, she has noticed that whenever she starts working she is interrupted by either a ping on slack, a ding on Whatsapp or a colleague leaning forward on her desk saying “Hey beautiful, how you doing today”.
Tom DeMarco author of a book about productivity called “Peopleware” states that it can take 15 minutes or more to regain the same intense focus or flow as before the interruption. So, every time a person switches tasks, his brain needs at least that amount of time to get back into the work. If he switches task just four times in a morning, that’s an hour of total focus he has lost and that holds a big impact on the total productivity of a person in working hours.
This problem prompted me to dig deep down the human psychology towards apps and its notifications which were as intriguing enough to distract a person from his work at a workplace.
Now that I had a bit of knowledge of the problem I went to my user research trying to understand who the user could be, what they want, and how they would use my solution. I made some assumptions to narrow down my target user:
- The user must be having an “OCD” towards checking their mobile phones
- The audience is looking forward to a change in lifestyle
- Users will be early adopters of the mobile application technology
Creating a Job Story
Keeping the end-user in mind, I created 3 Job Stories.
Assumption 1 ) “ When I work, I want my phone to send me fewer notifications so that I can concentrate more on my work “
Assumption 2 ) “ When I’m on DND mode, I don’t want to miss out on important calls and messages so that I can stay calm in my head ”
Assumption 3) “ When I’m am working, I don’t want colleagues coming around to fetch pieces of information so that I don’t get distracted and lose the track of thoughts “
Now that I was clear inside my head with who the end-users were and what they would expect, it was time to research for the validation of assumptions I made. To start with this I found the target audience were all around me, I did sit-in interviews with some friends of mine who are working professionals.
During the interview sessions, I found that most of them were not really. aware of the screen time spent on social media apps.
I also found out one surprising fact that the users tend to get even more anxious regarding notification when on DND mode.
Every second notification is just an offer or anything related to offers, the user gives it equal attention as of a text message.
There’s no in-app solution to that one distracting colleague who comes at their desk. 🥴
As I was hovering over the online content around this problem I learned what I was dealing in this project was habits, going deep into this I learned that according to Charles Duhigg, the author of “The Power of Habit”, any habit can be broken down into three parts — Cue, Routine and Reward.
Cue: It is the trigger for a habit, when you’re bored or trying to do something important but can’t focus, your mind drifts to a more rewarding place. Phone, in this case, is just in your proximity and you just grab it for one quick look.
Routine: Now, that you’ve held your phone in your hand now, it’s just your old routine of checking apps in order. For example, I always check for the important emails on my phone first, then I move to Instagram and browse a couple of things there and then move to Whatsapp maybe for a quick text.
Reward: It’s the final nail that makes a habit hard to quit. The reward is Dopamine and serotonin, every time. These are the happy chemicals that your brain releases to reward itself for doing a good job. It gives us a feeling of joy and contentment and your boredom is gone temporarily.
Now, the best way to break a habit is to break the Cue, in this case, make it difficult for the user to check the phone by using apps that temporarily block other apps on your iPhone and Android.
The personas I created were personas modeled after my friends. The goals, needs, and pain points are actual responses from my sit-down interview with them. I came up with two personas, among which one is a designer and another a developer.
When I was in a deep phase of the research, I came across multiple apps who had been working around the same problem and the solution I had in my mind was somehow on the same page as of theirs, not mentioning about them will be completely unethical, I’ve used their product for a while and I recommend you to use it too.
Forest App: This app takes control of your smartphone and decides when it is time for a break. Once you start the app, you need to set a time. Suppose, 20 mins and now you have to set your phone aside for that time. Meanwhile, a digital plant will grow in the app. In case you feel the urge to pick up your phone, you can do that.
But if you open any other app, Forest sends you notifications and starts vibrating to tell you to keep your phone down or else your digital plant would die. It’s effective because you at most times we just need a nudge to keep from opening an app and this app gives you that. And also, who wants to see a plant die?
Kruzer App: I admire how this app interacts with a phone call or message in the background to determine its importance so that the person driving his vehicle is not distracted unnecessarily
This Picture: For that one office colleague shows up early morning to ask a question or to just to have a chit chat about the last night.
Brainstorming Design Solutions
Brainstorming ideas brought different vantage points from which I could approach the problem. The solution could be a personal butler who comes with the user to the workplace. What about a simple alarm if a users screen time would exceed a certain time limit?
Another solution could be designing a habit to fix another habit, which means to build an app engaging enough to overcome social networking apps in the workplace. I chose to design a mobile app that syncs with the work schedule of a user and reminds the user that he needs to work rather than hopping from one tab to another.
1) The solution has to be a multi-platform product because of the complexity of the problem, distractions are on any device that has a screen on it which means that the app should be for both mobile and PC (chrome extension or something).
2) Onboarding needs to be as visually strong/appealing as taking an oath to keep users in an engaged mindset, I could gamify it to make the process fun.
3) App will freeze the screen till the committed timeline is not over, meanwhile let’s say a bot will take care of conversations in the background determining the importance of the call/message.
4) If there’s an important message from pre-defined important contacts (Family and Friends), the app will inform about it on priority via Notifications through any medium ie. screen, vibrations, smartwatch etc.
5) Promote staying away from the phone by attaching it to a greater cause for motivation (like in case of forest app: trees)
5) This app can be activated manually of it could also be activated via NFC around the user’s workstation.
Manoj is a developer at amazon and is struggling with unnecessary notifications from apps, he recently got to know about this app which locks away screen allowing only important emails, messages or calls to come on the screen while working. Manoj installs our app and tries it 30 minutes for the first time, he tries to access his phone multiple times during the committed time interval but the apps screen asks him to “ put down his phone ”, Manoj finds it dominating for the first two attempts but ends with an extremely productive day. Manoj feels satisfied watching his daily off-screen scores at the end of the day. Manoj feels happy.
Sakshi is a product designer, she works 9 hours a day but still shows up late with her projects. Sakshi has realised that it is all because of digital distraction making her feel bad about how she is performing. She had recently come across a friend who uses our productivity app. She installs it to give it a try, Sakshi feels amazed when her mother’s important texts pop above all the screens helping her with both her productivity and vigilant of family well being. Our app helps her to make most of her time and also gives her a feeling of achievement on seeing her daily scores and progress towards productivity.
Concept Visual Design
Don’t Spill : A UX Case Study on Digital Distractions was originally published in UX Planet on Medium, where people are continuing the conversation by highlighting and responding to this story.