Sorted

Sorted

A prototype for a holistic app 

This app prototype was created as my bachelor project at LAB University of Applied Sciences. I have struggled a lot with trying to find a good system to keep my life in track and organized. There seems to be an app for every aspect of life (calendars, notes, habit trackers, sports trackers etc) and it felt silly, that there seemed to be nothing that combined them all. Keeping up with all of my apps started to be chaotic and time consuming.

Another issue, that concerned me was the knowledge of systemic sexism, racism and overall unethical approaches the most popular apps we use are taking. These wrongdoings to humanity are an endless pit, so I ground myself to focus on one target, women. The knowledge that most of these giant tech corporations have significantly less women working in their ranks, especially in leadership positions, got me wondering if the apps we use today are even considering the needs of women. What would an app completely designed by a woman to women would look like?

The result turned out to be a very overwhelmed and exhausted design student and a promising and intriguing prototype for an app she believes can save all the scatterbrains like herself in the world.

The base

I wanted to create a system that would support life in a more wholesome way, where you could keep your appointments, tasks and habits in check, but also check in with the emotional side and physical wellbeing. I think these attributes support each other and when combined, can provide important information in order to find a balance in life.

The most important features for the app were inspired by bullet journals, which use a rapid logging system that is especially popular among women. The system had to be rethought to be user friendly and feel more like an app rather than a journal.

I also drew inspiration  from other apps in the market that are made for keeping a calendar, note taking, task managing etc. The idea was to create a certain flexibility in the app so it could cater to users, who might manage their lives differently.

A mindmap of the wanted features for the app including mood, sleep, stress, notes, calendar, tasks etc.

The ethics

When beginning to work on this project, I had been looking into the underlying problems in business models that are used in many popular apps today. Many of them have proven to create a lot of harm to their users in order to gain profit.

After doing some research and critical analysis of my own, I had to discard many of the most popular earning plans (free with ads, freemium, subscribtion models, pay per download etc.) simply because they were either unethical or not ideal for a new app with no community of loyal customers around it.

I decided to customize my own version of an earning plan that was based on fundraising. I wanted the earning method to be seethrough while creating a conversation between the user and the developer. The goal was to create a feeling for the users that they have the power to decide what the app turns out to be. 

  • Who pays for the app, owns the app.

Discussion is key

It was important to me to collaborate closely with my target group during the whole process. Before I even began designing the product, I interviewed a lot of female students about how they manage their life, what methods they use and what they might be struggling with. 

During the design process I made multiple sketches of certain functions and layouts and showed them to people in the target group to discuss what they liked, and what they thought about them in general.

These discussions gave me many good ideas to integrate into the app and also gave me direction to where to take the design, so I wouldn’t lose my focus in the process. 

User testing

I wanted to test the functionality of the app as well, so I created a prototype with Figma using seven user scenarios I had in mind. The goal was to see, if navigating through the app felt easy to the users and if they found some troubles with understanding the interface or certain features in the app.

I tested these scenarios by using Steve Krug’s user testing method that is described in the book Rocket surgery made easy

The overall functionality worked well, but there were some features, that required tweaking and some needed a complete redesign. I also got a lot of great new ideas from my test group during the feedback, that gave me inspiration to keep developing this app further.

Reflection

This project opened my eyes yet again, about how important it is to be in close contact with the target group during the process. It is truly interesting how people with different backgrounds and knowledge see things differently and come up with amazing ideas I would have never even thought of. I want to incorporate more discussions, workshops and user testing into my future projects as well. 

Taking the time to redesign the earning method gave me freedom in the design process to be more user-centered. If I were to integrate a freemium strategy, for example, a lot of my efforts would have been directed towards making the premium features appealing to the users rather than focusing on their functionality and if they are actually useful.

I want to keep developing this earning method further, because it is still a bit raw and needs more thinking, but I think I’m in the right way with this. Monetisation is a key feature for apps but it is  crucial we start asking who is paying the price in the end and why.

Looking for more details and information about the project? Here is a link to my complete bachelor thesis (in Finnish).