Plant Pals — Promoting Healthy Work-Life Balance
Plant Pals is a task management application that utilizes a virtual pet to help promote work and life balance. The application aims to improve user behavior through suggesting breaks to be completed after each task, while providing the user with a new plant pal each month as an extrinsic motivator.
I participated in user testing, low- and mid-fi prototypes, and visual style, which a focus on the general interactivity of the application.
We started off the process by looking at a few different studies and papers with similar material to what we were considering including in our application.
To further our understanding of the space, we sent out a survey asking people about their task tracking habits in terms of whether or not they use an outside resource, what they find important in terms of features, and how effective they find their current method. These were the main insights we found from our survey:
people who utilize applications for task management purposes
many people were unsatisfied with their current task management applications, but could not find a substitute
most users took quite frequent unintentional breaks, especially in relation to social media
people who did plan breaks had them dependent on completing major goals/checkpoints
INITIAL USER RESEARCH
After our initial research, we decided we had enough information to start creating some paper prototypes that would allow us to user test as well as visualize our idea.
After getting basic feedback from a few of our peers, we worked on integrated all of the aspects of our task adding features more hammered down to test more concretely. We worked on low-fi screens for the plant, the to-do list, as well as the garden area of the application.
We asked a couple of our classmates and peers to walkthrough how they would go from screen to screen and what features they appreciated in our low-fi mockups.
“I would first click on add new task and presumably a scroll function would allow me to choose the date and time in which I would need to complete it”
liked idea of scrolling to reveal the add new task function
initially thought that the to-do list was just to help figure out how to take care of plant
“might be better to have plant grow based on commitment to completing tasks and breaks rather than have it based on how many are completed”
thought it would be nice if instead of having one plant grow infinitely to have new plants after completing a lot of having new plants on a weekly/monthly schedule
likes the idea of having a garden screen where you can view past plants
From our user testing sessions, we found that users liked the ease of adding tasks as well as the options to add date/time information and categorize. They preferred to enter in time estimations through a short/medium/long scale as opposed to entering in the exact time. Additionally, users preferred having the application suggest specific breaks rather than time-based breaks, which went hand-in-hand with our literature review findings.
We decided to go with a vector-based illustration style as it would allow us to quickly iterate and animate different assets such as the virtual pets as well as items. We started testing different color palettes and typographic styles that we could implement in further screen refinements.
To more accurately user test, we decided to flesh out the visual style for the screens. As users in our previous testing sessions noted that they enjoyed the minimalistic style of the low-fi digital prototypes, we decided to stay true to that sort of approach.
We used a light muted green color and kept a white background to make sure that the plant would stand out, regardless of the colors. We wanted to try to simulate how the application would work in terms of completing tasks/breaks and how the user would be rewarded for these accomplishments.
To test our progress, we gathered up participants of our past user testing sessions to get a better understanding of how people may use our application and whether or not there were any specific pain points.
We ended up testing our participants in group settings. The summary results of these sessions can be found below.
General Interface/ Design
touch area is too small
text could be too small
Participant Group 1
liked plant pet
concerned about only getting random items, would prefer to be able to pick (not a super big concern though)
would like to be able to customize plant (yes)
liked the idea of scheduling in breaks
notifications can be annoying (especially if you're completing several tasks at once), have some way to customize
thought end of day summary was interesting but also concerned about what happens if you don't complete any tasks (explained)
Participant Group 2
change from garden, to-do, plant nav to the back to tasks nav (on summary page) creates disconnect
maybe present it more like a pop-up like the task completion?
color of plant background makes it seem like a separate part of the app
“do you have to complete the break to get rid of the pop-up after doing a task
task adding box seems depressing/too formal since it is all gray
Taking our user testing results into account, we worked on creating a final interactive demo that touched on the concerns of our peers. Main pain points seemed to revolve around the order of some of the screens during the interaction, the size of elements on the page, and further development of sections to avoid confusion.
Finally, our team unified the overall visual design and interactions as well as simulated a sensical user flow for a public demo based on how our user testing participants went through the application.
One of the biggest takeaways I found through this project was the process of extracting salient points from user testing sessions. This project gave me further evidence for the effectiveness of proper user testing (especially with consistent participants) and how it impacts design decisions.
As for next steps, our team is definitely interested in furthering the connection between breaks and tasks through researching and surveying specific activities while gaining a better understanding of how extrinsic motivators can help to bolster existing internal ones.