Milestone II: The Problem

Users

Nowadays people are expected to mentally juggle more than one task at a time, this a requirement at places like work and school. Our tools are expected to do more as well. With the advancements in technology people multitask almost everywhere. The results of this phenomenon are leading people to have shorter attention spans, communication concerns socially, phone addiction and poor performance in productivity.


Since MultiManager will proactively serve information to the user instead of them seeking it, maybe this approach will rewire some people’s brains to reduce the amount of time spent checking their phones. Currently, adults and teens go in their phone for any reason every few minutes or a few times per hour. In either case, they are conditioning themselves to feel the need to turn on their phones due to the fear of missing something. 

         

         

I wanted to verify similar trends in my stakeholders so I segmented them into three age groups: 14-18 years (high school students), 18-22 years (college students) and 22-43 years (working professionals). I surveyed 9 males and 6 females who said on average, they have 50 apps on their phone but only 15 of those serve a primary purpose on a daily basis. All of them were intermediate or above in technological skill levels, own smartphones, check their phones frequently and use multiple apps daily.



Tasks

I selected a few of the survey participants to interview by phone and question about their app usage, giving them three task scenarios that take place from morning to bedtime. What I found was that primary level apps were essential for the participants to complete three main tasks: communicate, search for information and entertainment. However, they used different apps to accomplish these tasks. For example:


               Participant: #9, 22-43 years of age, male

               Behavior: checks his phone a few times per hour

               Scenario: heading home from work you make a stop at the grocery store

               Response: he’s on the phone with his wife discussing dinner, browsing the web for a recipe ingredient and opens an app

               for sport scores while waiting in the checkout line

               Environment: interacts with his phone mostly when at home (Figure A), work and on the go

Figure A: Participant #9 and his family's home.


               Participant: #6, 18-22 years of age, female

               Behavior: checks her phone every few minutes

               Scenario: class is ending and you walk to another building for your next class... fast forward to bed time 

               Response: she closes the calculator app as the class bell rings and opens Snapchat to talk with friends while transitioning to

               the next class. “Before I go to bed, I go through all of my social media one last time and I have to watch everyone’s videos.

               It’s a habit.”

               Environment: checks her phone mostly when on campus (Figure B).

Figure B: Participtant #6 and Plaza Cafe on Western Michigan University campus. Screen capture from wmich.edu.


Analysis

Each participant has a unique set of tasks but all of them inject voluntary disruptors. All respondents admitted starting their day by checking their phone for activities. They may filter through up to 100 apps or more (Figure C) throughout the day to access their secondary and tertiary level apps. The core, day-to-day apps tend to be better organized for faster accessibility.

Figure C: Screen captures from Participant 8’s phone.


For many users, the process of search, find and engage an app is done automatically with minimal cognition. Checking habits were found prevalent among smartphone owners, according to the study “Habits Make Smartphone Use More Pervasive” (A. Oulasvirta, L. Ma, E. Raita, Helsinki Institute for Information Technology HIIT, Aalto University, Helsinki, Finland; 2011). The report noted that quick access to dynamic content can induce habits and give users a feeling of being rewarded after consumption. A sensation develops for wanting to return for more, spurring a cycle that results in increased phone use.


When I spoke with research participants for my project they did not voice many concerns about sifting through several apps throughout the day, despite using only about 15 or so. I think this is because there are many tools available to help smartphone owners manage their apps. For instance, Advanced Task Manager manages app systems and how they interact with the phone’s ecosystem. Another option is the Samsung Smart Switch Mobile app, which allows users to move content from one device to another. During the early stages of doing a competitive analysis the closest consideration to the proposed MultiManager project was Switchr - App Switcher (Figure D), which is designed to give users a better experience of switching between their favorite apps, using search or gestures from the navigation bar.


An advantage to this interface is that several apps can be managed under a single setting rather than having to find and manipulate app settings individually. In addition, the app touts to have several interface designs to choose from to access apps.

Figure D: Screen capture of Switchr - App Switcher from play.google.com




Despite the customization claims, app switching is not a new concept, both Android and iOS have this ability built in (Figure E).


Figure E: Screen capture of personal phones with app switching functionality, Android (left) and iOS (right).


Survey participants as well as myself were unaware of existing tools available for download that claim to improve app switching outside the phone's operating system’s built-in functionality.



Measures

To assess MultiManager's success, I took measures of performance, usability and satisfaction. Here’s a breakdown of the metrics:


Performance (quantitative)

  • Time on task
  • Number of errors


Usability (quantitative)

  • Task analysis
  • System Usability Scale


Satisfaction (qualitative)

  • Lickert scale
  • Questionnaire
  • Verbal protocol


The evaluation will be performed in iterations using wireframes and prototypes.



REFERENCES​​​​​​​​​​​​​​