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GroupDo

Divide chores, the easy way.

Executive Summary

Timeline: Sep 2023 - Dec 2023

Course: Interaction Design Studio (University of Michigan)

Supervisor: James Rampton (former Lead Product Designer, General Motors)

GroupDo is a mobile-based digital task tracker that helps you track group chores and keep a log of each person’s contribution. It is inspired by the working model of the Splitwise app.

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The working model of GroupDo allows you to assign tasks to a group of people who can do their part whenever they find time within the task deadline and simply log it as completed on the app.


All members of a group can see who has completed a task and who is still left, allowing them to send explicit reminders through the app. Reminders can only be sent once a group member has completed their part of the task.

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Problem Statement

Context

Tracking communal chores can be difficult and time-consuming  for college roommates with busy schedules, especially when it comes to ensuring fair and equal contribution. There is a need for a quick and simple collaborative digital tracker that allows them to log their chores and send reminders without awkward direct confrontations.

As a first-time international student, I had lived with my parents my entire life before coming to the United States for my Masters where I started living with 6 other roommates in a Graduate Housing apartment at the University of Michigan. One of the immediate challenges I faced living with roommates was the task of efficiently keeping track of house chores such as keeping the common spaces clean, taking out the trash etc. so that everyone contributed fairly and equally to keeping the apartment clean and organized.

My roommates and I communicated via a Whatsapp group and used a whiteboard put up on the refrigerator to keep track of each person's contribution. While manual tracking worked to some extent, it had its shortcomings such as someone forgetting to do their part. I also noticed that there was hesitance among roommates in sending direct message reminders (e.g. on Whatsapp) to each other and there was a need for a more formal, independent platform for sending reminders and communicating with each other regarding shared chores.

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From a whiteboard to the palm of your hand!

Competitive Review

Issues

To survey existing products and what is already out there, I carried out a competitive review of 4 different mobile-based chore tracking applications (Tody, Cozi, Sweepy, Home Tasker). My focus was on depth versus breadth, hence the small number of applications reviewed. I downloaded and tested the applications myself and also watched Youtube reviews from people who frequently use such applications as part of their daily routines. 

My analysis revealed 2 main issues:

  1. Most of the existing collaborative chore tracking apps are designed for family homes and organized according to rooms such as the kitchen, living room etc. Hardly any of them specifically targeted college students or their extraordinary jam-packed schedules which leave very minimal time for setting up apps and taking time out to clean regularly.

  2. Adding collaborators is often a paid premium feature rather than a default functionality.

 

This shaped my initial mindset to design something tailored to college roommates that is simple and to the point without overcomplicating things or overloading information on the user. Given this, my competitive review did yield some interesting lessons and design directions towards my goal as summarized below.

Competitive Review Design Insights

User Research

To further enhance my perspective and flesh out the problem in an unbiased manner, I adopted a user-centered research approach.

 

To assess user needs for managing shared chores, I conducted 2 in-depth interviews with graduate students at the University of Michigan both of whom lived with at least 5 people and shared house chores with their roommates. The user demographic is summarized in the table below.​

The interviews were semi-structured and each lasted for about an hour. I transcribed each interview using an online transcribing tool (WhisperAI) and then thematically analyzed the interview data to extract key findings.

User Research Findings

User Personas

To better understand and empathize with the needs and pain points of typical users , I set out to create 2 user personas. Both personas are primary targets for the interface that I aim to design. The current user demographic for the personas focuses on the needs of college students living in shared spaces such as dorm rooms or apartments. Thus, it mainly includes young adults, predominantly between the ages of 18 and 25, who are attending university and living in shared accommodations.

However, this might exclude other demographics such as older adults, high school students, or families with diverse dynamics. While I focused mainly on university students in urban areas, individuals in rural areas or in smaller colleges might have different needs or access to technology. Therefore, the first iteration of the design might be tailored more for urban populations and could explore expansion into other demographics in the future versions.

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User Personas Overview

1. Meticulous Roommate (Fahad)

  • Embodies a roommate that likes to stay on top of their chores.

  • Expects for work to be fairly divided and for everyone else to pull their weight equally.

2. Casual Roommate (Natasha)

  • Embodies a more casual and easy going roommate who likes to take their time with finishing or attending to chores.

  • Often needs to be reminded and nudged to contribute equally.

*Personally I'm more of a Fahad in terms of staying on top of my chores but allow myself a Natasha with personal chores every once in a while when deadlines start to pile up.😅

Brainstorming

Based on the insights generated from the competitive analysis, user research, and user personas, I started brainstorming scenarios to outline the context in which my tailored solution would be of use and thereby highlight key features that would be of greatest significance. Two example scenarios are summarized below.

Scenarios

Sketches

I extended the brainstorming phase into sketching some initial designs ideas to visualize the look and feel of a mobile-based solution. 

Initial Low-fidelity Sketches
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Information Architecture

The sketches helped me visualize a high-level overview of the app's functionality before creating more formal user flows. The next step was to then transform these sketches and scenarios into structured user flows as shown below. I also generated a site map before diving into the design of individual screens.

User Flows

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Site Map

Paper Prototype

Using the user flows and site maps as a reference, I created a low-fidelity paper prototype of the main functionalities of the application, including creating, viewing and updating tasks as well as managing groups.

Visualizing Interactions
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Wireframes

Next in my design iterations, I refined the paper prototypes into Black and White wireframes in Figma. The reason for not using a defined color palette at this stage was to focus solely on the design and usability of the screens. The wireframes were further iterated over using insights from Neilson's 10 Usability Heuristics as illustrated below.

Old Design

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New Design

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NN/g Heuristic Evaluation

Error prevention
Issue:
Keyboard input field can sometimes confuse users or put them under a cognitive burden leading to slips in typing out inputs.


Design Recommendation:
Slips can be avoided by providing helpful constraints and good defaults. Hence, the design is modified to provide a placeholder text in place of all keyboard input fields in the app.

High-Fidelity Prototype

Finally, I moved on to the design of a colored, partially-functional high-fidelity digital prototype created on Figma. I first created a style guide for consistent typeface and iconography and then designed individual screens around that.

Style Guide
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Key Design Decisions

1. Color-coding Task Status

I used 3 main colors to denote the status of a task card in my application.

  • Red: Most urgent (requires immediate action),

  • Green: Completed,

  • Blue: Neutral, (not as urgent, but still pending)


I validated the color contrast of all 3 colors by using an online accessibility tool called colorsafe.


Why?


Pop-out Effect
A pop-out effect arises when one target object varies in a certain feature from other objects and hence makes the target immediately stand out from its surroundings [1]. I use color to instantiate a pop-out effect so when users are looking for urgent tasks that are due the same day for instance, they can perceive the red c
olor as a sign of urgency.


Match between system and the Real World
Users are familiar with perceiving red as a sign of warning or extra caution while green in this context is often perceived as a sign of completion.

References:
[1] Ware, C. 2008. Ch. 2: What We Can Easily See. In Visual Thinking for Design. Elsevier. pp. 23-37.
[2] 10 Usability Heuristics for User Interface Design https://www.nngroup.com/articles/ten-usability-heuristics/

 

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Limitations and Future Work

In hindsight, I see some aspects of this project that limit its scope and generalizability such as fewer interviewees and lack of substantial usability testing. Although I evaluated the product with peers in class and iterated the final design following their suggestions, I wish I had more time to develop and pilot this app with my roommates and gain real-world data and insights into the app's functionality and possible breakdown points. Moreover, due to time constraints arising from course deadlines, I could not spend much time studying similar products and evaluating GroupDo's performance in comparison to market competitors. However, despite this, my vision for GroupDo does not end here. As a grad student managing communal chores daily, I am constantly involved in dialogue with my peers regarding the usability of GroupDo, and brainstorming new ideas and better strategies to evolve the app's design. I hope that I can release an MVP soon at Michigan! 

Meanwhile, feel free to interact with GroupDo's current Figma prototype down below!

Interact with GroupDo !
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