Design Challenge — Research, design, prototype, test, and deliver a fully digital solution that addresses a well-scoped human-centered design problem. 

Solution — A mobile app that is aimed to increase our users’  productivity by creating a platform where users can compete with their friends, or other users,  for having the lowest screen time during their specified work hours. 

Role — UX Research and Designer

Team Members — Winnie Chen, Emma Leng, Apurwa Shukla, Jen Sun
Timeline — March - June 2020


Affinity Diagram

We organized our data found from interviews meaningfully and we were able to sort our insights into three big categories. From making these categories, we were able to better understand what aspects of online learning are under students’ control, what aspects are not, and what are neither in control of students or professors. Through the process of categorizing our data, we were able to overcome any misunderstandings we previously had, and our data is more digestible in diagram format. This process has also taught us that learning processes/needs vary from student to student. For example some students like to attend lectures during the lecture time, while others watch the recorded version on their preferred time. 

Low-Fidelity Prototypes and User Testing

In order to validate our prototype, our group conducted a final round of user testing to ensure that the information architecture and flow of our prototype was logical, intuitive and tailored to our users. Our user testing plan consisted of interviews and usability testing done with a group of stakeholders, consisting of college students learning remotely.  We wanted to ensure that our solution adequately addressed the problem, so our usability test consisted of tasks that are central to the goal of our app. In response to the problem of widespread decreased motivation when attending university online, the goal of our app is to motivate students to spend time on their schoolwork.


  • ⅘ users prefer the word ‘competition’ over ‘session’ because competition is motivating to our stakeholders, who state that “It adds an element of fun to the app. I’m doing a session every time I study, but there’s not a lot of opportunity to participate in a positive academic competition.”

  • we did not need to change the wording of ‘a/synchronous’; it wasn’t confusing to users because “it’s not like a 10 year old is downloading a productivity app like this”

  • confirmed that a list of possible rewards could be chosen by the creator of the competition, although all participants would be able to vote from the list for the final prize. Users agreed that voting on rewards would help make the reward more enticing.

Solution: She downloads a new productivity app that allows her to input all of her lecture times and allocate specific hours everyday for her school work and studying. During these times, her phone blacklists, or blocks, all of her non-essential apps so she cannot get distracted. 

Resolution: Julia is able to get all of her work done during these allocated times and stays on track with her classes.


After brainstorming and sketching our own prototypes, we combined different aspects and components together to present this sketch that best represents our ideal product.

1. Goals - an option for the user to set a productivity time goal

2. Competition - compete against friends to see who can stay most productive

3. Friends - add friends to be able to compete with them


To collect our qualitative data, we conducted 10 interviews with both students and educators, asking questions pertaining to how they would typically go about their school days.  Our interviewees provided us with a video of their workspaces to give us a better visualization of the environment they talked about in their interviews. 

Key Insights

  1. Planning and setting a schedule is very helpful in terms having a routine to follow and knowing what to do at a certain time. 

  2. Completing different tasks in the limited physical spaces you have is very helpful. (i.e. only eating and relaxing in the dining room or on the bed and only studying at the desk) 

  3. Allocating time for relaxing is helpful for students to stay on task as it serves as a reward for completing all the tasks for a given day. 

  4. Lectures often feel too long for sustained attention, but taking notes helps you stay focused

  5. Minimizing physical distractions helps maintain focus, but requires space away from other people and animals, which can be difficult

  6. Harder to participate during classes because it feels awkward, since nobody else is participating. 

  7. Harder to ask questions because sometimes teachers don’t understand and repeating over and over again through a screen gets awkward. Thus, hesitant to ask questions.

Narrowing our Scope

Through our conversations with our interviewees, we were able to learn about how they are coping with the current situations. We found that even though our stakeholders are experiencing similar things, they are all coping and reacting very differently. For this reason we found the need to narrow our scope and focus on a specific population - college students. 

More specifically, we want to focus on college students who are attending school online. We hope to address some of the additional obstacles college students have to face while they’re learning remotely.

Our Solution

From that last user testing phase, we created this high fidelity prototype.

Create and join a competition.

The main motivating factor to productivity will be the competitive aspect our solution presents. Add friends to create friendly competition. 

Reward and Work Hours

Once joining a competition, scheduled work hours will be chosen and the opportunity to vote for a reward appears. User in the competition that logs the least "screentime" will win the reward.

Whitelist Apps

Users can choose phone applications they can use during work hours. However, when using these apps "screentime" will still be tracked. All other apps are blacklisted. 

Experience Study Buddy below!

Shortcomings and Incompleteness 


Ways to Join a Competition

Currently just a search bar--we discussed adding a QR code, but haven’t implemented it.


We don’t know how impactful our app will be

Due to current situations, we were only able to understand user behaviors and needs through video calls. Because we were not able to completely immerse ourselves into users’ shoes, there may be some shortcomings that we do not see and are lacking in our app.


Although we have done a lot of user research, we have not been able to test how users will actually participate in an app like this. We have not yet been able to see what emergent properties come from using an app like this, and whether or not it will actually be helpful. 


Because of the stay at home orders, we were never able to implement Wizard of Oz testing to observe user behavior and to see our app function in real time, and over a substantial period of time. 

Conclusion and Reflection

Iterating and Ideating

To avoid converging too fast, we realized that iterating and ideating constantly helped us refine our ideas in each step. While carrying out this process, doing short user interviews and testing also helped us iterate on our ideas better.

Diverge before converge

We learned the importance of ideating and exploring different directions we can take our project with what we learn every week. Through our users we learn about how we should converge so this is a really good way to prevent us from “designing from the I”.

The importance of data consolidation and visualization as a storytelling tool

Design models; was a lot of our first times actually making design models! Even though we completed the process remotely, it created a structured formula to parse the huge amounts of quantitative data that we collected.

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Randi, 20, College Student

- has trouble getting all of her work done because remote learning has disconnected her from her classmates

- diminished motivation to do all of her work in one sitting

- motivates herself to do work now by rewarding herself with leisure time

- has access to a computer, phone, and internet at all times of the day, which is just a major setback as it is a helping tool for her. Netflix and Candy Crush are both so addicting. It is hard to put her devices down.


1. Do well in her remote classes

2. Enjoy her classes while learning remotely

3. Improve her time management skills 

4. Reduce the leisure time on her phone 


1. A tool that will help her succeed

2. Motivation to finish her work and study


Stemming from our interviews and affinity diagram, we created two personas to help us getting a better idea of who we are designing for. With these personas, we included goals and needs, which we wanted to keep in mind throughout our design process.  

Charlize, 20, College Student

- taking three classes online and has a part time job that requires weekly online training

- biggest issue is staying focused for long periods of time; because she is now attending all of her lectures online and asynchronously

- lacks the structure that once helped her succeed academically

- house is full of distractions, and staying focused is a challenge, especially because she shares a room, and does her schoolwork in common areas.


1. Get all A's

2. Stay focused during lecture

3. Retain everything she learns


1. A distraction free environment

2. Motivation to stay engaged

3. A tool to help her succeed


After creating multiple storyboards, we narrowed it down to this one, where the solution was preferred by interviewees and team members. 

Context: Julia is a college student who has trouble staying focused during her remote school day. Her course load is very difficult this quarter and wants to do her best. She has a paper calendar that she uses to keep track of all of her lectures and assignments. 

Problem: However, it is not helpful to her, since she easily gets distracted from social media and games on her phone.

Made by Michelle