Busy mode is an app that sends an automated text reply to unanswered calls. This idea came from observing people -- how people would get anxious when their loved ones don't answer their phones. I formed and a led a team of four UX designers to conceptualize and validate the concept and pitched the idea at SXSW 2015. Then, I designed the Android application and partnered with a developer to launch it in Google Play Store.
Concept & Problem statement
- There are times when friends and family don't answer their phones and there is no way to know when they will call back.
- Unanswered phone calls and text messages cause anxiety in people.
- Being away from their phones causes anxiety in millennials.
Busy Mode is one-click solution to solve the issue of mobile phone anxiety. It aims to send a customized automated when people don't answer their phones, and also solves for when their phone is switched off or out of network.
Identifying who will use it and why
I drew out Allison to relate to the target audience and use cases. The reason for having Allison was to be able to adapt to her context and understand the problem from her point of view, rather than being biased about our own ideas. Also it's always better to design for Allison than a user.
We interviewed 39 people including mothers and students from India, China, America, Ecuador, and Andorra and asked them questions to learn about their behavior when their loved ones don't answer their phones. The goal was to find answers to the following questions:
- How big of a problem is this and what are people's primary pain points?
- When does this problem happen and what do people do when in such a situation?
- Which user base is most affected by it?
What were the learnings?
Interviews helped us learn and validate the depth of the problem and find how people currently manage this problem. We found these insights:
- The group that was most affected by it were mothers in closely knit communities. This problem was also common between couples, and was dependent on the expectations between people.
- The most common use cases when people were away from their phones were traveling, driving, meetings, and working out.
- If people were unreachable, people would send a message and wait for a reply, keep calling if it was urgent or call an alternative person to check if that person was with them.
- 50% of the people did not use voice mail or found it to be unreliable. Also voice mail service doesn't exist in some countried such as India.
Brainstorming and sketching
To explore how the app will work in user interface form, I used sketches. Sketches helped to explore out a number ideas in a short amount of time without having to go into the specifics. The aim was to have a visual map of what people will experience while using the app.
To lay a structure of the app, I used wire-framing. This step was helpful to objectively think about the user flow and to outwit primary navigation problems that would harm the usability for the people in the future. This was immensely helpful to find the basic and structural problems at this stage rather than have to find at them at a higher fidelity stage, which would generate more work.
My goal was to design a solution that would provide 10x times benefit the cost of use. For this, the solution had to be very simple to use, intuitive and scalable for multiple scenarios and use cases. I explored many interaction patterns to find the pattern that would fit the use cases. I kept evolving and exploring the design patterns till there was nothing on the screen that I could get rid off. My ultimate solution was to make it easy for the customers to be able setup their busy modes without going into the app by using widgets.See design explorations
Handoff to dev example
What I learned
- Working across the complete product lifecycle, from concept to the end product
- Designing for the Android platform
- Creating spec. documentations with annotations, styling, animations, references and redlines
- Working with dev. to prioritize features in respect to complexity and time, and balancing that with user needs
- Using sketches to explore options to move with speed
- Don't let perfect get in the way of good. Let people use the app and collect data to see what is important to the people, and iterate
We were selected to fly to Austin and pitch Busy Status at the SXSW Austin Pitch Competition in 2015. We were among the top 7 finalists in the competition.