Google Todo app
Overview

This was a design project for an HCIM class. I performed user surveys, evaluated competing to-do apps, and came up with a concept demonstrating how a to-do app made by Google could be, and how it could perfectly integrate with Google's other services.

Problem Statement

Google has billions of users (Lardinois, 2016) around the world using their interconnected products, like Gmail, Calendar, Chrome, Photos, and Android. There is, however, a notable absence of a dedicated to-do application from Google.

Although Gmail/Calendar offers a small popup window to jot down tasks, this is in no way a full-fledged, interconnected to-do application that works across devices. Google's Keep app also offers users a way to create a small check list, but is primarily meant to be a note-taking application.

Google's competitors like Apple and Microsoft have their own to-do apps: Apple Reminders has been part of iOS and MacOS from a long time, while Microsoft acquired the team behind the popular app, Wunderlist, and created an app called "Microsoft To-Do" that integrates with Microsoft services.

So for my project, I chose to design how a to-do app by Google would look like, and how it would work with other Google products.

Team and my role

This was an individual project. I solely performed the following processes:

• User surveys
• Brainstorming and ideation
• Low-fidelity prototype creation
• High-fidelity prototype creation
• User testing
• Design improvements based on user feedback

Tools used

Sketch, InVision, Qualtrics.

Design Process
Data collection

The purpose of data collection for this project was to understand user behavior with regards to todo/reminder management, to understand whether the proposed app would be useful to general users, and to get an idea of what features would be most useful to various users. A survey was sent out to random user groups (friends, family, social networks) who had varying levels of expertise with regards to technology and software. The responses were collected over a span of 1.5 weeks. The survey can be accessed or reviewed here .

Data analysis

Out of those that responded to the survey, 16 participants completed it. The following is a summary of significant observations and insights gathered from the data:

44% respondents use to-do apps to remember tasks
When asked about their preferred method of managing their tasks, 44% voted for to-do applications. The next popular choice was paper/notebooks at 30%.
Around 54% of the respondents felt the need to jot down tasks a few times a day
Around 54% of the respondents felt the need to jot down tasks "a few times a day".
Most participants said they had used either Google Keep or Apple Reminders.
When asked which apps they had used for reminders, most participants voted for either Google Keep or Apple Reminders

When asked which apps they had used for reminders, most participants voted for either Google Keep or Apple Reminders, which come pre-installed on (most) Android and all iOS devices respectively. Some participants mentioned using Samsung's own reminder application. An insight that could be drawn is that perhaps a lot of participants had preferred to use the application that was pre-installed on their phones. If Google were to pre-install a to-do application on Android phones, it may potentially be used by a large user base, given that Android had around 81% of the smartphone market share in the world in 2016 (Vincent, J., 2017).

Participants rated 'reminders at a particular time', and 'collaborating lists with family or colleagues' as the most useful prospective features.
For the features they would find most useful, 13/16 people voted for "Reminders at a particular time", and 11/16 voted for "collaborating lists with family or colleagues".
Almost all the participants use more than one Google service on a regular basis.
Almost all the participants use more than one Google service on a regular basis.
Tech Research and Competitor Analysis

Google seems to have no official, standalone to-do list app. As a work around, Google provides a few disconnected ways to achieve reminders for tasks (Evans, M. 2017):

  1. Google Tasks: Tasks is a standalone functionality embedded within Gmail. A user may choose to add tasks, and set deadlines for them. Google automatically creates a calendar entry for the task on the day of it’s deadline. Tasks however, has several limitations, such as having no way of creating recurring reminders, or adding a reminder for an email, or creating sub-tasks (Evans, M. 2017).
  2. Google Inbox: Inbox can allow you to create reminders pertaining to a particular email, or create a standalone reminder which integrates with Google Assistant (Set Reminders, n.d.). However, it doesn’t provide a way to create a list of todos, nor is it integrated with Google Calendar.
  3. Google Keep: Keep is Google’s note taking application, and has a functionality to create a to-do list within a note, and an option to remind the user about the note at a particular time/place (Evans, M. 2017). However, it lacks the functionality to create sub-tasks, or an integration with any other Google services.
  4. Google Assistant: Assistant is Google’s virtual assistant that was launched in May 2016 (Pichai, S., 2016). A user may use Assistant to create reminders using their voice, and Google Assistant will remind them on the various devices it is available on, such as Google Home, or Android or iOS devices (Huffman, S., Chandra, R. 2017).  However, with this method, a user cannot quickly create a list of connected tasks, or have it a particular task tied in with their calendar.
  5. Google Calendar: Calendar has functionalities that allow a user to create tasks, set reminders, set recurring reminders, and has dedicated mobile applications (Refsland, T., n.d.). However, it lacks the ability to group related to do tasks together, and forces the user to specify an exact time for each task, reducing flexibility for tasks that a user wishes to do whenever they get time.

Currently popular todo apps include applications like Todoist, Any.Do, Wunderlist and Microsoft Todo (Newton, C. 2017). I carefully used and studied all these mobile applications (and their web versions) to analyse their features. Common features among them seem to be:

  1. Automatically create prioritized lists that show what tasks the user has due today and the current week.
  2. Integration with other services like email and calendars.
  3. Applications available across various operating systems.
  4. Natural language processing to understand context about deadlines (for example, specifying a reminder for “tomorrow evening” would create a reminder for the next day at 6 pm).

App Design

Based on the gathered data and analyzing popular todo apps, wireframes were hand-drawn demonstrating 6 popular features. Once the wireframes and screen flows were finalized, high-fidelity versions were created using Sketch. Clickable prototypes of the final designs were created in InVision, so as to demonstrate the screen flow and working of the app design. The clickable prototype can be found here: https://invis.io/BSEUMP9UR#/268126751_Home

These are the designs for each feature:

• Showing what needs to get done this day or week (prioritizing)

• Reminders at a particular time/place + Integration with calendar

• Collaboration or sharing lists with family or colleagues

• Reminders about acting on emails

• Adding subtasks

After designing the high-fidelity prototype, the next step was to test it for usability issues. The prototype was tested with 5 participants, where they were asked to perform each of the 6 features above (reminders at particular time, sharing a list with a friend, reminders on email, etc.)

The response to the prototype was very positive, and most participants only had minor difficulties in completing the tasks in the usability test. Small alterations/modifications were implemented in the prototype based on my observations and the participants' suggestions.

Lessons learnt

• Keep it simple enough for a billion people
Billions of people use Google products across various countries. I tried to make my design easy enough to use for users of various ages and cultures. A rule of thumb I follow while designing such products is: would my mom find this easy to use?
• Material design
Google's material design is a beautiful design system encompassing UI, interaction and branding. Having mostly designed for iOS, it's always fun to closely study material design guidelines, to study interactions in Google's apps and decide how to make Material design work for your designs.
• How does Google do it?
Google offers similar functionalities that I outlined in my design in various different products. It was interesting to closely how they implement a functionality (e.g. setting a location-based reminder), when various dialogs appear, and the best way for users to input certain data, like auto-completing nearby places based on the user's current location.

Conclusion

The purpose of this project was to demonstrate the kind of powerful to-do application a company with several services like Google can create by integrating it's various products and data. In the future, this project may be expanded to also demonstrate deeper integration of such an application with Google's other services like Calendar.

References

Aaron (n.d.). Set Reminders - Inbox by Gmail. Retrieved from https://support.google.com/inbox/answer/6062813

Evans, M. (2017, June 6). The Google Tasks Guide: How to Get the Most Out of the Simplest To-Do App. Retrieved from https://zapier.com/blog/google-tasks-guide/

Lardinois, A. (2016, Feb 1). Gmail Now Has More Than 1B Monthly Active Users. Retrieved from https://techcrunch.com/2016/02/01/gmail-now-has-more-than-1b-monthly-active-users/

Newton, C. (2017, September 8). The Best To-do List App Right Now. Retrieved from https://www.theverge.com/2017/9/8/16273422/best-to-do-list-app-android-iphone

Pichai, S. (2016, May 18). I/O: Building the next evolution of Google. Retrieved from https://blog.google/products/assistant/io-building-next-evolution-of-google/

Huffman, S., Chandra, R. (2017, May 17). Your Google Assistant is getting better across devices, from Google Home to your phone. Retrieved from https://blog.google/products/assistant/your-assistant-getting-better-on-google-home-and-your-phone/

Refsland, T. (n.d.). Why Google Calendar Eats All Other To Do List Apps For Breakfast. Retrieved from https://productivityist.com/google-calendar-breakfast/

Vincent, J. (2017, February 16). 99.6 percent of new smartphones run Android or iOS. Retrieved from https://www.theverge.com/2017/2/16/14634656/android-ios-market-share-blackberry-2016

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