Project Management Tool

We investigated the interactions between project managers and retrieving information from their personal smart devices and how we might create or develop a better experience in this context.
The Focus

Initial research identified Project Managers as excellent candidates for target users due to their high frequency use of personal smart devices and communication between others.

The Challenge
  • To understand issues currently faced by Project Managers and their communication techniques.

  • To examine the current interaction between Project Managers and their personal smart devices.

  • To create or develop a better experience through implementing a dynamic visual system that relays information in a salient way.

The Process
ProcessAsset 2_2x.png
The Result
HeroAsset 3_2x.png

We designed a system that allowed Project Managers to customize their used software, combine their incoming notifications, and display them in an abstract visualization.

My role in this project was to lead and conduct user experience research and to provide research-based guidance through the design process. I was involved in all research activities presented in this case study. I worked alongside Joyce Wu, Kewal Shah, and Vanessa Lin during the development of this project; a team comprised of designers, a researcher, and a UX engineer.


User Identification

Our investigation started with working individuals who typically work office jobs, within the young adult range of 18-34 years old, and have concerns with their daily schedules. We found Project Managers have constant reminders for meetings, assignments, and messages from co-workers, it not only leads to a loss of productivity but also induces stress.

SurveyQAsset 5_2x.png

We sent out a Qualtrics survey to gather attitudinal information about how our users interact within the office, demographic information, and as screeners for future interviews.

We sent our survey to Project Management groups via Linkedin and to individual Project Managers and received approximately a 20% response rate.

Semi-Structured User Interviews

The survey provided us with starting points to develop more in-depth questions for target user interviews. 

Method Goals

IntgoalAsset 17_2x.png


Due to challenges in recruiting we moved to a remote virtual semi-structured interview.

We successfully scheduled and converted four participants in a 45-minute remote semi-structured interview.

Interviews were moderated in teams of 2 with one interviewer and one note-taker to transcribe the conversation. Recording via MS Teams was implemented for later analysis and coding. 

Some sample questions that guided our conversations:

Can you walk us through your typical workday?

What part of your job do you find most challenging?

How do you organize and plan your day?

What role does technology play in your work?

Method Artifacts

18 pages of hand-written notes

3+ hours of video and audio recording

183 synthesized affinity notes

A deeper understanding and empathy with Project Managers.


Affinity Map

After categorizing 183 notes from 4 interviews we found recurring themes in work overload, multiple tools being used, and frustrations organizing large quantities of incoming information.

Key Findings From the Research
InsightsAsset 16_2x.png
Personas & Empathy Maps

After analyzing and distilling our gathered data from surveys and interviews we created a set of personas and empathy maps that encompassed our target user base. 

Top Findings and Design Requirements
DesignRecsAsset 23_2x.png


Concept Generation

We quickly generated low-fidelity sketch concepts based on our research findings. These concepts centered around mobile devices and various aggregations of software commonly used by our users. 

Concept Evaluation Sessions

We conducted 2 concept evaluation sessions with current Project Managers. We spent 30 minutes to walk through our concepts with our target users to gain feedback.

Evaluation Findings

EvalFindAsset 18_2x.png



ZenMode is an application that allows Project Managers to streamline their incoming information and translate it into an abstract visualization. Project Managers can customize their used software, combine their incoming notifications, and display them in an abstract visualization with our application.

HeroAsset 3_2x.png
Testable Prototype

Through our research and user feedback sessions, we developed a testable high-fidelity prototype with several task flows using Figma.

ScreensFlowAsset 20_2x.png


Expert Heuristic Evaluation

We recruited 3 UX experts to conduct a Heuristic Evaluation of our designed system.


Process & Procedure

Participants: 3 UX Experts. (Recruited from Georgia Tech's MS-HCI Faculty)

Procedure: Briefly introduce participant to the purpose of the designed system. Allow the participant to freely explore the prototype in a think-aloud scenario for 10 minutes.

Provide the participant with a list and definition of the Heuristics we will evaluate. We used Jakob Nielson's 10 Usability Heuristics for its familiarity among all our experts.

Provide the evaluation sheet for the expert to fill out and explain the scoring system.


0 - No Usability Problem
1 - Cosmetic Problem
2 - Minor Usability Problem, Low Priority to fix
3 - Major Usability Problem, High Priority to Fix
4 - Devastating Usability Problem, Must Fix Immediately


Our experts provided critical feedback and insight into the usability of our system. 

With issues around the usage of the customization screens, status of the overall system, and labels on some of the buttons brought to our attention, we were able to resolve basic usability concerns before moving onto user-based testing.

Expert ResultsAsset 21_2x.png
Remote Moderated User-Based Usability Testing

Process & Procedure

Evaluation Goals: 

- What is the learning curve for the app?
- To what extent does the onboarding tutorial help users understand the overall
- Are users able to associate the abstract shapes to app categories?
- How much is the cognitive load when finding information in the app?
- Do the keywords used in the app match with the user’s mental model?
- Does the system behavior match with the user’s expected behavior?

Participants: 5 Project Managers that met our target user specifications.


Briefly introduce participant to the purpose of the designed system. Allow the participant to freely explore the prototype in a think-aloud scenario for 10 minutes.

- Provide the participant with the following set of tasks to complete (See task list).

- Ask participant to complete tasks in a think-aloud scenario.

- Note their process.

- Conduct a debrief session (approx 5-10 minutes) and allow the participant to make comments, ask questions, give general feedback of the system.

Task List: 

  1. You have marked your project group messages in MS Teams as important. You have been focusing on your work for a while, and now you want to take a short break and check if you have received important messages in the team chat. What would you do?

  2. David Rose, a designer in your team, usually replies to all important emails in the morning. He is currently working on a high-priority project and is expected to schedule a meeting with a client today. It is noon, and you want to make sure if David is on top of his work. How would you identify that?

  3. You had configured Gmail as the only app to check your work and personal emails. Your company recently decided to migrate to Office 365, and you decided to use Outlook for work emails. How would you use the app to easily access work emails?

  4. In the same scenario as the previous task, how would you compare the number of personal and work emails you responded to?

ModRemAsset 22_2x.png


  • Users were able to successfully navigate the application after running through the screens for about 2 minutes.

  • The onboarding tutorial added more confusion than clarification. 

  • Users were able to associate the abstract visualization with their notifications, but had difficulties remembering which were represented.

  • Keywords used in the application do not always match the users' expectation.

  • Interactions on customization screen were not intuitive for some users.

Design Recommendations
  • Specify on the screens that are for tutorials and prompt the user which step
    they are at.

  • Add a splash screen with an app logo before the tutorial.

  • Redesign iconography to align with more traditional real-world representations.

  • Label each corner according to the pre-setting or the user’s definition from the Settings Page.

  • Show photos of the contacts instead of using icons.

  • Add a pop-up to prompt users the saving was successful after they make changes on the page.

Stay tuned for the next iteration!