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A mobile application that helps project managers to prioritize and respond to notifications more efficiently.


My Roles: UX Designer & UX Researcher
  • Recruited participants for surveys

  • Constructed personas & empathy maps

  • Conducted semi-structured interviews

  • Analyzed data using affinity maps

  • Generated sketch concepts

  • Built the final prototype with another designer

  • Led heuristic evaluation sessions

  • Led usability testing sessions


Jordan Cursuries

Vanessa Lin

Kewal Shah


Figma   Miro   Qualtrics


Aug 2021 - Dec 2021


In the Research Methods for HCI class at Georgia Tech, we were divided into groups of four for the semester-long group project. Our team was first inspired by a faculty’s lab project focusing on assisting people with dyslexia to perceive incoming messages more efficiently by using art, which later helped us develop our project goal.


After learning more about the related lab project and conducting extended researches online, we decided to divert to study the struggles of project managers and the often flooded incoming notifications they encounter. Based on the decision, we came up with the project goal.


“How can we help project managers to prioritize and respond to notifications more efficiently?”


Empathize -> Define -> Ideate -> Prototype -> Test


We created a mobile-based tool that consolidates and prioritizes notifications from different applications based on the customization by users and presents the notifications using geometric shapes to add aesthetics and personal meanings.


Target Users

First, we defined target users to be working individuals who are young adults within the age range of 18-34. This group has experienced a trend of mental health awareness within recent years and motivated us to conceive a solution that would reduce stress from information overload and improve the experience of information retrieval.

Second, our preliminary research led us to identify project managers as prime candidates that exemplify these characteristics on a daily basis in their required tasks.



  • Identify the target demographic

  • Understand interpersonal office interactions

  • Understand existing smart personal device interactions

  • Understand how people feel about the current state of interactions


We designed the survey using Qualtrics and recruited the participants through personal networks as well as online platforms, such as LinkedIn.

  • 9 questions

  • 52 responses


  • About 70% use their devices more than 50 times per workday

  • More than 50% wish to spend less time on their devices

Semi-Structured Interview


  • Acquire a basic understanding of the work content of our users and the relationship between them and their work

  • Gain knowledge in how our users plan their work, manage screen time and handle work-related and personal notifications

  • Explore our users’ interest in different methods of managing their work 

  • Analyze major pain points of users and start brainstorming possible design implications


We recruited interviewees through personal networks as well as from the survey participants. For more flexibility in time and locations, we conducted the interviews remotely via Microsoft Teams. I was the host for two of the interview sessions with another teammate as the notetaker. We also acquired consent from the interviewees to record the interviewees for later transcription.

  • 3 participants

  • 45 minutes

  • 1 host + 1 notetaker

Sample Questions

  • Please walk us through a typical workday of yours and briefly describe your tasks.

  • What part of the job is the most challenging for you?

Affinity Map

We compiled the notes from the semi-structured interviews and synthesized a total of 126 stickies using Miro. After recording the notes, we looked for patterns as a team and group the ones with similar themes, and eventually came down to 5 main findings.

  • The participants’ responsibilities revolve around communication among different parties on different platforms.

  • The participants’ jobs require them to be in front of the screens for more than 6 hours.

  • The participants want to prioritize, save time, and feel accomplished at work.

  • The participants are open to learning and using different methodologies for work.

  • The participants want a notification system that they can organize and personalize notifications to help with productivity at work.


Empathy Maps


Concept Sketches

Based on the research data, we generated several preliminary sketch concepts focusing on customization, prioritization, and productivity.

Concept Sketch Feedback Sessions

We recruited two project managers for the feedback session. The feedback session was conducted in person where we laid out the sketches on pieces of paper pinned up to a wall, presented the concepts while allowing participants to provide feedback simultaneously, and asked the pre-constructed questions.


  • What is your overall impression of the concept?

  • What do you think is the most and least beneficial aspect of this concept? Why?

  • On a scale of 1 to 10, how willing would you be to use this concept in your life once it has been refined?

  • If you could make one significant change to this concept, what would it be?


  • The participants were confused about some of the visual representations and they have to be made more intuitive and match with existing systems.

  • Some of the participants thought that being able to share the screen of notifications with others may help to better allocate human resources, however, this feature has to be customizable.

  • The participants liked the use of pastel colors and the artistic representation because these keep them less stressed and reflective.

  • Some of the participants were concerned about the work for setting up the system. Therefore, minimizing the number of steps for setup and including a tutorial to guide users through the steps is crucial.

  • Being able to drag and drop when adjusting the positions of content would be convenient for the participants.



Features & Flows



Notification visualization & Main menu

ZenMode_prototype_​Notification visualization & Main menu.PNG

Access to messages

ZenMode_prototype_Access to messages.PNG



Check colleague’s status

ZenMode_prototype_Check colleague’s status.PNG




Expert Heuristic Evaluation

We decided to conduct expert-led heuristic evaluations of our system to quickly identify any usability challenges within our system. We successfully recruited 3 UX experts with 1-3 years of experience in heuristics and are familiar with scheduling or office software such as Microsoft Outlook, Jira, or similar software.



  • Introduce the concept of the prototype and the process of the evaluation.

  • Confirm the experts’ familiarity with the heuristics and provide the heuristic evaluation worksheet with explanations.

  • Communicate the tasks that we want the experts to complete within our system.

  • Allow the expert to familiarize themselves with the system.

  • Prompt the experts to walk through the tasks and write down feedback on the worksheet.

  • Conclude the session and ask the expert to elaborate on any identified usability concerns and prompt them to recommend potential solutions.


  • Some experts recommended refining the flow after adding applications and the flow of accessing exterior applications.

  • The customization page was confusing for some experts.

  • Iconography used in some sections was not universal and sometimes lacked clear labels.

  • Some experts pointed out that the access to tutorials was not obvious.

Usability Testing

For the usability testing, our primary goal was to get feedback on the usability and usefulness of the app features from project managers (PMs). We successfully recruited 5 project managers that met the characteristics of our target users.


  • What is the learning curve for the app?

  • To what extent does the onboarding tutorial help users understand the overall system?

  • Are users able to associate the abstract shapes to app categories?

  • How much is the cognitive load when searching for 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?


  • Have the participants go through the tutorials.

  • Use a combination of think-aloud and task-based interview methods during the session where the participants perform the requested tasks.

  • After each task, ask the participants about their experience and recommendations to improve their experience.

  • Request the participants to fill out a System Usability Scale (SUS) feedback form and a Likert scale form via Georgia Tech Qualtrics.


  • Some users were confused by the onboarding tutorials with the rest of the screens.

  • The association between visualization and notifications was unclear for some users.

  • Some users advised using photos instead of icons to improve identification and different colors for different availability statuses on the Connections page.

  • It would make more sense to group notifications by projects instead of by the current categories for our users.

  • On the Settings Page, the feedback after saving the changes was unclear.

Design Recommendations
  • Add a splash screen with an app logo before the tutorials.

  • Include the information of the meanings of the visualizations and how the categorization and prioritization work in the onboarding tutorials.

  • Specify on the screens that are for tutorials and prompt the users which step they are at.
    Allow users to access the tutorial again if they forget how some features work.

  • Revise the iconography to align with the exterior systems and add labels wherever appropriate.

  • Show photos of the contacts instead of using icons and color-code the contacts based on the availability statuses

  • Allow users to have the flexibility on customizing the criteria for grouping notifications.

  • Add a pop-up window to prompt users that the changes are saved successfully on the Settings page.

Future Directions


​It was resourceful to collect the suggestions of the experts from the heuristic evaluation sessions as well as the feedback of the users from the usability testing sessions. I would like to implement those changes into the next prototype in the next iteration and keep on refining to better accommodate our users’ needs.

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