Side Project - Goals and Personas

Having a side project has always helped me to explore ideas as well as learn new skills. Today I would like to take you through my process of designing (and hopefully building) a project management tool. Hopefully you can pick up some helpful hints along the way, and any feedback I can get is always appreciated.

The initial idea started out of curiosity for the different ways a tool like this could be used, especially as different people swear by different management techniques. Some prefer physical pen and paper, post-it notes, journals etc. Others prefer software and some just rely on memory, all to varying degrees of success. So this would be the first goal of the app: to make a tool that is flexible enough to be adopted by users into their workflow without being restrictive.

A second motivation for the side project came from reading “How Technology Hijacks People’s Minds — from a Magician and Google’s Design Ethicist“ by Tristan Harris. His article is a sort of call to arms for designers to design products and services with a higher purpose than just pushing content on users. Its an interesting read and puts a lot of how we use social media and similar sites into context. His article got me thinking about how I could design a user experience that actually contributes something to the user rather than just becoming another distraction. It would be tricky to measure its success based on this idea, but I think it’s worthwhile trying to incorporate this kind of thinking into the process.

To help create a better tool for users I have created a set of user personas to help build the app concept around. These personas will give me a point of reference to check the usability of the app against as it develops. I also want to create a mission statement for the app to help underpin its core values and give an idea of the scope of this side project.

So here goes :

The key aim of the project manager is to integrate easily with multiple workflows without becoming intrusive or distracting, to ultimately help improve the end user's daily work load. As an experience it needs to be intuitive and easy to learn

To help give the mission statement and the design process a bit of context I plan on targeting the project manager at freelancers and small, potentially remote teams, whether these be designer / developer collectives or small agencies who share more responsibility on a project than larger agencies who may have account executives or managers to organize workloads.

To cover the potential workflows I will create personas for the team members of a small team developing a clothing labels brand identity and e commerce site. The team consists of a graphic designer - focusing on the identity and visual design of the brand, a product designer - focusing on the website design, a front end developer - to build the designs. And finally a developer working on the back end system.

Tracking goals and measuring app success

So finally how can we measure if the app is successful? The primary measure of a successful project manager tool would be to maintain or increase the completed workload (number of tasks / projects completed per month) while minimising hours worked. However for users hours worked on projects are billable hours so the reduction needs to come from managerial tasks and time that is unaccounted for. To be successful the user needs to be able to accurately plan and track time and then be able to break down and see where they are most productive, and what tasks can be automated etc by gaining insight into their workflow.