In a rapidly developing society, people are usually required to read a lot of material. However, it is not uncommon that many people would find it hard to recall what they have already read, especially after quite a long time. Moreover, with a fast-paced lifestyle and ultimate pursuit of efficiency, many people would simply have limited time to review the material that they previously read. So I design a mobile application “BestRead” intended to help people better digest the contents while they are reading, and to help them recall what they read in a more efficient way.
Possible solutions to this problem?
After analyzing the pros and cons of different possible approaches, I decided to go with a combined solution of utilizing the mind mapping tools and generating review schedules for our target users to help them recall the reading materials they have read with more efficiency.
According to Gestalt’s theory, visual structure helps people find things more easily; if information is not structured in certain ways, users’ search would be more random and take more time. By using mind mapping charts, such structured presentation of the main ideas of reading materials is much easier for users to scan and understand.
Why creating review schedules?
Usually, increase in time between remembering and doing is bad. Based on Wickens’ HIP Model, working memory is a temporary buffer for information currently in use, which can fade fast and maintenance rehearsal is needed to constant refresh. The transition of items between working memory and long-term memory is mainly determined by frequency and recency of use.
Therefore, in order to help users recall the reading contents that they previously read, we need to increase the frequency that users get exposed to the contents, which is to encourage users to review more frequently.
Moreover, unused information usually slips away easily, and because working memory follows an exponential decay, most of the forgetting happens soon. If we compute and schedule the optimal time for users to review the contents, it would provide much convenient to users by allowing them to remember the contents that they have read without paying much efforts.
What is currently available on the market?
The design is targeted at people who need to read a large volume of materials on a regular basis, and would need to apply the information from what they have read on actual tasks later. Taking into account the potential users’ different purposes for reading, I divided the target audience into three categories: students and researchers with higher education, writers and journalists, and businessmen.
1) students and researchers:
– [goal]: to have good academic performances e.g: do well in an exam or to take an active part in discussions
– [user needs]: to locate the information accurately and to remember the content as much as possible
“I I feel like I usually would need to spend a lot of time reviewing what I have read before. It would be great if there is a tool that helps schedule the best time for me to review the materials.”
2) writers and journalists:
– [goal]: to collect resources for current writing works/projects or to cite the resources with accuracy
– [user needs]: to locate the information from previous readings in an accurate manner; no need to remember much detailed contents
“I am looking for a tool that can help me organize what I have read and it may allow me to retrieve the information in an efficient way.”
– [goal]: to extract insights from detailed reports materials and to successfully present the key information to the upper deck in a clear and succinct manner
– [user needs]:to present clearly and succinctly; no need to remember much detailed contents
“I want to transform the complicated and detailed marketing data to succinct and understandable presentation, so as to optimize the communication process to the upper desk.”
I conducted story mapping to analyze the current workflows of the target users, including three different types of potential users — each of them have their own habits or behaviors during the whole process that I am trying to improve, but they also have some common and major activities as well as tasks that can be considered together to make improvement.
The first step can be generalized as the preparation stage, during which users would need to decide the order of the readings that they are going to read, and then to schedule time to read them all. The second step is to actually read the materials, at this stage users would read and at the same time take notes and highlighting the main contents. After finish the reading, users would analyze and digest the readings they have just read. After a much longer time, for example, weeks or months later, if users want to access what they have read before, they would try to “retrieve” information from before, by reviewing the notes they took.
Inconvenience and inefficiency can happen in this whole process. Common problems faced by all three types of users include:
It’s time to solve the problem!
After evaluating the needs of the target users, I decided to incorporate three main functions in my design. One page that I designed is the File page, that allows users to upload what they need to read and can serve as a cloud base of all the reading materials of the user. Users can therefore read in this platform while highlighting key words and sentences and taking notes. After the user finish reading, a mind map chart that capture the main ideas of the article can be generated with just one click.
Second is the Review page, that will prompt users to enter the date and time that they would need to “do” something with the information of what they read before. Then the system would automatically generate a proximal review schedule for the user, based on the accurate computation of forgetting curve — that I believe can create the most values with limited time. After the user finish each review round, he/she can get bonus and share their achievement to their friends via social media.
The last one is the Share function, that allows users to share their documents and notes and even mind map charts with their friends, which I believe can increase the user cohesion to this platform.
I conducted heuristic analysis to test my paper prototype with the help of three other peers, from whom I have gained some valuable insights that prompted me to make improvement to my original design.
- Adding a reminder system
After users specify the date they need to “perform” with the information, a schedule for reviewing would be generated. And for each time of the review, a reminder message would pop up on the user’s screen that remind him/her that it is time to review the contents.
- Adding a back to home button
Based on the feedback from my peers, I added a button that allows users to return to the homepage directly, without navigating backward at each level of pages.
- Making it more clear of what the words denote
From the feedback of my peers, I tried to rephrased the words for symbols and instructions that hopefully can make it more clear of how to use this function. For example, I changed the hierarchy labels from “Level 1″,”Level 2”,etc. to “main sentence”,”supporting material”,”conclusion”,etc.