UX Case Study: BalanceMe App

Rethinking Work-Life Balance

2020 — the year of a global pandemic and Zoom calls

2020 gave WFH a whole new identity — and need. A large group of people went from occasionally working from home to it being a full-time gig.

User interviews and pain points

I selected 5 individuals ages 25–45 with slightly different working experiences currently working 100% remote to better understand the user experience and pain points. I conducted user interviews to explore their experiences, feelings, needs, and wish-list items for this “new normal”.

  1. The days are running long and meetings are consuming people. Although users are saving time from a non-existent commute and productivity is increasing, people are finding themselves working longer hours than when they were in the office. The culprit — a significant increase in meetings.
  2. More flexibility, time to focus, home-made meals, and sweat pants. These are the main benefits of remote work.
  3. Face-to-face time is well missed, and it seems to be taking a toll on people’s mental health. The lack of quick touch-points with colleagues are leaving people feeling disconnected, isolated, and causing communication breakdowns.
  4. Some urgent needs include ergonomic equipment, prioritizing well-being, shorter working days with more breaks built-in, and access to more reliable technology.

User journey map and opportunities

I mapped out the user journey, based on findings from user interviews, for a different lens to both better understand the user experience and help pinpoint opportunities.

User Journey Map

Competitive teardown — what’s already out there?

I analyzed four apps already in-market and assessed what’s currently being offered, what works, what doesn’t work, and what’s missing. On the list, we have Zoom, Slack, Microsoft Teams, and Instagram.

  1. Conventions: to avoid unnecessary learning curves, all four tools adopted universal conventions for features like screen sharing, sending files and emails, and accept and decline call buttons.
  2. Side menus: whether the app has many or few features, they were all stored and easily accessible via a side menu.
  3. Video: a critical element that cannot be missed. Also, notable that all apps provide the option for users to opt-in or out of video whenever.
  4. Customization: just like how users have some control over their in-person working environment, all four apps allow for some level of customization throughout for a better user experience.

Putting navigation on paper via a flowchart

Taking bits and pieces from all the findings I’ve gathered up to this point, and with inspiration of best practices found from the competitive teardown, I started my first tactical step to bring my solution to life — a flowchart. I mapped every single step a user would take to accomplish the core tasks on my app. Although tedious at first, I now consider this process the cornerstone in solving the identified user problem. It allowed me to get into the (necessary) weeds in order to eventually create as seamless of a user experience as possible.

User Flowchart

Sketching, sketching, sketching

I took the flowchart and sketched it out, evolving my app even further. Through sketching, I identified redundancies and features initially considered from the flowchart that doesn’t actually solve the user problem. I was able to distill my ideas, keeping user needs top of mind, to make the final decision on three core features: Calendar, To-Do, and Goal Planning/Tracking.

Low-Fidelity Sketches

Wireframing — sketching 2.0

I took sketches to the next level and created wireframes to show the main screens, each with two variations, instead of three like the sketches. This exercise placed a greater emphasis on the detailed incorporation of user and business goals with functional needs, with interactive elements to accomplish those needs.

Low-Fidelity Wireframes

Digital prototype — static wireframes come to life

I cannot stress the importance of testing enough. Although it was just a quick and informal usability test, it allowed me to easily revise the initial wireframes to enhance the design, based on user feedback. This gave me confidence that the changes I made were on track to help me align this app with user needs.

BalanceMe Site Map
Link to digital prototype: https://xd.adobe.com/view/e0d67714-d698-412b-b9bf-372a3643c3b1-b585/

User testing: a vulnerable, fun, and much-needed process

Because BalanceMe is such a straightforward app, I had two main goals. First, I wanted to confirm if an app like this is desired by my target audience. The second goal was to identify opportunities for enhancement.

  1. Remove the “snooze” button altogether in To-Do and instead, add it to the list of more action options, including edit, move, and delete.
  2. Re-work the Goals tab to add in more visual elements and make the process of creating, tracking, and changing goals more intuitive and integrated with each other.
  3. Eliminate unneeded text and add in more visual elements where possible to help the interface appear less cluttered.

Final Thoughts

The BalanceMe app has come a long way. It went from trying to fulfill the unrealistic purpose of solving every single problem that comes with remote work to focusing on one particular but crucial problem — better organization and work-life balance for users. BalanceMe is able to combine a user’s work and personal events, tasks, and goals in one place, while also helping users re-evaluate where their time is allocated. More testing and tweaking will be required to get BalanceMe to successfully launch in-market.