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Hydrate: Mobile Alarm

December 2018 | Venmo Design Challenge

While interviewing for a Product Design Internship at Venmo, I was tasked to follow a prompt and create a general solution in the span of about 3–5 hours.

While a design challenge is supposed to demonstrate your basic skills as a designer, I believe it is also supposed to showcase how creatively you can tackle problems. The design team at Venmo gave me three prompts and I chose the following due to it’s relatability to my own life, as well as its persistence as an issue despite many attempted solutions.

The PromptBob is frequently late to class, work, and appointments in the morning because he missed his alarms. He uses the default alarm app on his phone, but he often sleeps through the alarm or snoozes too many times because the snooze button is too easy to find


My Process

Research — Narrowing — Sketching — Prototyping

Since I only had about 5 hours to complete this challenge, I broke down the process to about 5 steps and started the research phase with competitive analysis. I started with competitive analysis since its quick, easy, and effective in learning more about the problem. I also understand that while research is an important and careful part of the design process, this challenge wanted to see my ability to bring an idea to life, so I made sure to leave time to sketch and prototype.

Competitive Analysis

I looked for top apps on the Apple app store, asked friends for what they used, etc. A few applications stood out because they were forcing users out of bed by shaming them, making them do a physical activity, or by simply annoying them. SleepCycle stood out however, because it used an accelerometer to find an optimal wake up time for the user.

This idea of catering to the user and trying to find a more optimal wake up time struck me — waking up should be a pleasant experience. It is the start of a day and is setting the tone for what is still to come.





Interviewing

While looking at other competitors gave me some ideas I also wanted to hear people’s perspective directly. Since I was pressed for time, I just asked around to some friends and browsed Quora and Reddit to get a basic overview. Here were some of the methods people used.

    • Having friend call them/Someone else knock on their door
    • Leaving blinds open at night/Turning on bedside light
    • Using multiple alarms
    • Putting alarm across the room
    • Drinking a glass of cold water
    • Stretching

Again what I heard from these internet forums and from my friends was that action or urgency is what ultimately wakes them up mentally and then helps get them started on their day. This also aligns with the methods of the competitors. However, looking more closely I see that the competitors focused mainly on the aspect of waking up. There were some interesting interactions in the list of methods people use. For example, someone else knocking on their door is a social interaction while drinking a glass of cold water is related to their health.

Narrowing

From my basic research and exploration into the topic, I decided to brainstorm some ideas and narrow down. I saw from competitors that many of them involved a lot of action on the users part or elicited a feeling of urgency to get people up. While it seems to be effective in getting people up, I am unsure if it left a good feeling in the user. Since waking up entails approaching a brand new day, I want the user to feel good when they wake up. Here are some of the original ideas I brainstormed

To Do List Sync: The alarm would be synced with the user’s to do list, and would require the user to list out a to do in order to turn the alarm off

Wake Up Game: The user can play a mini game after their alarm has gone off. This game only opens up after the alarm goes off and aims to engage the user enough to awaken them

Water Bottle Sensor:  A sensor is placed on the bottom of a water bottle and the user must drink a specific amount of water to turn the alarm off.

Out of these ideas, I ended up choosing the water bottle sync idea because it combined user action with a healthy and useful behavior. This would not only help wake up a user in the morning, but it would start their day more pleasantly.

Sketching







Final Solution

For my prototype, I made screens with Sketch. I later made micro-interactions on framer for fun. You can see an overview of the app with this Adobe XD link
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Final Thoughts

I gravitated towards this problem because of its relevance in my life and from the moment I decided to work on it, the wheels in my head were turning. I realize that a large part of the success of this submission was because of a few factors:

  1. I identified multiple problems: People are bad at waking up in the morning because of a variety of reasons and in return, mornings have a bad connotation. So not only am I figuring out how to get someone up in the morning - I’m trying to figure out how to do it in a way that makes them feel good about getting up.

  1. I let myself dive into the problem fully: I wasn’t given a set time to turn in the challenge, but I told myself I would wait a week before starting due to finals. However during that week I always had the problem on the back of my mind. In the morning when I woke up — I would think about the problem. When talking to friends or even meeting new people, I would ask them what helped them wake up in the morning. To me, problem solving and design is not an isolated work session, it is a full integration into your life.
Mark