While reading Don Norman’s Design of Everyday Things, I was particularly interested in the section where he spoke about Reminders. I am particularly interested in this topic because this is one I am exploring in my thesis research. I am researching a breathing application that will remind users to breathe; however, the goal is to minimize stress and notifications can be inherently stressful. I have been pondering how to remind people without increasing their stress. Norman mentions that there are two parts to a reminder—the signal and the message. Originally, I was envisioning a notification that softly drifted in from the side of ones screen (signal) that would include the text “remember to breathe” (message), though depending on my user testing, this could change considerably. My design research question has evolved to “what is the best way to help long-term screen users [designers, developers, information workers] to breathe”? How can I help them breathe without increasing their stress-levels in the process? Will this tool be a desktop application, a browser extension, or something I haven’t even considered yet? I want to meet users where they are, rather than require an additional, external tool.
This week, through another student’s positive/negative UX design assignment, I was introduced to the browser extension, Momentum. Once installed, every time a user switches tabs, users are greeted by a beautiful landscape, the time, a positive quote, and a reminder of their daily intention. I immediately recognized the mindful design principles inherent in this design. After installing the extension, I searched through the list of extensions to see if anyone created any breathing tools. I found two—Breathe and Breath. The first opens a breathing exercise in the tab (similar to what I wanted to do), with the ability for users to change the frequency and length of breathing exercise. There is not a visual, but rather text-based instructions. When the exercise opens over the content, there is no way to turn it off. I found this frustrating because it would automatically launch right when I was doing something important. The only way to close the exercise is to switch tabs and reopen the website you were working on. The second extension opened a breathing exercise opened up a small box over the browser window. It also include a visual but user preferences are limited. There is much to consider in regards to how this tool will work, but determining what users want + need is the foundation of my design research.