Kids in the lab.

When designing the testing for an app like Curi™ it is important to look beyond functional testing and performance, and understand how the user will interact with the app, especially under stress. Everything about Curi™ is focused on giving the user useful actionable information so that they can execute tasks on time. What I wanted to learn, however, was what would users do if they were in a position where, even though they had the information they needed, they simply could not perform a task at a given moment. Were we going to find unintended consequences if we put people in ‘no win’ situations?

The goal of Curi™ is to help caregivers provide better care. This may mean helping assure that medications are given by one family member to another on time, every time. It also retains a record of how successful a caregiver has been at doing just that. But it goes without saying that if you track successes you also track failures. I wanted to know if there were psychological barriers to caregivers admitting failure that would lead them to mark undone tasks as “done” believing that they would “get to it soon”. If they would do that, then the record would be, at best, suspect and, at worst, valueless because people, even with the best intentions, often forget to follow through. And here is where unintended consequences can emerge. If we have a button that says “I can’t do this task” will people not use it because to them it says, “I’m a failure”.

To find the answer I devised an interactive test which was administered via text messaging. The subjects were individuals whom had taken the Curi™ demo and the format was a mix of multiple choice questions where one or more answers could be selected, and two short answer questions. Text messaging was the perfect venue because it meant each question had to be answered in the order given. You could not read ahead. Also, if they wanted to ask a question or if they wanted to expand on an answer, they could.

The first question was completely unrelated so as not to tip my hand.

The questions, presented in a variety of ways, asked if Curi™’s alarm told you you had a task to do in the next 15 minutes but you knew you couldn’t get to it for an hour would you:

  • Mark it Done and just remember to do it in an hour
  • Mark it Undone and just remember to do it
  • Click the “Snooze” button repeatedly until I can get around to it.
The results were very consistent. Only one said that they would simply mark the task done and then do it later. Also, all said at the end that they would like an option where, if they mark a task as “Can’t Do It”, they can then immediately select to be reminded again in one hour. This solution was chosen above repeatedly using a ‘snooze’ button and above changing the interval of the snooze timer. Clearly most people in this test did not want to rely on their memory. Their choice was to tell Curi™ ‘Do Not Disturb me for one hour, then remind me again’.

Being busy when an alarm goes off is not just a reality, it is often the norm. Although not every insight learned or feature suggested is destined to become part of the product this kind of testing of the design and of user behavior will help assure that Curi™ will meet the needs of caregivers and provides useful, meaningful and accurate records of care.

We welcome your comments, thoughts and suggestions. How might Curi™ better help you with the challenges you face? Connect with us on Facebook or send us an email at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..