A UX Case Study on Usability Standards — Ticktick

TickTick is an amazing web application that can be used collaboratively with teams and individuals alike. It originated as GTasks in 2010, as a way to sync with Google Tasks; and after a few years it ultimately evolved into Ticktick in 2013. Ticktick prides itself on being open ended— there’s several ways to add to a calendar, make edits, and add comments. It can even be accessible on the desktop, Android, and iOS. The user has the ability to take notes, make lists, and create thoroughly structured project maps. It seems to do anything and everything, relatively for free; surely conducting usability testing on this application would be pointless.

But by attempting to cater to all users in nearly all aspects, it ultimately creates unforeseen problems in user understanding. It begs the question: Does having all these options really create the best experience?

With this concept, I decided to conduct usability tests and an assessment with the goal of unveiling the pain points in Ticktick, and to ultimately make recommendations for small but pivotal improvements.

To understand what I should be testing, I began with conducting a heuristics analysis of the mobile app. Based on Neilson’s 10 Principles, I ranked that heuristics that applied to the mobile application from 1 through 5.

Overall, Ticktick had great aesthetics and created a bare and freeing space for lists and notes. But its many features and layout seemed a bit sporadic at a closer look. The clickable buttons available were shown in multiple drop down menus when editing tasks, but some features were restricted for premium members consistently sprinkled throughout the app. The repetition of buttons and icons used seemed a little confusing and overwhelming upon first glance. There was a lot of user freedom to decide how to use the app, but minimal direction on how each button functioned for the user to utilize it. I knew I wanted to conduct my test based on the whole Ticktick process. Creation of an account, creating a list, adding images and comments, and sharing the lists were the simple tasks decided to ask my selected users to do. I specifically wanted to assess the use and understanding of buttons, and gauge how easy it was for users to navigate through the app.

Ticktick is an app that has customers that range far and wide, the ideal user is a working professional who is task oriented and enjoys getting creative. I chose to test the accessibility of the app among various full-time professionals to see how well people who have never heard of this app would intuitively acclimate. I hypothesize that the target customer is someone in their mid-twenties to their forties; I assumed this age group due to having a few failed usability tests I conducted with users over 50. The task at hand seemed easy enough, but only 2 of my 7 users were able to complete all the tasks.

I gave the users a basic scenario very loosely based on the storyboard I created. They were to create a to do list with three things on it with various priority rankings, place it in their calendar and add a time to it. Then they were asked to add a subtask and add an image to their list. Finally, they were to share their list with someone.

I asked the users to keep in mind one aspect while completing the tasks at hand: Don’t be afraid to play around and find the easiest way to do things that works for you.

Many of the users were confused as they created tasks, but began to quickly acclimate. Four out of the seven candidates that I tested continued to play around for an average of 3 minutes clicking buttons and trying access features.

“I feel like I’m using a computer for the first time”

There was a great deal of lack of confidence during my usability tests and all users found themselves attempting to access features that were inaccessible on the free app

“This doesn’t feel right… is this right? ”

Some key points that unanimously stood out amongst the users was the lack of guidance. Although there was an instructional list which gave a tutorial at the early stages of opening the app, only one user bothered to read it. The one user that did bother reading the tutorial stopped reading it after the first few tasks and began experimenting. Another roadblock that users consistently encountered were the buttons.

Some key points that unanimously stood out amongst the users was the lack of guidance. Although there was an instructional list which gave a tutorial at the early stages of opening the app, only one user bothered to read it. The one user that did bother reading the tutorial stopped reading it after the first few tasks and began experimenting. Another roadblock that users consistently encountered were the buttons. The similarities and repetition of buttons made the users feel unsure of what they were doing. A typical roadblock that the users encountered was the calendar button; there are three different types of calendar icons that prompted the calendar view in three different ways (day, week, and month). In addition, many users didn’t enjoy that the text was clickable. All users assumed that they could not click the text, and continued to get frustrated upon understanding that the “grayed out” text was also a button feature.

Five of the seven users also found that the navigation was problematic. The layout of icons in various places caused many users to go back and forth from access points. Another unanimous complaint was in regards to the hamburger icon, which allows you to access your main profile panel and lists. This icon disappeared when accessing the calendar view and was replaced by a calendar layout view; which then couldn’t be accessed due to premium member restrictions.

Some design suggestions I would recommend after these findings would be centered around very minor changes. The amount of user freedom is amazing in this app but can benefit greatly by adding a more interactive and animated tutorial. By doing this, users can see the many diverse functions available to them. Secondly, by creating a higher contrast in text the user can better understand clickable features in the app. The layout should be centered around proper access to the lists through the fundamental hamburger button instead of having it disappear in the calendar view. This could also prevent users from accessing inaccessible premium features. Ultimately Ticktick is a great app that can implement small changes for a great amount of benefits.

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