User Experience Critique - Habits in Timeful

31 August 2014

Several weeks ago I sent a review of a feature in an app I use called Timeful. This is my letter to that company where I tried to get a better understanding of their motivations for the user experience of part of their application.

Timeful team,

Great application. I use it everyday, several times a day! I’m a beast at a to do list, I’m just not so good at scheduling things or getting them on a calendar. This brought me to Timeful. I wanted to declare what I wanted to do on certain days or weekly or monthly, and I wanted Timeful to help me fill that out. There doesn’t exist an application where I can have that list of to dos and drag them onto the calendar with such ease. That’s why I like Timeful so much. In using the application I noticed a small irregularity I’d like to submit.

I wanted to provide some feedback and ask a small definitional question.

Why do you display a habit (with defined preferred days) differently than a to do that has to occur on a certain day?

I’ll show you how I’ve arrived at that question and you all can decide if it’s worth your time learning more about. This is not about the color of the application or anything, just about the placement of the habit on the calendar and not the daily list too.

The issue really popped up around daily habits.

To Dos

Let’s take the example of exercise and programming. These are two things that I have set up in the exact same way. I want to do them 7 times a week, every single day. Please keep in mind that when I set this up Timeful does not allow me to do more, you are reinforcing that this is something that is to happen every single day. The enforcement is so strong I can’t even create habits that should occur more than once a day. The screens below are the walk through of creating that exercise habit.

To Dos

There’s reinforcement that this is to occur every single day on every screen.

To Dos

Timeful helpfully shows me the things that I want to do over the course of time which is super helpful. But then there is the “not scheduled” bit on the screen below. I don’t quite know what my week is going to look like so it’s difficult to schedule it right now. Although as we can see above (and below) it’s clearly something I want to do every day.

To Dos

Now I go to look at my schedule today. I can see what I need to be doing. Timeful automatically start throwing habits and tasks onto my calendar as suggestions. It’s fantastic. I’ve got a list of my to dos for the day and suggestions as to when they should be scheduled. I can see what tasks I need to start knocking out for the day and what are good times to do them.

To Dos

My task “pay for school” shows up in both locations, at the top of the app and also has a recommended time on my calendar. This is ideal behavior because it shows that it’s still not nailed down yet (until I accept the time).

But wait, what about my habits? Those are things I need to do today, but I can’t see them above. I have to scroll through the entire day to see if all my habits are there because they don’t show up on the list even if I haven’t accepted their time. Why is a declared daily habit not showing up in my daily to do list? It’s already something I told you I want to do every day and it shows up on the calendar but not in the list. Daily habits should show up on the day’s to do list in addition to the calendar. As we can see above, I told Timeful I want to do it every day, why doesn’t it show up on the list?

An unscheduled daily habit is much closer to a to do for a day. It’s something that I need to get nailed down. But you won’t put it in the top of the list unless I do one of two things. (Go back to the habits screen and schedule it for today or click the recommended time and drag it to the top list.)

To Dos

Unfortunately my other daily habit of “Programming” is nowhere to be seen. Programming is a daily habit that I want to put on my calendar. However it doesn’t show up in my unscheduled section nor is there a recommended time for me to do it because my schedule is filled with other recommendations from Timeful. Now I may not realize that I can exercise later if it gives me an uninterrupted block of programming at that time. The only way that I can see that my daily habit of programming is missing is by jumping back to the list screen and seeing that programming is “not scheduled”. But why should I have to schedule it? I already told Timeful I wanted to do it 7 times a week on every day of the week.

So here’s the situational review.

I have specified a habit as something that I would like to complete everyday. However that habit will only show up every day on my calendar if your algorithm determines that I have time to perform this activity. If it doesn’t then that habit may not happen, crippling the habit. Now this isn’t a nightmare, but I have to move back to another screen to see my list of habits, review them, click into it to schedule a session for today (remember you enforced me previously to say that I wanted to do it every day already) then it gets on that days to do list and I can now be looking at my calendar and all the things I have to do today. Rinse and repeat for each daily habit.

The fix I propose is simple. Add any habit that is declared as scheduled for each day of the week to each day of the week’s to do list like a task (it can be the color red like a habit but you get the point). You could abstract this further so that any habit that is declared to be preferred on a specific day shows up in the to do list and the calendar recommendations for that specific day. (if I declare something I want to happen once a week on sundays, have it show up on the to do list on sundays, don’t force me to schedule it for next sunday every time).

One should not have to schedule a habit for everyday of the week when you already declared that you want to do a habit everyday of the week.

The CEO of Timeful responded to my email in a professional manner and filled me in on some features that are up and coming. Definitely a company that is responsive to their users! My Hat is off to you Timeful