Screens of Good

Abbie Howell
10 min readNov 20, 2018


Abbie Howell, Alexis Catherine, and Paul Steiger

Phase 1 — Define wrote an article titled “7 Scary Things You Never Knew About Cell Phone Addiction.” Some of the facts were shocking.

  • There is actually a test to see if you have cell phone addiction. It was created by a PhD from the University of Connecticut. I took the test and scored a 76. According to my score I have, “Moderate nomophobia. You’re pretty attached to your device. You often check for updates while you’re walking down the street or talking to a friend, and you often feel anxious when you’re disconnected.” Afterwards, the results suggested a “Digital Detox” where you would ditch your devices, and do certain daily tasks instead. This is a challenge put on by WNYC’s publication of New Tech City.
  • Social media apps are designed to hook you. According to the article, “Instagram has created code that deliberately holds back on showing users new ‘likes’ so that it can deliver a bunch of them in a sudden rush at the most effective moment possible — meaning the moment at which seeing new likes will discourage you from closing the app.”
  • Smartphones and slot machines have scary similarities. They both give you something called intermittent rewards, that irresistible feeling of unpredictability.
  • Smartphones are altering our brains and they can actually decrease concentration levels overtime.

The above article has lots of shocking facts about smartphone and device addiction:

  • The constant checking of the phone 24 hrs a day has been linked to anxiety, sleep disturbance, stress, poor academic performance, and decreased physical activity
  • 46% of people said that their they couldn’t live without their smartphone
  • 35% of adults owned a smartphone in 2011 compared to 64% in 2014
  • 86% of undergraduate students owned a smartphone in 2014 (an increased from 76% in 2013)
  • studies so far have shown that compulsive use of smartphones may lead to psychological disorders.

All of this research has lead us to realize one of the biggest problems with smartphones and devices today is cell phone addiction.

Phase 2—Research

The first thing we did to gather data from a wide range of people was create and send out a survey. So far, we have 42 responses and it is overwhelmingly apparent that most people use their devices in some way to procrastinate/when they are bored. Also we found that the largest average time people use their phones according to our survey is 3 hours. Almost every single person who took our survey uses some type of social media, the most popular being instagram.

We have also each done self reflection of how we use our smartphones on a day to day basis. We have noticed that some of us use our phones as a form of procrastination, and just look mindlessly at social media or play games when we are bored. Also, some of us spend around 30 minutes before bed scrolling through our phones, when this is one of the worst things you can do before bed, because the blue light on the screen actually makes it harder to fall asleep. Also, we noticed some of us have a habit of pulling out our phones in social situations to avoid talking to people when we don’t want to. Also, what is alarmingly apparent from our self reflection is that we all have some level of addiction to our smartphones.

Paul wrote out an observation of his smartphone usage throughout the day:

11am — 1pm: During this increment of time I watched my phone usage in general terms. What I saw was that I was would go to my phone whenever i was curious about something such as the weather. The weather app was one of the first apps i was drawn to because I wanted to know what I should wear when going outside. The other apps I using a lot was snapchat and the safari. Snapchat was probably the worst in the sense that it drew me in the most to my phone. Every time I had a notification I would always look at my phone for what what it was.

Lastly, I have gotten myself into the habit of reading the news on my phone and did that for a solid 25 minutes of the two hours I was observing.

1pm — 3pm: For the second half of the observation I put my phone on do not disturb

As part of our research I downloaded the app called Moment. It is supposed to track your screen time, app usage, and how many times you pick up your phone each day, among other things. I used the app for a week and then conducted a heuristic evaluation on it to see what parts of it are good, and what parts could be improved upon for our design. First of all, I did see that the app kept me informed on a consistent basis, which was a good thing. I felt like it gave me a good amount of updates to the point where they weren’t overwhelming, but reminded me of how much time I spent on my phone. Ever 45 minutes to an hour the reminder would pop up showing how much screen time I had used throughout the day so far. Also, every 20 phone pickups it alerted to me to let me know so I could try to stay under my goal of 40 throughout the whole day. Also, all of the notifications were easy to read in a short amount of time and understandable. When you go into the app itself, the home page is easy to understand, but I had a lot of trouble finding where to look back at my phone usage from the previous days. Also, some of the more useful features were hidden in the setting tabs, and I had to search to find which I found annoying. Besides these few gripes I felt that the interface of the app overall was easy to maneuver, and it was well designed and nice to look at as well. I had to change a few things the first would be making certain features like app tracking more accessible and easier to find to employ the principle recognition rather than recall. This would also make it easier for users with all technology experience levels. The other would be to employ a help button in case something is not clear, because that is one thing I noticed was not in the app as of now. Also, another thing that bothered me was that some of the features, like the phone bootcamp, weren’t free and you had to buy them within the app. Making these features available to everyone would create more options for people who want to overcome their cell phone addiction. I will keep these changes in mind while creating prototypes for our solution to screen addiction as well. Below, we created personas of people who we thought would be suffering some kind of cell phone or device addiction.

Phase 3 & 4 — Design/Evaluate

We all talked about different options of what we could create for our paper prototypes. We each ended up creating our own and tested them with ourselves and others to decide on the final.

Here are each of our explanations of our paper prototypes and what we learned from testing them:

Abbie: I created a paper prototype that would represent a screen time section of the reminders app that already exists on the iPhone. From the screen time section a user would be able to add reminders for different apps for certain amounts of time you’ve been on the app or if you are using an app at a certain location. A user would be able to link up the notifications to the Yelp app so when they get a notification that they have been on an app for a certain amount of time they get a suggestion from Yelp on something they could do instead of being on your device. After testing it was apparent that the users liked that it was an all in one app that the user can control. They liked the remind me at a location section of the app, and that it was an extension of an existing app on the iPhone so they wouldn’t have to download anything extra. Users also liked that the layout was user friendly and easy to navigate. Some things they didn’t like was they thought they might not use it, or they might get used to the reminder if they used it too much.

Alexis: I created a paper prototype that would consolidate information from a number of your linked social media platforms including Twitter, Spotify, and Yelp. This app will suggest different things to do and places to go around your city based on your preferences. It will also monitor your screen time and other inputs and give suggestions based on that information. For example, if you link your Twitter, Spotify, and Google Calendar it can pick up on the key word ‘finals’ from one of your tweets, a playlist you’ve created, and an event you have a reminder for and determine that it is finals week. The app can then utilize the Yelp portion to offer suggestions of places to study off campus that it thinks you’ll like. After testing it was apparent that the user felt that both a pro and a con was the intrusive nature of the information consolidation inside the app. However, thanks to the transparency within the recommendations section, the user still felt comfortable with it. The user liked that the app was very personalized but they can still have the option to browse and explore and pick up on what your friends are doing as well. They also liked that the information was organized and would help you explore the area, and that it would benefit you both in a professional and personal way.

Paul: It is an app that links up notifications from the calendar app on the iPhone and any other app, like reminders. This way, it can track the amount of time you are using a certain app for, and cut notifications from ones you've been using for too long, like twitter, instagram or youtube. This app allows the calendar app to be synced with it and gets information about what you are supposed to be doing at what time, on what day. Lets say that you are supposed to be in class from 8 am to 3 pm, then you can choose to shut off notification until 3, when your class ends. This can help you be more on track with the events in your life and not use time inefficiently on social media or other apps. After user testing it was apparent that they thought it was neat that it is linked with the calendar app. The users who were very organized in their phone calendar liked it a lot, but the users who didn’t use the calendar app on the iPhone thought it wasn’t very useful. They liked that you can choose what apps you use the most and customize what notifications you get, when you get them, and when you want to turn them off. The users liked how the app helped them focus on the task at hand and be present in the current moment.

Phase 5 — Reflect

For the final prototype we chose was Alexis’ app that links other digital accounts and suggests that you reduce your screen time without making it explicit with a timely notification. The notifications the app gives you are always other options of things you could do that you would hopefully do without looking at your phone. We believe this app is organized, personal, in-depth, and user-friendly. If it were put into production it would be easily usable. During the creation and testing the biggest lesson we learned as designers is detail orientation. It is our job to think of the solution before the user even recognizes the problem. Apps that users enjoy most have a lot within them without being overwhelming on the surface. This is why we chose Alexis’ app for the final, because her prototype exudes all of these qualities, and all of the user testers liked the ease of use, but also enjoyed all of the details that went into the app. We believe on a scale from 1 to 10 that we deserve a 10. We had multiple ideas that we explored in depth and to completion, and even though we chose one for our final we believe every single on of our ideas could potentially be a produced app. All of the ideas that we had were real solutions, and wouldn’t just work ‘in theory.’ We think this shows extreme awareness of usability and user centered design and are all great examples of the information ideals and processes that we have learned throughout this course.


User Testing with Aj Skubak on 12/3

Interview with Jared Williams on 12/1

User Testing with Mary Campbell on 12/5