catchAll is a web-based information management tool that’s specifically designed with researchers in mind. I developed the concept as my General Assembly UX design course final project.
At the start of the project, I conducted interviews with nine researchers working in a variety of fields, including academia, UX design, and policy think tanks. These interviews provided a better understanding of the particular challenges that researchers face.
These conversations yielded two key insights:
Good research requires organization. For any one project, a researcher will collect hundreds or even thousands of discrete items, including pdfs, images, datasets, notes, documents, and spreadsheets. Managing all that information poses a challenge for any researcher and can directly affect the quality of their research. After all, the information they gather is only as good as their ability to find it when they need it.
Researchers don’t like to change how they work. Most researchers develop ad hoc approaches to their work that meet their immediate needs but may not be the most efficient. Although they’re often eager to try out new research organization tools, they typically abandon these new approaches after a few weeks…or even a few days. The main reason? The organization tool required too many changes to the way they work.
WHO IS THE TYPICAL CATCHALL USER?
My interviews gave me a much better sense of the needs and goals of researchers when they do their work. Drawing on these insights, I developed three personas to inform the product development process.
There are a number of information management tools on the market that have at least some of the key features identified through my interviews.
Most have an intuitive design and allow users to drag and drop files.
But they start to fall short when it comes to letting users organize their work the way they want to, add notes to items, and print items the way they’d like.
DEVELOPING THE MINIMUM VIABLE PRODUCT
Looking at existing information management products as well as the needs and challenges that surfaced in interviews helped highlight the must-have features for a minimum viable product.
THINKING THROUGH THE DESIGN
After identifying the core features, the next step was to map out userflows and begin sketching design ideas. Thinking through how the user would interact with catchAll and then sketching out what those steps might look helped bring the design to life and provided guidelines for wireframing.
Here’s a quick video of an early prototype created in InVision using Omnigraffle wireframes. It shows how users can create projects and tags, organize materials using folders, and add items to their catchAll.
catchAll improves researchers’ work without dramatically changing how they work.
Research is complicated enough. catchAll makes information management easier.