How I created a new task management app by Neil Cottrell, CEO LexAble

Posted by on 30th March 2020

Like many people with dyslexia and mental health, I struggle to keep on top of what I’m doing. When I looked around for a mainstream solution, I soon realised nothing met my needs. So I decided to create my own.

I looked at the evidence-based academic research to see what would work for people who were more visual and less linear. 

Identifying the need

arm holding lightbulbI spoke to assessors, study skills tutors, AT trainers and disability advisers and it confirmed to me that there was a gap in the market. What did I want in a new task management app, and what did I want it to look like?

We tried out some ideas on students with dyslexia, neurodiversity conditions and mental health difficulties. They were all in receipt of the Disabled Students’ Allowance (DSA), and during the interviews, they discussed what they found most challenging.

 

What we discovered…

 

I’m overwhelmed!

‘Too much info, I’d feel overwhelmed. I’d look at a long list, panic, close it and never look again.’

‘If I can’t see it, I can’t remember it.’ 

Soundbites from student user-testing group 

We understand it’s easy for students to feel overwhelmed, and that it can be difficult for them to find their way around lists. That’s why we tried different ways of presenting tasks during our usability tests. We avoided long lists by making things visual and only showing what was most important at that moment.  In a single glance, the student could see where they’re at and what comes next. And it made a real difference.

 

Student with head in handsI’m stressed!

‘I just need to know where to start.’

“When in lectures at University, I take notes of things that I need to do, but when I get home, I’ve forgotten and can’t work out what’s the most important task to start with.”

Soundbites from student user testing focus group

 

People with dyslexia or anxiety often have issues with their working memory. They often find it hard to plan ahead or recall what they intended to do. Some describe it as a ‘fog’ in their head or ‘too much noise’ that gets in their way. They read, but don’t get the message.

So that’s when we knew it was essential to create our unique ‘Visual Overview’ feature, which gives students an overview of all their projects and associated tasks in one place. The visual approach reduces the load on their working memory and reading. They can see the big picture all at once. Then, instead of working through a long list, they can hide the bits they don’t need until later.

Planning with pen and paperI get distracted!

‘When I have lots to do, I just don’t see what’s most important.’

‘I know what I’m doing now, and I know there are other things to do, but I can’t remember them and I don’t know if they’re urgent.’

Soundbites from student user testing focus group

 

Learning to prioritise can be difficult. People with dyslexia or difficulties with working memory can’t retain and process lots of things at once.

Other task management systems rely on lists, which put big demands on reading and working memory. It can be tiring and time-consuming for students with dyslexia and/or mental health issues, and they end up with a fragmented picture of what they need to do. They’ll often go for the easiest task or one that’s at the forefront of their mind, rather than the most urgent.

After extensive research, development and testing, Global Tasks was born. And it’s designed to help anyone who struggles with managing and organising their workload.

 

Global Tasks helps people:  

Global Tasks on screen

  • Understand their projects and tasks at a glance
  • Dive into the details of a project and then step back to see the bigger picture  
  • Easily navigate around their tasks and projects with minimal reading or working memory required
  • Feel on top of their work

 

To find out more about how Global Tasks can help you or your students, get in touch today or read more.

Thanks, 

Neil