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Bēhance

HFS 2: Action Method Online

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  • Hall of Fame and Shame 2
    Action Method by Behance
  • Behance is known fordeveloping products and services that empower creative professionals to makeideas happen. Their latest product called the Action Method helps both creativeand non-creative individuals organize and collaborate on projects moreeffectively. Since there are so many online to-do list applications already onthe web today, it’ll be interesting to see how the Action Method distinguishesitself from the others in terms of functionality, design, and usability.  
  • Action Method Ecosystem – this productis available online and also as a mobile/iPad application.
  • Functionality

    The Action Methodtakes a unique approach to project and task management by introducing theconcept of Action Steps. Users manually input their Action Steps, but the requirementis that each step must start with a verb. This is a really unique strategy forhelping increase productivity because it encourages users to associate eachtask with an action.
  • User interface for adding an Action Step. 
  • After a user createsan Action Step, they have a few additional options to help manage their tasks:

    Color Code – They can code each Action Step with acolor in order to indicate priority (high, medium, low). The color options arelight blue, orange, and gray (one color for each priority level). Research hasshown that productivity is linked to effective prioritization, so it looks likethe creators of the site did their homework!

    Add to Focus Area – The Focus Area allows the user tomanually add up to 5 Action Steps from any project to focus on for the day.This creates less clutter and allows the user to focus on a few specific thingshe/she wants to accomplish during the day. The Focus Area effectively usesminimalist design principles to help users prioritize their tasks andconcentrate their efforts on a few Action Steps at a time.

    Project – Typically, each Action Step isassociated with a specific project. Projects can range from clients to schoolcourses, depending on the user’s need. For each project, the user also has theoption of adding notes, attaching files, starting discussions, and viewingcompleted tasks. These additional options make the Action Method more than justa simple online to-do list.

    Due Date – The user has the option to assign eachtask with a due date. If the task has no due date, the Action Step isautomatically added to the “Backburner” list. This list is meant for when theuser has finished with his/her urgent tasks and has spare time to revisitimportant (albeit not time-sensitive) tasks.

    Delegate – The delegate action allows the user todelegate a specific Action Step to anyone with an email address (not limited tousers of the Action Method). Since not everyone uses the Action Method, it’svery important to make it possible for users of the application to stilldelegate tasks to non-users. Otherwise, users of the Action Method would belimited to working only with other users (extremely inconvenient because it’snearly impossible to get everyone to use the same applications that you do).

  • Design

    The Action Methodtakes in a lot of user input, but how does it organize and display theinformation for Action Steps, Focus Areas, and Projects? Let’s take a look.
  • This view shows the Action Steps acrossall projects. The Action Steps are displayed as virtual Post-it notes groupedby due date, and the backburner Action Steps are listed at the bottom. There isalso a checkbox next to each Action Step for when the user finishes a task.Once the user checks it off, the Post-it disappears from the screen and thepage only shows the tasks remaining. This view also includes overduenotifications for Action Steps that have not been completed by the due date.
  • This view shows the Action Steps for aspecific project on the Project List. The design of this view is similar to theone shown above, but with the added sidebar on the right. Each icon displayedon the sidebar represents an action: adding notes, attaching files, startingdiscussions, and viewing completed tasks.
  • Usability

    One of the mainusability advantages for the Action Method is that it is compatible acrossmultiple platforms. Everything on the online web application is automaticallysynched with the user’s mobile and tablet devices. No WiFi required. This makesthe application accessible to the user at all times of the day, regardless ofwhat device they’re using. This is especially important for productivity appsbecause users tend to remember Action Steps and add new projects at differentpoints throughout the day.
  • Comparisons and Tradeoffs

    Before using theAction Method, I frequently used the Tasks feature in Gmail. It is arudimentary task management system compared to the Action Method, but the advantageusing of Tasks was its integration with email. Instead of having to visit aseparate site to view my tasks, I was able to add/view tasks and check my Gmailsimultaneously. The limitation of Tasks, however, is that there is only a smallpopup box where users can add lists of tasks and check them off when completed.It doesn’t separate tasks by project nor does it group tasks by priority/duedate like the Action Method.
  • The design tradeoff hereis: integration versus in-depth functionality. Tasks allow the user to viewtheir tasks in one place (aggregates information), whereas the Action Methodallows the users more flexibility and functionality for task management. Personally,I’m an advocate for the latter. After a while, I found that my list of tasks inGmail was getting too long and hard to manage. However, the unique Post-itview, ability to categorize tasks by projects, and prioritization groupings inthe Action Method made it much easier for me to organize my many tasks and takeaction.
  • Tips for Change

    My sentiments towardsthe Action Method have been resoundingly positive so far, but I’d like tobriefly mention my thoughts on the Notes section and how I think it could be improved.
  • The Notes section allows the users tocreate notes with information and details related to each project. The date thenote was created is bolded and listed at the top (the most recent notes areshown at the top of the list) and the contents of the note are shownunderneath. There is also a box at the top for users to quickly create newnotes.
  • Over time, it’slikely that there might be too many notes for the user to keep track of. Theymight forget what notes they’ve taken (and accidentally add the sameinformation multiple times) or find it difficult to sort through existing notesto find the information they need. The Action Method should have a feature thatallows users to search through their notes using keywords and phrases. By beingable to find information quicker, users will be more efficient and productivewith their tasks.
  • Redesign: The simple search box is integrated with the current format and design of the existing Notes interface. The magnifying glass icon indicates the function of the box and distinguishes from the "add a quick note" box above it.