Smart Alarm

The app that remembers what you need for the day... so you don’t have to

Team directed project as a part of the Mobile & IoT class at Carnegie Mellon University. We conceptualized, designed, and developed a mobile application to help users track and remember items they need when leaving the house.

Therese Chan

Justin Lee
Business Strategist

Adolfo Victoria

My Role
UX Designer
UX Researcher
Team Lead

January - April 2020


Many people have experienced that sinking feeling when they realize they left something at home while they are already out the door and on their way. How might we ease the morning routine by helping people remember what they need to bring that day?

Using various research methods, we identified several key user needs that influenced the design for this app:


On average, people wish they had 45-60 minutes to prepare in the morning, however, people actually have 30-45 minutes to prepare.


64% of interviewees tend to forget items to bring when leaving the house.


36% of interviewees responded that updating personal items on calendars or notes is burdensome as it takes extra time.


People tend to forget a variety of items and will need flexibility for this in their reminders

Skip to solution

At the start of our research we decided that we wanted to focus on easing morning routines. We had heard anecdotal evidence that many people struggle to get up and get ready to leave the house in a timely manner. We set out to validate this and find more specific needs about morning routines that we could help with. We let the research guide which part of the morning routine to focus on.

Using Surveys to Gain Insight

We used our first user surveys to validate assumptions and understand what challenges people are dealing with in their morning routines. We targeted a wide variety of people, from college students to working professionals, who may deal with rushing out of the house in the morning.

Example questions from the online survey

Two key findings from this survey helped to drive our project forward:

Finding 1

Most people feel a desire to have more time to get ready in the morning.

Finding 2

Participants report forgetting a variety of items at home over the course of a week.

Semi-Structured Interviews Offer Anecdotal Evidence

In order to gain a deeper understanding of our survey results, we conducted semi-structured interviews with several participants. In the interviews, we found additional qualitative evidence that people feel they do not have enough time in the morning.

View the semi-structured interview guide below:

View Interview Guide

Diary Study to gain contextual data

Although the semi-structured interviews were helpful, they were not a substitution for contextual research. Given that we could not join someone to observe their actions immediately after waking up, we conducted a brief diary study that lasted up to three days.

View the diary study template below:

Diary Study Template
Alarm clock on a nightstand next to a bed

Narrowing Down with a Survey

Storyboard Testing

Following the initial survey and interviews, we tested the need for help to remember items in the morning. To test this need, we created a storyboard that walked through the context, problem, solution, and resolution of a product that helps users remember to bring things. We then shared this storyboard with several potential users, which validated that this was a need. With the research, surveys, and storyboard results, we felt confident that addressing this need with a mobile and IoT solution would add value to users.

Storyboard showing Alex waking up and getting ready to leave the house
Iterative Design

Moving from Concept to Prototype

The concept we chose to move forward with was a mobile app to help users keep track of what items they need to leave the house with.

Near the end of conducting research I began iteratively prototyping. Taking what we had learned from user research we settled on an app that would keep track of what the user needs for the day. The prototyping process was iterative, moving from paper to mid-fidelity to high-fidelity, and back through these steps any time a new feature or interaction was introduced.

Low-Fidelity Paper Prototypes

We started with paper prototypes to get many ideas out quickly and cheaply. The most important features were the item setup, checklist creation, and schedule. Given that these were prioritized features, we started our prototyping there and added other features in subsequent prototypes.

Mid-Fidelity Prototypes

I refined the interface based on feedback on the initial paper prototypes. The prototype went through three iterations of mid-fidelity screens before moving into hi-fidelity.

Usability Testing

To evaluate the usability of the mid-fidelity prototypes I conducted three usability tests following a think aloud protocol. We identified goals for what we would like to learn from the usability testing and identified tasks that would help us achieve those goals.

Goals for this phase of evaluation:


Smart Alarm is a mobile application and IoT solution to help users remember what they need for the day.

Users can add items, categorize items, and schedule items that they need to remember for a specific day.

The app would integrate with the user's calendar to enable automatic reminders and item recommendation based on calendar events.

Three screens from the smart alarm appExperience the PrototypeView In Figma






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Future Considerations

With added time we would have liked to design a conversational interface for the user to interact with the app using their Amazon Alexa device. By connecting with the user's Amazon Alexa device, they could more naturally interact with their item checklist through conversation and enable reminder notifications.