Ding, ding, ding: it's your phone and you've got a meeting in 30 minutes. Of course your last one ran over so you need to call a car to get there on time. Smartphone in hand, you rush into your client's office. While there, you scribble down notes, bullet some to-dos, and snap a photo of the whiteboard. You set a reminder to send a summary to your team and follow up with a client. Then you run back to the office, thumbing emails and reviewing notes all along the way.
Sounds like a productive trip, right? Aside from the fact that it's all disconnected. It's this disconnection that HeadsUp, the new meetings app from Any.do, is trying to fix. Already, Any.do (named one of Fast Company's Most Innovative Companies in Productivity) has reached 9 million users by revamping the to-do list and calendar functions on our phones to make them more productive and fun to use. Now they're enhancing the reminder component to improve productivity even more.
"You just have too many apps. Your Evernote is not connected with your calendar and your calendar is not connected with your email and your email is not connected with your to-do. None of them is actually working in sync," says CEO Omer Perchik. "Using all of those separately creates a lot of friction because each and every app works in a silo. There's no context."
The solution requires reinventing an all-to-familiar feature of your smartphone: the calendar notification. "We knew we had to change the perception of what a calendar app was capable of doing," says product designer Ben Lev. "People put so much vital information into their calendars, and yet all they expect is the occasional event reminder. To break that expectation, we focused on the most natural way to empower people, so they use the new feature like it's second nature."
Rather than only getting pinged that you're already running late, for example, HeadsUp gives you a push notification—called a HeadsUp—with actions you might need to take before, during, and after a meeting. Maybe you need to grab an Uber to get there on time. Maybe you need to snap some photos to record your ideas. Maybe you need to schedule a follow-up once you're done. HeadsUp suggests these actions to you and also makes its easy to ignore them. Rather than having each function as a separate app, HeadsUp makes meeting management a single integrated experience, pinging you with suggested actions as you go in and out of meetings.
Why would this increase our productivity? Because research suggests that task-switching undermines our focus, which caps our ability to do our deepest, most creative work. HeadsUp bundles the myriad task of meetings into a single product, creating continuity and focus—two of productivity's best friends.
Creating that focus requires knowing users' pain points—then solving for them. When Any.do set out to create HeadsUp, they first talked to a hundred-some users about how they handle meetings. Rather than trying to invent a new behavior, which Perchik assures is a complicated process, they sought to plug into people's existing behaviors. They then sought to figure out how those existing behaviors can be captured in a digital product.
Three areas of need became apparent: First, ideas come to the table and people need a simple way to capture them that's more actionable than pen and paper. Second, many users send follow up emails after meetings and need an easy way to do this. Third, calendar alerts often need greater context so that people know what task came from whom and within which meeting. HeadsUp provides those options to the user by way of notification.
"People are used to a reminder notification system when it comes to their calendar events, so we built the experience around that same system," says Lev. "When a user gets a 'HeadsUp' they’re actually getting a highly enhanced notification with a smart and relevant set of actions. The actions are tailored to where you are in the meeting process, so the prompts are accurate and using the feature is as frictionless as possible."
Companies that make delightful products out of frustrating chores become mega-hits. Mailbox tamed the inbox, Uber corralled cabs. Now with HeadsUp, Any.do might just make the dreaded meeting a more pleasant and manageable experience.
[Image: Flickr user Mark Ramsay]