After a long research period in which we looked into many different technologies and possible areas of application, we came across a fundamental problem.
In today's information society, we are exposed to a daily flood of information that makes it increasingly difficult for us to separate the important from the unimportant. These decisions take up cognitive capacities, cost a lot of time and keep us from the things that are actually important in life.
We have decided to counteract this information overload by supporting the user in a more conscious consumption of information. An important aspect in this regard is the prioritisation and categorisation of information, because not every message has the same relevance for the user in every situation.
Regarding the question of how this prioritisation takes place, we have deliberately decided against the use of artificial intelligence or other technology. We wanted to get to the root of the problem and came to the conclusion that this is only possible if we hold the human sender and receiver responsible. The only way to prevent the emergence of an information overload is for these two human actors to show mutual consideration for each other.
Following the method of the Eisenhower Matrix – which is originally used to prioritise tasks – all messages can be categorised according to the importance and urgency of their content and placed in one of the four quadrants.
The prioritisation was to be seamlessly integrated into the sending process in order to keep the additional effort for the sender as low as possible. Besides the interaction, we also thought in detail about how many gradations the prioritisation must have in order to guarantee a good usability and still be effective.
This prioritisation must be done manually by the sender before sending each message. By reflecting empathically on the current relevance of the messages content for the recipient, a more conscious sending behaviour should develop.
On the recipient's side, messages are put into a hierarchical order based on their prioritisation. This list view allows the recipient to see at a glance which messages are relevant to them at the moment.
In addition to prioritisation, messages are divided according to their context – life & work. These two inboxes appear as modes between which the user can switch. If the recipient is in work mode, he or she only receives messages from senders who are also in work mode. Private messages, on the other hand, are not delivered. Only when the recipient switches to life mode his or her life-inbox is displayed.
The clear separation of these two worlds is a good way to concentrate on the respective area of life and not to be distracted and disturbed by currently irrelevant messages. This is especially true in times of the establishment of the home office.
After sending a message, the sender receives feedback about the message status. If the sender and receiver are in different modes and the message was therefore not delivered, the sender is informed of this. Through this meta-communication, possible misunderstandings can be avoided, as the sender knows why he or she cannot expect a reaction for the time being.
Messages from important contacts are always put through, regardless of their prioritisation and the mode the sender and receiver are in.
If the recipient wants to be completely unreachable for a while, he or she can switch to focus mode, in which no messages are put through to him or her.
For me the solution mechanics of this project embody the discipline of interaction design. In this case the interaction designer has the key role of translating the solution mechanics of message prioritisation into an interface that allows every user to become a part of the solution.
Only a usable and user-friendly interface allows a concrete, tangible access to an abstract solution mechanics.