The thesis explores how a web-based calendar and reminder service called BirthdayHero could help users improve how well they remember birthdays, anniversaries and other important events. A primary goal is to use the design process to better understand the relationship between internal and external information management. Internal information management is what we do when we use our memory to store and manage information. External information management is the use of physical or digital artifacts, like calendars or journals.
To understand user needs, interviews have been conducted with potential users. The interviews uncovered that people use many different tools to manage birthdays and events. Not all of their needs are met with the tools they are currently using. Almost all participants would have liked to get SMS text message reminders for important events. The strengths and weaknesses of using e-mail and SMS messages as reminders are discussed. The thesis argues that SMS reminders are the best choice for reminding users of events, because they are immediately received and are likely to be read.
The thesis is structured around four central research questions.
The first research question concerns the development of a usable web-based calendar and reminder service. Working prototypes of the calendar interface have been designed and tested for usability. The tests found that the prototypes are to some extent usable and satisfy user needs, but that there is still room for improvement.
Second, the differences between internal and external information management are explored. This is done to outline the strengths and weaknesses of relying on our memory to remember important dates, versus relying on calendars, organizers or other physical artifacts.
Third, the contrasts between appliance and general purpose services are discussed. The thesis argues that BirthdayHero could fulfill an unmet user need as a backup service. It can ensure that users can’t forget important events, while keeping the complexity of the service to a minimum. This entails that the service will be an appliance service, focusing on doing one thing, and doing it well.
Finally, the thesis presents a method of improving how well users memorize dates, based on a learning technique called spaced repetition. Through a prototype design, it explores how the service could improve how well users remember events even without reminders.