Graphic Design and Media, B.S., University of Nevada, Las Vegas (UNLV)
Research group: Kyla Sannadan, Paige Barker, Nathan Guerrero
Research accomplishment: 17th Annual International Conference on Design Principles & Practices (Conference Proceedings Presentation)​​​​​​​​​​​​​​
Title: A Study of Correlation Between a Smartphone Motivation App to Increase Motivation in College Students 
Research Keywords: User Experience (UX), User Interface (UI), Usability Testing, Student Motivation
Introduction: The primary objective of this study was to design, develop, and evaluate a college student-focused self-motivation smartphone application, and examine its correlation with college students' motivation towards academic tasks. Given the increasing prevalence of technology in students' lives, our study aimed to leverage this trend to promote self-efficacy and motivation for academic achievement. By understanding the factors that influence students' self-efficacy, such as self-esteem, digital distractions, mental health, and time management, we sought to utilize this knowledge to inform the app's design and features. Furthermore, we employed usability testing to assess the overall effectiveness of the user experience, focusing on three tasks that encompassed the app's main features.
Research Questions and Hypothesis: Our central research question was: Can a self-motivation app enhance college students' self-efficacy in managing their workload and achieving success in academics and work-life balance? We hypothesized that the use of a productivity/motivational app could result in a positive increase in students' productivity and user experience.
Development of UX Mobile App: To design the app, we first conducted a comprehensive literature review on the psychology of self-motivation and self-efficacy, identifying key strategies relevant to college students. These strategies encompassed intrinsic motivation, goal orientation, time management, and mental health. Additionally, we performed a competitive analysis of existing applications with similar motivational goals to inform our choice of features for our app.
User Flow and Brand Design: Informed by our research and competitive analysis, we concentrated on three main features that we believed would significantly impact students' motivation. The user flow was designed to divide these features across the app's main pages and outline their intended usage. The app, named "Groove" to represent "getting into a groove," employed a color scheme featuring green and warm hues, drawing from psychological associations with nature and calmness.
App Prototype and Usability Testing: 
The Groove prototype was meticulously designed, incorporating our chosen color palette to promote feelings of calm and focus while using the app. The app's design centered on three main features, derived from our extensive literature review and competitive analysis. These features aimed to address different aspects of motivation and self-efficacy in college students.
1. Homepage Customization (Task A): This feature allowed users to create a personalized experience by customizing their homepage. Users could add various modules containing different functionalities, such as motivational quotes, habit tracking, and upcoming tasks or events. The personalization aimed to increase user engagement and create a sense of ownership, which can positively impact motivation.
2. Add a Routine (Task B): This feature enabled users to add scheduled events or tasks to their calendar, promoting effective time management and organization. To streamline the user experience, users could choose from preset routines, minimizing friction in the creation of individual tasks. By providing a structured approach to time management, this feature aimed to enhance students' self-efficacy in managing their workload.
3. Navigate to Student Resources (Task C): This feature provided users with access to a curated collection of articles and resources relevant to academics, such as mental health support, study strategies, and time management tips. By offering targeted resources, this feature aimed to empower students with the knowledge and tools necessary to succeed academically.
To assess the usability and effectiveness of these features, we conducted usability tests with college students as participants. Users were given three minutes to complete each task (Task A, Task B, and Task C). We recorded their interactions with the app, noting any difficulties or points of confusion they encountered. Additionally, we collected qualitative feedback through interviews and questionnaires to gauge participants' perceptions of the app and its potential to impact their motivation and self-efficacy.
The data collected during usability testing allowed us to identify areas of improvement within the app's design and user flow, such as the need to differentiate between the widget features and routine pages more clearly. It also provided insights into potential enhancements, such as implementing a reward system to increase motivation and the inclusion of a task checklist for improved organization and productivity. By incorporating these findings into the app's design, we aim to create a more effective and engaging tool that supports college students in achieving their academic goals.
Research Findings and Discussion: Participants found the color palette calming, which aided navigation. They experienced difficulty with Task B, as they confused the widget features and routine pages, suggesting a need for clearer differentiation. Participants held neutral views on the app's potential to increase motivation and self-efficacy. One participant proposed implementing a reward system to motivate users to continue using the app.
Conclusion and Future Directions: In conclusion, our study represents a significant contribution to understanding the potential of self-motivation smartphone applications in enhancing college students' motivation and self-efficacy. The findings from our usability tests provided valuable insights into areas for improvement and refinement in Groove's user experience and features. Future directions for this research include conducting additional usability tests with a larger and more diverse sample of college students to further validate our findings and ensure the app caters to a wide range of users. Additionally, incorporating user feedback and suggestions, such as implementing a reward system and a task checklist, will help enhance the app's focus on self-motivation and improve its effectiveness in promoting students' productivity and academic success. We also recommend conducting longitudinal studies to examine the long-term impact of using Groove on students' motivation, self-efficacy, and academic performance. This would provide a more comprehensive understanding of the app's efficacy over time and help identify any potential challenges or pitfalls that may arise with prolonged use. Furthermore, future research could explore the integration of additional features that target specific aspects of motivation and self-efficacy, such as social support, gamification, and personalized feedback. By continuously refining and expanding the app's functionalities, we can ensure that Groove remains an effective and engaging tool for supporting college students' motivation and academic achievement. Overall, we hope that our research serves as a foundation for further exploration and discussion on the relationship between motivation apps and students' self-motivation, paving the way for the development of innovative and effective digital tools that enhance college students' academic success and well-being.