Week on a device

Visualizing multi-tasking

For a week, I took a screenshot every time I switched from one app to another, on my phone and on my laptop. I've then condensed all the screenshots I've taken each day in a single image.


Phone, Monday - Sunday


After the Ten Days on Tinder project, I was interested in visual representations of our digital lives. I thought about illustrating pet peeves I had in my daily life. My goal was to produce a basic data visualization of UX problems.

I felt conflicted about multitasking. The idea of it made me feel good and productive ; yet in practice it often resulted in a continuous stream of interruptions and lack of focus. At the end of the day, I sometimes felt like having accomplished nothing. I had tried Chrome plug-ins, which never resulted in a long-term habit change.


In terms of user experience, multitasking occurs when one toggles between apps. For this reason, I took a screenshot every time I switched from one app to another, on my phone and on my laptop. As long as I stayed in a given app, I did not take any other screenshots. I kept the screenshots untouched, only obstructing information in a few cases where business-related information was visible. I made this for one week, so one could compare the activity of different days. I purposely did not work too much on the week-end, to make the series more relatable.


I ended up with many screenshots. I wanted to make one single image per day and per device, to show the research in a more compelling way. A reference was an earlier project I made:

In this project, I took screenshots of the 100 most visited websites on a defined territory (according to Alexa.com), at a given date. I then compacted the 100 images into one single picture. Above, the 100 most visited websites in France on March 20th 2014 ; and a video overview of the process.

Still, compressing the screenshots like in the above example would have blurred the actual content of the screen. For this reason, I decided to cut stretches into the screenshots. Then, I stacked them up: the earliest screenshot of the day went at the top; the latest at the bottom. A single image was generated. The more strips, the more I had switched apps that day.

First, I divided the screen height by the number of screenshots I had taken this day. This gave me the size of the strips I had to cut. Then, I cut one strip in each screenshot, depending on when it was taken during the day.


This project is a an illustration of a current UX problem: I wonder whether the problem is multitasking in itself, or multitasking as we do it for now. Solutions already exist, such as actionable notifications, Android’s home screen gadgets or iOS 10's Raise to Wake. Yet, I put my highest hopes in AI-powered conversational UI, WeChat-style metaplatforms and streamed apps such as Android Instant Apps.