This Study was done over the course of 4 weeks with the goal of learning and exploring new research gathering types, while it did not lead to further study or design, it helped gain understanding of user research techniques.

Alignment is one of the most critical and challenging tasks when it comes to building products. With COVID-19 forcing people to work from home, communication evolved to Zoom meetings and Slack messages. Keeping everyone aligned on deadlines, tasks, and the roadmap is key to moving forward. As technology progresses and companies continue to function remotely, we must find a solution that keeps us organized and collaborative.

The Challenge

Notion is quickly growing in popularity for teams who struggle to manage their products. One can write, plan, collaborate, and get organized. Although it strives to create a simple, beautiful, and easy-to-use product for its customers, sometimes Notion under-delivers in reliable, seamless, and easy use.

Our overarching goal was to understand Notion users' behaviors in planning and managing personal tasks and events, their needs, and where improvements may be necessary. As a primary method, we pored through Notion's subreddit to illuminate some of the high-level issues and pains before sending questions to our participants.


Meeting to go over our goals, participant gathering, and application, we firmed up Notion due to our perception of its popularity and multi-use utility. Gleaning Notion’s subreddit gave us a more holistic idea of our user’s problems and some of the questions we want to ask.  Based on this research, we focused our questions on gaining context and experiences from users.

It was decided that using Notion to create our diary study form would be beneficial because we would know participants who actually used it. We would also gain our own personal insights through our personal use. Contextual questions were placed in the study form to evaluate participants' present level of savvy, environment, and motivations for using Notion. Our second grouping of questions was meant to gauge what participants experienced while using Notion.

A bit of foresight influenced our decision to have our six participants make entries a few times weekly for four weeks. We knew that some participants would probably wane before the study's conclusion and that some entries would not be as beefy as others. We were not immune to difficulties.  Monitoring and periodical encouragement was necessary to motivate some participants to keep up with their entries.  Even with gentle prodding, some did not see the study through.  We chalked this up to dissatisfaction with Notion for one reason or another. We decided to interview these participants further to understand if it was something we said, actually an issue with the app, or personal reasons that scared them off. We could still use this information to formulate the next steps and ideas for improvement or jobs-to-be-done.

Discovery Insights: Diary Study


At the entry phase's conclusion, all of the data collected was migrated into InVision Freehand for synthesis. Taking a user-centered approach to distilling patterns, an Affinity Map was created to help synthesize the data. Each participant, question, and entry were organized into a table grid. We categorized data by user profile, needs/goals, tasks, likes, pains/frustrations, and feature requests. Our group discussed each entry's patterns and outliers and cultivated ideas for jobs to be done and the next steps from this synthesis.

  • Onboarding - Participants struggled to figure out the controls and features, lots of trial and error. Not immediately apparent what is draggable more the features that are available to you. More advanced users noted they are still learning new features.
  • Formatting - Participants felt that Notion made it hard to get the formatting they desire and slow down their workflow.
  • Integrations - While users found some of the existing integrations helpful, they lacked some critical integrations to our user's workflow.


Next Steps & Conclusion

Notion is a robust data solution with free-form templates and prolific configuration and customization possibilities. It is simple to set up for projects, taking notes, and organizing tasks. Notion still needs to make onboarding easier. For first-timers, understanding which template to use can be difficult. Providing a guided experience that focuses on users’ goals, like creating a grocery list or taking notes for anatomy class, can help them decide which layout will work best for each use.

When students take notes, they want an efficient workflow that formats their notes and allows them to simultaneously follow along in class. Giving them more automation and added machine learning technology would help them gain efficiency and not feel left out of the lesson or conversation. 

Providing plugins or integration with third-party applications to consolidate workflows and cut down on the number of applications used to accomplish tasks. Adding Google Calendar, Grammarly, a drawing application, or Microsoft Office 365 would help organize work and increase fluidity in collaborations with others. 

With the four weeks of data we collected, we felt that the concentrated themes need to be explored. 

Future Research

Guided Set-up as a potential solution 

Finding product examples and talking with users to see if this hypothesis could be implemented into the Notion onboarding.

User Testing and Analysis

Run testing with participants to firsthand see their workflow through Notion.Since we have uncovered pain-points in the process through their self-reporting, it would provide more specific feedback on the current design.


Final Presentation link