User Research

Mishka Thacker
14 min readOct 3, 2019


Conducting surveys is a good way to get information from people quickly about a topic. It isn’t as personalizable or as in depth as a one on one interview so it has some downfalls, but it is useful to get some background information about an idea or problem. The first step in my user research is to make a survey about pill organizers to get some data. Conducting an online survey on pill organizers poses one interesting problem. The larger demographic that would possibly use pill organizers would be the elderly, who do not have a large social media and technological presence to take this online survey. That being said, pill organizers are not just used by the elderly, but can be used by anyone that takes pills in general, which is helpful for this survey. For this, I am not necessarily worried about the demographic of those who use pill organizer, but more about anyone who uses pill organizer’s input and opinions on a typical pill organizer, as well as those who do not have experience.

This survey was posted on Reddit, in r/samplesize, on Facebook in the UMN Class of 2021 group, and sent to friends/family, who also sent it to others beyond who I know.

While making the survey, I figured there would be more people who do not use a pill organizer than ones who do, so my first preliminary question was asking whether or not the person taking the survey used a pill organizer or not, or if they helped a family/friend/loved one use a pill organizer. This way I could get opinions from people who do and do not use pill organizers, since the concept of a pill organizer is easy to understand. From there I split the survey into two, so I could still get information from everyone taking the survey.

For those who did not use a pill organizer, they were asked the following questions:

  • Why do you not use a pill organizer?
  • If you were to use a pill organizer, what characteristics would you find important? (supplied with a list of characteristics)
  • What is something that would be helpful to those who use pill organizers that isn’t implemented in a typical pill organizer?

This way, even people who do not use a pill organizer could provide some data and the survey would not be limited to a small group.

For those who did use a pill organizer, they were asked more in depth questions, which are the following:

  • What type of pill organizer do you use? (choice of 3 basic ones and spot to write in if the one used is not pictured)
  • How long have you used your pill organizer?
  • What complaints do you have about your pill organizer/pill organizers in general? (supplied with a list of common complaints I have found)
  • What do you wish your pill organizer could do?
  • Was there a time that you had an issue with a pill organizer and what was the issue?
  • How do you usually use a pill organizer? (ex: fill it once a week, refill every day, bring with you daily, bring it with only when travelling…)
  • What would drive you to purchase one pill organizer over another?

The last group of people were the people who helped others use pill organizers but did not use one themselves. They were asked the following questions:

  • What features would you like to see in a typical pill organizer?
  • Was there a time that you had an issue with a pill organizer and what was the issue?
  • How do you usually use a pill organizer? (ex: fill it once a week, refill every day, bring with you daily, bring it with only when travelling…)
  • What would drive you to purchase one pill organizer over another?

There were a variety of multiple choice, select all that apply, and short/long answer questions, so each person who took the survey had a chance of explaining their answers further.

In the end, the total amount respondents was 124. This gave a large enough pool, and 29% of people used pill organizers, and 7.3% helped a loved one use one. The total of people that have experience with a pill organizer was 36.3%, which I was worried that there would be a way lower amount of those who do use pill organizers, so I am glad that I was able to get a larger amount of people than I first thought I would get.

That being said, 36.3% is still lower than I would have liked, but when I was doing research, I found on Right at Home, an In Home Care and Assistance website, “About 35 percent of people over age 75 who take three or more prescription drugs use a pill organizer.” While in my survey I did not worry about age but rather the familiarity, I figured I could use this piece of data to assume that this statement would not just stand for people over the age of 75, but would probably be similar for other age groups (I could not find any statistics of other age groups).

Included below are some graphs showing the results of the answers for different questions:

Pie Chart showing percentage of people who do and don’t use an organizer

Note that in the pie chart, both yellow and green are for helping someone use a pill organizer, but the first option had a typo

Types of pill organizers used

As for the types of pill organizers used, most used some sort of 7 Day pill organizer, with either one, two, or four compartments per day. There were some other types mentioned but overall, the 7 Day organizer was the most common.

Length of use

Most people have been using pill organizers for more than 6 months, showing they have familiarity with them, but not enough complaints with them to not use one. This means they find the pill organizers more useful and don’t mind taking the extra few minutes to fill it.

As on the other hand, people who do not use pill organizers were asked why they don’t use one:

The majority of the people either don’t take pills or take them but don’t see a purpose to a pill organizer.

The common complaints were:

As for the short/long answer questions, many people had similar responses or just went more in depth about the multiple choice/select all that apply questions.

The most common statements said were:

  • “I’d like my pill organizer to remind me to take pills” (embedded technology and ability to connect to a phone)
  • Pill organizer does not stay shut is the biggest complaint (ex: opening in a backpack/purse) as well as lettering rubbing off, with being hard to open coming after
  • Easier portability is important, especially for those who take pills on the go during the day (smaller, more compact)
  • Better size (smaller options for those who don’t have as many, bigger for those who do)
  • Most use a 7 Day one (either one a day or AM/PM) and fill it once a week

Some of the quotes that stuck out to me were:

“It would be cool if the pill organizer could be color coded for the days so the elderly could match the colors to their pill bottles. My dad takes so many pills at different intervals and the writing is hard to read on the pill bottle then to translate 15 pills into the proper spot of a pill organizer is quite a difficult task.”

“ Normal pill cases (like the ones you showed). I don’t like that they pop open easily in my purse and spill everywhere, that they are clear and you can tell that there are pills inside, and that the ones that are big enough for multiple pills per day are really big.”

“ Labels you can add or change, maybe like erasable in a way?”

“ My main issue usually is they are always too big and bulky maybe something more compact and easier to travel with”


The next step in user research was to conduct a few interviews. I decided to interview two people who used pill organizers and one who took vitamins daily but did not use a pill organizer.

I made some preliminary questions based off the survey, but let the interviewee control the conversation, which changed some of my questions. The general questions for each interview are:

  • Why do/don’t you use a pill organizer?
  • What is your daily process concerning pills/vitamins?
  • Do you consider it easier to use a pill organizer?
  • What are some features that you think would be helpful in a pill organizer?
  • What is an issue with your pill organizer?
  • What is important in a pill organizer?
  • What are your thoughts on a typical (7 Day) pill organizer?

From these questions, the interviewee was able to take the conversation where they pleased and answered questions that I had not originally thought of, or told stories on their own.

The first interview I conducted was with the person who did not use a pill organizer. We talked for about 30 minutes and the main points were:

  • Subject is 20 year old male, who takes daily vitamins
  • Daily process of taking vitamins includes keeping them in his toiletries bag, and taking two a day in the morning/evening when he remembers (showed me his daily process of just grabbing the bottle, opening them, and taking them)
  • Doesn’t use a pill organizer because no organization is needed, can take straight out of bottle. Would be more work to use a pill organizer
  • Would consider a pill organizer if prescribed daily pills
  • Brings whole bottle of pills with when travelling because the bottle is not as big as a pill organizer
  • No one in family uses pill organizer either
  • Sometimes forgets if he took vitamins in the morning, says it would be nice to have a way where he wouldn’t forget
  • Says he forgets to take them about 10% of the time
  • In a pill organizer, he says he would like a magnetic pill organizer, to put on a fridge, or color coded with different compartments for each different pill, or a circular pill organizer would be nicer than the ones that are in a line, since they look big and bulky
  • Another idea he mentioned was compartments for each day of the week, but extra pills that are in a compartment to rotate and refill
  • One time it would be useful to use a pill organizer would be when he was sick and was prescribed medication to take daily, but was having a hard time to remember whether or not he took the pills

Take away quotes from this interview:

“I don’t use a pill organizer because I think it would take me more time to organize my vitamins than the time it takes me to take them from the bottle”

“If I had prescriptions, it would be helpful to remind me, but it isn’t that big of a deal if I do end up missing my vitamins one day”

“Sometimes I do forget if I have taken my vitamins or not, so it would be nice to have a way to remember that, but I’m not sure if a pill organizer would be the way to do that”

The next interview went as following:

  • Subject is 20 year old female, who takes multiple pills each day
  • Uses a 7 Day one a day pill organizer from Target, pictured below, filled for demonstration:
  • Fills it once a week when the compartments are all empty and uses it everyday to take pills in the morning (Showed me her process of filling them, took one bottle and filled each day of the week, then proceeded to move on to the next bottle till she was finished, skipping Monday)
  • Uses a pill organizer because she was prescribed pills a few years ago that she didn’t want to forget to take
  • If she goes somewhere, she brings it with and fills it for however many days she is gone
  • An issue that she had with her pill organizer is that it broke, as shown in the picture with the lack of the Monday compartment, probably by being tossed around in her backpack between books
  • It just recently broke but she has had it for at least three years
  • If her pill organizer could be upgraded, she would want it to remind her to take pills since sometimes she forgets to take them, which can be a problem
  • Has no problem with the size. It is slim so she can take it with her and is portable enough
  • Has some issues with lettering starting to rub off, like on the Saturday compartment in the picture
  • Dislikes having to refill it, would rather have a way for it to be refilled easier or on its own, such as something electronic that could sort them without much work

Take away quotes from the interview:

“The biggest issue I had was when it broke. It broke by being tossed around in my backpack I think, probably got squished between my books and notebooks and stuff. Other than that, no real issues”

“I dislike having to refill it, that’s probably the biggest complaint I have about it. I think it would be cool to have something that automatically refills, not sure how that would work though”

“The lettering rubbing off is annoying. I mean I know which day of the week the compartment is for, but its easier to just look at it and know without having to think”

The last interview was as following:

  • The subject was a 47 year old female who takes daily pills as well as vitamins
  • Uses a 7 Day once a day pill organizer, from Target:
  • Uses it because she wants to take pills at work, would forget daily otherwise
  • Fills it up weekly on Sunday
  • Used to take pills in the evening, but couldn’t sleep after taking them. Tried taking them in the morning, realized she had too much going on in the morning and would forget, so it was easier to bring to work and take them after breakfast at work
  • Reminders would be nice, color changes after taking or when its time to take them, electronic connected to your phone
  • Older people would want it big enough to fit many pills, such as one friend mentioned
  • Would want something prettier, cooler, modern, and fits easier into the purse. Customizable design would be nice too (ex: flowers)
  • Says her pill organizer is too big, would want something smaller and lighter that would be easier to fit in a purse on the go (Only issue is it doesn’t fit in her smaller purses. Too large and clunky)
  • Says that while young people want sturdier, old people want something easier due to motor issues, as she knows from what her co-workers have told her and what she has seen
  • Options for customized sizes would be good
  • For her, the most important features would be design, portability
  • Older people must take pills while it isn’t a big deal if she misses one
  • All in all, thinks that pill organizers are useful, but also boring and plain. Says they are useful more for the elderly, but also a good idea for anyone taking pills
  • Thinks that pill organizers need to be modernized, the idea hasn’t changed since the beginning. Since all are the same, there needs to be a new idea, but that has to be cheap

Take away quotes:

“For me, I’d like something more modern or pretty. I like things with a nice design and these pill organizers are just boring.”

“I know people at work were telling me that they help their parents take pills because it is hard for the elderly to open pill organizers because of mobility issues like arthritis. I don’t have a problem with that yet, but an organizer that is easier to open is helpful.”

“Pill organizers have been pretty much the same since they were invented and all the different ones are the same. So I’d just get a cheap one because they all do the same thing. I think a new design of pill organizer would be nice, but it would also have to be cheap or reasonably priced.”

After interviewing three different people, the ideas seemed to all be the same, even from a person who does not use pill organizers.


All of this data and information from the interviews, surveys and my observations lead to the same points, being able to be grouped together in a few points. This way I could unpack what people want, the complaints, and the opportunities.

Insights and Statements

Next is to find some major insights and construct some problem statements. Some major insights are:

  • A large demographic of people who use pill organizers are the elderly, who tend to have mobility issues and pill organizers can be hard to open
  • Pill organizers can sometimes be hard to take with you on the go, so a more portable option would be more attractive to people
  • Many people in the survey and interviews said that a way to be reminded by their pill organizer to take their pills would be helpful
  • The design of pill organizer has not changed and some are very plain and boring
  • People complained the most about pill organizers that do not stay shut, have the letter rub off, do not have a good size, or are hard to open

Now for the problem statement, they are formatted in the style: “ ___ needs a way to ___ because ____”. The first blank would be a group of people, so for pill organizers, the main group is people who use them.

  1. Elderly people or those with mobility issues such as arthritis who use pill organizers need a way to open their pill organizers easier because some pill organizers tend to be difficult to open.
  2. People who use pill organizers and tend to forget to take their pills need a way to be reminded to take their pills because missing a pill can be detrimental to someone’s health.
  3. People who use pill organizers on the go need a way to take their pills with them because most pill organizers are not very portable or secure and tend to open up and spill.

New Ideas

Now that I have conducted all this research, I can come up with new ideas that help solve the problem statements above, with five obvious and five not so obvious ideas.


10/2: Make timeline

10/3: Start working on survey, find people to interview

10/4: Finish survey and post online (mechanical turk, reddit, send to people I know, Facebook?)

10/5: Interview 1 or 2 people

10/6: Interview last people/person, compile notes

10/7: Start analyzing data and notes and form problem statement

10/8: Come up with new designs, work on finishing blog

10/9: Finish up and edit blog

10/10: Present in class!