A startup called Cope hired me to create a minimum viable product for their new idea — tracking mental health. It was the first project where I handled mobile app design, and I was very excited to learn the intricacies of the iOS platform.
My clients John and Kat have done some preliminary interviews with psychologists and psychiatrists to get their side of the picture. They have established a user persona, a business model canvas, and several startup prep work for the product to take off. My job was to actually create the experience for their users and make sure they are represented in the design process.
The design I created was a result of self-started questions, validating assumptions, benchmarking, and guerilla testing. I could have done some more usability studies early in the process, however.
Informal Competitive Analysis
We checked the App Store for similar applications, and we found out that there were no well-designed niche applications for handling mental health. We found another app called Cope as well, but their solution was more of a community-based social sharing platform. We saw this as an opportunity for our own version of Cope to solve a unique problem in the space.
Instead, we drew inspiration from applications that feature the design components we needed: menstrual cycle management apps that have good summaries and calendars, emotion tracking apps, medicine tracking apps.
I used the concepts gained from these applications to study how they understood the mental models of their own users and hopefully replicate that kind of empathy whenever I create design decisions for Cope.
We had feature changes and a lot of design decisions cancelled. Before, we had different modules for the design: forums, mental health doctor search, messaging.
We finalized the components of Cope that we wanted to build and we decided that we wanted to focus on tracking their progress for mental health. I had to drop some UI explorations I did for the first version of Cope we were building.
Ideation and Feature Prioritization
How do we exactly track one's progress in mental health? How do we make sure that the design is as usable as possible? What specific things should we track? How do we gauge someone's well-being in as few questions as possible? How do we design an efficient system for tracking and managing medication, and how does it tie up with the overall well-being score and progress of the user? How do we make a habit-forming product?
There were so many questions we had to answer going into the project, but we decided on four key features that will serve as the solution to the mental health tracking problem: a self-report check-in system, medicine tracker, calendar overview, and summary dashboard. All modules work together to form a cohesive whole as a mental health tracking platform.
Assumptions and Considerations
The boundaries of self-reporting and analysis
We cannot really derive a diagnosis from the self-report component of the application because doctors are the only ones qualified to do it. There are so many factors that relate to mental health, and we realized as a team that the last thing that our app would want to do is to guess. The design decision is to tally user's progress based on his or her own input, and we would assign a total well-being score based on the aggregate of their answers.
Frequency of data collection
How exactly do we know if the emotion that was self-reported persisted all throughout the day? As human beings, our emotions constantly change. We can't do a self-check just once a day because the data becomes inaccurate. We decided to have multiple check-ins as the solution. That changed the initial design I created for the calendar screen.
User Flow Brainstorming
Designing the onboarding process
The onboarding process starts with the user signing up or logging in and keying important data. The user then performs his or her first symptoms check-in. This is essential so there could be a baseline for his or her data in the calendar and summary screens. He or she is led to an empty state of the medicine tracker screen. From there, the user could add medicine or check out his summary or calendar.
After asking so many questions about the product and validating our assumptions with experts, I created different screens using Sketch. There were multiple versions and ideas that I had to validate, and frankly, I feel like I haven't tested the solutions that I created yet. During this phase, I got advice from a data visualization desginer if I were designing the graphs correctly. I created a quick landing page as well.
There are so many nuances during the high fidelity design phase and so we kept on going back to sketching all the time. I tried to be smarter in thinking about the usability of each design. My focus was to be more intentional in all of the affordances I create within the application.
I built the prototype with Invision first but I encountered some problems with the tool. MarvelApp proved a better choice. After building the prototype with normal hotlinks, I believe we were ready to try it out with some users.
I tested the application with 7 college students from Ateneo de Manila University with convenience sampling. The results revealed some usability questions for the app. What would the users actually do after keying in their symptoms for the day? What if they do not have medication ready? How can we get them to come back and actually use it again? Indeed, there are many more things to design for the product that we have not explored yet.
The project is actually in development now and the next step is to conduct usability tests, install analytics and use new insights to inform new iterations of the product. Design a better onboarding process. Design for empty states. Design copywriting and strategy for push notifications as trigger. Integrate a social aspect into the application. All these will be helpful to create a better design for the app.
In reality, product design is the easy part. The real problems we're facing involve fighting a stigma around mental health, building an open, supportive and vulnerable community, and creating a sustainable business model for the product.