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Descriptive guide on how I designed a complete product for improving the mental well-being of people amidst the COVID-19 crisis, from scratch in 10 days.
“Creating a healthy mindset is an investment in your overall well-being.”
📣 About the company and the competition:
Lollypop Design Studio is a global design agency that enables solutions through research, design & development. It’s a UI/UX company that is transforming and scaling businesses successfully through its services. PopQuest Design Challenge🔥 is an initiative of Lollypop Design Studio, that empowers and enables budding designers across the globe to exhibit their design skills and find solutions to some interesting real-world problems.
👉 The Theme
COVID-19 has affected our lives in unbelievable ways and the last few months have been full of fear, anxiety, and stress. This has taken a toll on the mental health of people. The majority of these cases went unnoticed as a result of lack of awareness, financial restraints, and self-doubts. The need of the hour is a global digital platform where people support people to stay strong. A unique destination that provides community, moral support, and information on how to get the best medical assistance.
📌The Problem Statement
As it can be concluded from the theme, the problem statement was to design a digital platform, an app, or a website, that would cater to the needs of people who are suffering from mental health issues during the COVID crisis. This platform would encourage them to stay strong, take care of their mental health, provide a strong community of people, give moral support, and information on how to get the best medical assistance at any place, at any time.
The solution for the given design challenge was to be completed in just 10 days, hence I was required to ideate, research, and make a prototype really fast.
DAY 1: Setting the ground 🎬
I began by understanding the core problem❓; what is actually a mental health disorder, how it affects people, what are the different kinds of mental disorders, which age groups do these disorders affect the most, how is COVID taking a toll on the mental health of people, how various mental disorders can be treated, what are the different therapies available for treating these mental health issues, how comfortable do the people feel to discuss their mental health issues and take steps to cure it🙇🏻.
So before I begin my design process, it was really important for me to understand the whole concept of mental health and the consequences it has on people. To do so, I read many articles ➕ research papers online, which helped me gain a deeper insight 🔎 into the existing poor mental health issues amongst different age groups across various countries and how deadly it can be for one’s overall well-being🤕.
📗 Learnings: I got to know how being mentally unhealthy affects our thinking, mood, and behavior. It can affect our ability to relate to others and function each day. When mentally unwell, a person might have anxiety, depression, bipolar disorder, stress, psychotic disorders, trauma, personality disorders, eating disorders, mood disorders 😞, and so on.
🗣 How covid has affected people’s mental health: COVID-19 pandemic has negatively affected people’s mental health and those people who are already suffering from mental health issues have gone through worse. Few pointers amongst many: 👀
👉 Young adults have experienced many pandemic-related consequences, such as closures of universities and loss of income, that may contribute to poor mental health.
👉 Economic downturns show that job loss is associated with increased depression, anxiety, distress, and low self-esteem and may lead to higher substance use disorder and suicide rates.
👉Financial stress, unemployment caused by the pandemic, inequity in accessing healthcare and important health-related resources (food, shelter, water), and limited knowledge towards disease control and self-protection have caused serious trauma.
🔮 Executing the 5 step Design Thinking Process
In my quest to find the most suitable solution for the given problem, I followed the famous 5-step design thinking process, because it I believe it gives me the ability to take actionable steps throughout my design process, to find answers for the underlying unsolved problems in a very structured way. If you would like check, here is a great article on Design Thinking.
🕵Day 2,3,4: Research/Empathise
Now came the time to begin with my favorite part of the whole design process, i.e empathizing🌼 with my users, understanding 🙇🏼 their needs, their issues. I divided ✂️ my research process for this project into two parts: Primary Research and Secondary Research.
☝️🏾 Primary Research:
As a part of my primary research, I conducted user-survey and user interviews📝, of which my family and friends were a part👭. In my survey, I asked questions like, how my users felt before the pandemic, how the pandemic has affected their mental health, how likely are they to use mental health assistance or support, how are they going to deal with anxiety and depression, do they use or know about any mental health assistance app or website, etc.
✌️🏽 Secondary Research:
For thorough secondary research, to understand my users better, I read many publications📰, articles, blogs and saw many videos 🎥 on mental health, its causes, and cure 💊. I dug a little deeper and saw various demographic data, to know how different age groups are affected by the pandemic socio-economically. The sites that I referred to, include statisca.com, kff.org, biomedcentral.com, www.who.int, afsp.org, hindustantimes.com, ourworldindata.org, etc. I read over more than 30 blogs, articles, publications, and reports, to thoroughly understand 🔎 what my users are really going through, what are the patterns by which their mental health gets affected, how many of them prefer taking the therapies, how mental health is talked about across the globe 🌐, etc.
📊 Insights from primary and secondary research:
I did data analysis and ecosystem study with the help of all the data I had collected from my primary and secondary research. Mentioned below, are some of the learnings from the overall user research:
👉 62.4% of the overall population, saw symptoms of anxiety and depression during the pandemic.
👉 Share of adults under the age group of 18–24, which is almost 56.3%, reported mental health issues during COVID.
👉 By gender, women suffered more from unhealthy mental health.
👉 25% of the youth feel uncomfortable sharing their mental health issues, be it anxiety, trauma, or depression.
👉 Most people in India, do not take mental health issues seriously and avoid symptoms of depression or anxiety.
👉People are less known of existing mental-health apps and prefer traditional face-to-face therapies over online therapies because they feel that online therapies are not that effective. This is also because 40% of them have not tried it.
👉They are not aware of online communities that support people with mental health issues and feel that if there is one, then it’s not trustable. This is mostly because there is a huge taboo around mental health, especially in India, where it’s not really considered a disease or a serious health issue, and there is little to no awareness about the same.
🚀 Day 5: Competitive Analysis | Understanding how technology can help to deal with mental health issues 💊 💻
Before concluding the final problem statement, I did a competitive analysis about the existing apps and websites providing mental health assistance and assessed the strengths and weaknesses of current potential competitors in the mental health market space. For this, I first needed to know how technology can assist people in improving mental health?
Here’s what I found out:
👉Smartphone apps help people cope with anxiety and depression, though far fewer mental health apps exist compared to apps devoted to physical health.
👉Mental health apps benefit patients, but they can also provide useful data to physicians, therapists, and health care informatics experts. Since people carry their phones wherever they go, the apps can collect valuable information and record valuable data. Many of these apps focus specifically on depression and anxiety disorders.
👉People can find guidance through Internet-Based Support Groups.
👉Telehealth, consulting with a health care provider via phone or video conference, offers promising opportunities for health technology.
👉Virtual therapy treatments can help to immerse the patient in a virtual environment and their responses can be recorded live. Making a patient walk through a particular scenario in the virtual environment is better than making him imagine that scenario in mind.
📚 Competitive Analysis:
I downloaded a dozen apps 📱, to know what services they provide and to test how efficient are they in improving mental health issues. At this point, I had already taken notes 📝 of what are some basic features, a person in need would want from these apps. So I analyzed the same, against features like community support, mental health education, virtual therapy or telehealth services, mood or growth tracking, anonymity, etc. Apps that I tested: calm, headspace, mindshift, sanvello, mighty, youper, and wysa. I think competitive analysis really helps you a lot when you are designing a product from scratch. For my competitive analysis, I personally followed this article, which gives an in-depth procedure to conduct one.
Most of the apps failed to fulfill the needs of a person who is not healthy mentally. A feature like community support👨👩👦👦 was only provided by the mighty app. The welcome screens of most of the apps really bombarded the user with lots of information, amongst different categories. This would only add up to the frustration 😤 of the user who is already suffering from anxiety or depression.
💡 Day 6: Defining and Ideating
Now came the time to define the actual problem statement, find user requirements, and then finally ideating on a possible solution.
My refined problem statement ✏️: To design a digital platform💻 that encourages people to stay strong, take care of their mental health, provides community support, educates on mental health issues and discards any stigma around it, and provides information on how to get the best medical assistance.💊
✌️ ✨ Finding solutions|Ideation:
It was finally the time to start ideating on possible solutions for different user needs and requirements. I took the help of “user needs statements” for this purpose, which follows the given pattern:
[A user] needs [need] in order to accomplish [goal].
For example: [Lui] needs [community support and telehealth facilities] in order to [discuss her mental health issues with like-minded people and consult a certified doctor online, who could recommend her various therapies].
Feature Ideation | Major user needs and issues identified: ✨
👉 They need an option of being anonymous before they could really trust the online community.
👉 They need a less cluttered welcome page, which would not add up to their frustration and where they can pick up one activity seamlessly without getting lost in the sea of options.
👉 They need 24/7 support, be it in the form of community or telehealth support.
👉 They need to keep a track of their growth and to know how much their mental health has improved over time.
👉 They need to read motivational stories of people who overcame their mental health issues and became stronger.
📌Jotting down User Requirements:
The findings from user research and competitive analysis suggested that the users wanted the following main features in the apps:
👨🔧Day 7,8: Working towards designing an MVP (Minimum viable product).
I started by sketching out different screens for my app. I ideated how I wanted my app to look visually🧐. I wanted the visual design of all my screens to be minimal and super intuitive. So there were two things I needed to do, first, conceptualize the screens for my app by making wireframes, and second to decide its visual design.
My visual exploration always starts by making lots of sketches and scribbles. So I started by first jotting down all the main features that my app should have and then making wireframes for the same.
Because I had to design on a very tight deadline, I restricted myself to low-fidelity wireframes.
Now came the time to decide the visual design of my app. While finalizing the font and colors I kept few things in my mind:
👉 From a color psychology perspective🍃, I wanted to choose a color that depicts a connection of the heart and the emotions, creating equilibrium between the head and the heart. And that is why I choose green💚 and white ⚪️ as my primary color as it relates to balance, harmony, and calmness 🌟.
👉 For secondary colors, I choose grey and black because they manifest consistency physiologically. Also, they are in good contrast with the color green🍀.
👉 For the font, I choose Poppins as my primary font as it is progressive, open, and informal, perfectly fitting to the whole harmony of my product’s visual design.
⚡Day 9, 10: Final Product | Prototype | Testing
After several iterations, I finally came up with high-fidelity app screens. After designing all the screens I made sure I make a prototype and test it out with my friends and family👭. I tested my design and took reviews from almost 6 to 7 people. The feedback helped me make few iterations ♻️ that improved the usability of my app further.
🎯Final screens with features:
Here are all the final screens of my design solution with the most important features.
The very first screens, called onboarding screens, have been designed very minimally by me. These screens give a quick idea of the main features of the app.
📲 Login and sign up screens
These screens have been designed keeping usability in mind and again they are very clean and minimal. I have made sure that the input button gets highlighted with a green border when the user types in.Then comes the customization screen, which asks the users about their preferences in the form of a short questionnaire.
The app then presents the “building your space” screen, which means that the users have successfully completed the short customization questionnaire and the welcome screen will now present customized activities and suggestions based on their needs and goals🎯.
For example: If a user wants to calm his anxiety and reduce stress then he will be presented with only those activities on the welcome screen, which can help him feel better and reduce stress/anxiety, thereby eliminating any extra load on the user.
💮 Welcome screen and tool kit
The welcome screen : is customized for every user according to his needs and goals, thereby eliminating unwanted load on user. The topmost menu, just below the search bar has some quick links that a user in need can access, like Explore — to explore the application, Self-care — to browse self-care journals, activities, articles, therapies, etc, Therapies,- to find a broad range of professional therapies either instructed or self-paced, Mindfulness — to get a bunch of meditation activities and packages.
Tool kit 💼: It provides the user with all the tools that the app has to offer, like Virtual Therapy, Meditation, Journal Writing, Mood Tracking, Consults Therapist, Mental Health Education, and Community.
The meditation screen provides the user with many activities under different topics, like positive visualization, your five senses, deep breathing activity, relaxing muscles activity, etc. After selecting any activity or meditation bundle, users can customize the background sound, time limit, and meditation type anytime, even after a particular meditation activity has begun.
✍️ Journaling and self-reflection
In the journey of self-healing, a user needs to have a journal📗, where he can put his thoughts endlessly. It is an important self-reflection tool, that helps a user to know what made him feel good or bad in the past, what were his thoughts, what was he feeling like and what are his future goals, etc.
💆🏻Consult Psychiatrist | Take Therapies
This is a very important feature of the app that enables the users to consult therapists, take therapies, and discuss their mental health issues via audio call, video call, or texting. Just like traditional therapies, telehealth therapies allow users to talk to their doctors one-on-one via video calling or audio-calling. They can check a doctor’s reviews, fees, and other details anytime and can also bookmark them.
📒 The education center
The education center allows the users to read articles on mental health, how to improve it, motivational stories of people around the globe, daily news, and articles on related topics. Users can either listen to an audiobook or read books, news and articles and save it for later.
📈 Growth and Mood Tracking
A user who is in a quest to improve his mental health would often want to know how much he has improved over time. By using this feature he can have a record of how he felt the last month or last week and will be able to reflect on the activities that made him feel that way.
Users can join different communities that address mental health issues. They can also participate in community forums, contact with people, talk to them for discussing mental health issues etc. Community can serve as a great feature for users because its a space that can provide unconditional support to a person who might be lacking it in his/her personal life.
⌛️ Final notes | Key Learnings
After making the final prototype, I tested my app with almost six to seven people and did few iterations, which further increased the usability of my application. For usability testing, I ran quick A/B tests. I wanted to try doing something I have not done before and this article helped me a lot by introducing me to the world of usability testing.
I feel really happy to have won this competition but what matters more is the kind of feedback Ihave received from the judges. It makes me feel very confident of my skills and motivates me further to keep practicing design. 🌟
💫 ✨Learnings from this experience!
I enjoyed working on a tight deadline and making a final product rapidly. This was the first-ever design competition I had participated in, which also turned into my first ever, proper portfolio project💥. I don’t think it could have gone any better. I had literally put my heart and soul into designing for this competition and I think I did my best. Of course, there is always a room for making iterations but nevertheless, I am impressed with the MVP I came up with🙆.
I understood how research plays a unique role in designing for users. How important is to have a user-centric approach while designing, how important is data analysis, because it gives amazing insight into users’ mental models.
I got to know what are my strengths and where I need to work. It definitely helped me sharpen my research and visual design skills✍️. The competition has given me immense motivation and I feel more confident about my skills now✌️.
Andddd most importantly it was an extremely enjoyable experience for me❤️ 💛 💙.
Technology is already transforming mental health faster than anyone expected. The science is now unequivocal that evidence-based cognitive and behavioral therapies can be delivered online safely and effectively.
While most online tools are intended for people with mild to moderate anxiety or depression, they are an important part of new ‘stepped’ models of health where consumers can choose from a personalized range of options that often include self-directed care.
A new wave of psychological research is pioneering VR to diagnose and treat medical conditions from social anxiety to chronic pain to Alzheimer’s disease. Using VR also gives therapists much more control over the intensity of their patients’ experiences, which can lead to better treatment outcomes. It will be interesting to see how VR plays a major role in improving mental health of people globally!
🚩It’s a WRAP!
If you have made it till here, then thank you so much for reading. I’d love to read your feedback! 😄 I will be happy to connect with you on LinkedIn and you can also have a look at my Behance for upcoming projects. Thank you for your time. See you next time with a new article. 🤗✨
Designing for mental well-being of people-Lollypop Design Competition, PopQuest’21 Winner💯👨💻 was originally published in UX Planet on Medium, where people are continuing the conversation by highlighting and responding to this story.