Conscious is a simple journaling app that provides a means for people to incorporate self-reflection and meditation in their lives.
The information-driven knowledge society that we live in today breeds an ability to consume knowledge faster than ever and to create things beyond the imagination of our previous generation. Unsurprisingly, the level of stress experienced by people from youth to elders has risen and far too few people have developed effective stress coping strategies. Journalling is a classic and very effective tool for managing mental health and increasing awareness. However, many people feel too busy to keep a journal and old fashioned writing with pen and paper appears to be unattractive for some.
ENCOURAGE SELF-REFLECTION AND MENTAL NOTE-TAKING AS A DAILY HABIT IN A WORLD WHERE ATTENTION AND MENTAL REAL ESTATE IS SCARCE
Depression and anxiety levels are at an all time high in North America, and this is due to several changes that have swept the nation over that last couple decades. Technology adoption has increased at an exponential rate and as a result, the fast-driving, hard-living life the knowledge era expects, now more than ever, people who are smarter, harder-working, and faster. The extroverted “salesman” is celebrated over the brilliant introvert. More and more people have developed social anxiety and society has not done a good job of keeping up with exercising and promoting self-care.
The goal here was to:
- Make the product useful to encourage reflection and mental awareness.
- Make the product simple and engaging to help make a habit out of journalling for people who are time deficient.
- Make it fast and easy to use so users can complete their tasks with the least amount of frustration.
This was a project that I created out of personal need and discovered after several conversations that others would enjoy it too. I assumed the role of a user researcher, designer, information architect, and analyst to complete this project.
LEAN EASY-TO-USE JOURNAL AND MEDITATION APP
After researching and several conversations, I decided that a journaling and mindfulness app that was clean, useful, easy-to-use, and effective in encouraging self-reflection and awareness would be a good solution. An app is convenient because people carry their phones around with them everywhere so it would solve the issue of carrying a physical notebook and pen, and the users are tech savvy so they would be familiar with using these devices. I wanted to provide users with a pleasant experience so that journaling could become a part of their daily routine so that they could reap the benefits of mindfulness.
At the start of this project, I didn't have clear goals or enough information about the users to start designing a solution so I started off by exploring how people keep track of their thoughts and ideas, and how they manage stress.
- Competitor analysis
- Quora, Google (trends, search), Facebook, Twitter
Initial research was done on the existing options available to users in the market in an effort to not reinvent the wheel. I browsed through the app store to find lots of other options available, and read the reviews to see what was missing in these apps that users wanted. I also reviewed several psychology and mental health websites to learn about the benefits of journaling and gather ideas for what features were key to include.
There were several areas of focus that were identified as beneficial for journaling:
USER INSIGHTS AND IDEATION
I had conversations with people who were experiencing episodes of anxiety and discovered that they did not have an effective coping strategy to manage their feelings and understand their own thoughts. I also discovered that journaling, for them, seemed like a tedious activity which they did not see as beneficial despite being aware of the benefits.
I discovered a few insights from these conversations:
Journaling is effective for stress management and mental health management.
It’s difficult to do for some because they don’t know what to write about or what to focus on. While “stream of consciousness” writing is effective, many people I chatted with said that it is not something they would do everyday because of the lack of structure.
Journaling would be something that, if they did it, would be done only either in the morning before leaving home or at night before sleeping. Sometimes we have thoughts throughout the day that would be nice to document, but without a go-to place that users could have at all times, it’s hard to remember the thoughts when it comes time to journal.
I set out to translate these insights into features that would address user behaviours and motivations. I brainstormed a few different ideas for solutions to help people manage their thoughts that were lean and engaging enough to not seem tedious. After the brainstorming session, I decided to run with the idea of an app that would be lean, well organized, and encourage focus in the present for users. It’s far too easy nowadays to get lost in thought about the future, and lost in reflection on the past that people lose sight of the present.
I created proto-personas to brainstorm potential personas. I pushed out 4 before deciding to focus on Anxious Andy (below).
This persona was validated through user interviews and observation.
"I want to find a way to record my thoughts so that I can be more aware of my feelings and behaviour."
"I want to find a way to manage my stress so that I can remain calm during times where I feel anxious."
"I want to have an organized place to review and reflect on my thoughts and feelings."
First I defined the red routes for this product:
- Adding a journal entry for morning and night, and entries throughout the day
- viewing past entries and making edits
- accessing the meditation feature
Red-route specific measures:
- Task success
- Time taken
- Overall satisfaction
Success would be user success in accomplishing the tasks, a decrease in the time taken to complete the task, and overall satisfaction from using the product.
I created sitemaps to get a clear idea of how navigation throughout the app would work and what content was important to include.
Site Map (ver. 4)
I sketched ideas for the design and tested these out with before moving on to a mid-fi prototype.
MID-FI MOCKUPS AND TESTING
I made these mid-fi mockups in adobe XD to test out the initial prototype.
Journal/Diary flow (ver. 1)
After testing with several users, I learnt that they were confused by the design of the diary/journal where all of the questions were on a single page, especially with the note feature being in the same place as the journal. I sketched out a few more ideas for a new design that would make the flow easier for users to understand so they could accomplish their goals in an efficient and enjoyable manner.
Journal/Diary Flow (ver. 3)
During user tests I observed that some were confused by the design for adding moods, and the ability to personalize was very limited. So, I created an option for users to add emojis to describe their feelings in a quick and fun way. (As you may know, I did not create these emojis. Credit goes to Google android.)
Morning Journal/Diary (ver. 4)
CHANGES TO THE MENU DESIGN
Originally the app had a hamburger menu nav, but user tests revealed some confusion when they were searching for settings and how to get back to the homepage.
Original Menu Design
After several iterations, I decided to remove the menu all together in an effort to keep the app as lean as possible. I moved all of the reminder functions, upgrade option, and community engagement features into the settings page.
Settings Design (Ver. 4)
CHANGES TO THE HOMEPAGE
I moved the button for users to view their past entries to the homepage rather than putting in the hamburger menu (first iteration design). This is because the option to view past entries is something I discovered users prioritize so putting a button on the homepage would give users faster access to this feature. I also moved the breathe function from the homepage to the meditation section of the app as I discovered that breathing and meditation would typically get grouped together according to users' mental model.
Diary Log (ver. 3)
HI-FI MOCKUPS AND MORE TESTING
I added colors to the mid-fi mockups and tested the flow with people using the adobe XD prototyping function to get more feedback and make adjustments to the design as needed.
Night Journal Modifications
After doing another round of testing, I discovered that users wanted to have the questions presented one at a time so that they could focus on filling out answers for the questions one at a time without having to scroll down to get to the next question.
I decided to implement this change only for the night journal because users don't have a lot of time in their mornings and journalling isn't typically top-of-mind, so the quick and simple design for the morning journal worked to help users achieve their goals.
The final design produced a simpler and more pleasant experience for the users. Here is a comparison of the experiences between the first iteration and the final iteration.
The project was a success because all users were able to successfully complete the tasks, the time taken to complete the tasks decreased from version 1 to version 4, and the users all expressed satisfaction in using the app because of the simplicity and usefulness.
There was a 100% success rate in users ability to complete tasks.
74% decrease in time taken to complete task 1.
64% decrease in time taken to complete task 2.
71% decrease in time taken to complete task 3.
70% decrease in time taken to complete task 4.
43% decrease in time taken to complete task 5.
This project was satisfying to complete and proved to be a great learning experience. Mental focus and awareness is very important to to me so being able to create a tool that was simple to use while providing a delightful experience for users gave me a sense of fulfillment and enjoyment.
LESS IS MORE
Removing features that users didn't prioritize or value made the app much more lean and thus easier to navigate.
LISTEN TO THE USERS
Asking open ended questions helped me to understand the users and their lifestyles so that I could prioritize features and functions. Listening helped me to hear the moments of their frustration and confusion when navigating through the app and thus, identify the areas in the design that required modifications.
I will continue to work on this and develop it into a working app. And, of course, continue to test and iterate!
Mary-Ann Trieu | mtrieu © 2017