bettr: A Mental Health-focused Application

CGT 41600: Senior Design Project

Researched and designed the user experience of a mobile mental health-focused application for a capstone senior design project.

Overview

Duration

3.5 months

My Role

UX Researcher,
UX Designer

Tools

Background

OVERVIEW

The rise and exponential spread of the COVID-19 global pandemic have caused a disruption in our lives unlike many of us have ever experienced before. With over 106 million cases at the time of this writing, it's likely that you may know more people who have had COVID than who have not. Besides the catastrophic damage that this has done to humanity's physical health, another global pandemic has been created: mental health.

Research has shown that many of us have been faced with a new and heightened mental health crisis in the over 1 year that the COVID-19 pandemic has shaken the world. When faced with my own mental health struggles, I attempted to seek help via mobile applications and online solutions due to the lack of availability of in-person and professional services. I found that the applications were overly complicated and very robotic. This feeling of emptiness and passion to improve my mental state is what fueled and sparked my interest to develop this project.

THE APPROACH

I chose to complete this project utilizing the human-centered design thinking process. This framework guided me to involve users at every step in order to design a thoughtful, relevant, and user-centric solution.


Research

Competitive analysis

To get a better understanding of other applications in the market, I conducted a competitive analysis of some of the most popular self-help applications in the iOS App Store. I found that while these applications offered specific functions that could be useful, there was a lack of an all-in-one mental health solution.

SURVEY
With the goal of understanding how COVID-19 has impacted mental health, features that users would find valuable, and issues they are currently facing, I designed and administered a survey that helped me better understand the scope of the problem. Survey data was collected via Typeform, and results were collected from users gathered by social media posts, friends and family, and word of mouth. I received 376 total responses.

Key Findings

   69.7% of respondents indicated that they have faced mental health struggles in their lifetime
   59.8% of respondents indicated that their mental health has been impacted by COVID-19 in some way
To better understand user's mental models and their pre-existing ideas of what mental health services and application look like, I asked participants about their experiences with mental health services.
   46.1% of respondents have never sought help for their mental health struggles, but
   Approximately 68.1% of respondents said they would consider using a self-help application in replacement of or in addition to professional mental health services
Lastly, I asked participants to indicate some of their main concerns of using self-help applications. The three most indicated factors were:
   Lack of personability
   Cost, and
   Privacy Concerns
USer interviews
I asked questions such as:
   How have you been? During COVID?
   Have you done anything to help?
   Can you tell me about your experiences with mental health help if any?
   What would you say is the most frustrating part about mental health?
   How do you feel about the addition of technology into your self-help routine? How open are you?
   Describe your ideal product experience.
   How have you been? During COVID?
   Have you done anything to help?
   Can you tell me about your experiences with mental health help if any?
   What would you say is the most frustrating part about mental health?
   How do you feel about the addition of technology into your self-help routine? How open are you?
   Describe your ideal product experience.

Key Findings

From these interviews, I gathered useful quantitative research insights and was able to discover more about how users feel about their own mental health struggles. Some quotes from participants include...
Data Analysis (Click to enlarge & for more images)
Proposed solutions

Define

USer Personas
Based off of the different themes, behaviors, and how users claimed to prioritize their mental-health and self-care, I created two personas to represent my users.
Meet Devon, a college student who needs to stay connected with himself and his peers to succeed academically in college.
 Meet Laura, a nurse who needs a personalized self-help application so she can relieve her anxiety, stress, and burnout.
User Personas (Click to enlarge)
User journey maps
I also used the data I collected to construct user journey maps detailing how each user would look for and find an application. The map shows the individual's actions and mood as they go through the different steps in their journey. This reflects the broad themes I found through my analysis.
User Journey Maps (Click to enlarge)

Ideate

User flow
To better understand how prospective users would experience the application, I opted to develop a simplified version of a user flow to grasp the concepts of how users were feeling and the actions they were taking. I started with brainstorming and writing down ideas, and then formulated them into one cohesive and simple user flow.

One of the biggest concerns I found in my user research was privacy. My proposed solution will aim to establish user's trust through the onboarding process to make users feel better about using the application from the start.
Brainstorm notes
User flow
Information architecture
I created an information architecture diagram to understand and strategize how the functions of the application that I determined would be structured.
Sketching
To promote and encourage creativity, I started with sketeching potential design solutions on pen and paper. I really enjoy using a mockup application on my iPad for this process because the iPhone outlines allow me to obtain a better understanding of exactly how a user may view and interact with my product from the very beginning of the design process.

Design

WIReframes
Building from my sketches, I created mid-fidelity wireframes of key screens of the application in Figma. This allowed me to visualize the information architecture and understand how information would be displayed.
initial prototype
I then utilized my wireframes to build an initial version of the high-fidelity prototype to prepare for usability testing.

Test

usability testing
To evaluate the experience of the app, I created a usability testing plan that allowed me to pair the prototype with a scenario and corresponding tasks to complete. This activity allowed me to gain insight about how users interacted with the application, and uncovered issues relating to usability and function. I conducted 5 remote moderated usability tests.

Key Findings

   5 out of 5 users had difficulty locating the feature of the application dedicated to finding local mental health services. This feature was originally in the Account tab, but was ultimately moved to the Community tab, as it better fit user's mental models of where to search for resources.
   3 out of 5 users indicated that they found the self-destructing journal option valuable.
   5 out of 5 users stated that they felt the application was user-friendly, easy to understand, and met their expectations of a self-help application.

Solution

Reflections

This project was one of my favorites that I have worked on so far. As someone who is passionate about mental health and the use of technology to improve the quality of life, this project felt invigorating and exciting to complete. Here's two of my biggest takeaways from this project:
User's needs aren't always mine
In the beginning of this project, I found myself making a lot of assumptions about the expectations and experiences of users based upon my own experiences. While educated assumptions are acceptable and necessary in some cases, it's best to conduct extensive user research to validate them. The assumptions I had did not always align with user goals uncovered in research and testing.
Accessibility, accessibility, accessibility
Designing accessible products can be difficult if you're not careful. I now realize that some color choices within the application may lack the contrast necessary to be considered accessible. I'm always working to better understand accessibility guidelines and design the best experience possible for all of my users.

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