People who lived through experiences of mental illness commonly report feeling stigmatized and highly vulnerable in difficult life circumstances. However, social exclusion and not being able to find supportive people that they could relate to are some contributing factors that negatively mediates self-stigma and reluctance to seek care.
Digital safe spaces can bring people together. The overarching goals of this project is to (1) help people feel more comfortable in taking small steps towards getting better through sparking conversations with others who have been there before in an anonymized chat-based community. (2) Designed a user profile for members to pin helpful messages, and (3) make it fast and easy for everyone everywhere to connect with helpers instantly.
Taken full ownership of the entire product lifecycle of the project as the lead Product Designer. Worked with General Assembly mentors Bernice Liu and Jay Sethi to deliver actionable insights with some guidance. The duration of the project was completed within a tight timeline of 1 month.
First and foremost, I began by conducting competitive research to learn about each competitor and do cross-comparisons to define what types of customer segments use their products. In my research, I evaluated Woebot, PatientsLikeMe, Wisdo, and Youper.
In contrast to this study, its viable for users who are typically motivated by their individual needs or interested in finding empathy in small groups tailored to their own mental health conditions. In parallel with likeability, there are some limitations of these communities that they are not entirely anonymous and medical experiences or credentials may be shared with researchers. However, users do have the the ability to set their profile private to remain anonymous.
In respondent, this made it possible for specific content to be sent to users depending on the mood state they had disclosed. For example, if the user had indicated that they feel depressed, it offers assistance with the depressed events. Although some users could solve some of their pain points with Woebot, it wouldn’t be their ideal solution in view of several limitations: Users would not trust a conversational agent to understand them on the same level that a human would.
For the majority of the interviews, I have facilitated to screen participants remotely to maintain anonymity and to maximize the reach of interviewees that are not of the same geographical region. In the next phase, I have sought out to develop personas to gain more granular details in synthesizing my user research. I needed to identify common pain points and understand what actually stops individuals with mental illness from achieving their goals.
These are some common characteristics at a glance:
With the remote user interviews and synthesize research factored in, I focused on gathering more insight into why creating these features are necessary, whether or not users appreciate conversing with others about their mental health. By creating job stories, I was able to get a better representation of real user journey and what outcomes they really seek.
With the goals and research at hand, I needed to identify and understand the pain points of these three users and ensure their needs are met. I first develop a minimum viable product (MVP) to go along with mapping out a flow diagram. I created flows for account registration, email verification, public and private conversations, and different levels of security and administrative settings.
(MVP) helped prioritize features and gather feedback to make improvements. For future versions, I intend to create an emotional connection with the user and incorporate other product functionality. Some of which include: user’s ability to edit or delete messages, starring conversations and direct messages catch up to all threads followed, replying to threads, etc.
My process usually goes something like this: I would generate sketches early and often. And arrive at a few options to explore further by testing with peers and stakeholders. To identify areas for improvements of the designs, I run several tests with participants through UsabilityHub.
For the minimum viable product (MVP), my primary focus was on the home activity feed. The first iteration started out with the hypothesis of allowing a more topic-based like conversations for people to communicate about their mental health with others in the form of threaded conversations. However, this did not fulfill the level of expectations of engagement needed because it was to broad. Users did not feel motivated or impactful use from content of forum posts or thread-based feature.
As a result, I switched to a different model in my second iteration where I would focus on encouraging more people to voluntarily start a conversation by creating a chatroom based on their current events and symptoms. This attracted more attention and visibility on the issues of mental health and for people to join rooms that they find is related to what’s going in their life.
I tested the prototype with several participants to gauge our users potential receptiveness in the overall functionality of the app base on the scales of visual credibility, familiarity, usability and relevancy. I wanted to ensure if users can successfully use the app and that they see value in it.
Prototyping demonstrates how the product would function in the real world. I intended to present each iterations in a high-fidelity conceptual level to stakeholders and users because it provides better context. People often have trouble imagining what good design would look like in low-fidelity.
Once I work through validating the layouts and flows with end users, it was comfortable for me to spend some time creating a design system that can make interacting with the product easier for our demographic. Some of the key requirements includes:
The preparation for the design handoff should begin at the initial stage to the end of the entire process. Due to the timing constraints involved in this project, I had prepared a miniature design specs for internal use as a method to keep the product visually consistent.
And some time in-between creating the specs, I planned and annotated for digital prototypes to showcase the different points of the design journey of the product. At the same time, to better communicate my design process and enabling others to provide feedback.
I ran into a lot of constraints nearing the end of the project that requires quick fixes and sacrifices. Throughout the entire experience, I learned the importance of empathy. The ability to understand another person’s inner experiences and feelings and a capability to view the outside world from the other person’s perspective, that understanding is always beneficial to advance the direction of this project.
It was only through researching participants that I was able to discover nuances and understand the true issues of users struggling with mental illness. In future work, I hope to improve meaningful relationships with users and spend more time addressing any issues that has not been resolved yet.