Product Analysis: Headspace

Master your mind by spending 5 minutes a day doing nothing?!

Headspace was launched in 2010 to improve the health and happiness of the world. There are many other competitors, most with a less expensive paid subscription plan, but I personally believe that Headspace is the only app that makes me truly feel like a Tibetan monk. Even though the world around us seems to be spiraling downwards in both health and happiness, Headspace manages to be a source of mindfulness for millions of users around the world.

Here’s some analysis I did on how Headspace gets into your headspace.

Product Overview

Headspace simply provides a lot of great meditation. Meditation sessions can primarily be found in Packs, Singles, and Minis, which cover a wide array of topics and can range from 1 to 60 minutes in length.

Packs are larger meditation series with 10–30 sessions that develop your ability to meditate on a broader aspect of life. Singles and minis are one-off sessions targetted at a quick fix or addressing a single event in life.

Initially, you only have access to the first Basic 10 session pack. Once a user crosses the paywall, thousands of extra sessions are opened up to you.

During each session, Andy, the voice and creator of Headspace, introduces the chosen topic, leads you into a few minutes of meditation, and concludes the session with a pleasant goodbye, and see you tomorrow.

User Personas

  • Anyone who is stressed, or needs a way to relax; i.e. everyone in the world
  • Office worker at 2 PM, starting to feel the blues
  • Mom who has a few minutes to herself after dropping off the kids
  • Public transit commuter
  • Weird morning person

Pain Points

  • Stressed or anxious, but not sure how to deal with it
  • Living life, and interested in meditation, but not sure how to do it
  • Only a few minutes out of a packed day to do something
  • Sleeping is tough
  • Want to somehow improve life

Core Features

  • Home: Access your saved packs and have a focused view on your most recent pack progression.
  • Discover: A plethora of meditation sessions to choose from. Only have a few minutes? Choose a 3-minute-or-less Minis. Got 10 minutes, but in the mood for something different? Try the independent sessions in Singles. Are you 10 years old? Go with the Kids section. You can even re-watch the helpful videos that prelude certain meditation sessions under the Animations tab. Or, just stick with the classic longer-term “lesson series” with Packs.
  • My Profile: View statistics such as your meditation streak and your total time meditated. You can also see a simple visualization of all your previous meditation sessions on the day they occurred.
  • Configuration: Most settings pages are quite useless. Not Headspace. Headspace allows you to set custom notifications, download sessions for offline usage (subscribers only), and even pull up extra hidden lessons from their settings page.
The settings page is full of good content, trust me.

User Experience

Headspace makes its users feel like monks in a monastery — I believe they accomplish that in three ways; the Investment, Usability, and Return.

Investment

Before you even meditate a single time, it is a joy to fill in user information for Headspace.

Intros. With friendly characters and welcoming animations, the introductory screens immediately fill a user with warmth. While there are 10 or so screens a user has to go through before they can use the application, the information that is presented to the user, and collected from the user just makes sense.

I went through a 9 screen introduction… smiling.
You tell Headspace your goals, and the app will help you achieve them.

Yes, I do need some hand holding; I’m a noob. Yeah, I’d love to be more focused! YES! Help me build better habits!! Each and every screen manages to elicit information from me, while still conveying incredible value.

Please. More apps with great intros.

Notifications. When all is said and done and Headspace pops the question, I can’t help but turn on notifications. AND, when I do, the feedback Headspace gives me is incredible; I know exactly when and only when I should receive notifications.

Most importantly, I am now using Headspace with the expectation that I will be able to fulfill a goal: becoming more focused. Headspace has turned push notifications, a typically terrible user experience, into something beautiful. Here’s how most meditation apps do it.

Thank you for deciding what is best for me! Praise be unto you, O supreme application!

Don’t be other apps. Want to improve your life? Get a Headspace notification.

Usability

Once you get past the intro, the app itself is incredibly simple to use.

Value. At first glance of the home screen, it is just so obvious — I should continue meditating and progressing on my current pack. I’m one tenth of the way completed… only 9 more sessions to go!

Something tells me I should hit Begin.

The value proposition is clear — Headspace does meditation. You should do more meditation. On top of that, the progression goals help orientate myself in regards to the Pack, and make me feel like I can conquer an entire 10 days of meditation easily. Habitual usage, anyone?

Now that’s some value.

Topics. Meditation session topics are nicely “summarized” in self-explanatory icons and text. Each “type” of meditation is clearly distinct from the others, and although there are countless of different kinds of sessions, the interface is easy to decipher and navigate through because of the differentiation.

My entire life represented by meditation sessions.

Before you start any meditation session, you know exactly what to expect: stress, anxiety, mindful eating, sleep, jogging, etc.

Every situation in life has a topic.

Meditation. The meditation itself is incredible. Well, it is just meditation at the end of the day. But, each session feels like more than just that.

A typical session involves an audio clip of Andy explaining exactly what we’re about to do — something like “mediating to relieve stress”. Then, we have a relaxing meditation session, and finally finish off with an easy conclusion from Andy to gently bring you back to reality.

While meditating, the UI isn’t doing anything distracting. Most other apps allow you to interact with the meditation: a like button to gather some unnecessary feedback, or have generic scroll bars and interfaces to interact with the audio clip. All of which fracture the calming feel of meditation. Not Headspace.

Headspace has simple mediation.

Nothing else to pay attention to. Just. Meditate.

Return

One of my personal biggest selling points — Headspace somehow makes me want to return.

Priming. Headspace takes advantage of the fact that I have quite literally told the creators exactly what I want to get out of the app. I am frequently reminded that “Hey — you’re doing this for the direct benefit of yourself, and your life just might improve in X way because of this app”.

Instances where Headspace takes advantage of the information that you gave them during the beautiful introduction include: Push notifications, after your first meditation session, your first return, open ended animations, etc.

That’s some powerful priming.

HEADSPACE JUST WANTS ME TO LIVE A MORE FULFILLING LIFE AND IT PISSES ME OFF.

Interruptions. A bit counter intuitive for a mindfulness application, but these interruptions just about the best ones I’ve ever experienced.

Typically, most apps reward users for logging into the app for multiple days in a row. Headspace has a different approach. While there are your typical, fun achievements of 3-day streaks, 100 minutes meditated, or pack completions, Headspace adds helpful interruptions at the beginning of meditation sessions, logins, notifications, and more.

A great example: at the end of each meditation session, the enlightened monk Andy always charmingly reminds you that tomorrow is a new day, and he “looks forward to seeing you back here then, for Day 2!” Well, if Andy said so, then I cannot dispute. I will have to see you tomorrow, Headspace!

See below: more of those encouraging interruptions.

Hmm… now that you mention it, I do feel rather jovial today.

What’s Next?

Headspace has built a beautiful user experience to train hopeful monks. However, the app is somehow still ranked below Calm on the iOS store. Here are some ideas on how Headspace can make both improve the health and happiness of the world, and dominate the market.

Health

Headspace has an incredibly healthy ecosystem currently. They have…

  • Lots of people meditating
  • Info on why they are meditating (or why they think they are meditating)
  • How often they meditate
  • What kinds of meditation they are choosing

So how might Headspace utilize this to make a tangible improvement in my life?

Happiness

I assume when most people first make the jump into meditation, emotions are quite high. Something triggered them to want to become more mindful; a family member falls ill, work is rough, or maybe even something as small as seeing a Headspace advertisement. Regardless — I’m using Headspace for some reason, and its likely a form of trying to become “happier”, or some other positive emotion.

How might Headspace revolution the way we feel/perceive our own human emotions?

Domination

I believe the way Headspace achieves domination is by highlighting the fact that meditation is not just a tool for monks and Silicon Valley CEOs. Instead, that meditation is for anyone, and should be applied to any situation or aspect of life.

Imagine if every time you felt FOMO, or sad, or happy, you thought “Damn, Headspace would help a LOT right now”.

I think there would be a lot of rich monks in Headspace HQ.

Location Data

If Headspace starts collecting location data, Headspace would know that I, a suburban soccer mom, have 5 minutes after work before I have to go drop my kids off at practice. It’s then and there that I want to regularly de-stress and clear my mind so I don’t take my stress out on my kids.

Headspace can start proactively recommending the kinds of meditation for me to do based on any given time, location, and historical meditation sessions.

Emotion Tracking

Imagine if Headspace knew exactly how you were feeling. Headspace could recommend you the perfect session to help you feel on top of your game. On top of that, if I could see my past emotional statistics, it would help me understand and manage my own emotions and mental states. I could concretely see how Headspace is benefitting me, or at least trying to help.

One idea on how Headspace can spearhead these efforts is through a simple, one-time interface immediately after a user completes his or her free basic pack. Perhaps something that looks similar to the Apple Music onboarding process.

Maybe the wording shouldn’t be “Choose your favorite emotions” but you get the point.

This would accomplish a few things: One, bring a user’s own emotions to the forefront of thought. Two, associate Headspace and emotional reconciliation together. And three, enable Headspace to say something like “We have meditation sessions that might be able to help… just subscribe here!” and up-sell the subscription pack.

Another idea is through a full-blown feature, where users can opt-in to something of a Mappiness Study. They can be pinged throughout the day to record thoughts, emotions, well-being, and monitor their progression, with a complimentary meditation session right in the same application.

Headspace would be able to have moving data points on how someone feels, and, with a bit of feedback, determine which meditation sessions compliment certain moods and emotions best, and begin to recommend “personalized” meditation sessions for you!

Lasting Questions

Finally, if I were to work at Headspace, I’d be most interested in learning more about the conversion rate of free users to subscribers.

Quantitatively: where and when in the user journey do most users make the switch? In the middle of the first Basic Pack? Immediately after completing the pack? After clicking on 10 subscriber-only packs? How effective are the modals that popup occasionally and ask you to subscribe?

Qualitatively: why do paying users think they subscribe? Is it because they had a particularly rough day? Because they used Headspace for a couple days, and thought it was the shit? Because a subscribe modal popped up?

The answers to these questions would likely unveil user experience gaps where someone (a product manager? :-]) could explicitly target and remedy to convert users more effectively.

Or maybe that information wouldn’t help at all, and instead I realize that I’m just a blogging college student. Who knows.


That about wraps up my thoughts regarding Headspace. I really do love this app, and would love to hear any of your thoughts, either here or at mediumdchang@gmail.com. I’ll leave you with a quote, from yours truly.

Meditation is for anyone, and should be applied to any situation or aspect of life.

Thanks for reading!