Polaris — UX/UI Case Study

Elizabeth Garcia
Strap in folks, I tend to make you TL;DR.

PROMPT / SCOPE

The health and wellness industry has been experiencing immense disruption due to advancements in technology. Today’s consumers are embracing wearable technologies and other activity-tracking products more than ever before.

The Wellness Institute is very excited to explore how they can leverage technology to help people live a healthier life. The institute defines wellness as: an active process through which people become aware of, and make choices toward, a more successful existence.

THE PLAN

Modern life is complex and overwhelming — it’s fast-paced, and we are constantly bombarded by information and expectations that can catapult us into feelings of stress, anxiety, and depression. I’ve long been interested in understanding how our minds are changing as a result in an attempt to keep up; are we adapting or just stressing ourselves out more? The NWI prompt calls for a technological solution within the wellness space, and mental health (anxiety/stress/depression management) seemed like an interesting opportunity to explore. However, I wanted to explore this area understanding that often times, extra technology could be a contributing factor to this problem. So, how might we create a solution that can ease milder forms of these feelings in a preventative way?

EARLY ASSUMPTIONS

I needed some kind of vague starting point, so I drew inspiration from a lot of my friends who seem to had seemed to find a morning practice for themselves that was unique to them. For example, my best friend had told me that she has a practice of video journaling every morning and that it had been extremely helpful in voicing her feelings and making her feel happier and less anxious. The very practice of articulating her thoughts out loud helped her feel more clear-headed, which means less stress, anxiety, and possible bouts of depression. Cool, “What do you use for video journaling?” I asked her. “Just Photo Booth.” Photo Booth? It almost felt primitive. I felt that surely there was a better solution out there, and if there wasn’t — eureka. Let’s make a video journal app.

Having a starting point was helpful, but I by no means felt that I knew what the solution was here. Video journaling sounded great, but that worked for my friend, did not necessarily mean it would be the end all be all to solving for anxiety and depression. I’d have to zoom out and look at the bigger picture of what the root of this problem is for most people. What causes these feelings? What helps them ease these feelings? What are they open to? What’s blocking them from developing a practice? I took to a survey to find out.

Some of the highlights from my survey which had ~75 participants.
Affinity diagram post-survey for interview direction.

After the survey results, I was left with many questions. I still didn’t feel like I found my technological solution, but I was getting warmer. I wanted to dig deeper and interview people with different lifestyles to see what their needs were, and where my opportunities for improvement would be.

Quotes from some of my interviewees.

My interviews ended up ranging from 40–50 min. I think everyone had to much to say around this topic and it really validated that finding ways to be more conscious and intentional with your time is something everyone wanted. While some folks knew a few paths to take, it was implementing that is the hardest route. My takeaway was that time management is one of the biggest blockers to achieving the time in your schedule to de-stress and do what you want. Between this research and some of my own (The Power of Habit, Taylor Pearson, Make Time, Best Self Journal, and social media influencers like Gala Darling, Chani Nicholas, Jessica Lanyadoo) one word kept coming up: Rituals.

EMPATHY MAP

Optimizing your life is such a saturated topic; there are so many people telling you how to do it and what to do, it can become overwhelming. It was important to start this process of empathy and understand how to avoid the pitfall of becoming exactly the opposite of what I was trying to do. The last thing people who are susceptible to stress, anxiety, and depression need is yet another thing to overwhelm them.

USER PERSONA

I took all the wants, needs, and common denominators and came up with Savannah — The Modern Day Hippie. Savannah is a conscious person, she lives in Oakland and is a creative professional in her early 30’s. Outside of work, she also runs her own small business going to creative fairs and selling her artwork. Savannah has a good idea of what she wants her life to look like so she can function at her best self, however, there are many points of friction she still hasn’t figured out. Time management, the desire to do it all, and a few unhealthy habits are works in progress for her.

Basically, as Jake Knapp and John Zeratsky put it in their book “Make Time” — our user is living life reactively in many instances where they could be doing the things most important to them, thus making time for personal priorities and triggering a chain of positive feelings.

To synthesize all my research into the context of an app, I used the Lean Canvas method and created lists of user stories, and hypothesis/risk management. This would give me the backbone of what kinds of features would make it into an MVP version that would solve for the issues/opportunities discovered in my research phase. The list was very generous, but I like to capture everything and then whittle it down.

Competitors and inspiration

In terms of competitors, there are a lot of solutions to managing your stress, each with a different approach. Some take a more spiritual approach such as insight timer and headspace, focusing on being the “bicep curl for your brain” through the establishment of a stable meditation practice. Others take a more holistic approach by helping you manage your habits, quit bad ones, and incorporate new ones. The third type of stress management app was one that focused on mood tracking similar to a journal.

Based on my early testing and interview sessions, I knew I wanted to take a more holistic approach and focus on creating a strong self-care practice that helped you kick-start healthy habits and begin to incorporate them into your life. A few apps took this approach, the closest one being one called Fabulous.

PRODUCT DIFFERENTIATOR

Another thing that I had discovered during my interview phase was a potential product differentiator: an astrology component. All of the women I interviewed had mentioned that they found lots of wisdom and peace in knowing their horoscopes for the week and other related information. Upon further digging I found it could be a valuable idea since according to a small 1982 study by the psychologist Graham Tyson, “people who consult astrologers” did so in response to stressors in their lives — particularly stress “linked to the individual’s social roles and to his or her relationships,” Tyson wrote.

Sketches of the early flow.
Early site map of “North Star” aka Polaris.
Some of the mid-fidelity screens that were tested

BRANDING

For the visual branding, I thought it was important to create a design that emphasized how this is for your self-care, your “me time” where you input things you want to do that are nourishing. This was not the place for grocery lists or chores. In order to move this away from a potential “glorified to-do list”, the branding needed to have a sense of personality to it, whimsy, magical, spiritual, but also relatable.

Brief style tile for Polaris
Mood-board for Polaris
High-fidelity screens post-testing

TESTING RECAP

While testing with users, I discovered opportunities for change around the exercise flow, gratitude journal language, and micro-interactions from the habit cards. I had also made changes to the results tab to show more correlated data (habits + moods) and other call outs. However, after more testing it still needs some work since much of the feedback was around the lack of clarity from the data visualization at the top.

Another main piece of feedback was how the astrology component only seemed to appear in the ‘Status’ tab when it is aggregating your activity for the week. It seemed like a missed opportunity to really show the user that this type of information is being served if they need/want it by not including it anywhere else.

Check out the happy path in the video below.


NEXT STEPS

Aside from the “design thinking” rinse and repeat process of testing and iterating, some of my next steps are:

Screen-Time/App control: Is it needed now that Android and iOS provide this? Moved to bottom of pipeline this iteration.

Expand astrology component

Machine Learning: Remove more legwork from user, create more patterns

Integration: Integrate with habit apps like Headspace and other apps users love, or import data, or launch apps in the time blocks

Partnerships with leaders in the biz for content


Thanks for reading!

Elizabeth Garcia

Written by

Miami based graphic designer, illustrator, and all-around creative lady. Brand Designer at Comfyapp and currently a UX student with IronHack. www.ellyzen.com

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