Designing a feature for Headspace: meditation with your Buddy

Hi, my name is Margarita and I’m studying UX/UI design at the Ironhack Bootcamp in Berlin. A couple of weeks ago we started working on our second project, where we’re designing a feature for our favorite apps. I chose Headspace because I’ve been using it for more than 2 years already and I always felt like there was something missing… I always wanted to find someone who would be as interested in meditation as I am. I’ve invited people to try out the app but somehow they never stuck to it.

…It’s funny, how life unfolds. During the second week of the project, our campus closed due to the coronavirus outbreak. We stock up on toilet paper and moved our classes online. Now I’m stuck at home, just like everyone else, forced to face my biggest fear — isolation. I’m really glad I have meditation in my life and I think we all could benefit from it, especially now.

That was the preamble, now let’s get to the point. I’d like to start with some scientifically proved facts about meditation because my goal with this post is not only to showcase my work as a designer but also to convince you that meditation can turn your mind into your friend.

A published study conducted at Google and Roche, in which employees used Headspace for 8 weeks showed: participants reported a 46% reduction in depression and a 31% reduction in anxiety.

infographic: participants of an 8-week Headspace study reported a 46% reduction in depression and a 31% reduction in anxiety.

Besides that, meditation is linked to slower brain aging, while another 4-week study showed that 4 weeks of Headspace resulted in a 14% increase in focus.

So far, so good, right? On one hand, I have my strong desire to meditate with someone, on the other all that scientific data. Could easily jump straight into designing. That’s what the UI part of me really wanted to do. But in the UX world you have to base your decisions on research (so scientific). I had to comply.

UX designer’s mantra

So I conducted my own research with 63 actual Headspace users. I wasn’t really sure what to ask because it’s only my second project in the bootcamp and the first one we did in groups. So I took a wild guess. I asked whether the headspacers use the Buddy feature at all, whether they tried the group meditation before and I tried to learn more about their experience with these features.

But first, as a proper researcher, I asked the user’s age. And to me personally, it was the most interesting finding.

Turns out, Heasdpace is used by all age groups. I was really happy about that.

Another interesting finding was that 73% of my interviewees haven’t even tried the Buddy feature. To be honest, I can understand why… As one of the interviewees mentioned, “I find the feature not worth the implementation investment”. Why is that? Well, here’s what you currently can do with your buddy:

Yes, not much. Just add another notification to the many they already receive. Even though some do find it helpful to keep a consistent practice, as I mentioned before, 73% of my respondents are not using this feature at all.

Next, 54% of the users have tried the group meditation feature and found the experience of community and togetherness very fulfilling.

Let’s remember the numbers and move on to the design part. Around the same time we were studying design systems and I got so fascinated with the concept that I wanted to at least try to create something like that. I recreated a color palette as well as the icons inventory and worked on a typography system. I found Adobe XD’s assets very handy. And the best part is that you can easily open the same assets in different files.

Side story: I spent quite a few hours trying to find a font similar to Apercu which is used in the app (£803.34). But nothing was satisfactory enough for a typography enthusiast like me. So I ended up sending an email to Colophon Foundry and requesting a trial license. They were kind enough to reply on the same day, so I’ll leave a link to their website below. Thank you, guys!

Ok, so how does my feature work? In the Headspace app Buddies are located in the User tab. I added the “invite” button next to the name of the Buddy and it fit perfectly into the empty space they had there (looks like they saved it for me). You will be notified 5 minutes before the meditation begins. From there you just open the notification, wait for your Buddy and do the session together. Quite simple.

You can play with my invision prototype here

But what happens if your buddy can’t join? I got that covered. There is a reason why invitations can be sent only every half hour. Group meditations. If your buddy doesn’t come on time, you are proposed to join a group meditation which will be starting around the same time. This way you don’t get frustrated because you still get to experience a sense of community with people around the globe. Or you can, of course, go ahead and do a private session. This means that the users still have that sense of independence which they mentioned was important to them.

You can play with my invision prototype here

Designing this kind of feature might seem easy before you realize that you need to base your design decisions on the actual research. I’m not a big UX person but this project really showed me the importance of UX approaches. I want to thank the heartwarming Headspace community that took my survey and left some encouraging comments.

I know I shouldn’t have, but I got attached to my idea and I really really wish that one day Headspace will have this feature and I will have a buddy to meditate with. Ok, I’m wrapping up.

Thanks for your precious time! It means a lot to me if you got to this point ❤

upd: Headspace’s design team contacted me and said that they loved my project! Fingers crossed 🤞

breathe in — breathe out animation

UX/UI and Brand designer based in Berlin. Also a lettering artist.

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