Hearten UP: An App to Lift the Spirits

A Retrospective about Rapid Prototyping

Project Scope:

For my first project for the GA Immersive, I learned how to conduct user research and prototype in a rapid manner. Our first assignment involved figuring out a concise problem for a particular user and designing a solution for this problem in the form of a mobile application.

Time Frame and Tools:

We had 3 Days and the usage of paper, markers, and pens.

The Problem:

My classmate graduated from university a while ago and found it difficult to find a full-time job. There were days that she felt sad about her situation. When she was feeling down, she would read motivational quotes, inspirational biographies and psychological life hacks to keep her spirits up. However, the problem she had was that it took a lot of time and effort to find this type of material on the internet.

The Solution:

My solution was to create an app that would surface various motivational material that she enjoyed, so that she would not have to waste time and energy searching the web. This app would help her re-energize her spirit whenever and wherever she wanted. The larger goal was that this app would help her save time so that she could focus on planning her future.

The Design Process:

User Research:

I met with my user and interviewed her to figure out what problem she had in her life that could be fixed with a mobile application. She told me about her difficulty of finding motivational material to help her get through the day when her mood was down. She gave me a clear picture of the amount of time and effort it took her. She emphasized that ironically, it was especially difficult to motivate herself to find these things when she was already sad. She helped me narrow down the categories of motivational material that were the most effective in lifting her spirits. She loves to read the biographies of successful people, motivational quotes and psychological life hacks.

Initial Concept:

My immediate gut reaction was to create an app to connect her with a community of people in the same situation as herself. I imagined an online community that would share and react to motivational material with each other. The inspiration came from apps like Instagram, YikYak, and Snapchat.

First User Feedback:

As soon as I shared this idea with my user, she helped me understand that she was not keen on this idea. She explained to me that she was an introvert and a private person. She did not enjoy sharing her feelings and life out in the open. Due to this feedback, I realized that I would have to create an app that would largely bring content to her, and that having a social aspect was not the emphasis.

Comparative and Competitive Analysis:

Comparative Analysis:

With a better idea of my user’s need, I looked through the app marketplace to see if there were any similar tools already in place. I did a thorough search and found apps that solely provided inspirational quotes. I also found successful gratitude journaling apps and positive news apps. However, there was no platform with all of these materials in one place.

Current apps on the market: Motivational and Inspirational Quotes, Gratitude Journal, Uplift App

Competitive Analysis:

My user also revealed to me that she loved Oprah because Oprah was someone who failed and then picked herself up to become the successful person she is today. For my user, frequent reminders were important to keeping up her spirits up. I researched people whose “job” it was to motivate other people and also worked on understanding notification pop-ups on a mobile platform because in my mind, notifications are equivalent to digital reminders.

The indomitable Oprah and notifications


As you can see, having tea is important to the process!

With all of my research in hand, I began sketching. I tried not to worry about the aesthetics and focused primarily on the process as a brainstorming exercise. I threw out as many ideas as I could on paper. Knowing that I would have a “speed-dating” critique session the next day, I edited my work and constructed a general concept of how my app would work.

Second User Feedback:

The “speed-dating” session proved to be extremely useful for my project. We were given five minutes to explain our app to prospective users and gather feedback. I spoke with five people who gave me insights into how I could improve the app. The two main points that I gathered was that:

  1. The app would benefit from reorganizing the information architecture (navigation menus were confusing and overly cluttered)
  2. Having a social/community platform connected to the content would make the app more interesting

I went back to my user and explained my findings from the “speed dating” session. I wanted to speak to her about the social platform aspect again. She emphasized to me that this would not be something she would comfortably engage in. I took this into account and concentrated on improving the information architecture and user flow of my app. With this further information, I started my first prototype.

Designing the Prototype for Hearten UP:

Design Iteration:

I spent a fair amount of time working on the information architecture of the navigation and menus of the app before continuing on the overall design. My goal was to figure out a menu that was obvious and easy to use. I worked on different menus that would organize the content in different ways.

My first, second and third Iterations of the main navigation bar

After showing my user the different options, she helped me hone in on the menu that would optimize her experience in using this app. As soon as this was figured out, the rest of the design became an easier and faster process.

I decided on this final main navigation design.

An “A-ha!” moment I had was when I went through some popular and well-designed apps to figure out how the information architecture was organized. I decided to employ the use of a second navigation menu to declutter the main navigation menu bar. This helped with organizing the content hierarchy.

How Does the Hearten UP app work?

Home Tab:

When the user opens up the app, the app opens up to the home screen. The home screen is where the newest motivational content of the day appears. This allows the user to have an overview and receive new material immediately. This home screen is basically the “newsfeed” tab and will change daily. Making it its own main menu button also allows the user to go back to this screen whenever she wants.

An Example of Content Management using the Stories Tab:

I have used the Stories tab to show how this app works. However, it is important to note that the Stories tab, Lifehack tab and Quotes tab would functionally work in the same manner, where clicking on the specific category button on the main menu would lead to its categorical content.

When you click on the Stories tab, the newest story will appear. I divided up the stories into inspirational ones and humorous ones. At the bottom of each story is a suggestion to link to other similar stories. This encourages the user to surf the app and receive more inspiration. Even though my user said she is not a sharer, I chose to give the user an option to share the content to her social network. I did ask her how she felt about this feature and she revealed that because the stories did not reveal her inner thoughts, she thought it was a good option.


The app also allows the user to favorite any of the content. When the user favorites a story, a quote or a life hack, the favorite-d item gets saved on the Me tab.

This feature allows the user to access the content that really appealed to her at a later date. In the favorite section of the Me tab, the items are organized by chronological order. There is also a search box for finding previous material that the user wants to peruse again.

Me Tab Mood Assessment:

Through my research on gratitude journaling apps, I realized that having an awareness about one’s feeling during a rough patch, is a positive coping mechanism. My user wanted a concise version of this tool. She told me that she does not enjoy writing long paragraphs. I thought presenting her every day with one question asking how she felt would make self-assessment an easy task. As soon as the user selects a choice, her mood icon shows up on the calendar tab. This allows the user to have an overview on how she is feeling.

Notifications and Settings:

Another point that was important to my user was having reminders that life was going to be alright, even during her down periods. I decided to design a system where new content from the app would pop up as notifications.

I also gave the user the option to customize the amount of notifications that would come to her during the day depending on the mood she selected in the Me tab from the day before.


We were required to present our design to a group of 12–13 people. Before I did the presentation, I went through the app with my user and she loved it! She told me that I really listened to her wants and needs, and was especially touched that I took her personality into consideration. I also received positive feedback and constructive questions from my presentation group which made me want to improve my app even further.

Next Steps:

I would love to do further research to figure out if this a viable app for the marketplace. To to do this, I would have to conduct more interviews with people of all different personalities. I think it is important to emphasize that this app was not designed to solve clinical depression. It is an app that inspires and helps lift the spirits. It can be used even if someone is not going through a rough patch in his or her life. I would also love to explore how to add a social aspect to the app, as it was common feedback from multiple people. It could be interesting to have the option of having content created by users of the app and forming a community that would share these motivational materials.


The overall feeling I have is a sense of accomplishment. I feel that I’ve learned so much about UX and myself through this project. The two big things I want to work on are:

  1. Be a better UX researcher (ask better open-ended questions and WHYs)
  2. Overcome my anxieties and present my designs with more ease and finesse

I am looking forward to pushing myself to grow these skills in the next couple of projects.

The most important lesson I learned this week is that for UX design, understanding and zooming in on user needs are the most important building blocks of design. It is extremely important that the solution targets the actual problem and not the symptoms. Often this requires further investigation because even a user may not realize their own needs.

As a former designer of a more traditional medium, it is refreshing to know that my future in design will allow me to do things that are more impactful and hopefully more meaningful.