NWI Wellness and Overly-Analytical Aubrey (A UX Case Study)

The National Wellness institute was created in 1977 with the goal to promote “whole-person” wellness. This holistic approach is achieved by providing wellness professionals with topnotch services, research, and resources.

Currently, NWI offers a variety of services including, free webinars for members, social networking, certification tracking, and more. However, in the past few years they have struggled to keep up with the rapidly changing wellness environment.

In the US, 69% of smartphone users track at least one health indicator on their phone. In spite of this revolutionary approach to wellness, NWI has yet to create a pack of mobile tools for their members to offer to clients.

Our task was to create 1 app inside of this package that will help them keep pace with the rapid influx of technology in the wellness market. We were also tasked with updating their image to make them look and feel like a cutting edge company.

We decided to create an app to help those working in the realm of emotional wellness, specifically, those working with Social Anxiety Disorder (SAD).

Success Metrics:

  1. Users consistently track moods and habits
  2. Patients’ moods improve over time
  3. Retention rate in coaching program goes up

Failure Metrics:

  1. Users are not able to commit to tracking consistently
  2. New methods do not help users cope with their anxiety

The Challenge

To begin, we wanted a better understanding of the current marketplace. We employed three methods:

  1. A Competitor Feature Analysis: An analysis of current competitors in the market and their strengths and weaknesses.
  2. Market Positioning Map: Based on the the Competitor Feature Analysis we looked for the “blue ocean” within the myriad of wellness apps aimed at mental health.
A Competitor Feature Analysis — largely based on existing data from the ADAA
Market Positioning Map — representation is somewhat skewed as many other apps exist. We mostly compared apps that had some research foundation.


After understanding more of the existing tools available, we turned our attention to the most important person at the table — our user.

We used several techniques for data collection and organization.

  1. Surveys
  2. Interviews
  3. Empathy Maps
  4. Affinity Diagrams


We created a 10 question survey in Typeform which yielded 131 responses. From these surveys we received important quantitative and qualitative data from people currently dealing with SAD.

We found that 43% of those surveyed were “constantly” affected by social anxiety. They felt that it affected their personal relationships, career, love life, and education. Many revealed in the open comments feelings of being sad or overwhelmed or lost.

One of the most revealing findings was that 45% of those surveyed, self medicate in order to control their social anxiety.


We interviewed 7 users to get more in depth qualitative data. Their data was able to give us an intimate understanding of who are user is and how they think.

What’s the hardest part of dealing with SAD:

*laughs* “Talking to Humans…?” … “I don’t like talking to people.

Pain Points:

“My anxiety is a drain on my relationship. We’ve broken up over it.”

On coping:

“I remind myself that other people are in their own world. They don’t really care if I’m weird.”

“I’m choosey with who I hang out with. I don’t want people to think I’m a b**** if I tell them I can’t hang out. Having one good friend with me helps.”

“I do my own research. I’ve tried some meditation apps but they’re too robotic. I’m interested in therapy.”

Based on our secondary and primary research, we created an affinity map to help us pick out the common themes.

Demographics of our users and the Goals/Aspirations of our users
Pain Points and Coping Methods for people dealing with SAD

After completing the affinity map we created an empathy map to really get in the head of our users.

Empathy Map of users with Social Anxiety

Based on all of this data, we were able to pull out the main pain points and aspirations of our users.

3 pain points:

  • Feeling like they don’t know what is actually triggering their anxiety OR helping them cope successfully.
  • Feeling too dependent on substances to interact with people.
  • Wanting to work with a therapist but feeling like it is out of reach economically or simply too hard.

3 aspirations:

  • Want to get past their SAD so they can excel in their career.
  • Want to improve their relationships with friends, family, and partners.
  • Want to try new experiences that their SAD holds them back from.

Now that we had the complete picture, we felt confident creating our user persona.

User Persona for Overly-Analytical Aubrey

From our User Persona, we created a User Journey to better understand Aubrey’s habits and the main opportunity spots that NWI has to help her.

We imagine a typical day in the life. As most of our respondents claimed they were “constantly anxious”, our user journey reflects that. We focus on a couple of the especially distressing parts of her day.

Aubrey’s User Journey Map. A typical weekday morning.
Slices of the most stressful parts of Aubrey’s day. What she’s doing, what she’s thinking and feeling, and opportunities for the NWI app to help.


Based on our user research we created the following hypothesis.

We began to brainstorm how we might solve for this large task through a series of “How Might We?” questions.

Based on the results of that brainstorming session, we prioritized the different possibilities through an Investment vs. Impact matrix.

Impact vs. Investment Chart

Although we found that many features fell into the matrix of “Least Investment” and “Most Impact”, we wanted to focus on the top 3 features.

  1. Tracking Emotions — with the ability to track why .
  2. Challenges to help people improve their SAD in the long term.
  3. Positive Experience Planning — to help our participants achieve their challenges.

The Minimum Viable Product will achieve the following:

  • Allows users to track their mood in comparison to their environment and their coping methods
  • Provides users with an “SOS” button for quick relief
  • Teaches users how to reprogram the negative thought for long-term relief


Now that we had defined the problem, our user, and the features we thought would be most helpful to them, we entered the ideation phase.

Because of the magnitude of the topic and the project, we used a card sorting activity to understand how our users might intuitively organize certain categories and themes.

Once we had a better idea of how our users categorized and grouped certain topics, we created our site map.

Site map and User Flow

After deciding on our site map and user flow, we did some rapid ideation for our more important screens. We did this through “Crazy 8's” — a timed process of redrawing the same screen 8 times with new ideas and aesthetics each time. Users are then asked to silently vote for their favorites and provide feedback.


Based on our findings, we began to prototype using a whiteboard and the Marvel app. We created the “happy path” of what would happen when a frequent user opens the app.

Prototype of the “happy path”


We next conducted several usability tests. We did several in person in order to get qualitative data. We also gathered heat maps by importing the Marvel tests into Maze.Design.

We gave the following introduction and task to users:

Track Your Mood.

Imagine you’re at work. You’re anxious and have an upset stomach. Submit your current mood to the app. Tell me why. Add your physical symptom.


Overall, the design received a poor usability score. However, we found that most users that dropped off were stuck at the first and second screen. Users that made it to screen 3, were all able to complete the test.

The heat maps were able to give us good indications as to where users were getting lost or how they would have preferred to interact with the screen.

Next Steps

Based on our results we will be pursuing the following steps:

  • Focus research on how people with Social Anxiety interact with different technologies.
  • Create and test mid-fidelity prototypes.
  • Go back to user flow and flesh out.
  • Continue testing and iterating!

We look forward to sharing our next round of progress with you! We will be reworking certain interactions, creating more paths, and working on user interface next.

The Team

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The Journey of a UX/UI Designer: People-focused, fiercely fun.