A private virtual community for the close ones. Here we stay connected!
My Role: User Interview, Heuristic Evaluation, Interaction Design, Visual Design
Team: Jiahao Zhou, Jingxuan Yu, Owen Hu, Sybil Wang
Duration: 12 weeks
Context: Passion Project
Coronavirus Disease 2019 (COVID-19) is becoming a global pandemic that affects millions of people internationally. As an international student from China, I teamed up with three Cornell students to investigate the circumstances that spread by the COVID-19 and provide our solutions through a user-centered design approach.
Through our early research, we observed that members who are remote from their original living environment during the Covid-19 were suffered from mental health issues, like stress-related mental disorders, lack of sleep, or panic disorder. Most people mentioned they felt their lives were out of their control, and they were looking for ways to soothe their worries.
How might we establish a social method that makes people feel mentally supported and promote expressing care?
A quick look at our solution
Through our research, we found that helped people maintain a growing social connection with their important ones and asked them to keep track of their daily moods were two effective ways to support users' mental health. ACOMP is a Mobile App that aims to help support people who are physically away from their important ones and providing them a virtual space to connect with each other.
Private space is the mental relaxed place that provides on-demand supports to help users recover from a potential stressful mental state.
Gamification comes from all aspects of the App. Participating in activities like check-in, in-built games, or mental health exercise can earn extra rewards to "build" the community.
The virtual community is the key concept of the App which intends to promote real-life social connections by reconnecting users with their close ones who are far away from them during the crisis. We emphasize the idea of "building" more than "communicating".
A check-in allows users to check their close ones on a daily basis and is the bridge to maintain a healthy mental state based on our research.
Acomp could be used by friends and relatives who live away from each other. Our potential users include:
People with mild level mental issues related to anxiety & depression
People who are worried about their mental status and is looking for help
People who are unable to meet their family due to quarantine
To start, we quickly realize that it's not a valid method to look for needs directly from users because most of them are normal public who have never faced such an issue before. Therefore, users might not fully understand their own situations and know what could be effective to them. This's why we figured out that we need help from real experts and we interviewed 5 field experts including the psychologist, psychological consultant, epidemiologist, cognitive scientist, and licensed therapists in order to get better insights into what people are really suffering.
What did we learn?
What mental issues were people having?
From the expert interview, we understood that mental concerns contained various symptoms such as fatigue, irritation, stress, anxiety, depression, and so on. Considering the resources the team had, we believed to solve the problem of people's daily anxiety fit more with our professional background and project scope.
Levels of anxiety, graph designed by Dorothy Yu
Valid Methods to reduce anxious-related issues?
When we asked what were some effective ways that might help those people with mild-level anxiety reduce their symptoms. Most experts mentioned the manner of keeping track of one's life & share lives with the close ones they love were two typical methods they had suggested for their visitors.
A life tracker can help people to learn how external factors might impact their moods and thus create strategies for managing their lives.
After the expert interview, we did find extra supportive research on how mood tracking can help people with mental disorders.
Experts suggested that being with loved ones would help people focus on the bright side of their lives and less on the negative.
From our interviews, people agreed that being able to share thier lives with their family & friends helped them from overthinking.
Narrow down our target users
Through the research, we decided to set the targeted user group to people:
with mild level mental issues related to anxiety & depression
who were worried about their mental status and is looking for help
who were unable to meet their family physically
To better presented our targeted users, I created a persona: Vivian. We believed Vivian was a great representation of the users we interviewed and built this persona allowed us to narrow down our design scope, instead of "designing for everyone who is affected by the pandemic."
Summarize the insights and ideate the product concepts
In order to better understand what a tracker app should look like and what functions it should have, we've analyzed multiple apps on the market in order to look for inspiration (eg. Daylio, Stoic, Moodlog, etc). According to our competitive analysis, we found that most of these apps focused on the comprehensiveness of inputting information and different types of data visualizations, but few of them provide a social feature that allows users to share and express care of those records to their family and friends. As we found sharing express cares and tracking moods could be effective methods to support users' mental health through our expert research. Therefore, we've positioned our final design solution to create a self-tracking behavior for users, in shared small communities with friends and family members.
User Flow Map
After the ideation, we decided to build a virtual community with limited capacity that aimed to promote real-life social connections through self-report and collaborative gaming for friends and family members.
Flow Chart of ACOMP Created By Owen Hu
Dive deep to our Design & Iteration Process
In the design stage, we tested and iterated for 2 rounds. Here are the key design iterations we made based on the insights we collected from the usability tests:
1. Mood Report
In recording daily mood flow, we intended to provide fast and convenient progress. When users log into Acomp, they will be asked to report their personal states among 6 emojis before entering a community.
Also, from the expert interviews, we learn that a video message could be a valuable asset to stabilize people's mental health state, as actually seeing the loved one could further strengthen their members’ connections.
2. Member List
In the member list, users can track members' report activity to know if they are all right.
3. Private Space
“Private Space” is a feature that we plan to make users relaxed by offering them the mental support activity.
Challenges & Takeaways
This app fell into the category of designing only for the pandemic period in the beginning. However, as a passion based project, we wanted to make Acomp be valuable even when the pandemic is over. We hope Acomp to be a reinforcement of human's connection and mental harbor rather than just a check-in tool. Therefore, we conducted multiple user testing and evaluation sessions with experts in order to get recognized for the concept of Acomp. With 3 experts and 5 potential users that we tested out with our final solution, two of three of the experts loved the concept and thought Acomp can be academically effective.
Also as a product designer, this is my first time contributing to building a design system in a slightly larger picture. I honed my skills in deciding the visual language like the theme color and font family that could best serve the emotional tone of our user profiles. I had fun designed the App components and polished those components based on the team and user feedback.
Written In The End
This is a passion based Project which we didn not have the resources to ship it to a development stage for now. If you are also interested in my work which I have already made an impact on my clients' business goal, please take a look at my RECO Project.
Thanks for reading!