PROJECT TYPE: Academic
DURATION: 10 weeks (Oct - Dec 2021)
TEAM: Solo Project
MY ROLE: UX Researcher, UX/UI Designer
TOOLS: Figma, InVision, Canva
Tasked with completing a 10 week capstone project, I created Ember, a mobile IOS app that matches users with the mental health therapist that's right for them. Throughout this project I adopted the design thinking methodology and utilized my skills in UX Research, Wireframing, User Testing, and Prototyping.
Its no secret that mental health is a growing concern in our society, especially with the negative impact that the pandemic has had in the past couple of years. Its also no secret that therapy can be a huge help to people struggling with their mental health. So why aren't more people in therapy?
Reflecting on discussions I've had with friends and family, it seemed that many of them tried therapy but stopped attending after only a couple sessions. With my curiosity sufficiently sparked, I decided to engage in secondary research to see if the problem space of premature therapy dropout was compelling enough to solve.
From this research it seemed the therapist-patient relationship could be a key factor in premature therapy dropout. My hunch was that if an individual had a strong connection with their therapist, they would stay in therapy for longer than a person who didn't.
To better understand the problem space, I conducted 1:1 interviews with 5 individuals aged 20-35 who are currently in therapy or have visited a therapist in the past. I used an Affinity Map to organize the interview insights into motivations, behaviours, pain points, and then into themes.
6 key insights emerged which helped to validate the importance of my problem space, and (luckily for my ego) proved my hunch to be correct.
01. The therapist-patient relationship is very important.“My connection to the therapist is what has made my experiences in therapy good or bad" - Chloe*, 24
03. The therapist search process is stressful and difficult.“Finding a therapist is like dating, you have to go through a lot of people to find the perfect match" - Jeremy*, 27
02. It's very common to stop therapy early."I’ve experienced times where I went to just one session and then stopped because I didn’t like the therapist” - Drew*, 32
04. Therapy is more beneficial the longer you're in it.
“I felt that therapy only became effective for me after more than 4 sessions"-Tabby*, 23
05. Therapy is too expensive for a lot of people.
“Help is hard to find, and I’m annoyed at how expensive it is"- Amanda*, 24
06. The ideal therapist looks different to everyone.
“My ideal therapist would be creative, artistic, and queer like me. That's totally different than someone my Dad would want" -Jeremy*, 27
From these insights, particularly the first three, I established a How Might We Statement to articulate my design challenge.
How might we help individuals experiencing mental health issues find a therapist whose approach and personality are a good match for them in order to keep the individual in therapy?
With all the information I collected during my secondary and primary research, I created Sarah, a persona used to ensure my design solution was anchored by my target user's goals and needs.
Sarah is my primary persona. Lately she's been experiencing frequent panic attacks. In the past month she's been to two therapists but she didn't feel a connection with either one of them and as a result, didn't schedule any follow up appointments. She wants to give therapy another try but doesn’t want to waste any more of her time trying out several new therapists. Sarah feels discouraged and is not sure what to do next.
Next, I created an experience map to help me visualize Sarah's current end-to-end experience of finding a therapist. This process helped me to identify design intervention opportunities.
Here we can see that Sarah begins her search for a therapist feeling hopeful, but quickly begins to feel overwhelmed and confused with all her options. When she finally finds a therapist and books an appointment she becomes hopeful once more. Unfortunately when she visits the therapist, she doesn't feel a connection and ultimately ends up feeling discouraged and disappointed.
Prior to diving into solutioning, it was important to think about what success could look like. I defined the project goal, the main challenge I would face when designing, and potential solutions to this challenge.
Drawing on my primary research and taking inspiration from the opportunities identified in the experience map, I created a set of user stories to gain insight into how a digital solution may help users like Sarah. I authored 30+ user stories which I grouped into 4 key epics. I selected the following user story from the core epic, "Therapist-Patient Relationship", to develop as the primary task flow.
Primary Task Flow:
As an individual experiencing mental health issues
I want to find a therapist that is a good match for me
so that I am encouraged to keep seeing them.
At this point the function of my digital solution was starting to seem more concrete. I created a UI Inspiration Board and then began to put pen to paper. I started out with iterations of exploratory sketches which I then developed into solution sketches for the specific screens outlined in my task flow diagram.
After my initial prototype was up and running I conducted two rounds of usability testing with 10 different users. I consolidated the qualitative feedback that was received and used a prioritization matrix to evaluate the effort to fix and value to the user. Below you can see the most impactful changes that were made following rounds 1 and 2 of testing.
This is the point in the process where I landed on the name Ember. I liked this name for several reasons; its easy to pronounce and remember, it represents a sustainable warmth and glow, and it evokes thoughts of sitting around a campfire in nature; a comforting experience to many.
Next I explored options for the wordmark which is a distinct text-only typographic treatment of the name of our brand. I played around with weights, fonts, spacing, and customized letters to get to the end result. I also used this wordmark to create an application icon.
This is the screen Sarah sees when she opens the app. She's already answered most of the questions but scrolls down and clicks logistics to continue answering.
Sarah is encouraged to keep going. Let's Go!
Sarah navigates through several question screens like these ones, and indicates her answers.
Hooray! Now that she's done the questions this modal lets her know she’s been matched.
Sarah then arrives at the therapists screen and can see her top 3 matches. If she wants she can navigate back to the therapist preferences screen to revisit her answers. She can also browse through other therapists if she's not thrilled with her top 3 matches. Sarah decides to check out her top match, Claire.
From here Sarah can read all about Claire. She can watch a short video of Claire to get a feel for who she is, she can see her percentage match and the basis of matching, she can browse through Claire's bio, approach, and reviews and finally book a free consultation.
In order to market ember, I created a responsive marketing website that could be used to entice people to download the app.
The process of creating this website was similar to that of creating my app; I started out with UI inspiration, created sketches, designed multiple rounds of low to mid-fidelity wireframes, conducted user testing, and then applied my brand’s visual identity to create a high-fidelity interactive site.
A key insight from my primary research was that the high price of therapy stops many people from attending. Although Ember users are able to indicate their desired price range, the overall focus of the app is not on affordability. In order to be more inclusive, a next step for Ember would be to better address affordability issues. A way to do this would be to add a function that connects users with lower cost group therapy sessions, free government therapy programs and lower cost therapists in training.
Measures of Success:
THERAPY DROPOUT RATE
Given that the ultimate goal of Ember is to keep people in therapy for longer, success can be measured by tracking the percentage of users who don’t return for a second therapy session, and comparing this number against the average dropout rate of 20-57%.
Success can also be measured by customer satisfaction which can be gauged via a survey that asks users how satisfied they are with their therapist matches.
TASK SUCCESS RATE
Lastly we can measure the task success rate by evaluating the number of participants who are able to complete the main task flow of finding recommended therapists. This will help us to determine if the app is intuitive and user friendly.