Know it All screens

THE CHALLENGE

Does that mean I'm crazy?

Before COVID struck, you were a social butterfly who enjoyed dressing up for work. Now you find yourself using the bathroom as your extended office. If you can relate to this scenario, then know that you’re not alone.

MY ROLE

Over the five week duration of this project,  I worked with a team of three other people.  My primary role was  to create wireframes, write the UX copy for the app and perform all of the user research and interviews.  

THE PROBLEM

The ensuing pandemic has unleashed a wave of panic and stress globally. People are using both conventional and unconventional means to cope.

 

This led us to try and understand how redesigning the Magic 8 ball might be used to help people working from home relieve stress through humor?

THE APPROACH

Creating the Research Plan

TIMELINE

1

2

3

4

5

Research

Behavioral & competitive analysis

 Attitudinal Study

Send out surveys and conduct user interviews.

Ideation & Design

Crazy 8s, wireframing, and 

Mid - High Fidelity Prototypes

Testing

Conduct remote moderated usability study and rework designs based on feedback

Final Prototype

We used a mix of research methodologies - literature reviews, competitive analysis, quantitative surveys, qualitative user interviews and testing to both find a solution to the stated problem and to create the Know It All app. 

 

While our survey was open to anyone to respond to, we took a much more targeted approach to our user interviews and testers.

 

Through our screener questions, we focused on interviewing those that had familiarity with the Magic 8 Ball as well as users that indicated that they had previously used mindfulness apps. 

These two criteria were chosen as we wanted to pinpoint the reasons behind why a person would use a Magic 8 Ball and mindfulness apps and what aspects of both they found helpful. Our goal was to take these findings (research, surveys, interviews, and testing)  to help create our app.

DIVING INTO THE RESEARCH

We knew that we needed a more holistic understanding of the mental health effects that the pandemic  elicits so we looked to research focused on the matter.

 

We quickly found information from the Kaiser Family Fund regarding this very topic. 

 

According to their research, an overwhelming majority of survey participants had reported not leaving or rarely leaving their homes since the start of the pandemic and this was impacting their mental health.

Bar graph showing four results for how many times people have said they left their home
Two horizontal bar graphs showing the negative impacts of covid on mental health

User engagement is key to the effectiveness of digital mental health interventions.
                                                                                                                                     
                                                                                                                                             

WHO ARE THE COMPETITORS?

The literature research indicated that  a place in the market exists for this proposed app. It reinforced my belief that this app would be well received in the mindfulness space.

 

I took this as an opportunity to check out the competition to discover areas that could be added and improved upon in creating our app. 

 

I undertook a competitive analysis. While I looked at 6 different apps in total, I soon  honed in on two specific apps; Woebot and Ask 8.

 

Woebot is a mood tracking AI that uses cognitive behavioral therapy or CBT to deliver mood-improving assistance to users while Ask 8 is the digital equivalent of the classic Magic 8 Ball. 

Woebot

Pros

  • Clean interface.

  • The information provided is scientifically backed.

Cons

  • Users can't access other features of the app without first completing an initial chat with Woebot.

  • "Chat" feature is forced because the answers are preselected.

Shows 4 screens for the Woebot app
Shows 4 of the Ask 8 screens

Ask 8

Pros

  • Very simple interface.

  • Answers are color coded.

Cons

  • Easy to identify the pattern of the answers given.

  • Visible ads interrupt the app and pull the user out of the environment.

As the situation has worsened, they found that the social and physical isolation caused by the coronavirus is making people more stressed out and negatively impacting their mental health.

Moreover, research undertaken by the Journal of Medical Research found that the effectiveness of mood tracking and goal setting apps is dependent on user engagement.

 

The negative mental health implications it has had on people informed our team’s decision to undertake the 8 ball challenge and use the task of reimaging 20 different answers to help positively impact the user’s mood.

The written literature allowed us see that we wanted the app to focus on improving a user's mood but we didn't know what the landscape looked like or if there was room for an app such as ours to exist. So, we also looked into the state of the digital well-being industry. 

 

From 2014 - 2019 there's been a 400% increase in venture capital investment in mental health tech. With a particular focus being centered around mood tracking and goal-setting apps. 

IDENTIFYING POTENTIAL USERS 

Surveys

Based on my initial literature research, the conclusions the team drew were that the most well-rated and frequently used apps on the market were mindfulness apps that had some basis in science, possessed straight forward user interfaces, and tastefully used colors.

With these findings in hand, we created and released a survey. The goals of the survey were to: 

 

              1.   Gather quantitative data, verify our research.

              2.  Try and understand the stress management, coping mechanisms, and concerns of potential users as a      

                    means of predicting the types of questions they might ask an 8 Ball during these times. 

Shows the demographic information. 114 total responses and 29.8% of user identified as unemployed while 70.2% identified as employed.
This shows the age demographic of the survey participants.

Of these two groups, 75% were female while 21% were male. 64% had children and 36% had no children.

We received 114 total survey responses. 70.2% of respondents were employed while 29.8% identified as unemployed. 

The two main age groups represented by our data were 25 - 30 and 31 - 35 years old. 

The top concerns of our participants are economic status and Physical Health and safety. These concerns proved to be driving themes in our survey data.

In analyzing the stress management assessment, we found that essential workers and people working from home that have children all self-reported as having high-stress management abilities. 

The results of the survey showed that participants feelings of uncertainty centered mainly around financial stability and physical health.

To cope with these stressors, they chose to distract themselves by taking part in activities that didn't require them to think too much and had a humorous slant to them.

INTERVIEWS

After compiling our survey data, we reached out to our 114 survey respondents to invite them to take part in one on one interviews. Of the 114 respondents, five people indicated that they would be willing to be interviewed. 

 

Our participants identified that they preferred turning to humor as a means of relieving stress. 

If I want to destress, then I want something funny.

They were also a group that had a short user engagement with mindfulness apps as they required too much time and commitment to use. With one participant remarking that "there is a commitment the apps assume of you."

 

They all noted that this perceived time commitment and the need to continually engage with these types of apps is what turned them off from continued use of mindfulness apps.

Lastly, they stressed that the fun of taking part in activities and using certain apps stem from forming and maintaining social connections.

A participant equated this 
sentiment with the popularity of fortune cookies stating "fortune cookies are fun because they're designed to be used in a group."

We hoped to imitate this feeling of community and social connection with our app.

Key Takeaways

Lastly, they stressed that the fun of taking part in activities and using certain apps stems from forming and maintaining social connections.

A participant equated this 
sentiment with the popularity of fortune cookies stating "fortune cookies are fun because they're designed to be used in a group."

We hoped to recreate these feelings of community, social connection, and fun with our app.

ENVISIONING OUR USER

We used the data gathered from our literature reviews, surveys, and interviews to create our user person, Keisha Wright. She represents the demographic, location, employment and lifestyle of the majority of our respondents.

User persona showing Keisha Wright.

TO INFINITY AND BEYOND

Mapping the User Journey

Our user journey for Keisha is based on the goals and frustrations highlighted in her persona data. The journey illustrates what outside issues (feelings of uncertainty and a desire to relieve stress) led to Keisha finding and downloading our app. 

As she begins to explore the app, we identify two potential pain points:

 

         1.   Keisha looking through the app and eventually becoming bored after asking a series of questions.

         2. Her desire to see if the app has anything more to offer. We then identified opportunities based on these pain

               points.

THE SOLUTION

To address our problem statement and  Keisha's pain points, our solution is to create a humorous AI companion that is the personification of the Magic 8 ball. The AI aspect is used as a means of keeping app users engaged.

 

To resolve the issue of repetitive answers that don't quite answer the questions being asked by users, we created an open forum section in which users can ask questions and post responses to one another's questions. The forum would function similarly to Reddit's sub-forums.

IDEATION & DESIGN

Know it All (KiA) was created to serve as a fun companion that provides users humorous responses to tough life questions.

 

The name was shortened from Know it All to KiA to reflect the playful nature of the app. 

To maintain gender neutrality and to offer cultural flexibility, we decided to make KiA a blob in which users can easily imbue their own meaning.

 

Its black and round shape reflects the traditional color and shape of the classic Magic 8 ball.

8 images of KiA showing different emotions

We intentionally chose to give KiA expressive features that would make it capable of forming a connection with and catering to the emotional needs of the users better than our competitors Ask 8 and Woebot.

 

A piece of negative feedback made against both apps is that their avatars either had stiff or nonexistent expressions.  

Three screens showing different KiA answering states.

OUTLINING THE NAVIGATION AND APP FLOW

We referenced our direct competitor, Ask 8's  ask & answer flow when creating our main feature "Ask KiA".

 

Lastly, we made the "Ask KiA" feature more accessible by allowing users to input their questions either through typing or by voice recognition.  

Our app works by identifying the keywords that appear in the questions our users ask. Once a keyword is identified, KiA will then display a funny answer that relates to that keyword. 

As such, we utilized keyword mapping to see how their use might trigger the answers that KiA provides. Keywords are identified based on trending concerns expressed by our test users.

In this case, the keywords that are pinged would all relate to financial and health matters. For questions that lie outside of the keyword map, those users are directed by KiA to go to the forum.

CREATING KNOW IT ALL

These sketches show our initial design idea for the KiA interface and Forum. This was the starting off point for our app. To further flesh out our designs, we performed four usability tests that had a total of 13 participants.

For each round of testing, we observed how users inputted their questions, the reactions if any they had to KiA's answer and how they shared this answer on social media.

With the forum feature, we had users create a post and comment on existing posts.

Here are the four versions of the Ask KiA feature we tested.

  • From versions 1-3 we morphed the home button into a shape that represents KiA's silhouette for better recognition.

  • After receiving user feedback, we replaced the thumbs up/down icons with a heart icon that better resonates emotionally with users.

  • Finally, we addressed accessibility issues associated with the "new" button. The yellow CTA of the new button found in version 3 didn't contrast well against the background. After changing it to black, users were able to locate it faster. 

When it came to the forum feature we:

  • Renamed the title multiple times to better resonate with users.

  • Removed the popular questions section because test users stated that they found it redundant since they normally used the sort or search function to find the relevant information they needed.

Aside from the expressive facial expressions, we also added elements of motion to KiA to further give the impression of a fully engaged and functional AI companion.

Video is courtesy of Hong Yu.

SETTING THE MOOD

Color theory, mood board, grid pattern & typography

The six principals that guided our team during the ideation process were calm, functionality, scientific, simplicity, humor and intuitiveness.

 

These terms were important because so many of our user interview participants identified most of these ideals as things they'd like to see represented in a mindfulness app.

 

They became our design philosophy and in looking for inspiration for our mood board, we were guided by these 6 terms. The images chosen in the mood board all in our opinion convey the feelings that these 6 words elicit.

Our inspiration for the color palette is a sunrise. We incorporated neutral and cool hues as they inspire feelings of calm. We used splashes of orange and yellow to inject a playful feel to our app.

We also used gradients because they add warmth and enhance feelings of calmness, coziness, and safety.

Lastly, we conducted accessibility evaluations to ensure that all of the colors have a 3:1 contrast ratio. We also ensured that the selected colors met the standards for accessibility for designing for colorblind individuals.

For the call to action buttons, we used yellow against black to make them more accessible and to reflect traditional Magic 8 Ball colors. The width and height of the buttons are aligned with the grid.

The grid has 10 columns and 10 rows. We used even numbers for easy division and to manage small icons and large prints.

We used two different sans serif fonts in the app because they look circular without being too childish. This matches well with the casual tone in which KiA speaks with the user.

 

To establish a visual hierarchy between these two fonts while following the iOS guideline, we adjusted the font sizes and weights to suit different purposes. 

Our woodmark logo uses a modified form of the Berlin Sans FB typeface. KiA can be distinguished with the capitalized K & A. The conversation bubbles that hover over the "I" gives clues to the app's relaxed and colloquial tone.

ALLOW ME TO INTRODUCE MYSELF

They call me KiA

HOW'D WE DO?

Measuring the Impact

Users reported liking the smooth transition between screens because it conveys a sense of calmness.​ When improvements to the design were iterated, a 60% increase in user satisfaction with the app prototype was recorded. 

In the prototype, we incorporated animation to make KiA more engaging to the users. We placed KiA in various angles and scales to convey movement and energy. 

 

We implemented micro-interactions in various places, such as the use of ellipses while KiA is thinking of an answer. 

 

In the forum, we strived for easy navigation by offering a search function and the sort dropdown. In the thread, we have offered reported functions as a way to maintain a positive environment in the forum. 

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