As the sole designer on this project, I wanted to find a way for people to deal with daily stressors. The main purpose of the project turned into challenging user’s perceptions of stress and ultimately help users become better at dealing with their stressors. A form of play is the best way to take the user on this journey since play is something that transcends age, socio-economic status, and culture. My hypothesis is that self-chosen forms of play are an effective way of counter acting everyday stressors in adults. The way I have chosen to represent this form of play for adults is through a mobile app (an adult form of play) that aids them in assessing their hobbies.
For the purposes of this project, the criteria for “play” will be roughly defined using Jean Piaget’s terms. Play is described as: 1) being an end in itself rather than having an aim like work; 2) being spontaneous; 3) being for pleasure; 4) sometimes unorganized rather than using ordered and serious thought; and 5) often free from conflict, where as serious activity forces one to struggle with conflict. Since stress is such an individual experience, for the sake of this project it’ll be defined according to John Mason’s methodology; in order for the body to have a reaction to stress the situation must be viewed as unpredictable and cause the individual to feel that he or she does not have control over the situation.
I chose to look into how play can affect or counter act the stress that people experience in everyday life. Play and stress are often studied separately in the fields of psychology and neuroscience, however in recent years, play as a way of managing stress in children has become more commonplace. Conversely, my challenge is creating a form of play that adults can easily employ, in order to aid in stress management.
This project began with a few months of primary and secondary research into the neuroscience and psychology of stress in humans. Through this I discovered the effectiveness of play therapy in children; however, it’s legally difficult to do primary research on children. So, I decided to apply a similar idea to adults since play is something that transcends age, socio-economic status, and culture.
Mobile apps are a common form of play for adults, but creating an app that allows for each user to manage their personal relationship with stress is difficult. Certain users struggled between the amount of quantitative and qualitative information presented to them in the app (based on personal preference). I made it a major point to allow users to create a customized experience that works for their psychology and lifestyle. Finding a balance between creating an easily customizable experience for users and not going overboard on options was one of the bigger challenges that had to be constantly tested by users in the testing phase.
I created a flowchart to help me visualize how the user would move through the app. The flow was not particularly complex but I wanted to keep one thing in mind during this process; give the user as much control over their own process as possible. Frankly, being locked into something you don’t want or need to do, is stressful.
Once the flow of the app was in place I sketched out some wireframes on paper. I took this as an opportunity to create different UI and UX options, I didn’t want to over analyze my ideas as I did it, I just wanted to get them down on paper. Once they were complete, I judged them for how well they worked and made any necessary changes in Illustrator when I created digital versions of these wireframes.
I also created three personas and scenarios in order to imagine some user cases for this app. I wanted to put myself in the shoes of different types of users, especially because I did not do any user interviews prior to making this application.
I jumped into Illustrator in order to create round one of my high-fidelity mockups. Some of my focuses were how much data should I show the user, how should I show this data, and how do I allow the user to feel like they are creating a personalized experience when using the app. From there I created a prototype in InVision for user testing and discovered the following pain points:
Pain point #1: Users want to see multiple levels of quantifiable information.
Design Solution: I created two views of metrics the user could toggle between. One being a more general overview for those who are not interested in seeing the nitty gritty metrics throughout the day, month, or year. The other being a more exact graph that tracks the ebbs and flows of their hobby interaction over time.
Pain point #2: 50% of users said they already had a hobby and did not need in-app assistance in choosing one.
Design Solution: What I learned through my primary research is that most people already have at least one hobby that they regularly partake in and will not be looking for another hobby/would rather look for it through other means. However, the users who did not have hobbies were very interested in getting one after understanding the effects they can have on stress. All of the people who did not have a hobby felt that they would like to get a hobby/be aided in finding something they enjoy. With that I created a basic quiz users can take in order to find categories of hobbies they may be interested in pursuing. In order to not get in the way of most users, the quiz is a simple prompt that can be ignored upon first entering the app. If the user wishes to access it after their first visit, the quiz will be hidden in the menu.
Ideally, I’d want to track user’s usage patterns over a few months in order to truly understand how they would use this app. Since an app can’t cure your stress, and stress is such an individual experience, I think there would be a lot of interesting findings. I would assume users would use this app in ways I didn’t intend or possibly want different features. This was a research heavy project and I’d want more time to refine a final product that could support that research more directly.