Personal Project | UX Design Process
Telling yourself you want to start a new healthy habit is easy, but actually getting started and continuing on the pathway to improving your lifestyle is really hard.
How might someone like Clara retain and build upon habits over time successfully?
I looked into the top five top goal-making/life-planning apps including Goals on Track, Coach.Me, Good Habits, Balanced, and Strides.
Common strengths included good visualization of goals through calendar views, progress charts, and analytics
Common weakness was that habit formation was not usually a focus of these apps and if it does have anything to do with habits, it’s generally about habit tracking but not the formation itself
Progress visualization is an important part of motivation, but these apps are missing the habit formation and reinforcement steps that reflect how behaviors are actually formed in our brain.
I conducted casual, semi-structured interviews with 5 participants to understand the role of habits in people's lives. Some sample questions include: Tell me about a time when you decided to make a lifestyle change. Why did you decide to make that decision? Can you walk me through your first week of starting a new goal?
Some participants were VERY successful in creating change in their habits while others were not.
To find out why some of these differences exist, I started writing out findings from each interview divided by "successful" (in orange) and "not successful" (in green). After grouping these together, I was able to find some common themes.
Social influences and environmental factors were predictors for successful habit change outcomes. For example, one participant noted how he felt peer pressure to study harder because he was surrounded by pre-med students in his dorm.
Common problems were perception about time and plans. While some individuals already made the habit of healthy eating part of their lifestyle, others couldn't find the time to get started on their habit. Those who were not as successful also did not have a clear plan of action.
My goal was to design an app that would focus on those common problems of timing and planning and approach them from a neuropsychological perspective.
A critical barrier to reaching a goal lies in the first step of creating the goal itself. Some goals were unclear which made it difficult to plan out success. For example, one participant said their goal was to "eat healthier" but this can mean a lot of things and it's hard to take action on a goal when the goal itself is not clearly defined.
This means that the flow for creating a goal needs to lead the user to set up an attainable, clear, and defined goal that can realistically work within their schedule.
While existing solutions constrain the user by defining success by "daily streaks," I wanted to create a design that shows habit formation as making small but meaningful lifestyle changes. These app-suggested steps to attain a habit start small and can only be unlocked after progress is solidified. This reinforces neural circuits in the brain that are responsible for habit formation.
This flow shows some of the major flows for new users and existing users. Because this is not a full scale app design case study, I also wanted to use this to visualize what areas can be explored further.
The most challenging part about this project was staying focused on the big picture. Although I had a lot of ideas in my head for different kinds of features, I had to focus on designing the core function rather than getting distracted in the details of extraneous features. This is where all the research done before any of the designs became helpful as a framework for informing design decisions. By thinking back to the problems that were brought up during research, if the design did not aid in solving that issue, I knew it was something that I should reconsider in adding to the app.