It would not be an exaggeration to say that the events of the past years have changed and continue to change the face of the earth and the lifestyles of its beings. And I am no exception to it. I particularly had a very difficult time coping with and surviving through the majority of 2020 owing to numerous reasons which I am not going to get into here. But as I came out of that low and challenging phase, I (and my family and friends could see) that I had lost a part of me to it. I was not as happy and content as I used to be.  I went from being a definite optimist woman into a borderline definite pessimist without knowing. A minor yet impactful incident in my student life opened my eyes to this realization. I realized I needed to make some changes to get back in the grove and I decided to start meditating once again. I have learned and practiced yoga and meditation (particularly breathwork) since I was 13 years of age and it has helped me deal with major changes and hurdles I faced as a teenager and an introvert at a boarding school.

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The company and application, Headspace, was known to me because I kept reading articles about it. But it was not until my father, who lives in India, mentioned using the application for starting meditation again. It’s been about 6 months since I have been meditating and about 3 months of using the Headspace app regularly. I am in a better place mentally and physically, I am visibly happier, more positive, and back on track to be a definite optimist, and I credit a major part of the change to my journey with meditation and Headspace for helping me start and keep going. Not just that, the empathy and self-awareness I am developing are helping me function better professionally.

About Headspace

Headspace is meditation made simple. Headspace has a mobile application that offers you guided meditations, stories, soundscapes, music and much more helping you start your day better, relieve stress, sleep peacefully, and basically lead a more meaningful, happier, and healthier life.

Check out the website here.

Background Research

Most people, who are just starting their journey with meditation and are starting off on their own in their homes, find it difficult to stick to a meditation practice schedule on a regular basis. While this is true of most new habits, the two other main problems specific to daily meditation practice are:

  1. The discomfort of being alone with one’s thoughts and feelings

  2. The path to rewards is a long one. One usually can not see major immediate changes or effects.

Other problems include boredom and sleepiness during a meditation session.

More than 25% of adults who meditate regularly reported having an unpleasant experience related to their practice, according to research led by the University College London.

Ideally, all of the aforementioned problems can be overcome individually, but in a real-world full of distractions, workload, unexpected triggers, and stimuli it is but a far-fetched idea.  Purser and David Forbes, an associate professor in school counseling at Brooklyn College suggest that community-based mindfulness practice is more beneficial and efficient than the modern individualized approaches to the same. In their opinion “it’s better to adopt critical social mindfulness, which encourages groups to meet together and to use mindfulness techniques to discuss the socio-political causes of their discontent as a community”.

“Mental health doesn’t sit independently from social and personal conditions…The people we’re working with are dealing with basic issues such as safety, employment, health and housing.”

Digitization in all aspects of our lives and the ever-evolving technology has impacted and to some extent changes the way humans communicate and socialize. In this new virtual world of instant gratification and constant validation, maybe we are more comfortable with solitude but only when we have our mobile phones and social media available with a click/tap. While meditation and other mindfulness practices help us walk away from the outside world of technology and chaos on a journey of self-awareness and connecting with our intellect, the same technology, and outer world can be used to build a mindful routine of daily meditation. Instead of connecting people over social media through pictures, posts, comments, and likes, if we tap into the social nature of homo sapiens by setting them on a path to self-discovery as a group, we can unleash the power of a community in overcoming their fears, self-doubt, anxieties and other insecurities. Here (in this scenario), it not only the individual self that is learning and growing but also they are growing as a group understanding and practicing empathy and love. Some of the advantages of group meditation practice are:

  1. Group practice can boost your willingness to keep meditating, whether it’s during the week on your own or during a group meditation. 

  2. When others share their meditation experience you can begin to understand that you are not alone.  

  3. As mindfulness practice blossoms difficult emotions may arise.  When you share experiences with a group, you can rest in the understanding and kindness of others.

  4. Empathy and patience with ourselves and others flow directly from the practice with the group.  Mindful communication in the group can help you open your mind to ways of thinking beyond your preconceived notions

  5. A delightful byproduct is the feeling of safety in the group, which may transfer to living in general.

  6. For many people, the energy of the group is palpable and provides a quality of belonging and self-acceptance.

  7. Feedback is available.

  8. Be a part of the bigger picture.

  9. Everything, when shared, is better - including meditation

  10. There is power in numbers.

“For people to adopt a healthful lifestyle, I have become convinced, they need to live in an ecosystem, so to speak, that makes it possible.” —Dan Buettner

Research Statement

I want to better understand how the users interact with or use the Headspace mobile application to meditate regularly and how group meditation through the app can help users stick to their habit of meditating regularly and create an aware, giving and sustainable community.

Goal

Create a UX Research methodology and design strategy that aligns with our current users’ journeys and helps Headspace tap into opportunities to create a bigger, self-sustained, flourishing community of mindful people.

Process

1. Website Impressions

The Headspace brand and design do not shy away from the bold use of colors and artistic shapes and patterns, use intelligently to convey meaning, and yet stay abstract and let the content or CTA take the front stage. The website particularly is not devoid of texture and personality. There is a story in everything (color, texts, shapes, and images) that bind the different sections of the website together, culminating in an important message:

Meditation can make your life healthier and happier, and Headspace mobile application makes meditation SIMPLE.

The transitions, color play, font-size everything works in favor of the Headspace mission and creates a calming, non-intrusive experience. The website directs the user to the mobile app from almost every section possible which is fantastic given the mobile app is the USP and the hero of the show. However, the information architecture, the navigation, and browsing afforded by menus and clickable links and CTAs do not work in perfect tandem, which can be a little overwhelming, if not frustrating.  

  1. The website is content-heavy and everything is strewn together

  2. The top navigation menu seems universal however is not.

  3. There is not an option to return the Home page from a couple of sections (namely Blog) in the website.

  4. Some of the menus are nested while some aren’t and there is not a clear way of knowing which are. 

  5. The nested menu (About) is redundant and could be intrusive.

2. User Persona

A sample person for a typical user. The persona in the image above is neither accurate more data driven.

3. User Storymap

Creating a story map for our personas helps us identify gaps and where we can intervene or assist for better user experience.

4. Strategy & Research Plan

Digesting all of the conducted research, I suggest the following UX research strategy and a brief explanation of what is the expected outcome of each activity. The strategy is not tailored yet but can easily be modified to suit any framework - Agile, Lean, SCRUM, Sprint, etc. This is a rough strategy created on the basis of research and information I gathered using the internet as an outsider, so please take this with a grain of salt.

We start by analyzing existing qualitative and quantitative data on our users to get an understanding of the following:

  • What are the different skill and demographic buckets can we create for our existing users? Get more information on the demographic data and use correlation mapping or sns heatmaps to identify plausible connections between the different user characteristics or features. How can we scale the scope of these created buckets for new user groups?

  • What time or phase during their journey do users generally drop out?

    • Look at it from a user journey perspective than a number of days statistic.

    • Is there something in the offered UX that we can change or improve?

  • Exploring the diversity of feedback from the existing users concerning the existing mobile application and services offered by the website to identify common themes in pain-points, problems, gaps, add-ons, and nice-to-haves.

  • Conducting Generative Interviews with our existing users to understand what they lack in their meditation experience with Headspace currently, what can Headspace do to augment their experience, and what are the main problems that different users face at different times in their meditation journey and how can Headspace use them as potential improvement opportunities.

  • Digest these findings into data-driven user journey maps or user stories.

  • Identify How Might We’s to pin-point problems or gaps that can be addressed by a self-sustaining virtual community.

  • Answering the following questions before jumping into design:

    • Who will be the target audience or the early adopters of the community feature?

    • What is/are the major gaps or problems (between 2-5) that we are trying to address with this community?

    • Does the community need some kind of hierarchy or structure like a mentor or guide?

    • What are the community’s larger mission, vision, and goals?

    • How is the community sustained in the long run?

    • Maybe create a Business Model Canvas around the community feature?

    • How can we leverage and integrate the existing community on social media (if any) with the mobile app?

    • How do we ensure that the community will be all INCLUSIVE and ACCESSIBLE to all the users - new and old?

  • Start by drawing a comparative analysis on other apps fostering, nurturing, and surviving on communities to find inspiration, and conducting a SWOT analysis of the product as a whole to get a more diverse perspective.

  • Create a detailed user-story map to find opportunities in the current workflow for new feature integration and how it will affect the existing workflow.

  • Try conceptually integrating the community feature as a part of the existing user workflow.

  • Collaborate cross-functionally with Product Management, Development, UX Research and Design, Business teams to bounce off and brainstorm ideas and discussion around the concept.

  • Decide on features and functionalities through brainstorming, using collected research and data, and voting.

  • Design wireframe and low-fidelity prototype of the feature. Gather feedback from real users through a Wizard-of-Oz test.

  • Use the feedback to create a mid-fidelity prototype. Run a usability test to see how users view, interact with and expect from the community.

  • Use the feedback to create a high-fidelity prototype. Launch a beta version of the community feature and roll-out to a controlled user group for testing and feedback.

Output/Deliverables

The output or deliverable of this exercise will constitute the following:

  1. A regression analysis of the (previously/currently) collected quantitative data.

  2. Codebook for the qualitative data collected through interviews and contextual inquiry.

  3. A data-driven persona of the target users

  4. An in-depth, actionable research report around the concept of facilitating a meditation community feature using the mobile app for the Product, Business, Design, and Development team for more concrete next steps.

  5. Creating a new user workflow around the concept.

  6. Designing wireframes, mid-fidelity, and high-fidelity prototypes, and RITE testing for evaluation. 

  7. Presenting the research findings and final designs to all the teams and stakeholders and preparing the report from a development perspective.

Next Steps

The team at Headspace can go through the proposal and if they like it, we can schedule an introductory call and then move on to interviews and other evaluative tests.

Biases/Assumptions

Following are some of the biases/assumptions that creeped in while I was putting together this plan; and I would like to actively address them in the light of the following:

  • A group meditation practice will help most users stick to their habits as well as the headspace app in the longer run.

  • The community can help attract more users and contribute to spreading education and awareness about meditation.

  • It would be interesting to see if given a chance to  join group meditation sessions do users choose to join? What are these users categorised by? Age/Gender/Skill/Problems

  • Do these communities thrive outside of the meditation sessions like engaging on other social platforms?