Shachi Kaul (UX-UI)
Jatin Sharma (Intern)
It’s heartening to see a growing public conversation around mental health. Such conversations, amplified by initiatives help to lessen the stigma around mental illnesses. One such initiative I became a part of is the IWILL app project which has been created to help people become mentally and emotionally healthy. It does this through a custom designed therapeutic online consultation journey, powerful & personal stories, and a large network of trained therapists! Following is the story of my contribution towards building a transformative experience for people with emotional and mental health issues.
I led the project right from the first kick-off meeting with the stakeholders till its launch. I was responsible for the UX-UI design of the android app and its brand design. I was also in charge of managing client expectations and guiding the development team on the implementation of design. I worked alongside Jatin, a UX intern, who helped me with wire-framing and prototyping.
MOBILE APP TO INCREASE CONVERSION
Epsyclinic.com is one of India’s leading online mental health care provider with over one million unique visitors on the website every month. The website not only provides unlimited stories and articles related to mental health, but also extends the services of online therapy with around 200 therapists on board. Although, the website views were quite high due to the valuable content provided on it, but conversion rate for online consultation was quite low. Hence, in order to increase conversion and to improve the retention rate of existing users/subjects of online therapy, Epsyclinic came to us (Design For Use) to design their new customer facing android mobile application to be built under the new brand name called IWILL.
Since the app was being launched under a new brand name, I was also required to design a new identity for IWILL. (For the purpose of simplifying the case study, I have showcased the branding work as a separate project).
One of the biggest challenges facing us was that we were forbidden from interviewing the existing subjects/users of Epsyclinic online therapy as confidentiality constitutes an important part of therapy. However, we were provided with enough user research that had been conducted in the past four years by the Epsyclinc team. We were also given transcripts of conversations held between the therapists and their subjects from the past sessions to understand user behaviour and the process of online therapy.
One of the biggest challenges facing us was that we were forbidden from interviewing the existing users of Epsyclinic online therapy due to the reasons of confidentiality.
I opted for an agile management approach which emphasised on product development in a highly flexible and interactive manner with the stakeholders. This helped in maintaining transparency across teams and taking crucial inputs from the stakeholders along the journey of building the product.
The design would start with branding, high-level research and synthesis, conceptualisation, moving on to
low-fidelity sketches and finally to visual design compositions for every screen. There would be quick iterations on each task flow with the stakeholders. The visual prototype would be informally validated with actual or pseudo-users at key points during the design process. After the completion of design, Design For Use would continue to support the development effort through assets production, quality checks, transitions feedback on builds and fine tuning the design deliverables.
KEEPING IT REAL
The motive was to design an online therapy experience which would emulate the process of real life therapy.
I wanted the process to seem very natural and personal, yet extremely convenient. It was also important that IWILL as a brand maintains credibility.
STAKEHOLDERS AS GUIDES
Epsyclinic’s team which consisted of (therapists, content writers, product managers and founders) over a span of 4 years had conducted enough research on their users’ needs, motivations and pain points to guide us throughout the project. It was important that we used their knowledge bank at every step of the project.
FINDING THE SKELETONS-2 DAY WORKSHOP
I commenced the project with a stakeholder UX workshop to understand the research that had already been conducted on current users, understand our client’s vision, challenges and expectations. The workshop findings were translated into high-level expectations, persona, journey and success metrics document. Then the current demographic and usage data was reviewed to understand the detailed user behaviour.
We started the workshop by gathering all facts and factoids on posits from the stakeholders that would help us understand company background, customers, vision, plans, challenges, goals, metrics etc. I then did affinity mapping to analyse categories of these findings to understand the product strategy. The product strategy helped me understand their future positioning and therefore why we would be building the android application under the new brand called IWILL.
USER JOURNEY EXERCISE
In our 3rd activity, I made the stakeholders individually sketch/write the user’s current journey as it was an important way to understand the pain points users face while undertaking an online session with Epsyclinic.
After gathering and organising the information we got from the stakeholders..well, I dug deeper for some more. The second phase of discovery was a quick, high‐intensity effort that allowed us to define project goals, audit the existing work, review the competitor landscape, get a deeper understanding into user needs and the process of therapy. I also kicked off a technical discovery phase to understand feasibility and constraints.
Limited data and interaction with the users/subjects meant we gather as much information from different available resources to understand their pain points. Tight timing meant that we needed to be efficient with conducting site audit and reading the transcripts of the online consultations done so far. I also conducted a range of interviews with the therapists working with Epsyclinic and undertook some self study to grasp the concept of mental health and therapy better.
I audited Epsyclinic.com to unravel the tone of its content and brand positioning. I noticed that the articles/stories related to depression, anxiety etc., were driving the website while the links to online consultation on the website were hidden. Layout and design felt outdated while the UX seemed broken. This was harming the credibility of the brand. Research provided by the stakeholders also revealed that 98% of the engagement with the therapists was taking place outside the website.
AFFINITY MAPPING OF FACTS AND FACTOIDS
PERSONA SKETCHING EXERCISE
I made each of the stakeholders sketch out proto-personas to understand their views on the users’ goals and needs, demographics, behaviour pattern, pain points and motivations. This activity was key to understanding the current users as we were dependent on the stakeholders for this information. These persona archetypes would help to guide us throughout the process.
No presence of online consultation service
Not warm or friendly
Articles driving the website
No clarity on how to undertake therapy
Backend not updated
Use of clinical terminology
Transcripts of the conversations held between the therapist and the user/subject provided to us revealed that users are in desperate need to vent out. They are quite vulnerable and need major handholding. Subjects also don’t like to hold back their emotions and prefer to vent out as per their need. I learnt that many of them tend to back out from the session just before it is about to commence.
MEETING THE THERAPISTS
It was important for me to understand the process of therapy and the intricacies involved. I noticed that there’s no real difference between the core methodologies of real and online therapy.
Following was the high level understanding of the consultation process.
1.Health Analysis: An assessment is done to understand the subject's current emotional & mental health concerns.
2.Matching the therapist: A therapist is paired with the subject to suit their needs and requirements.
3.Open: Here, the purpose is to understand everything about the subject, listen to their problems and stories and understand the underlying belief or situation which is causing the problem.
4.Overcome: In this part, the therapist attacks on the underlying problem and tries to restructure the thought patterns from negative to positive, basically reframe them to a more rational level.
5.Achieve: This is final part of therapy which includes specific goal settings and achieving them.
6.Maintain: There is another step which comes at the post therapy level. This involves maintaining the improvement which the subject has achieved and ensuring that the subject does not go back to same old thinking or behavioural habits.
Throughout the three phases of Open, Overcome and Achieve, various sessions (number of sessions is dependent on the severity of the client’s condition) are held. The sessions usually consist of conversations with the therapists as well as tasks that are given to the subject to be completed before the commencement of the next session.
It was also clarified by the therapist that 80% of it is the subject’s willingness to overcome the issues, while the therapist's effective contribution to the improvement is only 20%.
Hence, it’s important for the subjects to have: Willingness, Motivation, Commitment, Faith
WHAT ELSE IS OUT THERE?
I studied a couple of existing online counselling apps and websites to understand the competitor landscape and the current market approach towards people with mental health issues. This also gave me an insight on how we could position ourselves differently. I looked at 3 major competitors.
Meditation app for daily tasks.
Based on self improvement
Unique & friendly User Interface
One way learning
No actual therapist involved
No real time consultation
No mention of the process or path to improvement
Targets youngsters for tackling daily problems
Good process description
Simple to use User Interface
Bot used for consultation
No actual therapist involved
Meant for temporary relief
Limited to Indian audience
“50% users drop off after the third session as they don’t seem to get any clarity on the process and progress of their therapy. They don’t get a sense of the road map of their improvement process, unlike conventional medication. Hence, the low retention rate.“
Epsyclinic is already a trusted brand.
Backed by experts
Believes in mental health education
PROCESS & DESIGN
Process and expectation roadmap is very therapist dependant. Therapists who are able to do this well are able to retain clients for longer time.
98% of the engagement happens outside of the website in an unorganised manner
Privacy is a concern
Non-judgemental expert advice
Emotional connection is the key
Venting out does 40% of the work
30% need extreme hand holding
Relatable stories of others
Stigma attached to mental health
Consultation journey is not captured at one place.
Different modes of communication are used by therapists.
The process of therapy is not clear.
The progress is not clear to the user.
Face to face therapy is costly
Better trust and credibility is required
50% drop out after the 3rd session
75% of the sessions are taken via Text chat and 20% via audio
70% drop out before initiating a session
98% mobile traffic
7% go above 15 sessions
Key insights helped me in designating persona types. I used personas constantly throughout the project to guide design decisions, priorities, and create empathy amongst the client and my team. My persona hypothesis consisted of two different archetypes which I used to facilitate discussions about our users needs, desires and varying contexts of use. Through careful analysis of our research, I identified sufficient behavioural variables to segment our user audience. These variables could be categorised into activities such as the intensity of the mental health issue, new or returning user. I discussed the personas with our client to develop a clear picture of who the design of the app would target in the current phase.
MAPPING THE JOURNEY
Once I was done defining the personas, I used journey mapping to visualise and communicate the users end‐to‐end experience across various touch‐points with the current process of Epsyclinic therapy. This allowed me to represent user pain‐points and see where I needed to focus our attention. Mapping out the users emotions was key to setting client expectations about the aspirational emotional state we were aiming to design for.
Our client, Epsyclinic, has a problem with an extremely low (0.1%) conversion rate for a first time user, coupled with a big drop-off (50%) beyond the 3rd session due to poor standards of the consultation process, lack of credibility and personalised experience in the current model of Epsyclinic therapy.
Our idea to address this problem is to provide a mobile app experience to users to help them complete all
the prescribed therapy sessions by improving the way the process and progress roadmap is communicated, by mending the broken consultation process and consolidating it into a customised platform and by providing assistance to the user at every step through highly professional therapists on board.
The main groups of people who will benefit from our solution are people going through mental health issues.
PRIMARY BUSINESS GOAL
The primary business goal our solution addresses is to get the users to undertake all the prescribed sessions for improvement of their mental health and to establish IWILL as the pioneer in the online counselling experience.
PRIMARY USER GOAL SUPPORTED
The primary user goal our solution supports is improving the mental health of the clients.
MINIMUM VIABLE PRODUCT
By defining the exact problem I was able to identify the essentials that would help users to complete their therapy more efficiently. The user journey helped me breakdown the tasks that are taken up by the user before, during and after the therapy. This gave me a way to visualise what existing tasks would be useful, which one needed supporting, what opportunities were available to innovate and also what could be discarded from the existing model of therapy. This helped shape our user stories as well as minimum viable product offerings as seen below.
Real time consultation
View payment plans
Diagnose the issue
View the proposed journey
Clarity on the therapy proces
View progress post sessions
Maintain a Thought diary
Summary of the session
Self-assessment post a session
View, own & edit own profile
View therapist profile
Text therapist in between sessions
Refer and earn
Know about IWill
24/7 availability of therapists
Won't allow to choose your own therapist
SETTING THE DESIGN DIRECTION
I started with defining a basic structure (Design Concept) for the key flow of the app - which gave our stakeholder an insight in to how the elements would be positioned in the app pages as the user proceeds along with the layout of the app,. These were in the form of sketches. The purpose of this was to provide a visual understanding of the pages early in the project before the creative phase would start and to ensure content and functionality are positioned correctly based on user needs.
I presented two concepts for the key flow:
First concept was based on how a psychology session would take place in the real world, hence focus was on the conversational aspect of counselling. I desired to design the app like a chat-bot except the experience would be fulfilled not by a bot but an actual therapist. All the tasks, reminders, suggested content etc, would appear in the form of chat between the therapist and the user. Journey and progress would be shown separately on swiping right in a fluid manner.
Second concept revolved more around the prescribed tasks to be performed on a daily basis by the user. This app design would comprise essentially of 3 tabs-JOURNEY, TASKS/FEED and CHAT. Default view of the first time user would be his/her journey, but for the returning user the default view would be tasks/feed.
The client liked the fluidity and the conversational aspect of the first concept. They told us that the tasks involved within the therapy were going to be customised according to the client’s needs and stories. They would not be related to any activity within the app, hence having a separate section for it won’t help. I thus decided to keep the app’s dashboard divided into two sections-The journey - which would not only inform the user about their progress, but tell them about the session details as well; The feed-which would enable session conversations between the therapist and the user and have reminders and tasks included in it.
Once I had this skeleton approved from the stakeholder’s end, I took up the individual user stories to structure the content and build the USER FLOW of the app.
FRAMEWORK AND PROTOTYPING
Once I was sure of the architecture of the content, Jatin then started creating detailed wireframes for each of the user stories using sketch. We used marvel app for quick prototyping which helped in creating transparency in our design process. Our what you see is what you get approach strengthened our relationship with our stakeholders and allowed us to gain feedback and approval from both our stakeholders and development partner early on. Prototype link :
I defined tasks, establish objectives for our current users of Epsyclinic to help evaluate the app. I did a quick prototype using Invison and conducted the Usability Testing with 5 participants. I gave the users a scenario and asked them to complete the task of booking a session and using the chat. The tests revealed the following results:
The process of therapy were unclear to the users.
Online consultation could be a little complex to understand, hence the users also pointed out the need of having a FAQ button.
Users expressed the need of easily finding old conversations between them and the therapist.
Our second round of testing revealed the need of reminding the users to finish tasks given to them by therapists during a session.
UI DESIGN CONCEPT
As the wireframes got approved, I started working on the UI concepts using Sketch. It was clear that I was looking to design the app along the lines of a chat-based experience that would feel personal, comforting yet reliable. Almost like a friend you could vouch for when in trouble.I was looking to humanise IWILL rather than making it seem like a daunting counselling app. A lot of focus during this phase was also given to the way progress of the user along the course of the journey would be depicted because constant gratification is an important aspect of therapy. Our stakeholders were sure of keeping the visual for depicting progress very relatable and having a human touch. The colours had to match the new identity, while the layout had to look modern and clean. Since people usually are unaware of how online counselling works, it was important that we didn’t miss out on any detail. We shared a couple of UI concepts with the stakeholders before churning out all the screens. A final nod was given to the concept of a boat moving forward which would depict progress and improvement.
DEVELOPMENT WITH ZEPLIN
The final screens were delivered sprint by sprint to the development team using Zeplin which aided us in building a style sheet, maintaining a repository of all the screens and marking comments on any changes made. Zeplin also helped me in guiding the designs to the developers by giving the exact details of all the UI elements that were used.
Over 30,000 downloads
The IWILL app has received both positive and negative feedback since our version 2.0 update. Users have responded well to the app's features and the simplistic design. Unfortunately, negative feedback largely relates to the cost of therapists and users not being able to vent out to the therapist as and when they like — issues subject to ongoing improvements.
"A revolutionary, thought out and carefully designed App which will cater to large number of people."
"Wonderful app scientifically designed for Indian audience.
Nice assessment and content."
"This app is really a leap in how we accessed and thought about mental health. I have loved every feature of it! Especially the content in the app! "