Emme —

Product Strategy & Design.

Year over year, more teenagers and young adults die from suicide than from cancer, heart disease, AIDS, birth defects, strokes, pneumonia, influenza, and chronic lung disease, combined.

Together with the Emme team, we set out to build a product that would improve the lives of millions of people across the United States, and begin to fight together to tame the effects of adolescent mental illness.

As the lead designer I was responsible for the product strategy, planning, and implementation of our solution. I worked closely with our development team, copy writer, and illustrator to ensure a strong end result.

The core engagement loop of the product relies on daily check-ins from the user, allowing the therapist to build a clear and robust image of their mental health. In order to acheive this, we focussed on three key criteria: making it easy, and giving them a reason to come back every day, and making it enjoyable to use.

Our "check-ins" comprise of five questions that allow us to build a clear picture of the situation the user is in at the time. These questions focus on key areas that address their current emotions, what’s on their mind, where they are in time, their recent activities, and if they’ve taken any prescribed medication. We established the foundations for these questions while conducting interviews with practicing mental health professionals.

In order to make the process engaging, each question has a slightly different method of answering (either via a slider, selection box, or text field), This format was repeatedly run through guerilla testing with a group of our target demographic, and was chosen for it’s engaging nature, as well as the speed at which the users can navigate and answer.

In order to encourage and maintain user engagement, we’ve included the "abacus streak" concept. The abacus streak builds day by day, adding a "bead" to your abacus on each day of completion, that then resets when you miss a day. With this comes a lot of consideration however - we’re not intending to build the addictive 300 day long streaks such as Snapchat, as this could be potentially harmful should they break them. Instead, we’ve opted for an abacus streak that resets (with congratulations) on a weekly basis. Lowering pressure, while still maintaining the incentive.

Mindfulness has exploded in popularity recently (and for good reason) with apps such as Headspace and Calm. While they’re great at what they do, we wanted to implement a feature that helped calm the mind, but didn’t require the need to put in headphones.

Our solution was a feature called "Deep breath" - acessible via the home screen, or at the end of each check-in, the user can select a pre-defined amount of time (from 30 seconds up) in order to follow the deep breathing on the animation, and clear their minds.

A minimum of 30 seconds was established after researching the minimum number of deep breaths required in order initiate a calming state (3), along with the time to take a deep breath (roughly 7 seconds).

This is a total of 21 seconds, which was increased to 30 seconds after user testing. We found that most users that selected the shortest option would end the session before the time completed - ending it at roughly two thirds completion. In order to combat this, we increased the minimum to 30 seconds - again, we saw people dropping off at around two thirds, but this time acheiving the minimum.

I believe the reason we saw the largest drop-off during the 30 second sessions is due to the nature of selecting the shortest option - it shows reluctance in the user, which is demonstrated in them stopping before completion. Interestingly in our 45, 60, and 90 second users we saw a much higher completion rate. This is something we will continue to monitor closely during our initial release.

During our user research, we uncovered that even a brief mention of intrusive thoughts could trigger the rumination process. While not true for all patients, I wanted to be very cognicent of this and avoid accidentally inducing any negative thoughts.

However, we had to balance this closely with needing to collect the information of when someone is considering self harm, restrictive eating, or other maladaptive behaviours. In order to address this, our “Intrusive thoughts” options are hidden (with only the title visible) so they’re accessible to the users when they need to select them, but not visible at times when they may cause more harm than good.

Emme was a labour of love for me - supporting a cause that’s close to my heart, and establishing a way to help people recover from mental health issues, I wanted to go above and beyond. Due to the complexity of the project (and the necessity to ensure it’s completion to the fullest) many nights and weekends of pro bono work went into ensuring it’s completion to a high calibre. Emme is now moving into development, with an expected release and rollout in 2018 in the Minneapolis area.

As the lead designer on this project, I was responsible for ensuring a strong final result. Assuming sole ownership of the UX and product strategy, while collaborating closely with visual designers and illustrators to produce the prototype, we produced a fantastic final result. I’m excited to see Emme go into production, and nurture it through future iterations.

Just getting things ready for you.