Curbing Chronic Illness with Small Habits

Project Overview

The client and brief
Vita are a fictional not-for-profit organisation on a mission to build better lives; using behavioural science to change people's habits, improve their health and reduce the risk of chronic disease. With the eventual goal of converting everyone to a plant-based diet, we were tasked with helping Vita scale their program, which is currently only available in person, by determining who to target first with a web or native app. Vita's values are:

The project context
Project provided by General Assembly Melbourne and completed with a team of 3 awesome colleagues (May Leong and Poppie Tran).

My role
Project Management. We each had involvement in all parts of the UX process.

The timeline and process
2 week sprint using lean and agile methodologies.

Tools used

Project Start Up

Together we discussed the brief and developed the following:

Digesting the brief and preparing for discovery research
We started by informally immersing in any potentially related research and intimately understanding the brief. Key insights here were:

Jumping Into Our Discovery Research

Starting out curious and eliminating our bias
With such a broad topic, we wanted to first find out:

Here, we sat down at a Miro board and started writing some of our assumptions out to make note of any bias and then sorted these assumptions out into related areas. This was to inform our topic map and user interview questions; to either be approved or disproved by users.

Topic map

We wanted to make sure we focused on general habits rather than just eating habits because Vita's goal is to change habits, and their program currently focuses on this. If we understand habits generally, we'll be in a better position to influence users.

Where to from here?
... we surveyed people
With a topic so broad, we decided we would send out a survey to start narrowing down our focus. The goal of our survey was to understand:

Before sending out our survey we made sure to run it past other people to ensure we were asking questions in a non-leading or bias-infused way; we wanted to make sure we got meaningful data in return. We sent the survey to our networks on LinkedIn, Instagram, Facebook and Slack.

... and then spoke to them!
We started conducting our user interviews separately whilst still receiving survey responses. Our target audience for interviews was people who stated that they were happy to be followed up from our surveys, rather than targeting a particular demographic. We didn't see there being any benefit in restricting our target audience.

What worked really well for us here was our communication. We debriefed after almost every interview to ensure we were consistently digging deep enough in our interviews, and flagging anything unexpected we encountered. This was to ensure our data was of a high quality, preventing us having to go back and "fill in the gaps" with our short timeframe.

... and here's where we landed

Market research; with a sound understanding of what we're looking for
We conducted this later in our discovery phase because we wanted our users to help us define who we're looking for.
Our user research revealed some direct competitors, and also some indirect competitors (with a competitor being defined as someone taking the attention away from Vita's goal).

For example, Omada is an example of a direct competitor working in the health space preventing chronic illness, whereas something such as fast food advertising is an example of an indirect competitor, where the attention is directed away from users achieving Vita's goal.

Other than just obtaining a general awareness of our competitors, we did not prioritise this part of our research. We know that Vita have a program that works, so we do not need to closely examine our competitors for opportunities. We chose to dedicate more time towards our user research.

Competitive research summarised into competitor focus areas

Defining the Problem to Solve

What we did to make sense of our data
We synthesised two survey question responses that we thought would add valuable insight to our research.

Healthy eating means, to most: a balanced diet. Additionally, some people use products or apps such as Fitbit, Google Fit, MyFitnessPal, Ring Fit and Apple and Samsung smart watches to track their health.

The quantitative responses from our survey were also valuable, such as the below; which helped direct our user interview questions.

Survey findings

We added each interview insight (as well as some additional comments provided in our surveys) around our Miro board for synthesis.

The extended research and synthesis time did work in our favour, because it meant we were able to fully digest the information and be across everything we'd found. This made me a lot more confident when determining who our personas were.

Only 11 user interviews? Shouldn't we aim for more?
Yes. Usually. We had a few interviewees pull out at the last minute.

However, we all agreed that we did have a lot of good information already and had some pretty clear insights from our 11 user interviews. Considering this, in combination with project time restraints; we decided to progress with defining our personas and only come back to interview further if we identified gaps 🚩.

What we found

Affinity map of our grouped findings, which are synthesised and summarised below

In summary:

What helped me here was to write summaries next to each topic. This saves having to re-read each insight and draw new and potentially inconsistent conclusions.

Who could we design for?
We noticed two obvious but vastly different mindsets to begin with. Both were content with their health to their own standards, however one was more open-minded to change whereas the other was not. We created an empathy map within a Venn diagram to help us understand these mindsets, noting a few similarities between the two.

Illustrating the two differing mindsets of Charlie and Jo

Empathy map within a Venn diagram, showing the similarities between the two personas. These are all related to time and effort

We then "filled in the gaps" using our remaining research and ended up with four personas. We focused on Charlie and Joe, as the others fell somewhere between these two.

When building our personas from our mindsets, we made sure to only include details that had direct meaning. In this instance, we decided general demographics such as age, gender, occupation and location would not be relevant; rather the defining part of these personas would be their motivations and mindsets.

But who will we design for?
At this point, we recommend designing a MVP for Charlie. Because:

Back to some more secondary research
We went back to do some more secondary research to help put into perspective what we'd discovered so far focusing particularly on habits because:

We referenced researchers who study behavioural psychology. Here's what we found:

How will we decide what Charlie needs?
We decided that a journey map would be the most appropriate depiction of Charlie's healthy eating journey.

We spent more time than planned for here trying to figure out which barrier would be best to map in a journey. We realised it would have been great to understand the direct impact caused by not eating healthy for each different scenario to show this in multiple journey maps, however we didn't have this data, and time was not on our side allowing us to go back and explore.

Instead, we stuck with one scenario that communicated Charlie's journey accurately.

Charlie's journey map

As our whole goal here is to prevent chronic illness before it occurs, being proactive, we want to eliminate the lowest point in emotion, or the point that causes that lowest point, to enable proactivity.

What is our problem?
Now that we have a clear understanding of what our problem actually is:

Getting Creative

Shifting our problem to a solution
So, how might we help Charlie build better eating habits to sustain a healthier lifestyle?

Timer set for 8 minutes, target of minimum 8 ideas, discuss and combine viable ideas.

Repeated ideas included:

In mashing these ideas, we kept in mind Vita's long-term goal of wanting to target everyone. We wanted to make sure we weren't restricting this goal with our solution.

Keeping Charlie at the centre of our design:

How does Vita's business model impact our design
As a not-for-profit, all money earned will go back into the business and presumably into building out their program to eventually encapsulate all users to become plant-based.

Therefore, we considered:

Flow of our concept

User flow for user completing today's challenges

What are these challenges?
We want to eliminate the potential for any shortfalls in healthy eating choices, and we will do this by helping Charlie become more proactive and remove the thought required. We are motivating Charlie to be better, and make small changes towards ultimately becoming plant-based. We decided the following were productive tasks:

We will need to validate these with Vita's program, and work in unison to develop more.

Strategising our content
We developed a content strategy to inform our future design and keep it consistent. This is tailored to Charlie.

Our tone of voice is:

We want Charlie to use the app consistently, and feel encouraged when doing so; which is why we have chosen the tone of voice characteristics.

Low fidelity wireframes
Digitally sketched wireframes and imported them to Figma for testing.

Low fidelity wireframes in Figma

Testing our initial concept

Comments from testing on the individual screens, and summarised on the right in Figma

We tested our prototype on 5 users remotely. Due to time constraints, we could not test on all 5 of our primary persona, however we did get some good feedback based on structure, flow and wording, but understand this is a flaw in our testing.

We discussed all feedback received and added them as comments on our Figma board for reference when designing mid fidelity wireframes. We found that a lot of feedback received was not relevant (our decisions were backed by research based on our primary persona). We made sure to consistently refer back to our research and discuss: "would incorporating this feedback facilitate or hinder Charlie from fulfilling her goals?".


Presentation of mid fidelity screens

Presentation of one variation of challenges completed screen

Vita click through of user flow (completing today's challenges)

Wrap Up

Next steps

Personal learnings