UI/UX Design
Project Overview
For my thesis and graduation project from my Bachelor's program at Minerva Art Academy, I began a research project investigating the effectiveness of mindfulness apps. Through my work I examined the thoughts of mental health professionals on these apps, and began building one of my own that addressed some of the concerns mental health professionals had regarding the use of an app to practice mindfulness.
Mobile technology offers us seemingly endless possibilities, for connecting with people around the world, managing our daily activities, and tracking our habits, however, it can become overwhelming when these possibilities turn into a slew of notifications begging for our attention.  For those feeling stressed out and seeking to be more mindful in their daily life, there’s a variety of mindfulness apps aimed at teaching us how to relax, but, are these truly effective in redefining the context in which we interact with our devices, or do they simply add more tasks to our digital to do list?
Wanderings app mockups

‍Mindfulness experts have been skeptical of mindfulness apps, claiming that while the techniques might be effective in the moment, these apps also send out daily reminders, encourage you to maintain a streak, compare stats with friends, and eventually, pay for a subscription. Ellen Jansen, a psychology professor at Radboud University specialized in mindfulness claims these techniques used to boost user engagement can encourage obsessive behavior in the user that is counter-productive to the exercises, saying:

“These apps sometimes stimulate this tendency by giving fanatical people the possibility to keep track of their mindfulness minutes. In this way, the app becomes a game and a stress factor” (Jansen, 2018).
UI/UX Design
Bachelor's graduation project
Supervisors: Marianne van Voorn & Frederiek Bennema
September 2018 -- present
Breath focus tutorial illustrations

The illustrations I created for the breath focus tutorial portion of the experience.

I came across the research of Dr. Herbert Benson, the founder of the Benson-Henry Institute for Mind Body Medicine where he leads scientific research on mindfulness practices, and helps bring mindfulness exercises into mainstream medicine.  In his book The Relaxation Revolution, Benson explains the results of his scientific studies on the medical effects of mindfulness practices. “Those practicing mind body techniques tend to experience lower blood pressure, calmer brain activity, healthful emissions of nitric oxide in the body’s cells, and other physical and emotional benefits” (Benson, 2011).  To create this mental state, patients are guided through the following process:

  1. Sitting quietly in a comfortable place
  2. A breathing exercise to relax
  3. “visualizing yourself in a scene in which you are relaxed, happy, and free of whatever is plaguing you” (Benson, 2011)
Landscape illustrations

The different landscapes I illustrated for within the app

Given the approachability and scientific support behind Benson’s processes, I used this as a basic process with which I could design my own app around.  I created an app that guides users through an audiovisual relaxation experience, and proposed to introduce different visual elements into the experience each time the app is used, in order to keep the experience interesting with day to day use and hopefully eliminate the need to send push notifications to keep the user interested in completing the exercises.  I choose a pastel color palette, with primarily blues and greens for the interface.

After wireframing, I built a prototype of the app using Phonegap, and tested it with a small user group. The app prototype and accompanying research were presented at Minerva Art Academy's annual graduation exhibition.

Wanderings wireframeUser testing screenshot

Test participants were recorded with a camera on a tripod while the screen of the device was recorded simultaneously. By placing the footage side by side, I was able to observe users' reactions to the content in the app and discern parts of the user experience that were unclear.

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