Mind Matter

Web browser low-fidelity mockup for an online freelancer marketplace

Overview

Problem

Young adults living with developmental disabilities experience a disproportionate level of anxiety, depression, and isolation, while often lacking the ability to express these experiences to healthcare providers. Care-providers are unable to devote sufficient time to diagnose these experiences. As a result, care-providers may treat symptoms rather than root causes, resulting in increased healthcare usage of emergency/crisis services.

Solution

A daily app for young adults aged 16-25 with Down syndrome empowering users to connect with each other and build mental health practices, while sharing simple mood data with selected healthcare providers to improve diagnosis and support.

My Contribution

As the lead UX designer I facilitated the initial group brainstorming session before defining our problem and solution. I encouraged the team to use their healthcare experience to generate multiple ideas. I led the research and design activities, including wireframes, high-fidelity designs, and interactive prototype


My Role
UX Designer

Tools
Sketch, Figma, Invision


Timeline
24-Hour Hackathon

Team Members

Caitlin Sowers,
Ryan Wong, Michele Sealey,
Mitchell Read, Barbara Clouston

iPhone screens show app components including daily mood check-ins, crisis line number, and community events

Background

This project was a result of Code Hack 2020 facilitated by the Vancouver Island Health Authority. Code Hack 2020 brought together patients, staff, physician partners, industry experts, coders, builders, designers who pitched solutions to health care challenges and solved them in just 24 hours.

Ryan, a PhD candidate in clinical psychology pitched the below concept:

A screenshot of a healthcare question asking "how might we provide better services to individuals with developmental disabilities?

Discovery

Brainstorming

I facilitated a brainstorming session within our group answering the “how might we” question Ryan posed, grouping similar ideas within an affinity map.  I advocated that the group not attach to any one idea yet, but to explore all possible options before debating pros/cons.

Our group's diverse experience and expertise informed a variety of potential solutions including budgeting, finances, and job training.

A cluster of post-it notes with ideas listed

We decided as a group to focus on one aspect our solutions had in common: improving mental health, as it is the pre-cursor to many other health outcomes and general quality of life.

Problem

Young adults living with developmental disabilities experience a disproportionate level of anxiety, depression, and isolation, while often lacking the ability to express these experiences to healthcare providers. Care-providers are unable to devote sufficient time to diagnose these experiences and facilitate treatment. As a result, care-providers may treat symptoms rather than root causes, resulting in increased healthcare usage of emergency/crisis services.

Goal

Design a solution that empowers young adults with developmental disabilities to improve their mental health, improving their quality of life, and gather data care providers can easily access to facilitate improved mental health treatment and diagnosis of patients with developmental disabilities.

Competitor Research

We did not find any existing competitors offering mental health support to young adults living with developmental disabilities. I instead looked to indirect competitors to uncover features designed to facilitate connection within a community while supporting mental health check-ins.

Key Takeaways:

  • BoosterBuddy, a mental health support app for children developed by the Vancouver Island Health Authority validated stakeholder buy-in. However, the check-in questions were too complex and general app features were too childlike for our purposes.
  • Sobergrid, a mental heal support app for those recovering from addiction. The "Daily Quests" feature was an exciting incentive to check-in with the app, and the facilitation of community amongst users was a standout feature.
Screenshot of three app pages highlighting pros and cons

Secondary Research

To validate our problem we explored the cost to families and healthcare systems for those with developmental disabilities as it was easily quantifiable. However, the true impact lies in the lessened quality of life of the individual suffering from anxiety, depression, and isolation, which is very important to note and more difficult to quantify.

  • For each child with a developmental disability in Canada, a total yearly cost of $72,000 is incurred; of which, 63% is the responsibility of the family, and 37% is paid by the Government of Canada. This results in an overall cost of $22.5B yearly in Canada.

Define

With the help of mentors distributed throughout the Code Hack we narrowed our demographic to young adults aged 16-25 with Down syndrome, the most prevalent developmental disability. We chose an app based solution on personal experience of smart phone usage within this demographic.

Solution

A daily app for young adults aged 16-25 with Down syndrome empowering users to connect with each other and build mental health practices, while sharing simple mood data with selected healthcare providers to improve diagnosis and support.

Design Considerations

Before moving onto design I suggested we define user characteristics, which would inform design considerations for a basic prototype. With time short, we were unable to fully explore user journeys and personas which would have been very informative.

An idea map of design considerations and Down syndrome characteristics

Key Features

Lack of time also prevented an in-depth information architecture of our design concept. We decided to focus on the core features we thought were most important and would best communicate our concept to the judges, which included:

  • Daily check-ins and mood tracking.
  • Emergency contact to Vancouver Crisis Line.
  • Peer to peer chat with a focus to meet in-person for local events.

Develop

Lo-Fidelity Wireframes

The initial concept brainstormed by the group included the core features we established, yet I had the overwhelming feeling we were missing the "wow" factor. I encouraged our group to keep brainstorming to solve this.

A hand drawn initial concept that includes four key features: events, chat, check-in, and hotline

With the help of the group I developed the second concept using a space theme. This concept included our core features but with a theme we could tell a story around.

With my concept I imagined a deep blue colour scheme with punchy purples and oranges to create a gamification feel to the app. The font face was chosen to be approachable and friendly, with special consideration to avoid a childish UI. Similarly, I illustrated the lead astronaut to reflect the age of our demographic.

A second hand drawn concept, more elaborate than the first, with space themed wireframes with the same key concepts

User Flow

When developing the user flows I moved rapidly into prototyping due to our limited timeframe. The three user flows demonstrate the basic functionality of our three app components.

User Flow #1 - Daily Check In

App user flow for daily check in

User Flow #2 - Crisis Line

App user flow for crisis help line

User Flow #2 - Local Events

App userflow for local events

Figma Mobile Prototype

Lessons Learned

I was blown away by the level of enthusiasm and expertise all 100 participants, volunteers, and event organizers had. You really could feel the optimism, innovation, and encouragement in the room.

In hindsight, I would have advocated for arriving at an initial solution sooner to leave more time for user research, user journeys, and information architecture. The value in speaking directly to your users and user research was made clear to me. I felt hesitant at each stage we moved forward with decisions knowing that we were not able to do so, but we operated the best we could on our experience to inform our final product.

After the Code Hack I became particularly interested in improving my accessibility and universal design practices. Microsoft's Inclusive Design Toolkit has been a great resource. Following the toolkit, I am particularly interested in observing the strengths of young adult with Down Syndrome and brainstorming how we could further integrate these strengths into our app.

Group photo of five team members

Next Steps

As finalists of the Code Hack competition (yay!), we receive ongoing mentorship and funding from the Innovation Lab, however that has been put on hold due to COVID-19.

Our initial solution was ambitious and involved many components that we did not have time to fully develop before pitching. Rather than testing our current prototype, I would love to revisit our initial goal and speak directly to young adults with Down Syndrome, primary care givers, and healthcare professionals to understand their needs more deeply.

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