What is affecting my mood? There are a wide variety of factors that affect our mood, they can be psychological, environmental, or biological. Trying to understand which factors are affecting us most can be confusing and overwhelming.
People who seek professional treatment often find it difficult to communicate effectively with health providers about the complex factors affecting their mood. Mental and physical health are connected, though they are often treated separately. How can we help patients tell a better story?
By broadly tracking aspects of mood, lifestyle, and health habits, Moodscape visualizes the data so users can gain insight into the wide variety of factors that can affect their mood. The desired outcomes are to empower people to see patterns in their behavior, improve self-awareness, and have better communication with medical and mental health care professionals.
Since I’m not exactly in the target audience for a tool like this, I relied heavily on surveys, interviews, and competitive analysis to understand my users.
felt they were in an unhealthy or negative emotional state frequently or sometimes.
were working with a therapist or MD for mood-related issues
Some of the main barriers to journaling were:
Most people have a low level of self-awareness of what is going on with them psychologically.
Real change happens very slowly over time.
Working with a psychologist and psychiatrist is the most successful combination for recovery.
Health professionals often have poor communication with each other.
From conversations with potential users, I learned:
Sorting through the crowded app space of mood trackers, I made a visual landscape of the competition showing their focus and positioning in relation to each other. I did an in-depth analysis of some of the better apps by compiling user flows, data visualizations, SWOT analysis, and comments from app reviews.
Since these apps need to be used over a period of time, I tried out three of them for about two weeks to see how they felt. I wanted to watch other people using the apps, so I ran sessions with where I asked testers to interact with the apps and share their reactions.
Comparing user flows
Approach to charts, graphics, and anlalytics
Comments from app reviews
Personally used the apps for three weeks
In-person interaction sessions with a potential user.
Up to this point, the focus of the project was still ambiguous, so I stopped to answer some basic questions:
Who is the audience?
What do they need?
What is the strategy for making that happen?
Multiple health issues, now menopausal, working with an MD
Prepare for doctor appointments with organized thoughts and data.
Understand her changing mental and physical health symptoms.
Difficult to communicate with doctors. Afraid they won’t believe her.
Coping with long-term problems has skewed her view of what is healthy.
Early 20s, learning to manage depression, working with a therapist.
Learn about non-pharmacological ways of managing mood.
See long-term progress
Wants to avoid acknowledging negative feelings
Starting a new medication can be scary, takes time to adjust.
The approaches to mood tracking and mental health apps were meditation, Cognitive Behavior Therapy, coping strategies, creative writing, social/community engagement, etc.
What approach was I going to use? I wanted to build a tool for communicating, organizing, and reflecting on the factors that influence our moods. I chose to build a data-centered approach to health management.
Tracking data helps us learn something we can’t understand intuitively by organizing the information and giving it perspective.
The act of self-reporting a piece of information helps us to become more aware of it and reflect on it.
The ability to compare multiple factors helps us assess their relationship to each other.
Tracking our metrics on a goal that takes time to see change or results can help us feel more engaged/motivated.
In developing this strategy, I used my design journal practice to think through the research. Read more about the questions I asked to define the problem and focus on a strategy:
What are some of the risks of this approach?
What are some other ways I could approach this task?
What personal bias am I bringing to the project?
User stories were based on my personas and I used my strategy to prioritize which stories would be included in the MVP.
The name Moodscape mirrored the intention of the app--to help users see a wide perspective of themselves.
I chose a soft friendly triangle to hold it and a round typeface, Quicksand, that felt accepting and approachable.
The style guide included typography, color pallete, iconography, patterns, and nested components.
Below you can follow the steps I took to build one feature of the app:
- Mood selector is basic (limited options to pick from)
- Flexible level of engagement. An entry can be as simple or detailed as the user needs.
- Gathering data: I needed to collect both standardized data that can be used for analytics and also unique data such as thoughts or free writing.
The user flows and sketches were the real work-horse of this process where I made the most changes. Whenever possible, I like to start out working in analog because it feels less precious and I'm more likely to explore a lot of ideas.
Here I translated user flows and sketches into wireframes and tested
For recording a mood, most people prefered the spectrum wheel, but about half said they would like to have more than 5 mood options. Some weren’t sure which side was happy or sad since they lacked labels.
Here, I added 7 Moods, a neutral unselected state, and +/- labeling
Using Maze and in-person sessions, I gave my testers a hypothetical scenario to see how they recorded the information:
The feedback helped me clairify the "milestones" feature for recording major life events and refine the preview feature for creating a custom health factor.
Want to dig deeper? You can explore the documentation from various stages of this project and see where the sausage gets made.
This project walks the line between the very human side of mental health and the very computer side of data collection. On one side, I learned how difficult it can be to get a perspective on your own mental state and that the barriers are mostly our own. On the other hand, I learned how to ask for data in a way that makes it useful in a visualization.
Because of the limited time-frame and a team of one, I didn't get to work on everything I wanted to do. I've been considering which features I would work on next to make a better experience:
An easy to read layout or even an interactive interface for the person who is receiving the exported data. Allowing the user to filter which types of data they want to export or to set some as private would help them feel more in control of sharing personal information.
Working out the language for notification messages and goal tracking is essential for recognizing the humanity of my users. Guilt was a major barrier to self-care that came up repeatedly in my interviews. The language should feel non-judgmental and encouraging without feeling overly enthusiastic or insincere. If there is one thing I wish I had focused on more closely, it was this.
Medications are a type of hybrid data that deserve a slightly more nuanced tracking feature. They are both a yes/no data point and a ranged data point.
My users wanted to be able to set and track goals or target ranges for behaviors. More nuanced goal tracking would go hand in hand with the tone of voice and also make the data visualizations more complex.