Connect to free your mind and let the world Bloom!
Saku is a wellbeing app that connects users to nature via the 5 ways to wellbeing:
Be Active - You can book outdoor gym classes, PT sessions, and activities in nature.
Connect - Connect with new and existing friends both on and offline.
Give - Volunteer with charities and give back to your friends, family and community.
Keep Learning - Stay on track with work and personal goals and stay inspired.
Take Notice - Helping you create self awareness, built in journals and questions to help you reflet.
As well as tracking your wellbeing. Saku includes gamification to stand out in a crowded market and it helps to keep users engaged.
Saku needed a product to be built and designed from scratch. I worked on the initial idea, and conducted the UX and UI design for the prototype, MVP and Phase one of the product.
Below is my UX journey for creating the MVP.
ROLES AND RESPONSIBILITIES
Role - UX|UI Designer
Objective - Create an MVP for Saku Mind
Platform - IOS / Android (Built with flutter by our dev)
Tools - Adobe XD / Zoom / UX Tweak / Adobe prototype / Jira / Trello
Deliverables - Innovation / Management / UX / UI / Information Architecture / Brand Strategy / Copywriting / Prototyping
HOW IT BEGAN...
When the first lockdown started I decided to take part in the Common VC, Covid 19 Hackathon. Working in our international team I took on the role as the Team Leader and Lead Product Designer, working with the team to create a company in the health and wellness sector. It was my first hackathon, a fast paced environment, full of innovation, ideation and collaboration. The Hackaton lasted 2 month and a few sleepless nights later, some hard graft, pitching to the UN, UK Gov, investors and CEO’s from around the world we won 1st prize and started Saku. Here are the highlights of our UX/UI journey.
WHAT'S THE PROBLEM?
Modern life is tough on mental wellbeing, with both personal, financial and environmental costs. This has been highlighted by Covid 19.
- 1 in 4 people suffer with ill mental health.
- The UK population spends 90% of their time indoors.
- Covid 19 has shown us how vital it is to be interactive with both nature and others.
- 20% of the population want to do more to help the environment but do not know how.
- Can we create a product that includes both human and planet wellbeing?
Health is our most important asset, and creating a product in the Primordial space would benefit users' long term mental health and hopefully have a knock-on positive effect in all areas of their lives. Knowing the growing popularity of wellbeing apps, but not being able to find one that covered the problems we wanted to solve, we decided to create our own app, on both IOS and Android to try to combat the problems above.
We knew that we would have to validate our users’ needs by conducting research. But based on our own experiences, we suspected a few features would be appreciated.
- Getting users outside, engaging with nature and the environment.
- Creating a balanced lifestyle.
- Variety without being over or underwhelmed, something we felt was missing from other apps.
- Community and social aspects that aren't only online.
- Something fun, uplifted and interactive.
DISCOVERY AND RESEARCH
Another team member and I conducted a survey to find out about people’s current wellbeing practices, as well as their likes and dislikes.
We had already tried to build a beta community while in the hackathon and felt this would be a great way to keep them engaged and also create some more awareness with potential customers who could help give us feedback and be able to help us throughout our journey and really be part of our company.
Take part in a mini version of this survey here:
OUR FINDINGS - Broken down
Feel more balanced
Being in nature
Become more Healthy
Have more energy
Helping the environment
Peer to peer motivation
Seeing self progression
Having fun - not being a chore
COMPETITIVE ANALYSIS 0.1
Identifying a niche.
As there are so many different types of apps that enhance your wellbeing, I decided to start with a cartesian chart to start identifying a niche.
COMPETITIVE ANALYSIS 0.2
What are they up to?
I then wanted to categorise the competitors into sections and identify some of their main and best features.
Are we on the right track?
After the primary research was conducted, we knew we wanted to build an app that focused around nature, the environment and getting people outdoors.
Collaborating with a few of my freelance friends and co-workers, they shared some vital information about up and coming wellness trends for 2021- 2025, this gave us a great sense of direction for where other brands were going from the Hotel industry, Wellness, Beauty to Fashion. This both inspired us, and gave us the confidence to know that we were heading in the right direction with some of the ideas we already had.
From our research we knew that being outside made people feel better, but we wanted to dive deeper into understanding exactly why that was. Did it have to be combined with doing a physical activity or meditation? Was working out outside better than in a gym? If so, why?
After a lot of intense research with 2 other team members, we discovered a huge amount of benefits, way more than we had anticipated, into the ways that nature and being outside is so good for us.
Researchers noted that people who had recently experienced stressful life events like a serious illness, death of a loved one, or unemployment had the greatest mental boost from a group nature outing. “Nature can have a powerful effect on our mental state,” says Dr. Strauss, “and there are many ways to tap into it.”
5 Ways to Wellbeing
The 5 ways to wellbeing were developed by the New Economics Foundation as a set of evidence-based public mental health messages aimed at improving the mental health and wellbeing of the whole population. Trying these could help you feel more positive and help you get the most out of life. This approach is endorsed by the NHS and MIND mental health charity.
Our results provided direct evidence that forest bathing has therapeutic effects on human hypertension and induces inhibition of the renin–angiotensin system and inflammation, and thus inspiring its preventive efficacy against cardiovascular disorders.
Every day we depend on biodiversity (the sheer variety of life found on Earth) to keep us alive and healthy. The air we breathe, the water we drink, the foods we eat and the medications we take are all by-products of a healthy planet. When we damage the Earth, we damage our own health. Human beings are as susceptible as any other species.
Gazing at Nature Makes You More Productive. Just a 40 second break of gazing at nature can increase concentration by 6%. Taking longer breaks, especially when coupled with exercise like walking or running can produce dramatic benefits.
Korean researchers used functional MRI to watch brain activity in people viewing different images. When the volunteers were looking at urban scenes, their brains showed more blood flow in the amygdala, which processes fear and anxiety. In contrast, the natural scenes lit up the anterior cingulate and the insula - areas associated with empathy and altruism.
It is in out DNA
We have already spent more than 99.99% of our evolutionary history in natural environments, it is thought that we are essentially adaptive to nature.
Overall Heath Benefits
Several studies have shown that being in nature is good for both your mental and physical health. It can boost your immune-system, lower your blood pressure, reduce anxiety and make you feel more relaxed and calm. On the other hand, being in a city with lots of buildings and loud noises can have negative effects on your mental and physical health.
It helps us focus on the Positive
When you focus on something pleasant – like a tree, a flower on your desk or the sound of birds – you distract your mind from negative thoughts, so your mind becomes less filled with worries.
When the excitement sets in...
After researching, especially the scientific research, I was really excited about this project, the direction it was going in and it's potential. As a team we were partially interested in the 5 Ways to Wellbeing, and how if we connected them with nature and being outside it should maximise the users health and wellbeing.
Who will love this app?
We created a user persona from our research above, and from talking to our beta community, we decided to focus on someone that was already health conscious and was really excited by the thought of an app that incorporated wellbeing, nature and the environment.
The laws of simplicity
Creating the site map was not easy, there was a lot of trial and error, disagreements within the team, a lot of testing out different user flows and prototypes. It was very information rich, complex and took longer than I thought, and looking back definitely longer than was needed. But after reading the laws of simplicity I finally got there, and all the users could navigate the flows easily. Yay!
LOW FI WIREFRAMES
I created some low fi wireframes, implementing the site map, to give me a base to work off, so that I had a better understanding of what key elements were needed for the branding.
BRANDING AND UI DESIGN
TONE OF VOICE AND STYLE
Mission - To connect users to nature through the 5 ways to wellbeing; enhancing balance, happiness and a better quality of life.
Vision - To redefine the relationship and wellbeing between people and the planet.
Archetype - The Explorer: Promote freedom and discovery, encouraging individual excitement and growth.
The Caregiver - Protect and care for others. Offering protection, safety and support for customers.
I created a visual mood board from the archetypes above:
Sakura is derived from Saku 咲, which means to bloom, or alternately to smile/laugh. The 口 in 咲 indicates an open mouth. This event makes people understand that life is short and that it must be lived and enjoyed to the most.
This is the Japanese character for Sakura is the Japanese word for cherry blossom trees and their blossoms: Cherry blossoms are a symbolic flower of the spring, a time of renewal, and the fleeting nature of life.
We wanted to help keep users engaged by adding in an interactive avarta that is fun, playful, and grows as you do. Each time a user takes part in an activity they will gain points (platonic element) and in turn their avarta will start to grow.
Plato, who was studying the platonic solids closely, associated each shape with nature, and it is believed that the five platonic solids that exist in nature represent the five elements i.e. earth, air, fire, water, and the universe. As a team we felt this was a really nice way to link the 5 ways to wellbeing activities to nature.
We wanted something friendly and calming:
Quicksand - Regular - 18pt
Quicksand - Medium - 20pt
Quicksand - Semi Bold - 25pt
I chose the first 3 colours from nature images, the darker green is from a rubber plant, the lighter green from an aloe and the pink from a blossom tree. I then change the hue of the colours to get brighter bolder versions, which creates a balance and ties in the two archetypes - from the caregiver to explorer.
ITERATION AND IMPLEMENTATION
Bringing it all together
We had already created some very simple wireframes to test the Information Architecture flows which helped at this stage as I already had the basic layout. I then added in the branding and styling elements from above, playing around with different layouts in the mid fi wireframes before creating the hifi versions and prototype.
I tested out a few different design idea before choosing the final screen layout, here is part of my design proces.
Tests were conducted both in person and remotely, I gave them all the same questions and scenarios which asked them to perform tasks, while I observed them as they navigated through the prototype.
Areas I focused on:
- Overall app design- How did the branding make them feel? Was the app easy to navigate?
- On Boarding - Did they get a full understanding of what the app was about? Did they feel comfortable answering any questions?
- Be Active - Was there enough information provided, is this something of value?
- Navigation - Was the app easy to navigate? How easy was it for them to find the pages I asked them to find?
I was really pleased by the outcome of usability testing, all participants liked the overall look and feel of the app, and were all able to navigate around the app with ease. They liked the on boarding but there were a few suggestions to create a short summary on boarding experience with an option to go deeper if and when they wanted more information.
I created an affinity map with all of my findings below.
I got some great feedback from the usability testing and I sectioned the solutions into two priority sections, dependent on user experience benefits and ease / time / cost of creation.
After making the changes from the user testing and feedback, I created a full prototype of the final designs, which include all of the prioirty 1 changes from above:
- Simplifying the platonic elements section, and linking it up with the scientific evidence, allowing users to skip or go deeper into the on boarding experience.
- I added in a magnifying glass to the activity dashdoor:
- I then added more information about each activity, such as which level it was for and what if any equipment would be needed.
Creating Saku was a whirlwind of events, from our initial idea in the hackathon to interviewing potential customers. I definitely learnt a lot and whilst conducting the initial research I think that we should have done some more in depth user research on the 5 ways to wellbeing to help us create a bit more of a base to identify how we would implement each 5 ways and how they can complete rather than complete with each other, as this would help us tie everything together, give us more clarity and we would not be going back and starting each phase from scratch as much. Although I am extremely happy with all of the scientific and psychological research that was conducted, and how the information architecture turned out so seamlessly. I think this is one of the things that really make Saku stand out, and Im excited for the next phase!
The next phase of Saku is to create the Take Notice section, followed by - Give, Keep Learning and Connect.
Thank you :)