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UX Research Bootcamp

As part of a UX research bootcamp from Memorisely, I conducted user research to help discover actionable insights that would improve a meditation app for university students.

👋 Hey there

This is a project I completed for Memorisely's UX Research Bootcamp. The product I researched, Smiling Mind, did not request this research and I am not affiliated with the company in any way. However, the users I talked to are real and these are insights that I would have applied to the product in reality. I’m proud of this work, but I just wanted to be upfront with that. Thanks for reading!

How can we make a meditation app better for university students?

Smiling Mind is a nonprofit company focused in equipping people with the skills they need to thrive with a healthy mind. They began as a mindfulness tool for young people and now they are looking to expand.

They're looking to improve the experience for university students. A variety of studies have shown the positive effects of mindfulness on promoting mental health in university students. From stress management to performance in academics, the promising benefits of meditation can help students going through challenging times.

Our task was to better understand this user segment and help the Smiling Mind team better understand the needs and goals of university students looking to try meditation.

About the course

In this five-week UX research bootcamp, I was paired with another classmate and together we looked at an existing product and problem space and conducted generative and evaluative research.

Topics covered

Setting research goals
Interviewing users
User research surveys
Competitor analysis
Usability testing
Synthesis & analysis
Research reports

What we found

Students want meditation tailored to a school setting
Students have difficulty developing a meditation habit
YouTube is a popular meditation tool that students use

How we got there

Research goals & plan

We began by setting goals and laying out a research plan. This helped us stay on track later on when we were in the thick of collecting data and talking to students.

Screenshot of a research plan in FigJam
We used FigJam to collaborate on laying out the research plan

User interviews

For our interviews, we set up a script to help us hit our main topics that aligned with our research goals. We also used techniques like TEDW (below) to help us have conversations and get the participant to tell stories, instead of simply answering yes or no. We debriefed after each interview and jotted down some initial rough insights or patterns we noticed from participant responses.

Read our interview script
A graphic explaining the TEDW technique
TEDW technique for asking open-ended questions
Screenshot of a list of potential user interview participants, showing demographic data in a table view.
Recruiting interview participants using User Interviews

What we learned from interviews

  • Students turn to mindfulness practices during self-contained, stressful moments like major life changes (starting at a new university) or end of semester finals.

  • People really don’t like paying for meditation sessions

  • YouTube is a popular meditation resource

  • People struggle with attention and keeping focused during meditation sessions

Survey

We also prepared some closed-ended questions to help us collect more quantitative data on how often students meditate, how long they like to meditate per session, and more.

Examples of survey questions
Screenshot showing survey results in Useberry
We used Useberry to distribute surveys

What we learned from surveys

  • Students meditate infrequently: Most students said they meditate monthly

  • Most participants said they care about meditation session length (shorter is better) and price (free is better)

  • The top two reasons why students mediate is to reduce stress and get better sleep

Competitor analysis

We selected two potential competitors to Smiling Mind: Headspace (direct competitor) and YouTube (indirect competitor). After going through typical flows such as onboarding, searching for a session, and starting a session, we studied the efficiency, memorability, and learnability of these apps (or lack thereof). We also considered our levels of satisfaction and general frustrations while using these products.

Screenshot of a FigJam file comparing YouTube and Headspace features
Competitor analysis in FigJam

What we learned from competitors

  • A good search experience is essential, due to the high volume of session types available in these products

  • Simplicity and learnability is important, otherwise users could get overwhelmed with the number of choices they have to make, which is the opposite feeling users want while practicing mindfulness

Usability testing

We set up a usability test using a Figma prototype and Useberry. Our goals for the test were to learn what times of day students prefer to meditate, what types of sessions they’d choose, and if they could find what they were looking for easily.

Screenshot of a usability test in Useberry
Usability test with Useberry
Screenshot showing usability test results in Useberry
Usability test with Useberry

What we learned from usability testing

  • Morning and evening were the most common times of day selected to meditate

  • Users tapped on the "Explore" tab and looked through categories one by one, a tedious process

  • Users did not find the “Get Started” tracker on the home screen intuitive

Synthesis

Now that we had ample qualitative and quantitative data, we needed to collect it all in one place and start pulling insights. Using Dovetail, we built a small repository for all of our research and highlighted and tagged interesting things people said or did, patterns we noticed, and frequently-cited pain points. This made it easy to connect tags together and form insights.

Screenshot of Dovetail showing tags on insights
Tagging with Dovetail
Screenshot of Dovetail showing the insight board
Pulling insights with Dovetail

Some of our insights

  • Students don't want to pay for meditation Irrelevant

  • Meditation is often recommended by a therapist Interesting

  • Students rely on meditation during times of high stress Significant

  • Students want meditation tailored to school setting Significant

Research report

We came up with several insights backed up by our data and narrowed them down to just a handful that we considered actionable. Using a framework recommended by the course instructor (below), we came up with an executive summary report that we could present to stakeholders.

The executive summary framework: a finding summary, consequence, and suggestion
Framework for executive summary slides
Research report slide showing one of our findings: Students want meditation tailored to school setting
Insight #1: Students want meditation tailored to a school setting
Research report slide showing one of our findings: YouTube is a popular meditation tool students use
Insight #2: YouTube is a popular meditation tool that students use
Research report slide showing one of our findings: Students have difficulty developing a meditation habit
Insight #3: Students have difficulty developing a meditation habit

Personal learnings

Detailed research plans are essential

  • It’s important to have a research plan so that you can set expectations, define goals, and form your approach and methodologies.

  • Without defining goals ahead of time, it’ll be hard to pull useful insights out of the data you collect

Even small-scale projects can give useful results

  • When conducting UX research, you don’t always have to do a massive, expensive, months-long effort

  • Even something like an unmoderated usability test focusing on one feature or flow can give you valuable insights that will help you improve your product or uncover opportunities you didn’t know existed

Turn interviews into conversations that tell stories

  • You can get a lot of great insights into user needs and frustrations by getting people to tell a story

  • Avoid closed questions that can be answered with a simple word like “Yes” or “No”

Use tags to help synthesize research

  • You can think about research in an atomic way, similar to how designers think about design systems

  • Go through your raw data and find “nuggets” — things that stand out or seem interesting, relevant to your research goals. Then you assign tags to those nuggets.

  • Once you have everything tagged, you can start forming insights more quickly

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