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.
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!
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.
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.
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.
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.
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
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.
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
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.
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
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.
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
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.
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
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.
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
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
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”
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