Combatting Misinformation and Stress using Allay: a UX Case Study
By In Park, UX Designer
Living in 2020 is stressful for the everyday citizen of the world:
A recent report indicates that 4 out of 5 Americans are concerned about the coronavirus, according to the nearly 1,100 adults polled with the Axios-Ipsos Coronavirus Index. Of the 1,100 individuals polled, 22% said that their mental health has taken a hit due to the coronavirus, and 29% said their emotional well-being was being affected.
I can’t say that I blame them. Every day we’re plagued with additional information regarding the pandemic. A stream of notifications await, more dramatic than the next, eager to report why we should click; why we should panic. Whether objective fact or not, we find ourselves uncertain as to what to believe. This distrust manifests as our anxiety and stress.
R E S E A R C H
I interviewed ten individuals in order to learn more about their pain points with regard to how they obtain information. How could I consolidate and simplify the resources available to them (if any) in times of anxiety and stress?
- 4 men, and 6 women
- Ages 25–60
- 9 out of 10 struggled and continue to struggle with anxiety and stress
- All acquired their news from platforms such as the TV or internet.
- 8 DC Area; 1 NYC; 1 Richmond
- All had bachelor’s degrees
C O N S T R A I N T S
S Y N T H E S I S
First and foremost, most stated that they did not trust the information from the media (8 out of 10). When asked to cite a current event, most pointed to politics or the coronavirus pandemic. This percentage is alarming. Not only can this uncertainty lead to anxiety, this can have a direct impact on the community, as early mobilization is crucial to the containment of the virus.
I pressed further about what methods they utilized to manage their stress levels and what encouraged them to continue using these tools.
- 9 out of 10 users mentioned a form of distraction as a means to cope with their anxiety, specifically “Meaningless scrolling” on instagram, or “easy board games.” Immediately an app that could include simple games (and allow competition between users) came to mind.
- 6 out of 10 users cited “listening to music” or “listening to podcasts” as an escape from stress. Out of those 6 users, 3 were men and 3 were women.
- 6 out of 10 users turned to a version of meditation (deep breathing) as a form of stress relief. Out of the 6 users, only 2 were men.
When asked to elaborate on a hurdle to seeking help or treatment, most stated that mental health was private. They wanted something that was low-key, and low-effort, but also something that did not inconvenience someone else. My initial knee-jerk idea on creating an app that included meditation but also a competitive game with others seemed out of touch.
C O M P E T I T I V E • A N A L Y S I S
It’s always fun seeing what else is out there. Nothing better than a healthy dose of competition.
Apps like Headspace and Calm are great resources for meditation and guided stories. However, both interfaces require extensive questionnaires and personalization. May be a turn off for users looking for simplicity. Neither apps are one-stop shops.
Despite providing real-time news and having platforms for every available topic, apps like Twitter and Reddit create outlets for misinformation to run rampant and unchecked.
D E F I N I N G • T H E • P R O B L E M
It is evident that although we live in an era defined by the abundance and accessibility of information, we struggle to discern fact from fiction more than ever, effectively resulting in feelings of skepticism and frustration.
The challenge is managing our anxiety during a crisis when misinformation is prevalent and mediums for relaxation are scattered.
G O A L
The goal is a platform that directly addresses this anxiety by providing a concise and consolidated source for relevant and curated information, combined with various mediums that foster relaxation and tranquility.
In order to accomplish this goal, I identified five key components of the design.
- Discretion — mental health to the user is a private struggle.
- Simplicity — simplifying the user’s news feed is necessary when the sheer volume of information is overwhelming.
- Consolidated — everything needs to be in one, easily-accessible place.
- Objective and Factual — everything can seem agenda-driven in such polarizing times. The feed should be curated with complete objectivity in mind, designed to equip the user with unbiased knowledge.
I D E A T I O N — U S E R • F L O W S
These were extremely low-fidelity. The concept was fleshed out a bit to include the five components above.
D E S I G N — P A P E R • P R O T O T Y P E
Ahh… onto a bit more fidelity. I designed four major elements: “Useful Information” includes a comparison chart between the regular flu and the novel coronavirus (verified by the WHO) and common misconceptions (this will change a bit later). The section “Find Care & Costs” will include the location of testing centers near the user, insurance information (based on what insurance the user has) including what is covered etc. “Latest Updates” will keep the user updated of relevant news and information, emphasis on news. The news will be curated, simplified, fact-checked, and objective. “How to Relax” will provide meditative guided stories, recommended playlists and deep breathing exercises.
F E E D B A C K
The feedback I received was that this application was very comprehensive. It tackled multiple facets of the problem. However, because this application was many-sided, a tester suggested a more intuitive place for the search bar. Initially, the search bar required some, ahem, searching. Further, some navigational issues were identified — my first iteration required the user to input the insurance information before their location. However, a tester mentioned that testing could be free, thus alienating users who were attempting to find free local testing centers. I ultimately did not go with the game option because providing “distractions” as a solution to mental health seemed like a half-solution.
C L I C K A B L E • P R O T O T Y P E
Allay by definition means, “diminish or put at rest [fear, suspicion, or worry,]” which I thought was the perfect name for the goal that I was trying to accomplish with this application.
C O N C L U S I O N • O U T C O M E S
How can we ensure longevity and continued use of this application beyond pandemic or crisis situations? In addition to music playlists, the option to include podcasts could be incorporated in the future. The De-Stress section may include yoga flows in addition to forms of meditation. With each iteration, the latest updates may archive previous information in lieu of any current crises, or pivot and incorporate objective and curated news of all topics. Like Twitter, but less toxic.