MyZenGarden - Mobile App Design


This is an on-going project about how I design an application to help people meditate anywhere, anytime.

Project Background

In June 2014, I traveled to Kyoto, Japan for sight seeing and looked for solitude in a quiet city. I joined a short meditation course, went to a temple on mountain for 2 days and felt interested in meditation. Going back to Singapore, I started observing how young people used meditation to cope with stressful life and maintained peacful thought in mind. I wanted to help them meditate better.

Needfinding

In this phase, I watched people do things to learn their goals and values, and come up with design insight. I hoped to find opportunities for improvement.

Obeservation and Interview

I observed and interviewed 3 persons: Jane, Ralph and Keene.

Ralph is a 25-year-old man, working as working consultant. He started meditating since he wanted to spend more time at home after office hours. Usually, he felt asleep whenever he reached home due to tiredness of long working hours. Ralph tried to meditate for around 5 session, each one last 20-25 minutes in his bed room every night. He said it was hard to commit that amount of time everyday to meditate though doing it help him feel better. He turned to reading manga instead.

Jane is a 24 year-old woman, working as social data analyst. She was introduced to meditation by her boy friend, Ralph. She meditated with Ralph but didn’t feel much better. Observing the look of how she meditated, I couldn’t see any reason why. However, she admitted that she find it hard to focus even when she sat dow, closed eyes in a quiet room. Her thought was still with many things when she meditated.

Keene is a 25-year-old man, working as executive in FMCG company. He had a stressful working life and tried meditating to feel calm. He tried it for almost 1 month. He meditate whenever he has time and quiet space e.g. bathroom, bed room. His timing also varies from morning to evening. He admitted it was quite hard since his working pace is fast so any spare time is luxurious. Keene didn’t set a fixed duration for this meditating session. He did it until he felt calm and relaxed.

Only Ralph and Keene read meditation book and follow guideline on how to have right posture. Keene even read Bhuddism to understand the philosophy of meditation. All 3 didn’t use any mobile app or digital products to support their meditating.

Needs/Goals of People

  • People want to feel relaxed and calm after meditating.
  • People want to know how to meditate properly.
  • It is hard to voluntarily build a new habit all by yourself. People feel more motivated when they do it with others.
  • Surrounding environment is important. The more quiet it is, the longer the meditating session can last
  • People need guidance and motivation when meditating

Storyboarding

In this phase, I looked for inspiration and ideas for the design. Having inspiraion helps me brainstorm better with more variety of solution.

Ideas for product

  • Find a quiet place by using an geolocation app that can recommend which place is quiet at current time. Maybe this app can be a directory of places to meditate.
  • Headphone/earphone with a peaceful song can help isolate our mind from noisy sounds also
  • Plug in, listen to guidance audio of how to meditate with detail step-by-step
  • Audio contain some peaceful sound to relax mind
  • Keep track of our progress and show our friends’ progress also
  • The audio has fixed duration to help user know when the session is over

Design Objectives

I observed how people meditate and figure out the difficulties in trying to meditate daily. The main problem is that people can’t find a suitable place with good environment at their own time to meditate. The objective here is to help people be in a calm and relaxing state of mind. Meditation can help enhance this experience. My first solution is to use a mobile app to improve the surrounding environment to be suitable for meditation. By using recored sound, the environment can have conditions similar to more quiet places such as temple, shrine, ocean, forest. My second solution is an application to help people to find suitable places to meditate nearby at their chosen time. These places can be park, garden, temple, shrine, and houses designed particularly for meditation.

Inspiration

Words that describe my potential solution:

  • zen
  • calm
  • nature
  • solitude
  • worry-free
  • recommendation

Inspiring design:

  • Zen gardens in Japan (e.g. Ryoan-ji). Zen garden in Japan bring a calm feeling to visitor. The setting of rock, tree with a quiet atmosphere help relieve human stress and bring more balance to our minds.

  • Unqilo Wake Up app This is my favorite mobile app that help me wake better with the tune that follow the current weather in my city. I like the interface of this app and the way peaceful music bring calmness to my mind in the morning.

  • Foursquare. Foursquare help user to find good restaurant with good food. The usage of geolocation to meet user’s need is quite convenient.

  • Tokyo parks Most of the park in Tokyo has a nicely designed landscape that help people meditate well. The parks are very near office and people can go there after working hours to relax.

  • Headspace A meditation app that help beginner to know how to meditate better with time constraint.

Storyboards

I draw 2 storyboards of 2 solutions on how a mobile app can help people meditate

Storyboard 1

Storyboard 2

Rapid Interacitve Prototype

I have created 2 prototypes of the potential mobile app. These wireframes still need a lot more work, though.

Prototype 1

Prototype 2

Heuristic Evaluation

Using Jacob Nielsen’s ten heuristics as a guide, I spotted many usability issues in my prototypes. That’s why I am going to work on this again.

Feedbacks and Challenges

I have talked with a few people who meditate about the idea of using mobile app to enhance mediating experience. I realised that there are certain drawbacks in my solution:

  • Building a new habit using digital product is not easy. This depends on the person’s discipline and motivation
  • The reminder, notification, and tracking functionalities of mobile app are perceived as useful but those are typical of to-do apps also, therefore not unique.
  • Many people don’t know how to meditate so a helpful guide for beginner is needed in this app, but purely text tutorial is not the right way to do it.
  • The purpose of a mobile app is to relieve stress and meditation is one of solution real life. Another approach is to improve the environment around people using sound, which is similar to how I did in other project, Elevator Soundscape Design.