It's a Journey...
This project was done as the first part of my Major Project in my Master's Degree at NCAD. The purpose of the research was to understand the user's needs, pain points, motivations, and psychology. I started with a hypothesis and moved to secondary and primary research. To summarise research, I answered the questions: "who is the user", "what do they want", "what can we do about it" through personas, value proposition map, and MoSCoW analysis for potential concepts.
Picking a Project
This project was done as a part of the research phase in my Master’s project at NCAD. The brief was open and we could pick a topic of our choice. I used the traditional desirability, feasibility, and viability diagram to shortlist potential ideas.
I was split between three completely different ideas. Finally, with the COVID pandemic acting like an unpredictable variable, I didn’t know when our lives would get back to normal. Thus I chose a topic that was easy to remotely communicate with my intended users and get feedback at different stages.
I decided to focus on the area "life after love" and defined my initial design statement based on IDEO's design kit:
"How might we help someone move on after a break up"
Why is it important
People don’t always realize the importance of walking away from a relationship in a healthy manner. Not everyone has a family or friends who are readily available to listen to them ramble on about their sad breakup. They avoid talking about it with a professional due to various reasons: maybe they can't afford it, maybe it just doesn't seem that big a deal or maybe it is considered a taboo.
As described by Lauren Howe and Carol Dweck, for some people, it’s easier to deal with breakups than for others. They say people typically create new relationship stories, analyzing the events leading up to the breakup, and using them to build a cohesive narrative which can be helpful for some in terms of sense-making but negative for others, compounding pain rather than easing it.
Another research by Craig Eric Morris shows how a breakup affects men and women in terms of their physical and emotional response towards it. From Craig’s readings, it can be observed that women have a higher impact on their physical response than men but the emotional response is somewhat mixed for both.
I had a few informal coffee chats with friends and it was interesting to see that people have different journeys, however, one thing they all had in common was the social support that helped in dealing with post-breakup stress.
In conclusion, everyone needs someone to fill the induced cavity, but not everyone is lucky enough to have someone and after a point getting over becomes somewhat of a lonely journey.
Different people take on this journey in different ways - some look for a rebound relationship, some pick up an activity, some do extensive socializing, some go on a solo trip and try to find themselves again, etc.
To understand the impact on different people/businesses I made a rough stakeholder map. It also helped me figure out the specialists to consult and gave me an idea about my customer's interests after a breakup.
There are a lot of products in the market that intends to help a person deal with a breakup. We did a research and below are some screenshots from a few apps available on the play store.
Most of the apps do not have a pleasing interface and have a scope to improve their interactions with their users. However, the “breakup help” app, is the highest downloaded app on the android play store and has only 10k plus downloads. Its rating is also 3.7 and the UI isn’t pleasing to use. The overall experience of the app seems to be dull.
Finally, I found "Mend", a good human-centric product. Interestingly it has recently entered the market with just has an IOS app that has only 5 reviews on the apple store. This shows that the market is still unexplored and there is an opportunity for a good human-centric product that works!
I kicked off the research phase by getting myself familiar with the research in and around my topic. I read around 20 research papers and several articles. They all were focused on answering the following four questions:
What do I feel?
A person’s psychology when they break up
Factors that affect the recovery process
How will I do it?
Helpful methods of recovery
Is rebound ok?
The consequences in short and long term
I concluded the literature review with my own analogy - "Going through a break-up for the first time is the same as learning to drive a car". I wrote a concise version of the review which is about 1400 words (around 5 min) and can be found here.
Once I had a basic understanding, I went to brainstorm my problem and all the aspects related to it. To do this, I used "challenge mapping" which is also one of my favorite brainstorming techniques!
To understand the environment of my application, I went with a PESTLE analysis. This was particularly helpful to find very specific articles that were relevant to my project. It also gave the project certain boundaries in legal terms and government policies.
The secondary research leads to some eye-opening findings. I converted the top actionable insights into "how might we statements" are listed below:
How might we help them explore new experiences that would be suitable for them?
How might we help them become more independent?
How might we help them to leave the past behind?
How might we encourage the community to share their success stories?
ReFraming the Design Challenge
Based on my key findings, I modified the design challenge:
“How might we help teenagers and young adults who recently parted their ways from a romantic relationship to move on in a healthy way without having any unresolved/unhealthy feelings towards themselves or their ex-partner and avoiding a relapse back into the relationship.?”
To kick off the primary research I used Nemawashi - an informal but systematic and sequential building procedure. I split my interview strategy using the following differentiators: Expert and User, Indian and European, One to one and Focus group, first break up or not, and time since last break up. An overview of the diagram is shown below:
Based on my secondary research I designed the first version of my script for the first phase of interviews. I had to make 2 different sets of scripts - one for users and the other for the experts. Based on the feedback from the expert in phase 1, I tweaked my script for the second phase and similarly for the third stage in which I also had to act as a focus group moderator.
At a higher level, from users I wanted to know: How they felt, how did they cope, and what worked and did not work for them.
In contrast, from experts, I wanted to know: Their strategy, common problems, and general dos and don'ts.
As this project was done during the COVID pandemic induced lockdown, all of my interviews were done over either over video chats or traditional phone calls. I did a total of 12 interviews which included 10 users and 2 experts. Some of the interesting quotes from my interviews are mentioned along with audio clips:
"I need to keep working with my hands in order to get out of my head."
"It's useful to know if my ex will be at a party that I am planning to attend."
"I tried finding information online but could not so I went to a bookshop."
"Instead of hanging out with him, I went to my local pub alone."
Unpacking and making sense
I started making a post-it wall on Miro from the first interview itself. I did clustering once all my interviews for a stage were done. The before and after of my wall after the second stage of interviews is shown below:
I got a variety of very rich data from the interviews that led to interesting insights. Unfortunately, not all of them were actionable. The top four insights were:
After the initial sympathy of friends, you have to fight the battle yourself.
Articulating your thoughts is important to understand what you are feeling.
It's crucial to fight the impulses. Distractions often help to keep negativity at bay.
It helps to block your ex from social media and communication channels.
who is the user?
I combined the learnings from my hypothesis, primary and secondary research to make personas. It was an easy way to encapsulate different types of users and their needs in a systematically categorized fashion.
What Matters to them?
Based on my personas I made a value proposition and captured their needs, pains, and how we could address them. This was a rough brainstorm to get some ideas on the board. The value proposition is something that keeps developing as we get to know our customers better and have a more defined product.
WHat can we do?
To wrap up the research I did a MoSCoW analysis. The purpose was to have a rough priority list of concepts that could be used to make a human-centric product. In general, this would be a dynamic table that keeps changing as the product evolves and takes shape.
After analyzing the user needs and brainstorming ways to solve them, I could see three distinct conceptual themes emerging from them. Once, I backed them from my secondary and primary research, I went forward to understand what we want to achieve with each of these themes. I believe they could help ease a person's journey of moving on after a breakup.
Breaking down isolation and seeing that there is hope for the future is very important. It’s like driving a car!
To be heard
Realize it’s not the end
Feel you aren't alone
Everyone has a support system but it's not available 24x7.
They should be able to help themselves when they are alone.
Almost everyone increases social engagement but it not enough and they need a more personal and stronger distraction.
Find a connection
Fill the void
Goals to accomplish