TL;DR

Solace is an app designed for banking customers who need an extra level of support in times when they are not mentally well. The app will strengthen users relationships with their bank by providing direct communication with their banking representative who understands their particular situation and needs. The app will also provide users with a greater degree of control over their financial affairs and will act as a resource to improve their mental wellness and financial capacity.

Designing for impact

The idea for this project came about from a recent conversation with friends that experience mental health issues. These issues have been exacerbated by the current COVID pandemic. Mental health can have a negative impact for a person in many ways, one such impact can be financial. Additionally financial concerns and worries can trigger or cause mental health issues. These two topics seem to be intricately linked. One problem can impact on the other causing a cycle of growing financial problems and worsening mental health that can be hard to escape from.

solace
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How do I know if this idea is the right one?

A FRAMEWORK TO JUDGE THE VALIDITY OF AN IDEA

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What people problem am I trying to solve?

How do I know this is a real problem?

How will I know if I've solved this problem?

Solace will bridge the gap between money problems and mental health concerns, with the aim of helping people to manage these issues when they arise.

Studies undertaken in Ireland have found that over 50% of people reported a decline in their mental health as a result of an economic downturn. In the UK almost 20% of people with mental health problems are in problem debt.

If the app was to be launched to the market quantitative and qualitative data can be tracked i.e the number of downloads of the app, scores and reviews given by users.

How do I know if this idea is the right one?

A FRAMEWORK TO JUDGE THE VALIDITY OF AN IDEA

What people problem am I trying to solve?

Solace will bridge the gap between money problems and mental health concerns, with the aim of helping people to manage these issues when they arise.

How do I know this is a real problem?

Studies undertaken in Ireland have found that over 50% of people reported a decline in their mental health as a result of an economic downturn. In the UK almost 20% of people with mental health problems are in problem debt.

How will I know if I've solved this problem?

If the app was to be launched to the market quantitative and qualitative data can be tracked i.e the number of downloads of the app, scores and reviews given by users.

People problem statement

"At times I experience mental health issues such as anxiety and depression, I find that when I’m under pressure financially these feelings get worse. I need a way of having better control over my finances and a way of managing my mental health issues when they arise"

Framing the problem

User Need

The user needs a way of having better control over their finances and a way to manage their mental health in order to prevent financial problems and worsening mental health issues.

Business Need

The business needs a way of introducing an impactful and innovative app that will focus on the customer, in order to strengthen the banks relationships with their existing customers and also to promote the bank as a customer centric bank for new customer acquisition.

solace_handset

Design Thinking Methodology

Based on The Double Diamond this Triple Diamond methodology follows six phases: Understand, Define, Sketch, Decide, Prototype and Validate. Within each phase of this methodology I will use methods taken from my playbook such as using user interviews in the understand phase and a value proposition canvas in the define phase etc.

triple diamond

Understand

Online Survey

In order to form empathy with users and to back up my initial assumptions and background research I conducted a survey followed by user interviews. I obtained 26 responses from the survey. The main insights gained from the survey were:

  • 77% of respondents said that they had experienced a recent mental health issue.
  • Savings,job security,being able to pay bills and worries about budgeting caused anxiety and stress.
  • Side effects of these worries included insomnia, depression, low-self-esteem and lack of motivation.
  • Other issues included impulsive spending, resulting in feelings of guilt and anxiety. Problems making decisions relating to finances were also mentioned.

User Interviews

In order to gather further understanding of the problem space I conducted user interviews that would form the basis for my personas. I conducted interviews with two main groups:

  • People whose mental health issues had a negative impact on their financial capacity i.e the ability to manage their financial affairs.
  • People whose mental health issues were being caused by concerns over their finances.

Respondents spoke about depression, stress and anxiety due to job loss and feeling disconnected from family and friends and society in general due to the COVID pandemic. A common trend emerged from the interviews for coping mechanisms such as exercise, talking to a family member or friend, eating healthy foods, mindfulness and having daily structure.

Discover & Define

It was important to view the product as a whole and ideate on what the intended and unintended consequences of my idea might be. The frameworks used were the 'value proposition canvas' and the 'iceberg canvas'. The value proposition canvas helped me to ensure that my product was positioned around what the customer values and needs. In order to take a holistic view, I took some time to study my value propositions and define issues both above (intended consequences) and below (unintended consequences) the 'iceberg'.

The iceberg canvas helped me to summarise these insights into different quadrants with a main theme. Looking at above and below the iceberg themes I determined the app could be (above the iceberg) - 'a financial capacity and mental health resource', (below the iceberg) - 'that would strengthen people's relationships with financial providers'.

Then by creating personas and user process flows I consolidated my research and focused in on specific user cases and journeys in more detail.

Product Thinking

User Personas

Anna
Joe

User Flows

solace process flow

Sketch & Decide

I then began the ideation phase of sketching out screen ideas for the different user flows needed in the app.

The 'crazy 8' method of rapid sketching was used to quickly brainstorm some ideas.

I examined the data collected from the user research and referenced my user personas when coming up with ideas, keeping the user needs always in mind.

sketches

Prototype & Validate

I created digital wireframes and a clickable prototype using Figma and then began scheduling usability tests. I conducted the tests over zoom and recorded the sessions. When the usability tests were finished I reviewed the data that was collected and ranked the issues in order of severity using Jakob Nielsen’s error severity rating system. I documented the issue, the error rating code and my recommendations for fixing the issue.

The main features of my app are:

  • A check in that allows users to record how they are feeling and offers recommendations to help them manage their mental health issue.
  • Direct communication with a banking representative and also with friends or family for additional support.
  • Control over their financial affairs with greater understanding from their bank and creditors.
  • A resource for wellness advice and for planning that would help improve their financial capacity.

My goals for the usability tests were:

  • To see if users were able to complete the tasks of using the main features of the app such as checking in, controlling finances, reading messages, and adding contacts.
  • To see how the users felt about the overall experience and look and feel of the prototype.
  • To identify pain points and concerns regarding the usability and accessibility of the app.

Some of the issues that were highlighted during the tests and then changed based on feedback from users can be viewed here. The visual identity for the product was also decided on at this stage, considering appropriate branding colour, logo and typography.

Welcome screen

welcome usability test
welcome usability test
welcome usability test
welcome usability test
welcome usability test

'Check in' feedback screen

welcome usability test
welcome usability test

'Credit Card Restriction' - Phase 2 Testing

welcome usability test

Defining the Visual Identity

welcome usability test

Blue is being used as the primary brand colour as it is considered beneficial to the mind and body. It slows human metabolism and produces a calming effect. Blue is strongly associated with tranquility and calmness. These associations make it suitable for an app that promotes mental wellness.

A curved wave style is being used for the screen headers to promote an association with the sea as the sea has long been linked to inner peace.

welcome usability test

Different ideas for symbolic relationships that could be used for the product logo were researched.

An eclipse has historically acted as a symbolic portal for exponential growth, a time of rapid change, internally and externally. The moon is associated with our subconscious desires and our emotional lives. It is most closely associated with our intuition and our ability to nurture both ourselves and others. A solar eclipse is a time to focus on internal change.

welcome usability test

'Solace' was the name chosen for the product as it means "to give comfort or consolation in a time of distress or sadness."

The logo that was chosen is simple and clean, the circle represents the user and the eclipse promotes the idea of growth and internal change. These associations are suitable for a product that seeks to benefit the user - in this case improving the users financial capacity and mental health.

solace flows

Retrospective

The participants that tested the app had a good response to it in general, however there were some questions still about how some of the features of the app would be implemented. Having the ability to put a pause on your bills for a certain timeframe would need to be supported by the bank and the details of how this would work have not yet been fully investigated. Also having extra control over credit card spend and being able to place a short term restriction on a credit card was a feature that users liked but would involve a greater level of trust and communication between a user and their bank.

It was evident from my research that mental wellness and money are two topics that are intricately linked. This app is a new concept that attempts to bridge the gap between these areas, and while there may be need to investigate the feasibility of some of the features proposed it's general concept and value was understood and liked by users that participated in the study.