a mobile app to promote self care, body positivity, and female empowerment, by enabling women to take control of their health (and to enjoy doing it)
As I was receiving the challenge to create a to-do style mobile app by my DevMountain instructors, a close friend of mine learned she had polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS), I was finishing reading Women, Race, & Class by Angela Davis, watching a lot of "Buffy the Vampire Slayer," and Hillary Clinton became the first woman to win a major party candidacy for president. With such weighty topics at the forefront of my mind, while learning the full process and implementation of user experience, I turned my assignment's focus to the female experience, and considered the juggling and multitasking that have become ever present in the modern woman's life, and the apps that aid such tasks (along with those apps' shortcomings), and started reimagining the women's health app.
As young women increasingly do everything online and on their phones, the period app has become a necessary, oft-unspoken download. Traditionally sterile, or with overtly "feminine" floral graphics, they revolve around menstruation, approaching physical and mental conditions and effects of female life with the term "symptoms." Periods are not a chronic condition, and neither is being a woman- so why are our cycles so often treated as an illness to tiptoe around once a month? The stigmas that surround female genitalia and reproduction are disturbingly pervasive, a tale as old as time, to the point that even empathetic UX designers haven't been designing products that can penetrate beyond this damaging, stereotypical representation.
Women’s bodies are so complex, with patterns and cycles that evolve throughout our lives, and often upend our lives for significant periods of time. This is not shameful, but it does make for a fittingly complex set of health variables, especially beyond flow, break outs, and cramps. There are lots of period and fertility apps, but few that deliver a nuanced perspective of the female experience, that are a joy, rather than a chore, to use, that tackle socially uncomfortable subjects, or provide the resources and support so often necessary with the overwhelming and life-changing events that can find genesis in the female body. I wanted my app to do more than serve as a tracker or a to do list, but to empower women to take control of their health, so that that power and control can extend into the rest of their lives.
(adj) hope for success or happiness in the future
(noun) an app for women, by women; a tool to promote self-love, body & sex positivity, and female empowerment
why should looking out for ourselves be sterile & distanced? rosy provides a digital medium through which all the activities of a woman's life can both cycle and coalesce, the same way they do in the flesh.
DISCOVERY & RESEARCH
I made a few assumptions before beginning my research:
- That all women use apps or technology to track their periods.
- That my app would be designed to benefit women of all ages, across all demographics.
- That all women micromanage their health- whether they do it consciously or not.
- That the current systems in place for monitoring cycles and health do little to alleviate the stress that can accrue from such tracking.
In interviewing, I asked prospective users about how they currently track their periods, the tools they use to manage their health and fertility, and how their health effects their lives. I interviewed seven women across various stages of their lives- two single, without kids; four married, with and without kids (those with kids are both currently stay-at-home mothers); and one post-menopausal, with children all grown up.
Many of my discoveries did not validate my initial assumptions. I learned that my app wouldn't be particularly desirable for women after menopause, or for those who are currently out of the job force. Those who relied on apps were other women like me- single millennials, career-driven, who don't want to get pregnant in the immediate future. With this information, I drafted a value proposition, plus a user centered design canvas and personas to help chart my problem-solving.
My value proposition (duplicated at the top of the screen): Rosy is a mobile app to promote self care, body positivity, and female empowerment, by enabling women to take control of their health (and to enjoy doing it).
I chose to center on assisting women who want to manage their health by providing simple, curated to-do lists for important tasks and appointments, and empowering them to recognize their own bodies’ patterns and cycles, along with the app’s software, to optimize their health and seek professional medical attention when necessary. The app should connect them with health resources, doctors in their insurance networks, local pharmacies, and online businesses to easily and quickly carry out these tasks, rather than handling all these aspects of health through different methods of communication. It should provide reminders, incentives, rewards, and support for when women record their health, fulfill their tasks, and when experiencing uncertainty or health distress.
After developing my personas and completing a user centered design canvas, I crafted a site map. I wanted a straightforward navigation bar to guide my newly isolated user, to mimic what she's used to in her social media apps. This was the foundation to guide me through the rest of my map. The site map was crucial in organizing the set up and created a clear strategy of what I needed to complete.
I started the process of visualizing my app with sketching, which proved more difficult for me than I anticipated. As someone who's a natural editor, putting pen to paper with my ideas- without automatically filtering them all out of my thought process as subpar- was very strange. With practice, and lots of one to two minute time limits, iterating became a valuable, educational step of my process. Additionally, I knew that I wanted to include illustrations in the high fidelity version of my app, and this was a very productive space to imagine them and the roles they could play onscreen.
I used MyBalsamiq to clean up my sketches and attempt to weed out and finalize critical screens, including notes for features requiring further development and clarification.
I wanted the app to feel feminine, but in a way that a millennial would respond to- it needed to be approachable, cheeky, and clever. Like opening a well-worn, doodled diary, or a collage on a bedroom wall, I wanted the app to invoke comfort and familiarity, so that the user feels like she is coming home when she enters the app. I chose a pale, washed out pink as the primary color- a specific hue that resonates today with young feminists claiming girliness on their own terms, with a contrasting minty green. The copy for the app is casual and positive, and I wanted it to invoke personality and character, to allow the user to feel like the app has been personalized to her specifications. I used Karla for the body text- a quirky typeface that doesn't feel sterile. The contrasting header and logo type is Miniver: a detached, cut-out style script that feels youthful, imperfect, feminine and light-hearted.
Rosy emerged from brainstorming names that could irreverently reference the female body or experience. Titles of apps like Period Tracker and My Cycles are obnoxiously obvious, whereas their trendier contemporaries, Clue and Eve, don't feel fresh. In contrast, floral motifs are a classy (but still under the radar) euphemism for the sexual reproductive organs of a woman's body. [Insert Georgia O'Keefe painting here.] Nature itself is often considered feminine, with the cycling in and out of seasons, the ripening and harvesting and regeneration of the earth directly correlating with the female reproductive system. Additionally, as emojis have become ever present in popular and youth culture, I considered the cartoon rose- often given and received to and from girl friends in moments of thanksgiving and appreciation. The related word, rosy, refers to a hope for success or happiness in the future, and it only seemed natural to reinterpret this as a noun, defined as an app for women, by women, to promote self-love, body and sex positivity, and female empowerment. I accompanied Rosy's script with a rose, her petals falling in reference to menstruation and the constant shedding of the reproductive cycle.
In usability testing, I wanted to observe the user in two different scenarios. The first task: to refill a prescription. This was very simple, and could be done in either of three ways: through the to-do list, or via two options in the profile of the user. One user told me it was "straightforward" and "intuitive," even saying, "This is amazing." She was able to refill immediately and with little effort or need for exploration.
The second task was to track the user's mentality for the day. This task was markedly more difficult and confusing. It was nestled within an inconspicuous category, and phrased in such a way that it frustrated the user. To complete this task, the user had to respond with one of a drop down menu of phrases under questions like, "What feels good?" "What feels off?" or, "Did you treat yourself right?" This was not intuitive, and led me to greater discovery and better options so that this input felt natural and pleasant, changing the categorization to something simpler: mood, body, skin, mind, and activity. To further solve this, I modified the section options to emojis with captions- straightforward and casual.
With such an overwhelming task, there's lots of room for improvement. Rosy is a product I'd be happy to improve upon endlessly- no user experience is ever freed of the cycle of evolution- but in the next iteration, these are a few things I'd like to address:
- Instructional onboarding after the initial round of questions would provide insights for the user as to how to add her Amazon, Seamless, and Postmates accounts for delivery of goods, as well as how to add her doctors, her preferred pharmacy, and any other pertinent information.
- Heterosexual encounters versus homosexual ones: I don't want to limit who uses the app or feels safe using it, but had difficulty in the onboarding process. Intimate questions easily overwhelm the user, but are critical input for a health app. I would seek to address this in the activity section of tracking, and have options for both types of intimacy so that the correct warnings following unprotected sex can be issued for the user.
- The former leads into another important feature I'd like to add: a screen that pops up after a user who's not using birth control enters that she was intimate, asking if she was protected, and if not, provides local pharmacies that stock the Plan B pill, along with further recommendations for nearby clinics and the abortion laws in her state. This would also be featured in the Resources section without a triggered tracking prompt.
- The Resources screen is one of my favorite elements of the app, and as someone previously rooted in fashion and editorial, it would be a treat to further design and write up this crucial facet of the experience.
- I'd like to make sure the app has the right feel, which could include playful animations.
- Designs for notifications and alarms
In October 2016, I took my design to AngelHack's Lady Problems Hackathon in New York City, pitched it to programmers, formed a team, and developed a demo in 24 hours. Though our project was in the health rather than economic empowerment category, the sponsor (Amazon AWS) and organizers were so impressed with the UX design, the use of their APIs, and #Rosy's progressive, feminist social message, that they awarded my team with an additional sponsor prize.
With just one day to build out Rosy, our team focused on some of the app's most notable features:
- Refilling prescriptions seamlessly using predictive text
- Scheduling a gynecologist appointment using the user's current health data, which then sent a reminder email to the user's inbox and updated the dynamic in-app calendar
- Extensive resources, including a live RSS feed of women's reproductive rights in the news and crisis assistance for a number of common health crises and trauma, with the ability to call a 24/7 Rosy hotline
It was incredible working with a team of developers to bring Rosy to life. Sharing my design assets, watching them transform into code, communicating with developers, fiercely advocating for the user, and learning how to pitch convincingly and confidently provided an invaluable experience.