Bloom is a mobile app designed to help individuals take part in holistic self-care that meets their unique needs.
Humans are social beings but the social needs of Millennials aren't prioritized in the context of their busy & digital lives. Loneliness is a growing problem, yet, our research revealed that lonely people aren't looking for social outlets, they are looking for self-care.
I created Bloom, a native iOS mobile app that provides a positive and supportive environment for individuals to participate in self-care, including social self-care. Bloom provides suggestions aligned to users mood and preferences supporting Millennials to live optimally.
This is the question I asked myself at the start of the project. For context, I'm a wellbeing nerd. I love reading about positive psychology and strategies for living a more fulfilling life. I knew that social connection was a key part of this equation. But feeling connected isn't always easy, especially during the COVID-19 pandemic.
To learn about the experience of potential users, I completed 5 one-on-one interviews, with millennials who were single or living alone. The objective was to understand the motivations, pain points, and behaviours around social connection and loneliness.
Individuals connect for self-discovery, they want to learn about themselves through learning from others; to make memories, whether through social experiences, or photo reels; and for support, both providing and receiving.
Aside from the more obvious reasons like being physically separated from loved ones, stressful situations or life events triggered feelings of loneliness.
When the felt lonely, participants turned towards independent self-care, like having a bath or listening to music. Sometimes this was constructive, other times it wasn't.
The insights revealed that when the participants are feeling lonely, they don't turn to their social networks. How can we help them feel more connected to their social networks, while providing a product that they are motivated to use?
By mapping out the experience of a typical day, the opportunities for design intervention surfaced. The low point for Matty, a single woman living in a new city, is at the end of a stressful day at work. She is looking for self-care to wind down and re-set for tomorrow, but she's not sure where to start.
Self-care is "a multidimensional, multifaceted process of purposeful engagement in strategies that promote healthy functioning and enhance well-being." This includes caring for all human needs: physical, mental, spiritual, emotional and social. 
This leads to the project question:
To start the ideation process, I wrote down dozens of user needs that I had heard during the interviews. This brainstorming exercise led into the generation of user stories and epics. The key user story was selected because it best captured what users were seeking when feeling lonely.
As a person looking for self-care I want to get ideas for self-care so that I can pick something that works for my current situation.
To complete the user story I built a simple linear task flow with 4 sub-tasks: check-in, select self-care, complete self-care, view the self-care journey. To create the check-in questions I leaned the work of Mark Brackett, Ph.D. and the science behind emotions.
With each test and iteration I found ways to more gracefully meet the user in their moment of need, and provide support in the form of personalized self-care.
For the emotion question, we heard that some of the words were overly negative or inaccessible and removed those. Still some users expressed that this simplified list would be challenging for them. Others liked the prompt to express how they are feeling. To accommodate both, we added a skip button in version 3.
In the initial design it wasn’t clear when the check-in questions finished and the transition to the suggestions felt disjointed. Some user expected a celebration for completing the check-in. The loading screen was added to create a celebratory transition moment and let the user know that the app is customizing their suggestions.
To test different ways to display self-care progress, we tried both a progress chart and a self-care log. Different users were excited about one of the features but neutral or turned off by the other. In the end we kept both: users can celebrate the journey first and dive deeper into the insights if they wish.
All aspects of Bloom are designed to be a part of the user's holistic self-care practice. From the moment they open the app they are meant to feel calm, in the warm and inviting interface. The minimalist design removes distraction so as to not overwhelm the user. This is especially important in the guided check-in as this feature is for users looking for support.
All of the UI pieces come together in the final prototype. The playful animations greet the persona Matty when she opens the app. She completes her check-in based on her mood and availability, finds her self-care activity and views her progress on her profile.
Moving forward with Bloom, I will seek input from psychologists, well-being professionals, and subject matter experts to build a library of self-care activities and map them to the moods. The following key learnings will continue to guide the development:
The ideation phase of the project felt rushed. It was an hour of sketching in my notebook and looking for pattern inspiration online. In the future I would set aside time and space for this creative process, and ask a few collaborators to join me in thinking through potential solutions. A short whiteboard session or discussion can go a long way in generating creative ideas.
Throughout the design process there would be times when I would get stuck — I'd be in the middle of designing a component or creating a user flow but lacking the inspiration for how to proceed. In these moments I often forgot about the artefacts and tools I had created, be it the UI inspiration board or the experience map. When I did look back at them, I almost always found useful tidbits that helped guide me. The value of creating the artefacts is to use them, so make them designer friendly, and keep them handy!
Looking for more details about my design process? Want to chat about wellbeing theory? Curious to see Bloom's design system? Please reach out, and let's chat!