Forming Habits to Bring Relief to Seasonal Allergies
of an iOS app
Albeit being someone who has been suffering from various allergies most of my life, I surprisingly still have not come up with an effective method of dealing with them. One day while doing research on how to cope with allergies, I came across Klarify app that seemed to tick all the boxes for localised pollen insights. I thought I was content.
Well, not quite. I still remained forgetful of logging my symptoms into the app and thus being surprised again by sudden sneeze attack on my morning run. This is certainly one of the undesirable situations to find yourself especially in the middle of the pandemic! I have decided to dig into the subject. If I was so sluggish with coping with my hay fever, how would other people be tackling that?
It became apparent that there is a demand for an effective coping mechanism that would involve minimal effort. The challenge was to engage the users in using the Klarify app on a daily basis. This will then allow to estimate the potential pollen that triggers users’ symptoms and help them deal with allergies more effectively.
I had to turn the app into a habit-forming product. Effective pollen predictions create trusting relationship between the user and the app and engage the user into a new daily routine.
Firstly, I designed a short survey to identify how people are affected by their hay fever symptoms and what they do to manage them.
of the interviewees experience
medium to severe symptoms.
of them are not aware what
pollen they are allergic to.
Never researched on pollen forecast
or pollen calendar.
Never used any website or other source
of information about daily pollen count.
Do not do anything to cope
with their allergies.
Why have so many people, despite suffering daily from the hay fever symptoms, never done anything to manage them?
had pre-existing assumptions
“I will get it [hay fever] no matter what”
lack of awareness
“I don’t know much about plants and trees, so I couldn’t even name them”
were in no immediate need
“If I was dying, then I would delve”
didn’t see a clear outcome
“I knew I was allergic to cats, but I didn’t take it seriously”
However, there was a green light:
of interviewers were not satisfied with the way their allergies are currently managed
I conducted a series of interviews where I asked the participants to walk me through their allergy routine and recall a recent situation when they experienced a hay fever attack. I asked how they typically deal with their symptoms and what they do to prevent them from happening.
Synthesising user feedback from the interviews, I identified three key issues in their current hay fever experience:
There is clearly a demand for an effective solution. However, since people mostly learn to get on with their lives, it seems that accessing to additional information on allergies is a hassle. They don’t believe that acquired knowledge would actually make their lives any better.
There is a clear preference for not having to take antihistamines on a regular basis. If people know what they are allergic to and when the specific pollen is active, it will enable them to take the medicine only around those days.
I have synthesised the research feedback and put the key insights into a representative user profile:
Knowing whom exactly I was designing for enabled me to analyse how the app fits into the daily routine of the user. I visualised an ideal allergy management experience and tried to empathise with the users through how they think and behave in those situations. This allowed me to understand which of the existing content of the app is effectively functional, and which part needs improvements or further development.
I have then mapped out the journey of the user in reaching out for effective allergy relief. To visualise that, I used the technique called Experience Map which allowed me to trace it step by step across user’s touchpoints within the app and discover areas in need of attention.
User’s Journey and Experience Mapping
Essentially, the Klarify app has all the aspects to make an impact on people’s lives - it provides with various types of knowledge from daily pollen levels through more detailed info on types of pollen, pollen calendar, and medical and non-medical relief. However, if users forget to log in symptoms daily, the personalised and localised data will no longer be accurate. This prevents users from benefiting from the app’s features.
This also begs a question: how could the app engage better with the users?
Many people tend to check the weather forecast the previous night or in the morning before leaving the house. Some of the weather apps also provide at the same time generic info about the pollen count. This is however not localised and tends to be inaccurate, since it covers a large area of the country. However, the similarity between users’ habits in checking weather forecast and the pollen levels has sparked an opportunity for brainstorming.
Current App Insights
I have analysed the feedback from current app users, based on their Apple Store and Google Play reviews. I wanted to understand users’ motivations for using the app.
Overall, users respond well to the app features and appreciate the simple design of streamlined information. The main concerns arise around the accuracy of the pollen predictions, based on the limited features. The symptoms tracker allows users to log only the average daily allergy impact, without taking whether the user has left home at all or engaged in any outdoors activity that day into account. The oversimplified features of the app make it sometimes doubtful to estimate the accurate effect of pollen on the user. Moreover, the app doesn’t allow to back log symptoms or compare them with previous months or years. In doing so, the app helps the user ad hoc rather than provide them with a long-term guidance.
Before I jumped at sketching out ideas, I had to define what the goals and design principles were that would create user’s ideal allergy management experience. These would help stay aligned towards the main goal and would be used to cross-check further design decisions.
My intentions were to elaborate on the existing app to create convenient experience and set the base for deeper engagement with the user.
Based on these insights, I designed optional advanced features that will allow users to provide additional information about their symptoms. In doing so, users would be able to further track their hay fever log and the severity of their symptoms and compare them against previous months and/or years. This should in turn allow for more accurate and personalised pollen predictions.
Advanced Symptoms Log
I didn’t want to entirely re-design the existing interface, because the challenge was to stay within the current aesthetics but focus on delivering the lean design solutions. As mentioned previously, the Klarify app ticks most of the boxes, and my intention was to make that experience even more functional and less effortful.
I decided to adjust the home page in line with the additional symptoms section development. I wanted to give it a bit fresher look, as well as gain more clarity in previewing the daily pollen levels, so that the user could understand it right at glance without having to pay much attention to details. I have also shifted the 'Log how you feel button' up into the main screen, as it was previously located too far down and was visible only after scrolling. All these seemingly ‘cosmetic’ touches were aiming at simplifying the functionality of the app’s goal and allowing the user to access the most important features at glance.
Notifications & Widgets
I designed few notification message styles that would work as a reminder to log symptoms, in addition to informing about localised daily pollen levels and advising on allergy related tips. These could be set up by the user to opt in or out of the preferred notifications. While testing with users, it became apparent that there was a slight preference towards the more implicit message without a direct reminder to log. Some of the testing participants also appreciated the allergy related advise. Based on this feedback, I have then created a widget message using the Klarify’s 'smiley face' to visually indicate the daily pollen count and predicted the impact on user’s wellbeing and health.
The app’s current onboarding system is missing the potential. The current version is too informative with too many details about the app in general. Only after creating an account and signing up, the app displays the personalised features review. Instead, I have proposed short messages with fun and quirky illustrations to explain briefly customisable options of that app. These would appear right at the start when using the app for the first time without having to sign in first. The further reading can be accessed within the app under the relevant sections.
It is crucial to find the right balance between being informative and providing too much unnecessary information. The first interaction with the app is probably the most important. It has got high impact on how the users will approach the app overall or whether they will decide to sign up to the app at all. A good onboarding experience can engage the user and turn them into a loyal participant. This is the first step into user engagement and habit forming.
Apple Watch Notifications
Currently the Klairfy app doesn’t have an iWatch version. Understandably, this will be probably on a lower priority list to develop, since the demand is also smaller. However, as an avid user of the watch, I find it as a great source of various reminders. I have thus created quick notification system to mirror the phone settings. The reminder message would have built in system to quickly log in symptoms right from the watch, so it can be done on the move, without interrupting daily routine, at any time.
I have redesigned the personal calendar to be able to compare the logs in a weekly, monthly, and yearly view.
I have also added additional push notifications to the list, so that the user could get full control over the information they will be receiving and will be able to opt out at any time.
I have conducted several prototype tests with a group of participants. The tests were based on presenting various options to the users and gathering feedback on their preferred choice. The comments of the participants helped me understand which of the proposed prototypes meets the design principles and goals the most. The above presented options are the final selected versions.
Allergy management was rather a personal project. In this regard, it didn’t have a measurable outcome goal other than to come up with an effective allergy management. Since I was working on an existing app but without collaborating with the app provider, I was unable to further test its functionality and oversee the direct impact of the changes on the current users. The proposed solution is a result of my analysis of the problem and the collective feedback. I understand that this project requires further testing to become a finished product.
Working entirely by myself has enabled me to brainstorm on various solutions, but at the same time I was lacking further reflections on my thoughts. Prioritising and developing additional features required much frequent user testing to keep staying aligned towards the ultimate goal in the time period I decided to spend on this project.