My summer internship at Flourish Labs: Designing a new feature and gaining real-world experiences that count
Posted on 12 September 2022
by Nathan Blanken, Product Intern
(originally posted on the Flourish Labs company blog)
Interning at Flourish Labs this summer was an experience like no other. At the beginning of my journey with Flourish Labs, the founder Obi told me that working at an early stage startup was very unpredictable and extremely fast-paced. Even so, I never could have imagined how dynamic the next few months would be. Unlike more traditional internship experiences in larger, slower-moving companies, I was able to witness in real time how the work I did made an impact on the company’s progress. The journey I am about to share is about one of the projects I oversaw from start to finish and how I learned things that I can’t simply take a class on in school.
About this time last year, Flourish Labs released an early beta version of håp, an app that helps you keep track of the ups and downs of your mind. I was introduced to håp by Active Minds. At the time, Flourish Labs didn’t yet have an official intern program, but I started to work informally with Obi to gather user feedback from other students, and iterated to make the app better. In the beginning, we focused on how to improve the reports because they fell short of user expectations of what the app should do for them. We made it easier for users to see how their different factors change over time by presenting Check-in data in a line chart, and added a detailed sleep report for those who have connected their wearables. You can read more about this in my blog post here. This summer, I joined Flourish Labs full time as a product intern and got to design a new app feature from scratch.
How we designed our new notes tag feature
One of the features in the app is the ability to take a note, either at the end of a Check-in or at any time by tapping on ‘Add a note’ on the homescreen. When we analyzed the engagement data, we found that the average note written by a user was about 14 words long, and about one in three users submitted a note with each check-in they completed. It was important to us that users can easily add a note about how they are feeling and that they do not feel like it is a burden to add in some more information after completing a Check-in. To make it even easier to take a note, we decided to develop a feature that allowed users to submit a note about how they are feeling without needing to type in the free-hand text box.
To start with, I wrote a Product Requirement Document (PRD) for the notes feature. The purpose of the PRD was to clarify the goals for the feature, provide input for our designer for the visual design, and help focus our engineers on solving the right problem. Writing a PRD was a lot tougher than writing an essay for school because of how detailed each section has to be. The good news is that it is a living document, so with feedback from others on the team and a lot of revisions, it started to come together. You can see my final version here. After figuring out the outline for the feature, it was time to do some user research. We had four college interns at Flourish Labs this summer, so I was able to tap into their collective minds and work closely with them to further spec out the details. We also got input from our scientific advisors at Stanford and mental health measurement experts at the University of Leiden in the Netherlands.
Next, I sent the PRD over to our designer Charles who was able to actualize our ideas. His designs prompted discussions about how many mood tags there should be, the order they should be in, and how they should be arranged on the page. After we agreed on the design, I presented our ideas to the engineering team. A few weeks later, the first version of the feature got released on our internal build and it was so gratifying to see it live. After fixing some bugs and making further improvements, the feature was released to the public! I’m looking forward to getting feedback from our users!
New in Check-ins: Measuring Flourishing
During my internship I also worked on a new Check-in feature, a flourishing survey. We’ve always had daily Check-ins to help you track your mood and other factors such as your motivation, sleep, mental focus and social interactions and see how they fluctuate on a daily basis. Our advisor, Stanford professor Dr. Manpreet Singh, suggested that we should also measure more directly whether someone is flourishing or not – after all, that’s our company name! Dr. Singh and one of her students, Cody Abbey, did a review of the flourishing literature and recommended that we use a measurement approach developed by the Human Flourishing Program at Harvard University. We now offer a survey once a month where users can answer questions such as “I feel the things I do in my life are worthwhile.” and “I am satisfied with life as a whole these days.” which get summarized into a Flourishing factor.
Real-world experiences that count
Looking back on the past few months at Flourish Labs, I witnessed how the work I did truly had an impact on our product. Over this past summer, I learned how to design product features, develop websites using no-code tools, and work collaboratively with a variety of cross-functional teams. The start-up experience is unique – I learned things at Flourish Labs that I would not have learned in the classroom, and the skills I learned have equipped me to handle whatever may come next in my career. This summer allowed me to see how hard work turned into a real change in our app, and what I hope is a better experience for our users.
The summer flew by, and I am now back on campus taking computer science classes and leading our Active Minds chapter. September is Suicide Awareness Month, and we just hosted Active Minds’ “Send Silence Packing” exhibit at College Park. Send Silence Packing includes personal stories from individuals who are personally touched by suicide. The stories are a compelling way to raise awareness, and end the silence and stigma surrounding suicide. Hosting it on our campus was a powerful experience for me personally, and a reminder of how important the work of Active Minds and Flourish Labs is.
If you’re interested in an internship or job with Flourish Labs, take a look at our career page at https://flourishlabs.net/careers/