My summer internship at Flourish Labs: Designing a new feature and gaining real-world experiences that count

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!

Move the slider to see how much faster we’ve made adding notes. Now, users can also tap on hashtags that best describe their current mood.

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.

Once a month, we offer a Flourishing survey.
This new factor is shown in Check-in reports. It only shows up in the Year view since the questions are monthly, not daily.

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.

Active Minds’ Send Silence Packing exhibit at the University of Maryland, College Park.
Image credit: Active Minds.

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/

Designing with students, for students: A new release of the håp app, informed by your feedback

Designing with students, for students: A new release of the håp app, informed by your feedback

Posted on 21 February 2022
by Nathan Blanken, Product & UX Intern

Today, we’re launching a new version of the håp app, including Apple Watch integration, a redesign of the report functionality to view your Check-in and sleep data, and a new feature to view your diary notes. The changes are based on the feedback we got from hundreds of students that have been testing the app. In this post by our intern Nathan Blanken we give you an insight into how we’re designing with students, for students.

I am a sophomore computer science major at the University of Maryland, College Park. I am also the President of the Active Minds chapter at UMD. I have been working as an intern with the Flourish Labs team over the past few months to help improve håp and give my perspective as a student.

Last September we launched the first version of håp to a small group of trusted testers. We knew the app wasn’t perfect, but we wanted to get it in the hands of students sooner rather than later to get real feedback from real users. Since then we have received hundreds of bug reports and feature suggestions through the feedback form in the app. We also ran focus groups and online surveys in November and December. We got a lot of feedback, both positive and constructive, and were able to incorporate many of the suggestions into this new release.

A håp Check-in consists of about a dozen questions on different factors that affect your mental wellbeing and health such as your mood, calmness, focus, motivation, socialization and how you feel about your sleep. Think of a håp ‘Check-in’ as a twice daily activity, just like brushing your teeth. It only takes about a minute. 

Check-in question screen

Check-ins have been by far the most popular feature within håp, with over 3,600 completed. Check-ins got mostly positive ratings and comments in our user research.

“Overall, how satisfied are you with the Check-ins in håp?”

“I like that it keeps track of how I am doing so I don’t necessarily need to go out of my way to journal about it. I don’t always have a ton of free time so this is nice because it is quick and easy.” 

“I like that it helps me to check in with myself and see how I am feeling. I like that I can see Check-ins from the past.”

“Sometimes Check-ins accidentally fall out of my routine.”

“How much has your thinking slowed? can be interpreted positively or negatively, which is not necessarily helpful to people who are looking at the question from a more objective lens. How should this question be interpreted? Is it good to have slower or faster thinking?”

We’ve been iterating the Check-in user experience to make improvements such as randomizing the order that the questions are presented, where the slider starts, and how responses are stored so you can complete a Check-in even if you don’t have an internet connection. 

We are still figuring out how to help you make Check-ins a daily habit. You can customize the reminder time for morning and evening in Your Settings/Check-in reminders. Tap the wrench icon on the bottom right of the håp app to get to Your Settings. Some users haven’t been receiving notifications from håp to prompt them, which makes it easy to forget to do a Check-in. If you are not getting notifications, please check the permissions on your iPhone or Android phone.

We are also revisiting the wording of some of the questions, and will swap out some that are less useful or confusing in a future release.

Overall, it seems that Check-ins are working well for you. Becky Fein from Active Minds wrote a great article about how Check-ins have been useful for her.

håp now connects to Apple Watch

One of the unique features of håp is that it allows you to see data from your wearable device alongside the data you enter in Check-ins. Version 1 only supported Fitbit and Oura. Many users – myself included – wanted to connect Apple Watch, and I’m pleased to report that this latest release of håp integrates with Apple Watch. You can now see your sleep data from your Apple Watch directly in håp.

Some users were unaware that you can connect a wearable to håp, so we’re now including information about how to connect a wearable device in the welcome emails and the Help section.

The Your Data reports needed a complete redesign

Once you complete a Check-in, you are taken to the Your Data section of the app. You can also access this by tapping on the geometric håp symbol on the bottom nav of the app.

In V1, reports were split into “Mind Data” reports for the Check-in data and “Body Data” reports for data coming from wearables. They showed a simple zero to 10 score of each factor, with shading corresponding to the scores. There was a feature to compare two different factors such as mood and calm or sleep and motivation, but it was buried deep on the bottom of the reports and you couldn’t compare more than two.

The feedback we received about version 1 of the reports was blunt: They were not working. Users found the reports hard to read, and they didn’t provide enough insights. We tried displaying a summary on the top, but the algorithm wasn’t working well, so we took it out again for now.

The Mind Data reports on the focus areas (e.g. Mood, Calm, Sleep, Focus) provide me with useful insights.

I really like the different colors that are being used. However, I do not know what each means. It is difficult to understand how to read the Mind Data reports.”

“I’m not sure what the numbers mean.”

“Add ability to customize the timespan that can be viewed for reports (day, week, month, year)”

“A line graph could be more beneficial in viewing decline in mood, sleep, focus, etc. patterns.”

We appreciate the constructive feedback and suggestions for improvement!

We went back to the drawing board and made some key design decisions based on the user feedback: to focus on trends over time, comparisons between factors, and enable you to see how your sleep impacts your day-to-day mental wellbeing.

We’re excited to show you the completely redesigned reports. If you click on the Your Data tab at the bottom of the håp app, you will first see a new Check-in report section. The data from your Check-ins is displayed in a line chart showing trends over time. If you complete at least one Check-in a day, you will get a continuous trend line. Sleep questions are only asked in the morning Check-in, so don’t miss that one!

By default, you will see the “Week” view which shows you your responses from the prior seven days. If you select “Month” or “Year”, you will see data from the past 28 days or last 12 months, respectively. On any of these you can swipe left to see previous time periods.

New Check-in report

håp breaks down your Check-in report by 7 factors that relate to your mental health and wellbeing:

  • Mood – How up or down you feel.
  • Calmness – How calm or anxious you feel.
  • Focus – How clear-headed and focused you feel.
  • Motivation – How you feel about your ability to take initiative, how enthusiastic and satisfied you feel.
  • Sleep – How you feel about your sleep quality.
  • Socialization – How you see yourself around others and your social interactions.
  • Physical – How you feel your psychological state may be impacting your body and vice versa.

You can understand your data in more depth by comparing two or more factors. For example, you can compare how your mood is changing versus your sleep. Tap a factor button to toggle it on and off in the chart.

New Sleep report based on wearable data

The V1 “Body Data” report showed average scores for sleep quality, activity and heart rate, which users found not very useful or actionable.

V1 wearable data report

In the redesign we chose to focus on sleep, which has a big impact on mental health. Sleep duration is difficult to self-assess accurately, so the wearable data is useful in addition to how you rate your sleep in your morning Check-in.

The new sleep report will only show data if you have connected a wearable. If you have an Apple Watch, Fitbit, or Oura ring, you can now connect it to håp. Tap the wrench icon on the bottom right of the app to go to Your Settings/Wearable devices. Once you connect your wearable, the last day of data will be automatically loaded into the sleep report so you can start to view different aspects of your sleep. 

New sleep duration report

In the top chart of the sleep report, håp shows you the average duration of sleep for the nights that you wore your wearable device. Similar to the check-in report, you can select week, month, or year and swipe left or right to change the dates shown.

Right below you will see a line chart showing the times you fell asleep and woke up as indicated by the sun and moon icons. A consistent bedtime helps to improve sleep, so this is an actionable insight.

New bed time & wake time report

The new sleep charts are really helpful for me because they allow me to easily compare how much sleep I get each night with the results from my Check-ins. Being able to see real sleep data from my wearable device and see how that impacted my day-to-day mood or calmness is really important to me.

New Notes report

In V1 of the app, you could make a diary note at the end of a Check-in, or any time by tapping on the ‘add a note’ link on the home screen. If you like to journal, you will probably agree with me when I say that this is super useful. It is hard to remember details about how I felt during the day if it was more than just a few days ago, so having it written in the notes is a good way to keep track of it.

However, V1 didn’t have a way to display the notes yet, and our users noticed!

“I want the function to keep track of my notes and diaries.

We’ve fixed this in the new release.

New Notes report

At the bottom of the Your Data page is now one of my favorite parts of håp: the ability to view all of the notes you took. The notes section is particularly helpful because you can refer to these notes and then you can scroll up and find your Check-in or sleep report data to see how your results matched up with how you felt that day. It is so convenient that all of this is in the same place.

What’s next?

When we asked users how much they liked using the håp app, the overall feedback was positive.

“How much do you like using the håp app?”

“I think this app is off to a really good start. I really like the simplicity and intelligence that has been integrated into it.”

“I am enjoying the app so far and feel grateful for the opportunity to engage in the app’s development.”

But many of you weren’t sure yet if you would continue to use håp in the future, because it wasn’t useful enough yet.

“How likely are you to continue using håp for the next 3 months?

“I haven’t figured out why hap is useful to me.”

“I haven’t gotten enough analytics from the app to justify the use.”

We hope that the new reports are one step closer to making håp useful to you.

When we asked what would most likely make you continue to use håp in the future, the most requested feature was peer support. 

“I’m really excited about the peer support function.”

So that’s what we’re working on next!

We’re just getting started on the design of the peer support feature. If you would like to participate in one of our focus groups to brainstorm with us, you can sign up here.

I have seen first hand how the team at Flourish Labs is working incredibly hard to provide the best possible user experience, and quickly iterating to implement user feedback from the students using the app. 

Thanks again to everyone who provided feedback. We are so excited for you all to see this new version of håp and have it be a part of your daily routine to keep track of your mental wellbeing. We look forward to the next round of feedback, please keep it coming! Be sure to keep an eye out for future blog posts and releases as we strive to make håp better for you.

If you already use håp, go to the App Store or Google Play and tap ‘update’ to get the new version of the app.

If you would like to try håp, you can sign up here: https://projecthap.com/trusted-tester/

If you are an Active Minds member, sign up here: https://projecthap.com/activeminds/

To  join a focus group, sign up here: https://forms.gle/awFNE7b8k5KqtJwa7