A Hero's Journey
Tackling psychotropic medication non-adherence
  • Challenge: Create an end to end application
  • Role: UX Researcher, UX Designer, UX Writer
  • Duration: 4 weeks
  • Tools used: Paper + Pencil, Figma, Whimsical, FigJam
View prototype
Project overview
After getting diagnosed with ADHD-C and struggling to take my medication - I embarked on a journey that asked the question:
was anyone else struggling with adhering to their medication and what solutions did they use to overcome it?
I found out that there is no current solution on the market that tackled non-adherence. Driven by my personal struggles as well as the data - I aimed to create a mobile application that supported users in their psychotropic medication journey.
Folx on psychotropic medication are struggling with long-term adherence
An end-to-end mobile app that creates personalized adherence regimes to the users and triggers the behavior change using 2 behavioral models: Hook Model and Gamification
Seeing the real-time reaction of my users upon interaction and use of the mobile application
Concept project guided by a Mentor
Is everyone else struggling to adhere to their medication or is it just me?
To gain some understanding of the problem space, I conducted a literature review. It really helped to discover the challenges faced by people struggling with non-adherence and also find out exactly how technology was being leveraged to help individuals tackle these struggles. Read the whole literature review here
These were my main insights:
There are multiple factors that play into medication non-adherence such as poor social support, lack of knowledge etc.
One-size fits all
Practitioners take a one-size fits all approach when tackling medication non-adherence
Despite large tech advances, technology has not been significantly leveraged to help tackle this non-adherence issue
No solution
Despite medication non-adherence being a huge problem, there is no current solution available to individuals
So, what does this mean exactly?
This means that there is a clear need for an integrated solution that incorporates the following:
  • People: Existing and creating new social supports for the patient
  • Process: Utilizing a variety of aids such as reminders, audiovisual cues, educational resources, etc.
  • Technology: Needs to be always available on hand to keep the patient accountable, empowered, and on track
Problem Statement
“How can we use the “people, processes and technology” approach to help individuals at any point in their psychotropic treatment journey to tackle medication non-adherence?”
Mapping out the scope
Before I could dive into ideation, I had several things to do. First, I needed to take a look at my data and map out the business goals with my user goals.
But why did I have to do this?
This is super helpful in giving this project more clarity and could possibly help us define the scope of the project.
So the solution was clear: a feature-rich mobile application that provided personalized content to the user, act as a one-stop shop for all psychotropic medication queries.
Let's take a look at the competition
Now that I narrowed down the technology to a mobile application - I wanted to see how other apps on the market today were doing and the kind of features they offered. I chose 3 direct competitors and 2 in-direct competitors.
I was not so surprised to see that apps that "claimed to help and support individuals on psychotropic medication" merely acted as virtual pill boxes. However, there was something that caught my eye - the app "Wellth" uses incentives to increase medication adherence. But I was not able to explore the app because it requires a code from your medical practitioner in order to log-on.
But I was surprised that both in-direct competitors offered a lot of personalized and mental health tools to their users - like a mood and side-effect tracker, body scanning, etc.
I was super eager to use the information I learned to start putting some solutions and ideas together. However, I needed to place some constraints on myself so I would not get carried away:
Project has to be completed in 4 weeks
Access to resources from mental health professionals is not readily available. So some features cannot be explored
Limit the focus to a single user profile: a person at the beginning of their new psychotropic medication journey
The mobile app conceptualization will be done on an iOS device
The secret sauce
This is where things get interesting and kind of fun. I mentioned an application earlier called "Wellth" and the app uses financial incentives and AI technology to help patients struggle with medication non-adherence stay on-track. This idea resonated with me a lot because I come from a behavioral psychology background but I wanted to look beyond just "financial incentives".
I had a meeting with my mentor to speak to him about Fogg's Behavioral Model but while talking to him I said something along the lines of "this application needs to make taking medication a sustainable habit". That's when my mentor suggested I look to the Hook Model by Nir Eyal.
What is the Hook Model and how can it help?
The Hook Model was proposed by Nir Eyal and it consists of 4 phases - Triggers, Action, Variable Reward and Investment. According to Eyal by the time the user goes through the 4 phases they have established a habit and instead of exiting the loop they stay in it.
Let me illustrate with an example:
  • Trigger: Notification on the user's phone reminding them of a goal that needs to be met like taking your medication or meditating for 5 minutes
  • Action: User picks up their phone, performs the action/complete the goal
  • Variable Reward: Earns coins or some kind of variable reward
  • Investment: User sees enough behavioral change or is interested in earning more rewards so they subscribe to the full version of the app
But this alone will not help my users keep to their adherence plan. This is where the secret sauce enters the playing field: gamification.
But what does gamification have to do with anything?
That's a great question! My theory is that gamification will motivate the user to interact with the app more because gamification doesn't just mean earning rewards it can also impact the overall "funness" of the app - the microcopy, the illustrations, the eventual UI design.
Long story short? It could be one of the reasons why users feel motivated enough to stay adherent to their medication.
Let's start ideating!
It was important for me to build a story with the tasks and showcase some of the gamification potential of the application.
The first thing they would do is set up or create their account.
So, after they setup their account - what would they do? They would check-in one of their daily medications and earn some coins for completing the task.
The perfect ending would be if the user checks their progress and then share it with their care or support system.
These are some of the sketches that helped cement the user flows.
After some sketching, it was time to start exploring and expanding these ideas on Figma.
For this project, I took the opportunity to go out of my comfort zone and take a shot at micro-copy and UX writing. The aim was for the micro-copy  to meet the users where they were emotionally and mentally.
The micro-copy had to be:
  • Supportive
  • Genuine
  • Welcoming
  • Motivating
  • Simple
Typography & Graphics
In consonance with the A Hero’s Journey tone, the typography and vector graphics used had to be in sync as well.
Even after the design process began on Figma, there were numerous amounts of iterations that needed to be done. The lesson here is that it is very important to test your ideas early so that you can either validate them or iterate upon them.
As mentioned earlier, data visualization was a tough nut to crack for me. The advice that was given to me was to "look beyond graphs and think shapes, numbers and visuals."
Original screen included pop-up with complex bar graphs
New screens included a pop-up with simpler graphs accompanied by visuals and words
Another major change was the simplification of the check-in progress. Originally, I was giving the user way too many options and after a series of feedback inspired changes - I made a check-in screen that was minimal and easy to understand.
Original screen included multiple timing choices for the user to go through
New check-in screen has 3 simple choices for the user
But the story still felt incomplete - getting feedback at this stage was crucial because my mentor suggested I take a few steps back and find another task that would help fill the story gap. Some brainstorming moments later, I figured out a way to complete this story cycle and show users that they had multiple goals that they needed to work towards! I also may have taken something from the user onboarding journey and that was setting goals.
3, 2, 1...launching!
The wireframes were ready for launch but I took it one step further by exploring some intuitive micro-interactions for my prototype!
I recruited 5 participants (from neurodivergent Facebook groups) and conducted a moderated remote usability test through Butter (a platform much like Zoom). To read the full usability plan and script click here.
My participants were asked to:
  • Set their new adherence goal
  • Start and finish a goal check-in
  • Check their progress dashboard
  • Explore the "My Stats" page
Test findings
The participants behavior and reactions were observed in real-time as this was a moderated remote usability test. 5 out of 5 participants felt the app was "celebrating the small victories" and felt that the language used was "super playful and motivating without being patronizing"
In particular, the users loved the coin animation and felt like the earning something was a “small rush of dopamine”
 I compiled my findings into an affinity map and used the insights to help me prioritize my revisions.
To see my entire affinity board on FigJam click here.
Refining the design
Here are a few of the changes that were made to the designs:
Progress dashboard
removed pop-up screen and included all information onto the main screen
re-arranged the options to help users make a more informed decision
To see all of the changes click here.
These are few of the key screens:
My learnings
This project really drove home the concept of iterative design for me. There were many times I tested my ideas during group critique sessions and I had to go back to the user flows and wireframes to iterate on them. So fail fast and remember that the design process is not linear and that is okay!
Early on in my design process, I got very caught up in the user onboarding journey. I had to take a step back from the project and revisit alternate flows to check which ones would help tell the story better. Don't be afraid of taking a step back to gather yourself and getting a fresh perspective.
I am still struggling a little with data visualization but I learned that it requires its own approach and understanding.
So, what's next?
A Hero’s Journey is a passion project of mine and there’s still so much exciting work to be done on it! Here are a few ideas I have for the next steps:
  • Create a sitemap to guide the rest of the design process
  • Start exploring the UI aspect of the project
  • Flesh out other user flows
  • Read more about gamification and explore the other ways I can incorporate into the project 
Thanks for reading!
Interested in reaching out and talking about my work? Contact me here!