Literature Review, Interviews, prototype building, user testing
Project For: Course Project for Human Computer Interaction
Collaborators: Anam Tahir, Fatima Tariq, Palwisha Akhtar, Iffat Syed
Project Date: Fall 2016
Countering depression and anxiety in students using a mobile app
The users interviewed are from diverse backgrounds(lahore and other cities) however all are currently studying in Lahore. Age group of students targeted is from 18 to 23 year olds.To not restrict our study to students in Lahore University of Management Sciences,about40% of interviewees were from other universities namely CMH Medical college and Forman Christian College University. They belong to private and semiprivate universities.
The reason to choose this age group is because this is the age group that supposedly goes through anxiety and depression because of the massive changes in their lives they are going through. Whether they are far from home or not (day scholars), they are en route to the path of adulthood and independence therefore they have a lot to cope with.They are more likely to be victim of anxiety and depression.
The reason to choose these universities is the aassumption that the workload in all these universities is different.LUMS, for instance, has more academic pressure than FCCU. CMH LMC, on the other hand, is tougher in terms of workload than the aforementioned universities, also has a different educational system (annual system).
Potential users were first asked to fill out an already existing survey on depression and anxiety, taken from National Health Service’s (UK) mood assessment quiz. This allowed usto screen outthe users which were not the target users of this project. Then, according to the results, all those users which were categorized as ppotential depression prone people were iinterviewed in person. This was done to observe their body language and to develop a personal relation with the user to create a comfort zone for them so that it’s easier for them to open up and answer the questions we ask.
To understand our problem and to have an idea on how to go about the data collection part, we referred to a couple of psychology related papers. The initial survey that we used to screen out our participants was taken by NHS website since it is a tried and tested assessment for moods.
From the pool of papers we discovered to read, we very frequently found that depression and stress were a widely researched topics. However, what we noticed was that these didn’t particularly talk about depression and stress collectively. What we instead aimed at was to work on these two things collectively.
One particular paper we found very useful was that by J. Williams who mentioned how appropriate questions should be asked in an interview (Williams) for a delicate matter like this.
Contextual Inquiry wasn’t exactly possible.We couldn’t observe how our target user group deals with stress and depression because of various factors we couldn’t follow them around because it was time consuming and invaded their privacy. Also, depression is a state which even the victim can’t predict when they’ll go into it. So observation wouldn’t have been possible. Therefore, interviews were conducted of students.
Interview Protocol: Interviews were conducted during normal school hours when subjects were available to give time. All interviews were taken within the respective universities. A few students had oobjections with their interviewsbeing recorded on cameratherefore only the voice was recorded of those interviews. Also, some interviewees had objections with their names being in print therefore, they have been referred as anonymous.
The interview questions were structured mostly,however, going with the flow of the interview, some questions were unstructured as well.One major difficulty we had to face was the fact that most people wouldn’t easily open up. The questions compiled were indeed very personal and not a happy trip to memory lane so a lot of people maintained their cool and did not disclose themselves fully. This restricted us when we wanted to branch out our questions.
The interviews started with us explaining our purpose of the study followed by asking for a brief introduction of the interviewee. To not jump onto our essential questions and to set a comforting environment for the interviewee we asked them some questions related to their life at their university, at home, their friends’ circle and their hobbies. These questions lead to our questions which directly tackled with depression their lowest point in life, how it affected their sleeping, eating and working routine, how similar were these feelings to what they felt nowadays. We ended the interview by asking them if they would be interested in any sort of assistance to get out of this mood.
General trend shows that student undergoing university education undergo varying amounts of stress and depression, which depend upon diverse reasons discussed in this paper. The reasons why students feel depressed roughly fall into four categories namely academic pressure, family problems,social issues and personal concerns. In general, freshmen and sophomores encounter academic stress and adjusting to the new environment is one of the major challenges they face. However, juniors and seniors tend to develop social and personal issues with the course of time and with addition in academic distress.
To elaborate on depression caused by academic stress,students from CMH (Combined Military Hospital) are of the opinion that academic pressure has been a permanent factor in causing depression. For starters, the transition from college to university brings emotional distress. Adjusting to a routine that requires extensive selfstudy, persistent attention and concurrent challenges in the form of send-ups, professional exams and ward duties is one of their major concerns. Gradually, as the students adjust, the workload increases constantly, often making them doubt their ability to keep up with it.
In other universities,academic pressure is only a major factor in the first few months, as is narrated by the freshmen. Students from F.Sc. (annual system in high school) have troubles adjusting from a memorization based education to one that requires application of concepts (semester system in college). P6from freshmen year says,”Kaafi tough hai parhai LUMS ki especially pehle main ne FSC ki hui hai toh jo transition hai FSC se iss mein, kaafi difficult hai, pata nahi kya hoga. Pehli baar GPA se wasta para hai.“(I find LUMS significantly hard especially because I have a background in FSc, so the transition to LUMS has been huge. I don’t know how I’ll survive. This is the first time I’ve been introduced to the idea of GPA).
The problems are not limited to adjusting from an annual examination system to a semester GPA system only. People from PreMedical background have troubles adjusting to Engineering subjects. P22 from the freshmen batch is enrolled in SSE, and since science courses offered in LUMS build upon concepts from PreEngineering, she has to simultaneously cover ALevel Mathematics and try to make sense of the topics being. Juniors and seniors also corroborated P22’s account by agreeing that they also had troubles coping up with academics. P9,having enrolled in junior year, says, “Pehle ziada depressive hota tha, ab like aadat ho gai hai shayad. Shuru shuru mein zyada feel hota tha, my first year wasn’t that good in terms of academics. I use to think a lot. Ab mein sochti nahi houn.“(It was more depressing at the beginning. I‘m used to it now, I guess. Initially, the pressure would sometimes get to me. My first year was not great in terms of academics. I used to think about it a lot, but not so much now).
With the passage of time, students generally witness their problems transforming from academic to social and personal. At that stage, they become increasingly concerned about their future and consequently, their academic stress transforms into premature distress about their professional life.
P11,currently enrolled in junior year says,”Ab jab junior year mein aye hain tou ab bohat depression hai. It’s, like, very annoying. Ap ke roz quizzes, roz assignments hain, apki ki koi social life nai hai, apki koi family nai hai, matlab kuch bhi nai hai. Ap ko pata hai keh ap k pas bas 5 EE courses hain jinhein ap ko parhna hai aur ap ko ye bhi nai pata keh itna parhne ka koi faida bhi hai ke nai.” She goes on to add,”Ab parhai ki tension nahi hai, ziada depress ye soch ke hota hun ke jo parha ha pata nai uska koi faida hoga bhi ya nahin.” (I don’t worry about the studies any more. Instead, I’m more worried about whether all I’ve learnt so far will be put to use in the future).
If we observe the trend of depression and stress caused by academics and the fear of professional life, most of our findings suggest that the aforementioned cause stays consistent irrespective of the year the student is in. The only difference is that the initial years are the ones when the student is adjusting to the new system and towards the final years of the degree, the cause changes it shape to how to utilize this education and degree so as to take up and fulfill their responsibilities.
Almost half of the interviewees have reported family issues as a source of depression.
For some of them, it was difficult to recover from the death of their close relatives.
For one student, P12,losing her loved one was highly depressing because it made her realize that life is very unpredictable and she hasn’t done enough for life after death.
There were students who were not very close to their family. For some, communication gap with family members was depressing. Whereas for another student, their family did not matter at all. P16 said , “ I don’t talk to my family, they are okay with it too”
There were also some students who were depressed by their family matters and went to universities away from home to escape their families. P3 said his older brother was the eldest male in his house and instead of staying and fulfilling his responsibilities, he ran away from home to marry of his own will, when his mother did not approve of the match. He felt angry at his brother and chose to stay away from home.
Some hostelites confided that they missed their families a lot and it was depressing for them to stay alone and away from them. P17 said, “In Saudi Arabia, you’re very close to your parents…The lives Pakistanis lead over here, they are a little bit more independent than people in Saudi Arabia…You aren’t allowed to go out without a male.”She said that she finds it really difficult to adjust to an independent life without the support of her family.
Some freshmen found it hard to make friends.P17 didn’t find people approachable , ” Trying to be able to talk to someone and not receiving a rude or arrogant response which is something that I found very common… I got the distinct impression that I’m not wanted so I basically removed myself.“
Some freshmen, on the other hand, took joy in making new friends.
However, a lot of juniors and seniors developed problems in their social circle. P16,a senior said, “Having to hangout with new people which are brought in by your own friends , that’s why groups break up”.
Some people have been through breakups and they were all of the opinion that it was one of the most depressing times in their lives. P4 said he went through his first breakup when he was 13 of age and since then he has been in a perpetual numb state.
Some factors that we discovered, which didn’t broadly fit in any of the aforementioned factors, we’ve categorized them as personal issues. Senior and junior year students especially seemed to have slightly diverse problems that caused them to be in stress. They were worried about how university is going to end, the very fact that their university is going to end, what direction their life is heading in, and whether they will be able to achieve their goals and fulfill their responsibilities or not.
P14,a senior said, “How to carry out my future plans makes me depressed, if i’m not able to fulfill my goals that makes me frustrated. This has got me feeling suicidal and numb.
Sometimes when I plan my tasks, I stop and think what is the point of all this when it doesn’t affect me? I want to end everything then”
Although we were expecting people to be depressed about financial issues we did not find anyone reporting a cause like this. The reason might be that our selection of people did not include such a person, since we targeted easily accessible universities. Or, it could be that people did not feel comfortable disclosing such a fact about themselves hence didn’t open up and mentioned this factor.
The interviewed students were able to identify the direct effect of depression on their daily routines. According to many, depression led to interruptions and distractions in their lives.
“I prayed properly, I read Quran…Even if you’re not a religious person…it gives you a bit of a schedule to work with…During the exams, I literally didn’t pray…for about one month…I sort of became an atheist; that was how screwed up everything became…I would just lie in bed”
The effect of such obstructions on the academics of people were different; some experience a growing inclination towards studies since they find it as a medium to escape from thoughts that muddle their heads. “Jab mein depress hota hun ya thoughts aarahay hotay hain toh mein zada parhta hun”P10.
For others, depression adversely affects their study patterns and decreases their concentration level. “Obviously jab apka din acha nahin guzarta toh parhai peh concentrate nahin hota”P1.
Participants who were facing depression due to issues with their families prefered staying away from home. “Mujay bhai peh gussa tha iss liya mein ghar se dur rehna chahta hun”P2. “There has always existed a communication gap between me and my mother and then she remarried. I don’t feel homesick. I am happy that I am away from home”P5
In addition, depression has a direct impact on eating patterns and sleep routines of people. According to some participants, sleep is their only chance at escaping from reality. “Mein pura pura din bhi sou sakta hun. Sona best ha”P10.“Mein zyada sota houn. It helps. Thoughts suppress hojati hain”P6.The general trend reveals that depression brings with it a decrease in the food intake of the affectees. “ When I sleep I probably skip meals ” P10.For others, they got restless as a consequence of depression and insomnia. “Mein sonay ki koshish karti hun lakin neend nahin aati”P12.”I would sleep for about 510 minutes, wake up, sleep for 510 minutes, wake up. That would happen from 2 to 6 and then I wouldn’t sleep at all…I lost a lot of weight.“P17.The eating pattern of these participants became irregular. “Bohat bohat random hotte ha food routine. Kabhi I eat alot, kabhi pura pura din kuch nahin khati”P9.Some admitted to going through different emotional phases. Some of them would become increasingly inconsiderate, while some resorted to crying. Others expressed their thoughts on how they have become indifferent to whatever fate holds for them.
University students use a wide variety of techniques to counter depression. Some techniques, however, are more common than the others.
The most common way to deal with depression is to share their feelings with their friends or family. Some people talk to their parents to seek guidance in making decisions whereas some people such as P20 talk to their instructors to cope with academic stress. P5 said “It’s better to talk it out than to bottle it up.”For P10,talking to close friends and listening to their responses helped deal with depression. If she could not find someone to talk to, she tended to over think stuff and get even more depressed. P4 says “People have similar experiences and you can find comfort in that.”However, some people are unable to open up to their closed ones and share. Either they are introverts or they are full of mistrust for other people. These people also reported that when they are depressed, they sleep more to escape reality. Another person, P17, stated that sharing helped her a lot but she did not have anyone to share with. She said, “Icouldn’t talk to my parents because if I told my parents anything they’d be worried and ultimately you don’t want to worry your parents when they’re so far away and you know they can’t do anything.“She also says, “Arabs don’t lie…When I came to Pakistan… People lied… and it would irk me a lot…The other (factor) was backbiting about other people in front of me…Every Pakistani I encountered had that… It’s better that I’d be friendless than be friends with people who would do something like that. Because ultimately if they’re doing that about other people, wouldn’t they do the same thing to me?“This mistrust was a huge obstacle for her in making new, close friends she could share with. “You would need to know those people for one and a half year or more than that to talk to them about stuff…It’s a natural process.“
Almost half of the students said they used distraction to get rid of depressing thoughts. They indulged in books, movies and TV shows to help forget. Books are generally more helpful than movies or shows, because according to the students books take them into another world where they can escape their own world’s problems. However, most of them complained that this was not a very effective tool to get rid of depression, because as soon as this distraction ended they were haunted by their thoughts once again.
Music is a common tool among students to counter depression, and was found to be quite helpful. Among our interviewees, people who went through problems in their social circle were more inclined to use it as a tool. However, it worked differently for everyone. Some used music to distract themselves. For P17,just browsing and finding new music helped pass time. Loud music helped some remove depressing thoughts, while calm music helped other find peace. While some use music to help them think clearly and rationalize their internal thoughts, P16 used music with meaningful lyrics that helped him make sense of what he was going through, “Ilisten to something i can relate to.”
mood swings. You go to a point of exhaustion, so it makes you feel good.”Others walked and meditated to feel more peaceful. P17 said that she took “long walks in the morning after Fajr…that is very relaxing.“
Very few people, 3 out of 22 to be exact, said that they wrote things down to help evaluate and organise their thoughts. They were all of the opinion that to a certain extent, the technique is quite helpful, as it helps them rationalize their anger or let go of their feelings. P16 feels that if he thinks about a past depressing event, he is influenced by the intensity of his feelings as a result, and cannot think about them rationally. However, he explains, if he writes his feelings down when he is angry or depressed, and reads them later, he sometimes realizes that the issues he was depressed or angry about earlier were petty issues in reality. P17 feels that if she jots down sad or angry thoughts on a paper or a computer and then gets rid of the note, she lets go of the negative feelings. She says, “For me, what I did was I just wrote down a big rant on a piece of paper and then tore it up and burnt it…That kind of helps as well because you do let go of some of the anger you have…I looked it up online..”How to get rid of anger issues?”..I tried it and it helped.“
3 out of 22 participants explained that planning a routine, making todo lists and trying to organize their lives in general also helps. P17 had to take a semester off from LUMS because she was diagnosed with depression. She recounted how she used the time to organize herself, catch up with academics and get her life back on track. During a depressing time in LUMS, she says “Iwent on a cleaning spree…I would dust the room and I would have a shower about three times a day. That kind of helped distract me a little bit.“However, there are some (2 out of 22) who firmly believed that planning and organizing does not help their depression in any way.
P2 explained how drugs helped him forget depressing thoughts and feel normal for a few hours. P18 claimed that doing creative things like painting and cooking to distract her mind helps her out.
P17 found that joining societies helped her cope with depression. “Iknow the academics…I have joined societies which in a way help you keep on track. You don’t get a lot of time to think about the things that are wrong with you…If you don’t jump into that cycle..you can pass it.“
Some participants have already tried searching for ways to cope with depression. They learned to write things down and tried breathing exercises. Some said they were sceptical of the Internet and would prefer professional help. When asked if they learned about new techniques of coping with depression, whether would they tried them, 11 people responded affirmatively while 3 people said nothing could help them out of that phase. One of them said,“Jab mindset bana hota hai keh I am depressed I don’t try to get out of it.”
The idea is to come up with a product that will help affected students overcome their depression, which is a corollary of the dilemmas they face in everyday life.
According to our research, personal, social, academic and familyrelated concerns are among the leading causes of depression in university students, in Pakistan. The effects eventually become apparent in the form of poor academic performance, disturbed sleep pattern, eating disorders and other similar conditions.
Affected people tend to employ diverse strategies to manage such a condition. Although each person is unique in his reaction in depressive situations, amongst the most common coping mechanisms are listening to music, maintaining a journal to write about one’s concerns, sharing one’s experiences with a friend or increasing one’s physical exertion.
Depression is medically treated using techniques such as Cognitive Behavioral Therapy,medication, etc. As indicated in the Literature Review section, these techniques have already been developed into applications. So, we had to look for other means to help people through their depression.
An idea was to build a tracking applicationthat not only monitors the mood swings of the user, what triggers their depression, what helps liven them up, but also, records their food and sleep routine. It makes sure that the person is leading a healthy routine and their mental health does not affect their physical health.
Since, a lot of people reported that music helps them cope with life, we also considered developing a music application.Different themes and genres of music help the users in different ways. So, we thought about making an application that assesses the user’s mood and suggests songs accordingly.
People going through depression also feel that penning down thoughts, that are distressing them, helps clear their mind. It also helps keep a record of sad, as well as, happy moments in their life, and allows them to turn back and reflect upon the troubling thoughts. So, we contemplated making a journalapplication, not only useful for the user, but also for their therapists.
Sharing was also found to be a helpful way to get out of depression. We considered making an online support group applicationwhich can help users exhibiting similar symptoms to come together and discuss their thoughts and emotions with one another,
which means that the burden that comes with stress and depression is no one’s to carry alone, but for the entire support group to share.
We also observed that people who were unable to organize themselves and their thoughts effectively, were overwhelmed and had trouble coping with university life. So we discussed making a scheduler applicationthat can keep a record of the things the student is supposed to do, and help them get their priorities straight. The app would suggest possible routines which the user can follow, so that they can cope with things one step at a time, instead of getting overwhelmed by a lot of things all at once. The app would also incorporate appropriate breaks in between so that the user does not overburden them with work and sleep for a healthy amount of time.
Emvio Watch, is a startup by Darta Systems, that has an inbuilt pulse sensor and accelerometer that measures pulse, activity level, calories burned etc. The app continuously monitors the user’s heart rate variability index to calculate and display their stress level. The watch can also be connected to smartphones to store the user’s stress levels in the long run and record events that cause rising or falling stress levels.
A research paper “The moment: a mobile tool for people with depression or bipolar disorder”presented in UbiComp ’14 Adjunct,proposes a similar mobile application, The Moment, that tracks user’s mood swings by recording their feelings and psychological responses through a sensor. This information is useful for the user, as well as, for his counsellor in the long run.
Another app, MoodTune,is based on research by Dr. Pizzagalli, a professor of Psychiatry at Harvard, who says snap decisions help treat depression. It consists of a series of games that, for example, ask users to match facial expressions to words. These games target the same region of human brain as the medicines prescribed for depression. Overall, the app helps assess, track and treat depression, and also shows updates about recent research, resources and treatment of depression. References
MoodGym is a web based program that treats anxiety and depression using Cognitive Behavioral Therapy. The program is divided into five modules: the “Feelings Module” that checks what kinds of feelings are provoked by certain thoughts, the “Thoughts Module” that asks users to identify thought patterns that induce depression, the “Unwarping Module” that teaches techniques to contest automatic negative thoughts, the “DeStressing Module” that identify causes of and responses to stress in users and the “Relationship Module” that examines the type and quality of relationships users tend to form. References
Similarly, another article named “Integration of peer support and computerbased CBT for veterans with depression” published in Computers in Human Behaviour,also works on developing computerbased Cognitive Behavioral Therapy especially for veterans. More found at: http://dl.acm.org/citation.cfm?id=2565881.2565988&coll=DL&dl=GUIDE&CFID=560836 082&CFTOKEN=78027145
Support groups provide a platform for people with similar issues to come together and help each other cope. Inspired from that, WebMD features online support groups for people going through problems such as depression, anxiety, withdrawal symptoms, etc. A smartphone application, 7Cups,available on Google Play Store allows users to share their feelings and problems with trained volunteers.
Environment has a huge impact on the mood of a person. A loud environment disturbs an anxious person. A quiet, standstill atmosphere makes a lonely person feel worse. Certain lighting effects are associated with healing and serenity.
We take an atmosphere state consisting of the lights and sound, and tweak it according to the mood of a person. This helps the app in reaching out to the user at multiple levels. Furthermore, the application creates a support group for people suffering from depression. It connects people through words, as well as their ambience. People can talk by playing music for others, or through other visual changes.
A design idea under consideration inspired by Coca Cola’s Breaking Boundariesand Hug Mecampaign was to install music booths at public places such as parks, beaches, cafes, trains, etc. The idea is to allow random public, passersby, to take some time out to dedicate a song to a stranger. The booths are connected globally. This sends a message to the people at the listening end of music booths that somewhere around the world, some stranger cares. It gives them a sense of connection to people and makes them feel less lonely.
Furthermore, the booths act as a companion for socially shy people, allowing them to feel more comfortable in public. On the other hand, these booths connect depressed people who are alone in public with others, so they do not feel alone anymore.
This app tracks the user’s mood throughout the day and identifies events and activities that brighten up your mood or make you feel gloomy, including the conscious and subconscious activities. This allows the user to avoid activities that have an adverse effect on his mood. It also suggests activities that can elevate his mood when he is depressed. In addition to his mood, the app also tracks the user’s sleep and food routine. If a user is sleeping too much or too little than recommended, the app sends a warning sign to the user. Similarly, the app also measures his calorie intake and warns him if it is above or below the healthy amount.
Not only will the app temporarily boost the mood of the user, it will also improvise the long term health of the user.
1. Choice of design and basic idea:
From the three design ideas mentioned above, we have decided to work on the first idea that changes the visual and aural ambience of a person according to their mood. This product is a combination of an app and a light projector which is synched with the app. It is accompanied with
● an inbuilt journal that allows a user to record his thoughts
● a virtual community of people who need emotional support or can provide emotional support, allowing users to find understanding friends
● a platform for psychologists and the general public to volunteer as emotional support systems for the users feeling depressed or stressed
● the ability not only to converse through text, but also through ambience i.e. it allows a user to play songs or set lights for another user
A lot of our other options, discussed during the brainstorming session, have either already been partially implemented by others, or they were unable to reflect our findings very effectively. Therefore, we think that among the ideas previously discussed, this combination of app and the projector is most innovative and feasible, and translates our findings into a solution in the most effective way as described below.
2. How findings were translated into our app:
A person’s surroundings have a significant impact on their mood. Hence, our app has features which work on changing the ambience of the user according to their mood to help alleviate their depression. This is achieved by using the user’s smartphone as a control to modify the user’s surroundings to alleviate their mood.
Our findings indicate that depressed people tend to isolate themselves, and immerse themselves in music, books and other activities to try and block out their distressing thoughts.
As some of the interviewees said, they like to listen to songswith themes they can relate to as they help them rationalize their thoughts. Others stated that they chose songs which had the tempo best suited to their moods. Therefore, in our app, the choice of music available to the user is categorized according to genre and theme.Music is categorized into different themes that are common causes of depression in people e.g. hopelessness, relationship issues, etc. and also according to genre, presenting the user with a spectrum of choice of music.
Apart from music, visual themeshave been categorized according to color scheme and images that are most helpful for the current mood of user, as discussed in an article by W R Crozier, “The Psychology of Colour Preferences”. Crozier has discussed how the color preferences vary from age groups to the gender to ethnicity. For our purposes we have extracted the information relevant to us for instances blues and greens are most liked by Asians. Likewise, where depression and introversion prefers black, brown and other darker hues, the opposite state of feelings and emotions prefers more vibrant colors like orange, yellow, violet, pink, blue and green. Especially vivid blue because it was refreshing and spacious. In general the longer wavelengths tend to be more perceived as energetic and extroverted, the shorter wavelengths calmer and more introverted. This is precisely why customization of themes is a feature so that it suits everyone. Similarly, looking at different images, such as animals, water, etc. has different effect on mood, for example, looking at stars can help you sleep. All these themes that have been added cater to various versions of depression.
Our interviews revealed that according to some people, writing their thoughts helps them in organizing them or in getting rid of the negatives ideas. Therefore, our app includes an inbuilt journalthat allows easy access to writing to those affected users who wish to let out the depression in the form of words. They can even share these writings with others if they wish. Who knows, a repercussion of this is a community of writers who write to inspire others.
From our findings, we gathered that sharing also helped people to cope with their depression and ill mood. However, many people felt that they did not have anyone to talk to because either they were introverts or untrusting or feared pestering their family and friends. In this case, it is useful to create avirtual support groupto connect these people feeling low so they can share with each other and help each other out. Our app, with this feature, allows users share their feelings, experiences or problems while volunteer helpers can provide constructive input in response. The app community is divided according to the common causes of depression, so users can talk to other people that are suffering from similar problems. The app further facilitates the process of sharing by allowing users to share pages from their journal. This allows them to share what they were feeling at a particular point in time and allows others to respond with ideas for a suitable ambience for the user. Since the app is synced with the user’s light projector, the settings can automatically be modified for the user.
These ideas, to be incorporated into the product “MoodFix” are formed as a consequence of our findings during the research phase.
3. App design and features:
● Music and light effects
The app has its own database of songs and light effects. It allows the users to browse through the whole database, as well as search for a particular song or light setting. The database is also organized according to themes, making it easier for the user to select a song according to his mood. When a user selects a song and a particular light setting, the song is played on the speakers and the light effect is projected on a wall using the light projector, both of which are synched with the app.
The inbuilt journal allows users to pen down their thoughts. The pages are stored in a calendar and also serve as a record of mood swings of the user. These pages can also be sent to other users and pinned to the user profile, which the user wishes to make public.
● The support group
The virtual support group created by our app is categorized according to the common causes of depression and implemented as separate threads. When a user connects to the community, he can choose the thread for his particular problems so that he can talk to people with similar issues. Users can also share light settings, songs and journal pages within that thread. The app also allows users to suggest topics for new threads to be created if they think the existing threads do not cover some particular aspect of depression.
● Private sharing
The app allows a user to make friends within the community so he can talk to them more frequently and outside of the threads. This implementation also allows increased control of user’s privacy. For example, a user can allow only his friends to see what song they are currently listening to or some particular page shared on their profile.
The app also allows other users to signup as volunteers , after a certain experience level. Volunteers can join community threads, listen to the problems of depressed people and provide helpful responses. They can also become friends with the depressed people so they are connected to them independent of the community threads. They can help all the users by sending appropriate light settings and music.
● Personal profile
A profile of a user displays his name, picture, an optional tag line, the current light and music that the user is playing (which is also an indicator of his current mood), and the pages of his journal that he has decided to make public.
Jim just had a huge fight with his mother. His mother won’t allow him to go on a trekking trip with his friends, because it is unsafe and he has his final examinations next month which he needs to study for. He is very angry. He opens up the MoodFix app on his phone and opens his journal. He writes down his thoughts about how he is annoyed that his mother won’t let him have fun. Writing his thoughts down helps calm his mind. Later, he can read back on this incident and rationalize in a more logical manner, about how his mother is worried for his safety and his academics.
John has just received his grades for his midterm examination. He has not performed very well. Right now, he is working on a really long assignment due at midnight, and is feeling very tired, depressed and hopeless. He does not have the motivation to continue. He opens the MoodFix app. He goes to the “Motivational” theme and selects a dark green light. “The Climb” starts playing in the background, and he feels motivated. He goes back to working on the assignment.
Hayley’s boyfriend just broke up with her and she feels really sad and betrayed. She is finding it hard to trust anyone anymore. She goes on the MoodFix app and decides to talk to a volunteer. The volunteer listens to her feelings and suggests her ways to get over her exboyfriend. He sends her a song and she accepts it. “She Will Be Loved” plays in the background and she starts feeling more hopeful.
Will is sitting in a corner of a cafeteria. He can see a group of his classmates celebrating their friend’s birthday. Will’s birthday was yesterday and no one wished him. Due to his introvert nature, Will finds it hard to make friends and is feeling very lonely. He opens the MoodFix app and joins the “Introvert” community. He finds other introvert people with similar experiences, and finds it easier to connect to them. They wish him a belated happy birthday. He feels happy that he has found other people like him and does not feel alone in the world anymore.
We used paper prototyping technique. We vertically prototyped the functionality of music, community thread and journal . Light was not implemented because the purpose of low fi is to check our flow and navigation of the app and the interfaces of the light feature was same as that of music hence we kept its implementation in horizontal aspect of prototyping. Similarly in the “connect to” part we vertically prototyped only the community thread, volunteer and friends are the horizontal aspects because their implementation is same as that of the community thread. Moreover we did not implemented the playback of music and light in low fi because they were a source of feedback and in no way affected the flow or navigation of the app.
The first screen of the app initially had two main options as buttons. First button harbored the text “My Mood” which the user would tap to navigate to a screen where they can choose to play music, select light or write a journal. The second button said “Connect” which would take the user to the support group/community screen. There was another button “Register as Volunteer” right near the bottom of the screen.
User 2 had difficulty following the asked they were asked to perform. According to them, the label on the button “My Mood” wasn’t clear enough. A few other users were unable to locate the journal because of this ambiguity. Therefore, for subsequent tests we first renamed the label “My Mood” to “Lights/Music/Journal” and in later tests, separated the journal feature from lights and music and brought it to the front, on the home page.
Home page now has 3 buttons: “My Journal”, “Change Ambiance”, “Connect to Community”. Another issue that User 3pointed out was regarding the option “Register as Volunteer”. According to the system model it is for physiologists or users who intended to volunteer for helping people fight depression but the users perceived it as a sign up for the app. We thus incorporated this feature with the “Connect to a Volunteer”.
Another feedback we got was that given a target to perform two tasks simultaneously he pointed out that he has to navigate all the way back to the homepage if has to switch between different tasks for instance go to the journal after playing the music. He suggested that there should be a way to directly go back to the home page. So we added the home icon on every screen of the interface.
Basically the text written on the buttons was frequently found to be misleading and had to be updated throughout the low fi process, as anticipated.
Apart from the task to locate the journal (as discussed earlier) our tests for checking the implementation of journal went smooth. Users were able to write a journal page and figured out how to share the current page or already written page with a friend.
Navigating to a community thread was not an issue for any user however once inside a particular thread users highlighted errors in the implementation. User 1 and 2for instance were not able to figure out that a chat is going on because the chat blocks in the thread were empty. User 1perceived the boxes as if they correspond to a member of the chat/group and User 2 thought as if they are some kind of options hence they ended up clicking the chat boxes expecting a change in the screen. To fix this issue for subsequent tests we added dialogs in the chat boxes to give the impression that a chat is already going on after that no user had problem figuring that out.
Secondly, User 1 was given a task to go to the academic stress’s thread and add one of
its member as a friend. According to the system model we had next to the thread’s name which represents options but the user was unable to locate that without guidance. We therefore replaced it with a button with two people illustrated on it to represent a group. After the modification User 2 was given the same task and he figured out the icon and its purpose.
This part of our app was the most tested one among all. In our initial music interface design (picture in screens folder) the interface showed 4 categories. Our
implementation was inspired by 2D coordinate system, with these categories on the opposing axis, namelyEnergetic(North), Calm (South), Dark (East) and Positive (West). The circles on the grid represented different songs and their colors their categories. User could select a theme from a theme wheel on the screen which would highlight all the songs of that theme and fade the rest. This design, however, failed. No user was able to figure out how it functions. User 1had no idea how to interact with the interface. Before testing with the next user we added some more labels and pop ups to guide the user. When User 4 and 5were given the task to play a song after the modifications, they were not as clueless as the former users but the design still failed. We decided to change the interface to a rather simpler yet interactive design.
The second interface was inspired by the design of iPod classic, with a scrollable wheel to change the music tracks. Scrolling the wheel clockwise moved the playlist forward and scrolling it anti clockwise moved the playlist backwards. We could also implement the swipe transition to maneuver the playlist forward and backwards but considering the ease of the user and human behavior, we implemented the scroll technique. The other technique tires the user of swiping over and over again to reach to the end of the playlist if, say, they had to reach to the end of the playlist. This implementation was tested with User 6 and he was able to figure out the functionality using the knowledge in the head as he later pointed out that it resembles iPod’s interface.
We however still implemented and tested an even simpler design without the use of the scroll wheel (image in the screens folder) considering the fact that we might face difficulty in implementing the second design in HiFi. We tested it with User 7 and the result was positive.
Our final design is an application-based support group, that links with supporting hardware to changes the visual and aural ambience of a person according to their mood. It is accompanied with
Our main screen displays the logo of our product along with three main options:
This interface has a horizontal implementation and includes all visual details. ‘Change ambience’ and ‘Connect to people’ options have been partially implemented for prototyping purposes. However, due to time and application platform constraints, we have not started working on the journal as of now.
Our app supports all vertical aspects of ‘Change ambience’ option, except for music and light database implementation. ‘Change ambience’ lets the users choose between ‘music’ and ‘light’. Both options are followed by a screen that lets users input a selection criteria for song and light suggestions. The most visible aspect of this interface is a color wheel bearing different titles like ‘Academics’, ‘Family’, ‘Friends’, ‘Social’ and ‘Financial’ issues. These filters help us select songs with lyrics that reflect on these issues. They also help select lighting with colors that are helpful for people going through these problems. Below the color wheel there is a slider bar that asks for user’s mood between a scale of happy and sad. This feature helps decide whether the selection of music and lights should be cheerful, serene, uplifting, among other options. There is another selection bar on the top of the screen for music selection that lets users choose genre of the music that they want to listen to. When the user enters the filters, they can tap on the ‘GO’ button.
The user is taken to an interface that has a bar on the top with a playlist of filtered songs or lights displayed as circles. Tapping on these circles displays the name of the song or the light along with the option to select that song and light. There is a big circle in the centre that shows the currently selected light or song’s album cover. The circle has a button in the centre that allows the user to toggle between play and pause. This is the most dominant feature of this interface. Prior to the prototyping phase, the music interface only displayed album art of the music tracks, making the identification of songs difficult. The interface now displays the title of song after the album art icon for a particular song is tapped. A slider bar has been added to the bottom of the screen that allows users to control volume of the music from high to low, and intensity of the light from bright to dull. The original idea for the app supports and incorporates a database containing a large number of soundtracks and lighting options, categorized according to genre and theme, aiding the procedure of suggesting music and lights to users based on their current preferences. However, for the evaluation phase, the app has been hard-coded in this interface to provide a limited option of upto 6 music tracks and lighting options to choose from. Due to the limitations of the prototyping tool used to create the app, the interface encounters a redundancy issue where the user must first select a song from the top bar, which updates the interface to the selected song, and then tap the play button to play the song. The user must also make sure to pause a playing music track for the new selection to be played, once a song has been selected from the menu bar, or else the two tracks begin playing in unison.
‘Connect to People’ option allows the user to connect to the community, their friends or volunteers. For prototyping purposes, we have covered all vertical aspects of the community and friends section. However, we have not implemented the ‘Volunteers’ section yet.
In the community section, the user is shown a list of all the threads for different topics that are causes of depression. A user can interact with people in any of these threads or start a new thread for a different topic that has not been mentioned before. We had to change our threads’ interface from our design phase. Our previous interface consisted of a continuous inflow of messages, which posed problems such as mixing of two different conversations. Within every thread, users post related thoughts or problems, and other users can vote for each post, share a light, song, or text comment as a follow up to that post. Due to limitations posed by our prototyping tool, we could not implement a standard messaging interface. When using the mobile version of our app,. Every post or comment in a thread appears next to an avatar of the user who posted that message. This allows users to view profiles of and connect to people who they find interesting. The same option is also available if the user clicks on the ‘users present’ icon next to the thread’s name at the top of the screen. A list of names and avatars of all users who have ever posted or commented on this thread is displayed. Earlier on, during the design phase of the app, the threads appeared as a normal conversation thread between multiple users, which lead to several problems: multiple users posting follow-ups to a particular post on the same thread created an unorganized mess. In addition, popular posts used to get lost among all the new incoming posts. Also, members joining a thread halfway through the conversation found it hard to understand the issue/scenario under discussion. Throughout the prototype phase, we have worked on improving the chat experience for the users. Chat threads now appear better organized in terms that a popular thread or post can be viewed with greater ease, depending upon the number of shares and likes a post receives.
The ‘friends’ section displays a list of all people the user is connected to. The avatars and names of users are displayed. From this list, the user can go to any friend’s profile.
The profile of a user displays the avatar, name, age and location of the user. When viewing someone else’s profile there is an option to send a message to that person in the form of text, music or light. Another button next to these options indicates whether the user is connected to that person or not. A check-mark indicates that this person is in the user’s contacts while a ‘plus’ icon allows the user to add a person to their contacts. The profile of a person also displays their current status, the lights and music the user is currently playing.
There is a status bar on top of every screen that allows the user to go back to home screen. It also allows the user to view or edit their own profile. There is a notification button next to the profile button that indicate incoming messages and requests like add friend requests or messages that include text messages, sound or light, sent by other users. Full implementation of the taskbar has not been incorporated into the app as of now. However, the basic functionality has been described above.
In order to share text, music or light, the user must navigate to the chat threads under ‘Connect to people’. Once the user is present at the desired thread, they have the option of sharing music and lights via comments. The user must tap the desired option from the menu bar at the bottom of the interface, which takes them to a new window, similar to the one used to choose music to play. From here, the user has the option of selecting the desired light or music to share. This action leads them back to the updated thread window where their shared post appears at the bottom. In the event of sharing text, the user is lead to a separate window where tapping on a text field triggers the Android keyboard. When the keyboard came up in the original interface window, it covered the text field hiding the text that the user was entering. Therefore, we had to take the user to a new interface to enter the text separately and send the message before the app brought them back to the updated interface with the added post or comment.
A separate way of sharing lights and music with another user is by navigating to their profile by tapping their avatar from the thread chat, from where lights and music can be shared by tapping the lights and music icons respectively. The entailing procedure is similar to that for sharing via comments on a thread.
Although we have not worked on the ‘Volunteer’ section of ‘Connect to People’, the idea is to to provide a platform to people who have recovered from depression or are generally interested in helping depressed people. The option ‘Volunteer’ would allow users to ‘Become a Volunteer’ or ‘Connect to a volunteer’.
If target users wants to seek advice from a volunteer, they can go to the option ‘Connect to a volunteer’ and find a list of volunteers to connect to, for different types of problems that the users might be facing.
If a user wants to help others, he can go to the option ‘Become a Volunteer’, where he can be given a volunteer status in the application. They can comment in response to different posts in community threads, and can be referred to when a user needs help from a volunteer.
The third main feature of our application, the ‘Journal’, has not been implemented yet. An initial interface of the journal is present, in the sense that the ‘Open Journal’ button directs to an interface that is non-functional as of now, but helps conve an idea of what the real interface would be like. This option opens up a new page so the user can start writing right away. A toolbar above allows the user to discard the current page, open a new page, share the current page or open the calendar. The calendar keeps a track of all the pages users have written against the date they were written on. This feature can also be incorporated into other attributes of our application. Users can select pages from their journal to share on their profile or send to friends. They can also post pages in response to posts in community threads.
The overall architecture of our application follows a hierarchy that divides our application into three main features: journal, ambience and community, that allows for an easier navigation, when users have a particular goal in mind. The interfaces in the ambience section for light and music are visually similar, because they have a similar functionality and navigation requirements, which makes the interface easy to remember. For all interfaces, the most important features of that interface are increased in size and vice versa, which allows for easier visibility and navigation. The font that we have used throughout our application is Verdana, because it is one of the easiest fonts to read on screen. Most interfaces of our application are multi-colored, but our buttons are chartreuse (yellow-green) in color to allow better visibility, which is a desired feature in buttons. Green color has a calming effect on people, while the addition of yellow to green adds an energizing effect. Yellow in itself, is a cheerful color, and thus, a good choice while working for depressed people. Therefore, we have used a mixture of yellow and green, as the dominant color of our app. Our background is ash white in color, which provides an element of serenity and also, better visibility when used as a contrast with black text.
5.2. Active Paths
6.1. Scenarios/Tasks for the usability test
6.2. Pre-test questionnaire
The pre-test questionnaire included users’ demographics, their current mood and two of the variables that were important in this context, namely the effect of social circle and their ambience. The exact questions are submitted separately.
6.3. Final questionnaire
For the final questionnaire, however, we did not determine the mood because we basically just wanted to check the usability and the interactiveness of the app. The circumstances and the environment under which we propose that our app would work could not be replicated due to time constraints therefore the effectiveness and the efficiency of the app wasn’t tested.
Questions were kept short and to the point which could either have a yes or no as an answer or a one liner; detailed answers weren’t expected . The post questionnaire is attached separately.
Originally the app was supposed to be tested on an a smartphone since the interface is built for one, however, due to the incompatibility of the software on which we made our app with our phone compelled us to conduct our testing on a personal computer. There was a stark difference between the tests conducted on phone and on the laptop. Users, after using the app on phone, complained about the immense amount of delay and the unresponsiveness of a few buttons on the screen in our interface. All this because the app was super heavy and the software used to make the app had a lot of restrictions. Because of this, we couldn’t fully implement the functionalities we had planned to.
Although, most of the complaints revolved around the failure of app on a mobile phone, a few users did bring the issue of lack of feedback into our consideration. Other than that, the idea of the product was highly appreciated. More by the users who got to experience the light projection as well.
Almost all of the users at first couldn’t figure out that they had to use the back button of the PHONE to go back to the previous screen. This clash could be because they all used mobile phones of different makes and models, and in cases, used a totally different operating system. We assumed that they would use that option to undo their mistake, if made, so we didn’t add a back button on the screen, to eliminate the redundancy of the back button. But, after the testing it looks like the back button is quite essential to have on screen.
In this task, users were asked to play a song “Fireflies”. The steps to take to reach to this part wasn’t directed explicitly, instead a hint was given that they are supposed to change their “ambience” by playing the song. This automatically led them to explore the ‘Ambience’ button.
The average time taken on this task was 58.4 seconds. The time taken by users didn’t vary much which indicates that this task was fairly simple to most of them. The task in itself wasn’t hard to perform; it shouldn’t have taken the users about 1 minute to do it. However, given the fact that this was the first time they were interacting with this interface, the time of execution includes the time people took to understand the functionality of the interface. About 70% users could successfully complete the task.
Another major reason of the extended time taken in this task was the delayed feedback. Even after the users had played the correct song, the song played after a few seconds. A few users were rather impatient and they started tapping other buttons while the song was in process to be played. Others perhaps understood that the app is a little slow on phone and hence they waited for a few seconds after every tap they made on screen, waiting for something to happen. Most of the times, since all the features have not been implemented, the tapped buttons had no output. This waiting time after each tap too might have been the reason the users took this much time. User 9 took the most time, taking it up to 96 seconds. He accidentally played another song and wanted to fix his mistake but couldn’t figure out how to pause the currently playing song and play the correct one. Such a case was easily handled by other users, like user 5, but even she took a couple of seconds over the average time.
Another issue with the interface that we found out was the screen where the categories of songs are implemented. Most of the users didn’t pay heed to what there was on the screen; they just wanted to execute their task. Others, who tried understanding what the interface was doing, it took them some time to know how things worked with the “wheel”.
In this task, users were asked to change their ambience by projecting a light of the theme “Raindrops”. Since the users already knew that the button ‘Ambience’ led to a screen where they could change the lights and music of their surrounding, it was relatively easy for them to execute this task. The average time taken to perform this task was 31.3 seconds. This is a large difference from that of task 1. According to the results of the post questionnaire, this task was the easiest to execute (88% said this was the easiest). Given that, 100% of the users could do it successfully.
In this task the users were asked to go to their friends’ list and send a song to their friend, Zain. The time users took to complete this task averaged around 32.5 seconds. This is not a bad average considering they had to visit a completely different interface than what they had used in the previous tasks. A possible reason could be that the interface of friends’ list was made keeping in mind the interfaces the users might be familiar with, like that of Facebook and Whatsapp. This was done deliberately so that it is easier for the users to map their knowledge in the head to the current interface and it turned to work as expected; users were able to relate to it keeping the execution time low.
However, the screen which displayed the profile of user’s friend to whom they had to send a song was a new interface for the users. Most of the time taken was at this particular screen. Around 42% of the users could not figure out that the button to send a song was the round button with a music note made on it. Again, the impatient users kept tapping other buttons, hoping to see some feedback of the tap they have made but they couldn’t get anything out of it (all buttons not implemented). Out of the users who couldn’t figure out the music button, half of them kept tapping the button right next to this one which had the sign of a “tick”.
Another tiny tweak to the norm was that the friends’ list wasn’t in chronological order. This was an unintentional mistake on our part. Since the name of the friend was Zain, most of the users went straight to the end of the list and couldn’t find Zain’s name there because it was the second entry in the list. This too consumed a few extra seconds of the users.
Due to the delays in the response after the tap of a button, or complete failure of the execution of even the correct button tap (the software’s fault), 30% of users left this task incomplete and moved on to the next task.
This task was the most interesting one to observe, personally. Users were asked to open up a thread of conversation which had a certain text on it and then they were asked to comment on that post. The average time taken was 73.9 seconds by the users. Users on this task had very extreme reactions ranging from that of being bored because it was too easy to perform to that of being frustrated because they couldn’t complete the task even after trying so hard. The user who looked bored was user 1 who took 54 seconds to post, and was able to perform the task successfully. One of the frustrated user, user 2, took 102 seconds, tried posting but couldn’t so gave up and then posted wherever else the app allowed.
An interesting trend was that the users who took less time were either the ones who could understand the interface completely and so could complete the task, or couldn’t understand it at all so gave up and moved on to the next task. However the ones who did spend time on it were the ones who could understand it a bit, were persistent enough to keep on figuring out a way to execute the task and patient enough to give this task the time it needed. About every other person gave up, taking less time than the average. A few anomalies in this were people who gave up after giving a substantial amount of time. Only User 10 and 12 were such cases though.
The interface used in this task was inspired by few of the popular interfaces which most people are familiar with, hoping it would not be confusing for the users to comprehend. However, the results say the opposite. The interface did hamper the successful completion of this task but a major contribution was of the software and the limitations it had with it, along with the fact that we couldn’t implement the entire interface we intended to implement.
The users felt that the buttons on the screen which said “share” and had three pictures along with it (a speech bubble to denote message, a music note to denote music, a bulb to denote light) were a little misleading. The text “share” was closer to the image of the speech bubble which got the users confused and they assumed that it was meant for text only and not light and music. This shouldn’t have been a problem since their task was to share a message anyway. But apparently, users did spent time figuring out what it meant and hence the longer time taken. Users also complained that the images were very tiny and hence couldn’t be tapped accurately. Add to that the fact that the software used to build the app had a huge response time… It made the impatient users be more impatient, hence the agitated emotions.
But then there were some who did not let the size of the images affect their performance. They could perform the task very well because to them the images and the proximity of text wasn’t confusing to them. They took more time on this task than other tasks, nonetheless.
This task was one of the most popular task in our post assessment questionnaire as either one of the easiest task or one of the hardest task. An interesting point to notice is that users remembered this task, probably because they spent a lot time on it.
In this task the users were asked to go to the list of active participants in a thread and add a person Irtiza as their friend. This task too had interesting results. Minimum time taken on this task was 27 seconds and the most time taken was 151 seconds. The average time taken to complete was however 66.8 seconds.
One thing that was common in most of the users was that even after performing their task and successfully completing it, the feedback that was given to them was in sufficient. They had to tap a button with a “+” sign on it to add Irtiza. They did so and the feedback was that the sign on the button change to a “tick” sign. This perhaps was not an indication enough for the users to know that they have befriended the person since they kept on tapping the button over and over again. Most people were able to successfully complete this task, around 80% of them. And out of these around 90% couldn’t figure out that they had completed the task.
There were a few of them who could not and thus gave up. These were the users, like user 1, 4 and 7, who spent over 100 seconds on the task. In user 1’s case, it was admittedly the software’s inability to execute perfectly. Other than that one user, user 3, was a bit too impatient and thus gave up after 61 seconds. There weren’t any surprising or unusual observations in this task except that the feedback should have been more prominent than it already was.
Result of Post Questionnaire
The interface made sense to all the users; none of them thought it was incoherent. And, most of the users found the navigation to be easy. All users found the text and the headings readable except for user 4, who thought that the text should have been larger and user 14 who thought that the headings should have been more prominent. Colours were liked by many, some were even indifferent to them. Only one of the users suggested that we should have kept a blue color palette.
One very popular suggestion was to give the users the freedom to customize the interface. And they wanted more self explanatory icons. They suggested that either the icons should be self explanatory or there could be some text supporting some description.