Mind map App Design
Designers Diego Arizcorreta and myself have worked for 10 days on a project related to wellness. The aim was to leverage technology in order to introduce wellness practices into the digital world and promote well-being.
We were set on developing an MVP for an innovative mobile health application based on Mind Maps. We would proceed using the design thinking methodology. The UX and UI tools we ended up using were carefully thought out and catered to our topic.
For our secondary research we focused on spatial visualization of information and mind maps.
Fields of application
Mind maps are broadly studied and used in various fields of application such as psychology, engineering, education, archaeology, planning, geography, cartography, architecture, landscape architecture, urban planning, management and history.
Mind maps is a colloquialism for just about any mental representation and is also referred to as cognitive maps, mental maps, schemata, scripts, and frames of reference.
Fun fact, the first noted thinker dates back to the 3rd century. It was Porphyry of Tyros who graphically visualized Aristotle’s concept categories.
Theories on semantic networks developed into mind maps by Dr Allan Collins and researcher M. Ross Quillian in the 1960s. Their publications helped understand human learning, creativity, and graphical thinking.
Psychologist Tony Buzan in his book and BBC tv series “Use Your Head” studies the way users when reading in linear outlines are bound, from left to right and top to bottom, when in fact the human brain scans information in a non-linear fashion. Buzan promotes mind mapping over other forms of note making.
Cognitive maps serve the construction and accumulation of spatial knowledge.
While used in research, the tool helps with organization, problem solving, and decision making. They allow users to visualize, classify ideas and generate structure.
Human ability for visualization, perception, imagination and memory is referred to as the “mind’s eye”. Spatial thinking allows the “mind’s eye” to visualize images.
Mind maps help reduce cognitive load and learning of information. In some cases it may strengthen existing memories and enhance recall, or even create memory palaces.
Mind mapping can improve mental health. Research psychologist George J Huba PhD, diagnosed with a neurodegenerative disease in 2010 has focused his research since on evaluating and developing visual thinking methods such as mind mapping and modeling for those with cognitive decline, dementia, and aging. He found that spatial thinking helps thinking more clearly, planning, memorization, decision making and calms anxiety.
Generally, people experiencing anxiety can feel drowned in their thoughts, overwhelmed, lost or helpless. Exteriorizing their emotions can help them process or get through some anxiety.
Some therapy methods encourage people to express themselves to reveal their consciousness and uncover their subconscious thoughts. They explore and share their present day to day life, their past experiences and childhood memories as well as their dreams. Patterns, recurring thoughts, repetitive behavioral patterns and recurring dreams can be revealing. Breakthroughs help people have a deeper understanding of themselves.
A classic tool for expression is journaling. We have imagined another tool for expression: mind maps. A person could use it to input entries. Unlike a classic journal, the data would be recorded in a nonlinear way. The person or the app algorithm could make suggestions for organizing and regrouping entries. The entries a person could input would be about their consciousness in their day to day life, their past memories and childhood, or their dreams as doors to their subconscious.
We designed a survey that would allow us to verify all these assumptions. Through our survey, we were able to question the benefits of exteriorizing one’s thoughts, the act of journaling and other documenting habits. We inquired about the rapport people had to their childhood memories or dreams and their recollection, and if they were able to identify recurring thoughts and behavioral patterns. We also tried to get a better grasp on the manifestation of anxiety, describing it, controlling it, uncovering its source or the methods participants use to calm down.
If you feel like taking the survey, you can take a break and redirect to this link.
At the time when we analyzed the results, we had 58 participants.
We found that more than half the participants have at least once owned a personal diary and sometimes document their thoughts, memories or emotions. More than 80% of the participants find it beneficial to write or draw in a personal diary or notebook. We recorded through an open ended question various benefits, amongst which: to empty the mind, to get a broader perspective, to clarify thoughts, to help remember, to relativise, to visualize thoughts.
The vast majority of our participants, 95%, often recall souvenirs or past experiences out of their context for no particular reason and some occasionally remember their dreams. Almost half of them expressed frustration when they forget memories or dreams.
More than 70% sometimes feel caught in a loop, living specific feelings or experiences multiple times and observe repetitive patterns in their behavior.
Regarding anxiety, the vast majority of 90% sometimes feel overwhelmed with their thoughts, have trouble answering clearly when someone asks them how they feel. Some expressed trouble controlling their anxiety. Participants shared their methods for calming down in an open ended question, amongst which: breathing, music, yoga, reaching out to friends, sleeping, meditation, sports.
Job To Be Done
We recruited 5 participants and interviewed each of them with the JTBD framework. We had a general direction in mind. Our first goal was to inquire about participant’s anxieties. We would learn the maximum about the manifestations, the instigators, the physiological effects at what time it hit. We inquired about the participant’s exteriorizing habits, whether they resorted to journaling and how they tried to find relief when feeling anxious.
I had an instinct that we would be surprised, find similarities and correlation, but before going through the collection of insights and verbatims we could not know for sure.
Most of our participants shared they had anxiety at night, before bedtime, or when they had nothing to do. They described in powerful verbatims the way anxiety struck, the flow of thoughts, the loss of control, helplessness or overwhelmed feelings. They shared the ways writing or doodling sometimes helped to organize, relativize or minimize thoughts.
Our 5 participants had shared a lot of insights and we had yet to analyze all the valuable information they had given us. A lot of what they shared was personal, sensitive and deep. Their expressions, intonation and facial expressions were very informative. Their openness or reluctance to share, their emphasis or minimizing of certain information was just as relevant.
In order to synthesize, we decided to navigate back to all those interviews and create an empathy map for each participant. As we progressed, we came to find many similarities between our participants. We decided to organize all the data we found in each empathy map into recurring themes.
We found that our participants had similar sharing habits. They enjoyed human contact, whether it was through friends or in therapy. Sharing in a safe space would help them identify introspection leads and behavioral patterns.
Moreover, our participants had strong common pain points. From what they had shared, we were able to constitute a tableau of anxiety: overwhelmed with thoughts, no control, thoughts generating new thoughts, too many thoughts, lost, confused and having trouble sleeping.
We also identified common gains while exteriorizing thoughts. All of them had different ways of expressing themselves, mostly through writing, voice recordings, making lists, doodling, drawing.
With so many common we couldn’t resist merging all the insights and verbatim’s empathy maps into one. Each participant was still distinguished by a distinct color of post-its, with two shades. The lighter shade was used for the insights, the darker shade was used for the verbatims.
How Might We
Having identified top gains and pains, we derived a series of HMW questions to drive us.
How might we help users control, calm, contain the influx and prevent the accumulation of thoughts to stop the vicious circle?
How might we help the users organize their thoughts to not get lost and confused?
How might we help people identify and name their recurring thoughts to bring relief?
How might we help people be less anxious at night when they have trouble sleeping?
How might we accompany users while they express themselves: writing, doodling, therapeutic coloring, recording themselves, listening to sounds?
How might we help people identify and name their recurring thoughts?
How might we help conduct introspection methods to stop anxiety?
How might we help people perform mental exercises in order to calm down, suppress negative thoughts and anxiety?
How might we bring joyful and positive thoughts to decrease anxiety?
A team of 6 designers participated in an ideation session using the crazy eight technique. In the first round, we ideated for 8 minutes and then shared our sketches with the rest of the designers. We then had another round of ideation for 8 minutes, where we remixed some of our ideas together. Many ideas emerged, I have tried to synthetize them below:
In regard to expression, a great number of ideas were imagined around note-taking, journaling, a diary organized by theme and date, a journal to document and track dreams, notifications to encourage a user to write.
Many ideas for mediums were suggested: such as writing, doodling, dictation, audio recordings, scribbling, drawing.
The designers suggested ways to organize content: with themes related to professional, personnal, family, or with a negative and positive thoughts distinction, with an organization related to time, or to distinguish physical and emotional symptoms.
Many ways to visualize the collected data were imagined: lists, charts and graphs or mind maps. The goal would be to identify recurring thoughts or dreams, make links and connexions, to help users diagnose anxiety sources by themselves or with artificial intelligence.
Some ideas to integrate connected objects to record brain activity or cardiac rhythm were also put forward.
Designers focussed on sharing, either by creating a community to share content with others anonymously or in relation to therapy, to share content, schedule meetings, chatbot or video calls with professionals.
Some designers focused on techniques and methods to feel better such as: breathing exercises, teas and massages, mantras and quotes, reminders to dedicate time to relaxation, quotes and inspirational people
We organized the ideas into themes, while keeping all post-its, including the repetitive ones, to view how often similar ideas had been proposed.
Once we had listed all our ideas, we prioritized them using the MoSCow method.
Our solution would allow users to journal their thoughts, dreams or memories, using a large amount of mediums, to create an infinite map. The users could make connections between previous inputs to find recurring patterns. The users could search and filter the map. They could also share the mao or switch to a dark mode at night.
User flow to-be
Having identified a clear solution, we were able to derive a user flow to-be depicting the tasks and decisions the user could take in a happy path scenario.
Low Fi Wireframes
I was very excited to sketch out the first frames depicting the solution and a given user flow.
Mid Fidelity prototype
The wireframes led to designing a mid fidelity prototype with the main frames and interactions.
We conducted 5 usability tests on our mid fidelity prototype. Using the user’s results and insights, we were able to analyse and iterate.
We defined adjectives in order to further define our product and represent the essence of the brand. Our app is a space for expression, it is benevolent, as it offers no judgment and support, and is an infinite map.
We created a moodboard to get inspired from. We reflected on the themes of expression, as seen with the books and chair, on serenity, as seen with the zen garden and origami, on time, as seen with the clock and repetitive patterns, on infinity, as seen with the sand, on introspection, as seen with the statue and man alone on a deck.
In order to have a consistent design, we created a style tile and defined typography, icons, shapes, buttons with different states, brand colors, functional colors and accent colors.
Desirability test results
We conducted 5 seconds brand personnality tests on our high fidelity prototype. We had 14 participants and the design was mostly identified as original with 11 votes, technical with 10 votes, and real with 6 votes.
Using the Five Dimensions of Brand Personality by Jennifer Aaker and our desirability test results, we were able to define a branding personality with the main “sincerity” attribute.
High Fidelity Prototype
We designed a high fidelity prototype depicting a user entering a childhood memory. The user first enters the memory using drawing and text (a sheep and grandma’s farm). The user further specifies this memory with a theme (family), a feeling (childhood) and context (grandma’s picture). As a result, the user can view the memory on the mind map. The user connects the memory to another similar one. Then, the users search the map using filters. Lastly, the user views the setting page with the sharing and dark mode options.
The first step after implementing the product would be to collect usability data and iterate. To measure success and failure metrics, we would need to verify how beneficial and helpful the mind map is for its users. We would observe how the mind map affects users experiencing anxiety both on the short term and on the long term.
Hope you enjoyed the read.
As you might have guessed, I am a big fan of maps. At times, I have felt the need to express myself on my apartment wall, to help visualize and navigate the flow of thoughts. I would love to have a digital solution with an infinite space to map out and sort through my thoughts, dreams and memories.
What about you?