Since we’ve currently working on our new product pipeline for 2016/17, we’re doing a lot of thinking about how we make our products. And while we have a nice clear articulation of the process we use to move from idea to prototype to product, whether we’re making an app, a web service or a physical product, what underpins them all is a set of design principles – the core thinking that we think make Mindfulness Everywhere products that little bit different.
So… inspired by the ever-brilliant GDS, we’d like to share our very own design principles. And for each one we give an example of how that principle got translated for buddhify…
#1. User-centred over tradition-driven
The vast majority of meditation-related technology stuff starts with an analogue way of doing things – a style or point of view of a particular teacher or tradition – and then just creates an online version of that. This ignores the face that user behaviours and needs can be very different to those for which the more traditional meditation techniques and learning styles were created in the first place. We’d even go as far to say that many modern mindfulness products ignore design and creativity at all – but for us, it’s where we start.
How this was realised for buddhify: the user does not have time to go to a traditional class format and/or are put off by a hokey aesthetic and so we built the product on the twin ideas of on-the-go content and engaging look & feel.
#2. Personalisation. Personalisation. Personalisation.
The product or experience should be as much about the individual using it as possible. That means working hard to make sure that it doesn’t feel like a cookie-cutter experience and that they are able to bring their own personality to it, together with a sense of control and agency.
How this was realised for buddhify: it is completely up to the user as to what content they use, what order to do them in and how often. Also, we don’t make a big deal of who are behind the meditations and deliberately put in a nice range of voices. This avoids a lack of self-reliance prevalent in guru or personality-led models of presentation.
#3. Interaction as practice.
How can every part of the interaction with the product – at least those relatively within your control – be the cause of calm, awareness and compassion in themselves? If only parts of a product promote mindfulness while others fall into the general flow of distraction and unaware manipulation then opportunities have been missed.
How this was realised for buddhify: we spent a lot of time on the interaction design of the content wheel so that the act of exploring and navigating the content is in itself calming and the source of some delight. Elements of patience are built into the transition so that when buttons are pressed, there are micro-delays to help bring the user’s mind into a slower pace then they perhaps typically are when using the phone or tablet for other uses.
#4. Keep it simple but not stupid.
Products should be intuitive to use. There will invariably be a relatively high level of complexity within them, this should be hidden ‘under the hood’. Simplicity however does not mean shallow and so should be matched with depth and a respect for the intelligence and creativity of the user.
How this was realised for buddhify: the content contains several many actually quite complex and relatively advanced techniques but these are presented on an equal footing to all the other content so as to allow the interaction to be straightforward .
#5. Be responsible.
Working in the area of mindfulness involves getting involved with people’s attention – something that by definition is very intimate and personal. It is therefore incredibly important that things are made which have a duty of care to the individual – that involves not making any promises that cannot be realised. It is also important that the wider consequences of mindfulness-based technologies be recognised – for example the proliferation of guided audio meditation can potentially lead to dependency on a third-party for one’s own practice.
How this was realised for buddhify: we try to be really clear about sign-posting users to qualified teachers if they require it – either through the app or through email correspondence. We are also working on new products which move beyond guided audio as a support mechanic.
These design principles are a work in progress. And they’re are really important to us and so we’d love to hear your thoughts and we look to sharing more about our design principles as they develop and evolve. And of course inform our ongoing product development.