Designing the ideal User Experience

As Product or UX Designers, we are designing an experience, a thing which happens between the temples of our target customer. We should start off with blue-sky thinking to design a truly ground-breaking experience.

What is "Blue-sky thinking" exactly...

also known as "outside-the-box thinking," it's a creative and unconstrained approach to brainstorming, problem-solving, or ideation. It involves generating innovative ideas and solutions without being limited by practical constraints, existing limitations, or traditional ways of thinking.

In blue-sky thinking, individuals are encouraged to think freely and expansively, imagining possibilities that might seem far-fetched or unconventional at first glance. The term "blue-sky" suggests a clear, open, and boundless space where ideas can soar without being hindered by barriers.

Key aspects of blue-sky thinking include:

1. **Creativity:** Blue-sky thinking encourages creative thinking that goes beyond conventional norms. It involves exploring new perspectives, questioning assumptions, and connecting seemingly unrelated concepts.

2. **No Constraints:** During blue-sky thinking, participants intentionally set aside practical constraints such as budget, feasibility, or existing limitations. This enables them to explore ideas without being restricted by real-world barriers.

3. **Innovation:** The primary aim of blue-sky thinking is to foster innovation by pushing the boundaries of what is currently known or accepted. It often leads to breakthrough ideas and concepts.

4. **Diverse Ideas:** Blue-sky thinking encourages participants to contribute a wide range of ideas, regardless of how unconventional or unlikely they may seem. This diversity of thought can lead to unexpected insights.

5. **Free Flow of Ideas:** Participants are encouraged to share their ideas openly and without fear of criticism. This creates an environment where even wild or seemingly impractical ideas can be voiced.

6. **Exploration of Possibilities:** Blue-sky thinking encourages participants to explore the full spectrum of possibilities, even those that might seem implausible at first glance. It's about generating a pool of ideas from which more practical solutions can later be refined.

7. **Idea Generation:** The goal is to generate a large quantity of ideas, as this increases the chances of finding unique and valuable concepts.

8. **Early Stages of Innovation:** Blue-sky thinking is often used in the early stages of innovation and ideation processes. Once a range of ideas has been generated, they can be evaluated, refined, and narrowed down to more viable options.

Overall, blue-sky thinking is a valuable tool for fostering creativity, breaking through mental barriers, and sparking innovative solutions. It encourages individuals and teams to approach problems with an open mind and explore uncharted territories in the pursuit of new ideas.

Blue-sky thinking isn't usually taught in UX Bootcamps, they only teach the UX process after a concept has already been chosen. This, along with foundational visual design principles is one of the major missing skills when creating a great UX mind.

Take the example of a health app:

As a tutor at Career Foundry, I watch as every student selects 1 of 4 concepts, one of which is a health app. Every student who works on the health app project without fail mentions that people are too busy and stressed - this is never challenged, not are the root causes.

It strikes me that stress and lack of time are either a problem of society or a problem of individual mindset, or both. It makes me wonder if there could be a way to attack the root causes rather than just the symptoms - and this could be a unique approach for a student.

Attacking problems at their root to design an ideal life

This also goes over into the mental health area. Rather than just accepting ones lot in life, an example of changing individual mindset is that finding remote work takes back around 3 hours every single day from cessation of the commute, which can then be spent on a 30-60 minute jog and some home weights for example.

This specific solution won't suit 100% of people - but when finding health improvements, the first step is to understand an individuals' current situation and find appropriate and attainable solutions which do improve health over time.

Creating habits is important for health

As an ex-personal trainer I have some insight to offer into health and fitness which may be useful. The great majority of people doing fitness training who are under 35 ish are only doing it to look better e.g. be thinner or more attractive. Very few understand the long term implications of really looking after their body e.g. such as avoiding strokes or Alzheimer's.

Anyone who hasn't got into a fitness regimen by the time they are 35 will most likely never do it. e.g. most baby boomers who are 65+ now are very sedentary and in places like Germany where I live, they eat meat and diary 3 times per day and are having stents put in all over themselves to prevent heart attacks (not kidding).

Failure often comes from a lack of knowledge, motivation and vision to future goal achievement

Secondly, the vast majority don't have the knowledge to create or motivate themselves to follow a health plan. So, when a student states:

"Enables users to create their own health plan, provides support and offers rewards program to keep users motivated, happier and healthier"

I would encourage careful consideration - because 'creating their own plan' isn't likely to happen (they would be able to choose goals and answer questions about current status though). The other thing is that people are motivated by different things, I for example am not at all interested in rewards and I don't react well to badges or gamifications.

I prefer seeing results over time on a graph which shows a trend*, or other things. You will find that there are groups of people who are motivated in different ways, and that is what your user research and personas are there to find and document.

*remember also though that on the other side of 40 or 50, some users may be declining and so trend graphs may not be motivational. It could be more motivational to show how far better they are than the average person of their type (gender, age, height)

Don't force time-poor people to spend time entering data

Most new students create UX which creates a lot of tasks for the users, when they should be instead setting everything up by default with only fine-tuning by the user as they wish.

People who are time poor will not spend time entering data into an app - the app needs to automatically collect data e.g. from exercising/sleeping/other things , and there are many items like smart watches which help with this now. You can utilise this in any design. I'm sure that in the future it will be possible to to take a photograph of a meal and have AI enter the approximate nutrition points into an app.

Measure, act, measure, adjust plan, act - repeat

The route to true health is a long term balanced approach for example where every day the body has enough water, sleep, nutrition, exercise to support itself in the longer term. Your body today is more affected by what you did yesterday, quite affected by what you did in the last week, but less affected by what you did 10 years ago - but it all has a cumulative effect. Conversely today is the most important time for health. Therefore it's important to concentrate on the 'now' when it comes to health, fitness and longevity.

Summing up, anyone creating a health app has an opportunity to do something simple enough, but that which breaks out of the mould of how everyone else in the industry has been approaching this subject. With some 'out of the box' thinking.

I recommend reading about human motivational types. e.g here is a start, and remember that there are many theories, some are likely bogus.

Turning bad habits into good ones

When building habits, certain chemicals are released in the brain, these same chemicals are what keeps people addicted to social media. If the experience designer understands mental process such as these and can harness them for the purpose, the best chance at a very exciting project outcome results.

This is what true UX is all about, not apps which have nice UI.

How AI can be used to generate UX ideas

Prompt: "How could dopamine and user flows be used in a fitness app to encourage regular health improvements?"

Dopamine and user flows can be utilized in a fitness app to create a rewarding and engaging experience that encourages regular health improvements. Dopamine is a neurotransmitter associated with motivation, reward, and pleasure, and by incorporating elements that trigger dopamine release in the brain, such as gamification and positive feedback, a fitness app can boost user motivation and adherence to healthy behaviors. User flows, or the sequences of actions users take within an app, can also be designed strategically to guide users towards regular health improvements. Here are some specific ways dopamine and user flows can be used in a fitness app:

  1. Gamification: Incorporate gamified elements, such as badges, points, levels, or challenges, that users can earn as they progress towards their fitness goals. This creates a sense of achievement and rewards users with dopamine releases, motivating them to continue using the app and making progress in their health journey.
  2. Positive Feedback: Provide positive feedback and reinforcement to users when they complete a workout, achieve a personal best, or reach a milestone. This can be in the form of encouraging messages, visual cues, or celebratory animations. Positive feedback triggers dopamine release, making users feel accomplished and motivated to continue their healthy behaviors.
  3. Social Interaction: Allow users to connect with friends or other users within the app to create a sense of community and competition. This can be through features such as leaderboards, challenges, or social sharing. Social interaction can trigger dopamine release through social reward and peer recognition, fostering a sense of belonging and motivation to improve health.
  4. Personalization: Use data from user inputs, such as their fitness level, goals, and preferences, to personalize the app's content and recommendations. This creates a sense of ownership and relevance for users, as the app feels tailored to their needs. When users see their progress and receive personalized recommendations, it can boost their motivation and engagement.
  5. Clear User Flows: Design clear and intuitive user flows within the app that guide users towards regular health improvements. This can include setting up personalized goals, tracking progress, providing feedback, and suggesting next steps. A well-designed user flow can create a seamless and engaging experience that keeps users motivated and on track.
  6. Micro-rewards: Incorporate small rewards or surprises along the user journey, such as unlocking new workout routines, accessing premium content, or receiving discounts on fitness gear. These micro-rewards can trigger dopamine release, providing instant gratification and motivation for users to continue using the app and making progress in their fitness journey.

By combining elements that trigger dopamine release, such as gamification, positive feedback, social interaction, personalization, and clear user flows, a fitness app can create an engaging and rewarding experience that encourages regular health improvements. The key is to keep users motivated, engaged, and empowered to make positive changes to their health and fitness habits.

Prompt: "Be specific about the flow where tracking progress and suggested next steps are involved"

Certainly! Here's an example of how dopamine and user flows can be utilized in a fitness app to encourage regular health improvements:

  1. Tracking Progress:
  • User completes a workout session, such as a run or a gym session, using the fitness app.
  • The app records the workout data, such as distance, time, and calories burned, and displays it to the user in a visually appealing and easy-to-understand format.
  • The app provides positive feedback, such as congratulatory messages or visual cues, acknowledging the user's achievement and triggering a dopamine release.
  • The user can view their progress over time, such as tracking their improvement in distance or time, and compare it to their previous workouts, creating a sense of accomplishment and motivation to continue.
  1. Suggested Next Steps:
  • After tracking their progress, the app provides personalized suggestions for the user's next steps based on their goals, preferences, and fitness level.
  • For example, if the user's goal is to run a 5k, the app may suggest increasing the distance or pace gradually to progress towards that goal.
  • The suggestions are presented in a clear and actionable manner, with options for the user to choose from, such as selecting a new workout plan, joining a challenge, or trying a different type of exercise.
  • The app may also provide additional incentives, such as unlocking new levels or earning points, for completing the suggested next steps, further triggering dopamine release and motivating the user to continue their fitness journey.
  1. Feedback and Reinforcement:
  • As the user completes the suggested next steps or achieves milestones, the app provides positive feedback and reinforcement, acknowledging their progress and triggering dopamine release.
  • The app may also provide feedback on their performance, such as improvements in time, distance, or other metrics, and celebrate their achievements with visual cues, badges, or other gamified elements.
  • The user can also share their progress with friends or the app's community, fostering social interaction and receiving peer recognition, which can further boost motivation and engagement.
  1. Personalisation:
  • The app uses data from the user's workouts, preferences, and goals to personalise the suggestions and feedback.
  • For example, if the user prefers indoor workouts, the app may suggest indoor exercises on rainy days or during winter months.
  • If the user's goal is to lose weight, the app may provide suggestions for calorie-burning workouts or offer nutrition tips.
  • Personalisation creates a sense of relevance and ownership for the user, making them more likely to follow the app's suggestions and continue their health improvements.
  1. Clear User Flow:
  • The app's user flow is designed to be clear, intuitive, and easy to follow, guiding the user through each step of the process.
  • The app presents the progress tracking, suggested next steps, and feedback in a seamless and logical manner, ensuring that the user understands what to do next and how to proceed.
  • The user flow avoids any unnecessary complexity or confusion, minimising barriers to engagement and encouraging the user to continue using the app regularly for their health improvements.

By incorporating dopamine-triggering elements and designing a clear user flow that includes tracking progress, providing personalised suggestions for next steps, offering feedback and reinforcement, and personalising the experience, a fitness app can encourage regular health improvements by keeping users engaged, motivated, and empowered on their fitness journey.

--End of AI--

The above AI questions and answers have been included to show how AI can be used to generate ideas, however it is no substitute for a talented Product Designer's thought process - because to ask the right questions you have to have done the research, be knowledgeable about the subject and/or industry, select the right problems to solve and create concept(s) for products.

What a good health user experience might look like

User has previously set up the app and generally exercises on weekdays around 10am with a smart watch and prefers vegan food options.

App: you jogged 5km in 36 min, how did it go?
User: I kept stopping to stretch because I have pain and tightness in my upper hamstrings
App: I suggest this hip and hamstring yoga session tomorrow (link), then try a jog the day after.

If your training shoes are over 2 years old it's time to get some new ones. You can log your shoes and km's with me in this app.

User clicks 'Trend-lines'

Trend-lines: If you keep jogging 5km 3 times per week with 2 x 30 min yoga sessions and a 2 -hr bikeride each week you'll have 2% less body fat in a month, and will increase your cardio fitness to over 70% better than the average person of your age.

App: A brunch of fresh orange juice, dried fruit muesli, fruit salad, vegan yoghurt and cinnamon would be ideal now to balance your recent nutritional intake..or click here for other nutritionally balanced ideas.
User: takes photo of breakfast and uploads it

Every 3-6 months the app can offer a health checkin where blood results are also uploaded to keep the user on track.

The above experience is keeping data entry for the time-poor user to a minimum, is using those data points from exercise, sleep and nutritional inputs and feedback from the user themselves on how they are feeling to constantly direct their health journey for continually better outcomes.

I don't know of any health experiences doing that right now, including with personal trainers.

If you'd like some personal guidance on a project, I offer personalised 1:1 sessions for entrepreneurs and those wanting to improve design skills

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