Cope is a mobile app that helps users reduce their anxiety levels by acting as their own therapist and guiding them through a coping session.
Anxiety is the most common mental health issue in the United States, followed by depression, and it disportionately affects young adults. According to the 2022 Deloitte Gen Z and Millennial survey, about 50% of Gen Z’s and 40% of millennials experience anxiety or stress all or most of the time. The global pandemic and subsequent shakenings have made young people even more vulnerable. Furthermore, we as a team have personally struggled with anxiety or have close loved ones that do.
Like any other mental health issue, anxiety is not trivial. It can be incredibly disruptive to a person’s life. It can lead to insomnia, lack of productivity, and depression among other things. All in all, it can paralyze people from having a full and fruitful life.
How might we make overcoming anxiety easier for young adults so that it minimizes the disruption it causes?
We interviewed seven individuals who either struggle with anxiety to some degree or have struggled with it in the past. Contrary to our hope, all of them reported that their coping mechanisms were indeed effective. However, the following problems consistently emerged in our conversations with them:
1. People often experience spikes of anxiety when their minds are filled with negative thoughts (e.g. remembering previous traumas, self-loathing, etc)
2. During those moments of anxiety, they want to talk someone, but cannot because
- They don’t want to burden their friends and loved ones
- Seeing a therapist more frequently would be expensive
- No one is immediately available
3. They struggle with building habits that would control the negative thoughts when they come
Explanation of the Solution
Our solution is Cope, a mobile app that helps users reduce their anxiety levels by acting as their own therapist. When the user is experiencing a moment of anxiety, they can turn it to express how they’re feeling, expose their negative thoughts, and end in a more positive state with help of question prompts, curated affirmation statements, and meditation. Best of all, recordings of a real, soothing human voice will guide the user through every step.
Lo Fi & Hifi Mockups
Iterative Design Learnings
We tested our low-fidelity prototype early which helped us focus on pure functionality, not aesthetics. Even though we received some great feedback, we needed to prioritize what was important for our users.
- The page “How are you feeling right now?”: Users felt there should be more emotions, not just mild, moderate and severe. They were thrown off by the colors green, red and yellow. Having more emotions and changing up the feelings gave users more options. Consistent colors would mitigate users from feeling so overwhelmed.
- The page “ What are your current stressors?”: Users were prompted to select only one stressor. Based on our survey, users had more than one, so we allowed them to choose more than one. We also kept the look of the current page and previous “How are you feeling right now?” page consistent.
- The page “ Tell me more. What is on your mind?”: We received great feedback from our users so there wasn't much of a change other than removing the exit icon when the user is actively recording since the user shouldn’t be enabled to exit while recording.
- The “I want you to meditate on these affirmations” page: Again, we received great feedback, but we did change the icon and functionality of playing the audio of the voice guide. In the first iteration, users can only play the audio but in the second, users can play and pause.
- Lastly, the “I will guide you through a meditation session?” page: Users couldn't fast forward or rewind if they wanted to, so we gave them the option to do so that they don't feel stuck.
We gained great insights after testing the high fidelity prototype and made minor iterations. Some of the insights we gained informed our next steps.
What was the hardest part of development?
The hardest part was implementing the backend because we were not sure the best way to go about it. Having in mind that the user might share sensitive content, we decided to store files locally on the phone. Fortunately, we were able to get our PM’s former colleague to help us with the backend.
Does your app have any scaling issues?
Since we are storing all data locally, there was no need for a database or a server. Therefore, our implementation is scalable with the exception that the data storage is limited by how much space the user has available on the phone.
What are some key takeaways?
Mobile apps are not easily hosted/published. It requires knowledge, time and resources.
Finding a stable library to store data for mobile apps can be time consuming, and there are not many up-to-date backend tutorials and documentations on the subject of mobile storage.
We intend to publish the app to Apple’s app store as soon as possible, but with a target launch of early Fall. Certain features still need to be developed before then such as user sign-up/login and event logging for the purposes of data analytics. Furthermore, we aim to enhance the content and production quality of the voice guide.
Post-launch, we intend to make more roll-outs such as:
- The option to respond to the question prompts by typing instead of voice recording. This feature was by far the most requested we’ve gotten.
- Features that would make it easier to make mindfulness a habit.
- Sharing the voice recording. Some users expressed they would want to capture their feelings while being in the moment and then share it to a doctor or therapist.
- An Android version
Further down the line, we might explore solutions for other mental health issues such as depression. Our vision is to empower all people to take control of their mental health and lead mentally sound lives.
Eager to try out Cope? Sign up here to be notified of the app launch.
Finally, follow us on LinkedIn to stay tuned for upcoming announcements.
Product Manager Learnings:
- Clear problems yield clear solutions. My role is to bring definition and clarity to my team so we can all get aligned and motivated to build a great product.
- How to develop a strong partnership with the product designer. Trust in our relationship enables us to learn from each other and put our best ideas together.
- Being comfortable with building iteratively. We started development with only the low-fi wireframes being ready, but it enables us to build the MVP more quickly.
- Constant communication is key to success. Any questions or feedback must be listened to in order to avoid any hiccups that would prolong the process of shipping a product.
- Test early and often. Doing it this way has helped me to pinpoint the problem areas quickly and efficiently. This helped our team to stay at a steady pace with no rush.
- Feedback is always important especially when it comes to your team. This is a collaborative effort and we all have a say in our final product.
- Working in a cross-functional team. It takes trusting each team member and their respective skills and knowledge.
- Developing in an Agile environment where sprint rituals such as estimation and standups are done. This process makes software development running smoothly.
- Building a mobile app with React Native and React libraries.
- Becoming more familiar with the whole product development process. It’s important to find a user problem and validate it before building a solution.
- Working in a cross-functional team consisting of a product manager, product designer, and a developer and learning from each other’s disciplines. Learned to collaborate with the other developer through Github.
- Learned to use React Native for developing mobile based applications and got introduced to different libraries to record user input.
- Became more aware of the product development lifecycle from user research, ideation, and product validation.
Full Team Learning
- Constant communication allows us to work efficiently and at a steady pace. As a result, we avoided situations where we collectively felt stressed and overwhelmed.
- Build what users actually need and not what we love. We didn’t become too attached to our idea and be flexible based on user feedback.
- Trust and respect each other’s disciplines. We each have different points of view and bring something to the table.