Competitive Review

After going through fourteen competing apps, three key competitors were selected for further analysis. Each describe the competition from a specific, helpful angle. These three are:

 

Insight Timer

Feature set: A a rich feature set with a focus on community.

Insight Timer covers two main areas: a) A timer with customizable presents, different bells & simple statistics, and b) Community/Learning which include forums, nearby in-person groups and guided meditations.

Keeping the mediator motivated: Some simple statistics and social features.

Insight Timer features some simple counters & charts to visualize the progress. It includes milestones, which appear to be a form of achievements, presumably given after a certain amount of meditation. It also displays the progress of friends and other users, facilitating peer motivation. The forums/groups might help binding the user to the app, but it requires something that is fundamentally different from a timer.

User Interface: Disorienting & unresponsive.

Despite it solid feature set, the user interface is rather disorienting, as it does not follow the typical iOS design paradigms. It’s also not a native app, meaning it feels quite slow, unresponsive and it only works when connected to the internet. Its touch areas are small and it is not always clear what will happen when touching an object. Insight Timer incorporates some animations, but they feel out of place and complicate the navigation, rather than making it easier.

Aesthetic: Spiritual/traditional.

Insight Timer features a somewhat spiritually branded style, with depictions of traditional meditation instruments and groups/guided meditation aimed at prayer/self-improvement.

 

Sattva

Feature set: Sattva comes with a multitude of features.

Sattva is focused on guided meditations, gamification and tracking. It offers an appstore of sorts for guided meditations, a complex set of achievements, reminders, and offers to track a large variety of variables like heart-rate, state of mind and meditation time/frequency.

Keeping the meditator motivated: Might get in the way, instead of helping to stay focused.

Sattva wants to be the front and center of your meditation routine. It visualizes your progress with statistics and a timeline. When all the tracking, reminders, achievements and guided meditations work together, the result appears to be promising. However, all of this looks quite inflexible and if you don’t organize your meditation life around to the app, they might get in the way.

User Interface: Mostly intuitive, but overwhelming.

Sattva’s Interface is pretty, feels responsive and follows the iOS design paradigms, the navigation is usually intuitive. However, due to the app’s vast feature-set it can easily be overwhelming. They also make it slow to use; it takes five to eight taps just to launch the timer. It’s not always clear whether or not a certain area is a text field or a button. Although its buttons are usually decently sized, they are also sometimes small and hard to spot. Sattva also requires a network connection.

Aesthetic: Self Development/Spirituality

Sattva’s aesthetic revolves mostly on self development with the focus on guided meditations, but also includes references to traditional, spiritual topics.

 

Self

Feature set: Just a timer, a journal and some simple statistics.

Self is a minimalist timer app, it just comes with a timer and some simple statistics. Besides that, it has the ability to set a background soundtrack and to take notes after meditating.

Keeping the meditator motivated: Simplicity provides a clearer overview of the progress.

Self comes with little tracking and no achievements, however this simplicity provides a clearer overview of the progress and does not get in the way. The integrated journal might make the progress feel more meaningful and help the user to stay focused. Self also comes with a graph of daily/monthly meditation time. There is essentially no gamification and no reminders.

User Interface: Fast and responsive, but very unstable.

Self’s Interface feels fast and responsive, with big, welcoming buttons. All it takes is a single tap to start the timer. Self is inspired by iOS design paradigms, and due to its slim feature set, it is somewhat easy to navigate. Almost all features are accessible right from the home screen, but the app is very unstable and crashes on a regular basis. The background music feature causes the app to crash immediately. Self works offline too.

Aesthetic: Mostly neutral.

Self mostly holds true to its tag line “The meditation machine” and has a rather neutral feel to it, with little traces of spirituality. This makes the app feel more welcoming as it presents itself as just a tool and doesn’t tell the meditator what to do.

 

 

Wrap up:

 
 

The competition features a variety of different approaches, but none of them are very mature. They each are either rather simple or they get in the way.

 

List of all apps reviewed:

 
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Review of the Stakesholder Interview

Mike LaVigne

Mike LaVigne, a senior designer, after being dissatisfied with current products, is building a company for meditation supplies. He wants to help bring mediation mainstream by presenting it as a tool to train mental performance, and free meditation of its spiritual connotations. 

He predicts that mindfulness meditation, the exercise of focusing on your breathing, while letting go of distractions, will be become the dominant form of meditation in the western world within the next ten years. This technique trains an increased awareness of the present moment and improved concentration. The two lead to improved quality of life, decreased emotional reactivity and increased work performance.

The goal is to design a meditation timer app. Its pivotal role is to introduce the leader segment to his company and capture mindshare for a meditation company which presents meditation as an immediate way of improving mental performance & well-being.

Target Group: Business professionals and people who already do yoga

Mike targets business professionals who want to outperform their peers and people coming from yoga who've been previously deterred by meditations spiritual image.

Mike's aesthetic vision: Extreme minimalism

Mike sees the design of the timer as a natural extension to mindfulness meditation. Hence the aesthetic should not distract from the exercise. Non-emotional, neutral, minimize the amount of visible features at all times, very graphic, no clutter, black/white/grey colors. It should be extremely minimal, but also beautiful, like Japanese aesthetics.

Opportunity Definition

Helping you sustain your meditation routine, while never getting in the way

The use of meditation as an exercise for mental performance is growing. Its benefits include improved quality of life and increased work performance.

Current meditation timers have a consistent set of weaknesses:

  • Spiritually focused
  • Lack of contemporary aesthetic design
  • Distracting User Experience

This opens an opportunity to capture mindshare for a meditation company which frames meditation as an immediately benefitial way of improving mental performance & well-being. To achieve this, our timer should be guided by the following design principles:

  • A contemporary, minimal interface
  • Natural gamification, while ever telling the meditator what to do
  • More appealing statistics & community features

 

SWOT Analyisis

Strengths: Mike has a proven intuition in product strategy
Mike has been doing product strategy for years and has a proven intuition for creating successful products. His current company, Clue, successfully deals with an analogous issue.

Weaknesses: Mike may not be representative of the target group
Mike, a designer, wants to use product himself. This means that his opinions may be personally biased.
Plus the company is a weekend project for Mike, he won't have a lot of time.

Opportunities: It's a growing market
Meditation as an excerise is a growing market and there is a unique opportunity, since so far no one has been able to grab the mind share for an approach which presents meditation as an immediate way of improving mental well-being and work performance.

Threats: We have to be the first to create a refined product
With several non-spiritual competitors, it might be hard to sufficiently differentiate our app. But none of the competitors are very mature, so we might be able to attract the leader segment by offering the first refined product. 
Still, someone else might be quicker and grab the mind share before us.

 

Initial Hypothesizes 

  • It is possible to design a meditation timer that helps people shorten gaps between periods of meditation.
    • It is easy to learn to meditate.
    • It is easy to meditate long enough to receive some benefit from it.
    • It is difficult to sustain a meditation practice.
    • After a meditation practice has stopped, it takes a long time to start back up again. Some people never start again.
    • People start/stop meditation frequently.
    • People are disappointed in themselves for not meditating regularly.
    • It is possible to shorten gaps
    • It is possible to create a meditation timer that helps shorten the gap between periods of meditation.
  • Meditations spiritual image prevents potential users from accessing its benefits
  • Offering a more refined product is enough to differentiate our app.
  • The kind of people who care about a refined app are also the kind who is unhappy about the spiritual image of meditation
  • Natural gamification helps sustain a meditation practice
  • It is possible to implement gamification in a non-distracting way.
  • We should focus gamification on sustaining the habit, not the act of meditating itself.
  • People are interested in improved, personalized statistics
  • Simplified community features will help people sustain their practice.
  • Current apps are distracting

Work-in-progress: User Interviews

First Draft: Key Points:

  • Meditation helps center the interviewees and is currently mostly seen/used as self-care. Similar to workouts or eating healthy.
  • Users struggle with keeping the habit and gaps are a problem for many, but not all.
  • Many find it helpful to have some sort of audio input during the mediation as a reminder to stay focused. (Headspace, Bells)
  • It is important for people to think about meditation throughout the day
  • Current reminders are meaningless and authoritative
  • Simple Statistics and Gamification helpful, but using these as means for motivation feels contracting to the idea that you meditate for yourself.

First Draft: Ideas:

  • Build the experience around positivity
    • Use only positive reinforcement and understandably reassure the user, even as life gets busy and they meditate less. (the idea of mindfulness is opposed to feeling bad about not meditating)
    • Adjust the goal depending on how long the mediator actually meditates to ease frustration?
    • Use statistics to help at least stick to the defacto habit? (Wanting to keep the graph up, or wanting to outperform the last week? 
  • Find ways to keep the user thinking about meditation? Build features to help not loose track, even as life gets busy?
  • -> Simple community features?
 
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