Approximately 59% of Canadians aged 18-34 years old consider anxiety and depression to be ‘epidemic’ in Canada. Unfortunately, even with improving mental health budgets , many people suffering from depression will never seek help or treatment. By 2020, depression is projected to be the leading cause of disease nationwide .
A service called RescU that allows people with depression to book sessions with rescue shelter dogs and invite other people with depression so that they can experience the benefits of animal therapy, group therapy, and a greater sense of life purpose.
Impact & Outcomes
Although still in a conceptual stage, RescU has garnered extremely positive feedback. Because of this, I decided to pitch RescU at an investor-pitch feedback event in order to gauge potential investor sentiment and business viability; the panellists were very positive towards my pitch and the concept of RescU, which you can watch here.
In order to gain a better understanding and perspective on how depression affects peoples lives, I conducted user research by talking with two men and two women who had "experienced depression for a period of at least one year". These interviews also provided me with the opportunity to validate the potential of a rescue shelter dog booking platform (which is ultimately what the final product turns out to be).
During the synthesis of user research, there were four key insights that were a recurring theme in how they were beneficial in causing an elevation in mood and/or optimistic outlook on life. Additionally, a core feature of the app, the ability to invite someone else with depression was added as a result of positive feedback from interviewees regarding group therapy.
People that have had a dog while depressed express a multitude of benefits ranging from getting more exercise, just getting outside the house, to feeling a greater sense of purpose.
People that attend group therapy find the process extremely healing because sharing your experiences with others causes them to share more of their experiences as well.
Sense of Life Purpose
People want and need to feel a greater sense of purpose in their lives, and just need to be provided with the opportunities to be able to achieve this state of being.
People that are educated about the origins of their depression are better at managing it, and are more hopeful and confident that it can be treated.
It was also important to map out how Domina experienced her life so that I could identify any potential entry points for intervention. In this case, I considered that intervention was most appropriate while Domina was already depressed or was going from a rise in a mood to a depressed state.
Validation of my initial idea and key insights from the user research led to the design of the minimal viable experience (MVE) that I would prototype. The MVE is especially important when introducing the concept to business stakeholders and other members of the team as it can show how both the business and user's interests can be fulfilled.
For inspiration, I primarily sought to find prominent apps that had booking systems such as Trip Advisor and Google Maps. The idea behind this was that if my app had a similar booking experience, users that had used apps like these would encounter a familiar and intuitive experience which would improve learnability. Additionally, usability would also be optimized as I would be leveraging the UX work already conducted by these companies for their apps.
Two rounds of usability testing were conducted in order to discover issues for a user attempting to book a training session with a dog. The main issues that were uncovered were users being unable to understand the meaning behind some iconography, difficulties in the legibility of type (small font-size and leading), unintuitive interactions, as well as poor hierarchy of content for some screens.
Below shows how the "Find a Dog" screen evolved over two rounds of usability testing and having the visual identity applied.
I felt that it was especially important for people with depression to feel hopeful, empowered, liberated, free, and happy when using the app. Of course, this would also translate through to the website, as well as marketing materials.
Recall that all this effort was to find a potential solution to "How might we help people suffering from depression live richer, more fulfilling, and happier lives?" In this case, I've designed a service called RescU that allows people with depression to book sessions with rescue shelter dogs and invite other people with depression so that they can experience the benefits of animal therapy, group therapy, and a greater sense of life purpose. Click here to view the prototype.
A story-telling format complemented with illustrations was adopted to introduce RescU because I believed that it was the most compelling way to engage viewers. The story follows Santiago, a rescue dog from Spain that needs to be trained in order to better assimilate into a Canadian home and that this can be accomplished with the user booking a training session with dogs like him. You can view the desktop version here, and the mobile version here.
RescU has garnered extremely positive feedback as a concept. Curious what potential stakeholders thought about it, I decided to pitch RescU at an investor-pitch feedback event in order to gauge potential investor sentiment and business viability. The panellists were very positive towards my pitch and the concept of RescU, which you can watch here.
At its core, RescU is a service that connects people with depression and rescue shelter dogs and the mobile app is merely an extension of this service. For this reason, I have shifted my focus away from mobile design and the next steps are to initiate a pilot study (without the use of an app) that would allow validation and testing of the required user behaviour, i.e. booking a time slot with a dog and traveling from their location to the dogs location.
© 2022 Ivan Rickard Liow
© 2019 Ivan Rickard Liow
© 2019 Ivan Rickard Liow