Vera onboarding screens

Vera

A mobile application that empowers people to manage their unique menopause experience through personalized data visualizations, curated content, and lifestyle tips.

Project Roles: During the research phase, I designed and co-led the participatory workshop, and moderated expert interviews and semi-structured interviews. In the design phase, I created wireframes, high-fidelity prototypes, and the product video.

Timeline: 19 weeks
Team: Kelda Baljon and Aggie Tutia
Advisors: Smashing Ideas and Etsy
Tools: Sketch, Principle, Illustrator, Photoshop, Keynote, and Premiere Pro

design challenge

Body Literacy

How might we empower people to manage their unique menopause experience through body literacy?

Final concept

Vera

Vera helps you learn about your unique menopause experience through data visualization, personalized resources, and lifestyle tips. By equipping yourself with knowledge, you can manage your menopause and make informed decisions about your body.

How vera works

Your Body. Your Menopause.

Track signals or triggers

By tracking menopausal signals and other metrics, you can manage your biological changes and externalize what is happening to you.

tracking screeen
review screen
Reflect through data visualizations

Reflect on your experience and explore your body through
data visualizations to review, compare, and predict your menopause timeline.

Engage with personalized resources

Through engagement with personalized resources, you can discover tips, articles, or facts that are relevant to your unique experience.

feed screen
assessment screen
Go beyond your signals with assessments

Menopause goes beyond what can be tracked day-to-day. Vera has an assessment feature where you can complete short questionnaires about your lifestyle.

Opportunity space

Why Menopause?

Menopause affects half of the world’s population; it can cause hot flashes, insomnia, weight fluctuations, and other uncomfortable experiences, and these biological changes can last for up to ten years. Menopause also occurs at a time where people are experiencing life changes such as children moving out of their homes to love ones requiring end-of-life care. Amidst all of these changes, menopause is a frequently stereotyped, sensitive, and taboo topic, which has rendered it relatively under-supported in today’s society.

What is menopause?

Menopause is Not a Disease

Menopause occurs when a person has stopped menstruating for 12 consecutive months. It is a normal and natural transition that people typically go through in their early 50s. By medicalizing menopause, we generalize the experience and create an expectation that treatment is needed. Like puberty, menopause is a natural transition that varies among people.

Because we consider menopause a natural phase of life, we avoid using the word “symptoms” and use “signals” instead, as in a signal from your body.

research phase

Literature Review

We started the project with a literature review to see what research has already been done on menopause and to find out where research on menopause is lacking.

Themes from literature review

01

Cultural Context
There is limited research on female bodies because of the “taboo” nature of sexuality and reproductive health. Cultural, generational, and societal context can have a significant impact on a person’s menopausal experience.

02

Expectations + Knowledge
Most people felt unprepared for menopause because they often felt uninformed about their biological changes. A mismatch can also exist between a person's expectations and realities which can influence their views on menopause.

03

Attitudes
There are various attitudes among menopausal people; from people who reactively address their biological changes to those whose signals caused them distress to people with positive outlooks.

Subject Matter Expert (SME) Interviews

Menopause is Multidimensional

"There’s a lot of confusion about what treatments work and what’s a normal experience."
 
                                                                                                                                                                    - Dr. Katherine Guthrie, Member
Public Sciences Division, Fred Hutch

We then interviewed experts from various fields to better understand menopause from different cultural, medical, and historical perspectives. Our goals were to understand the three themes that emerged from our literature review.

nancy kenney
Nancy Kenney
Professor, Gender Studies and Psychology, University of Washington
elan keehn
Elan Keehn
A.R.N.P., N.D, Women's Health Center, University of Washington
katherine guthrie
Katherine Guthrie
Member, Public Sciences Division, Fred Hutch
nancy woods
Nancy Woods
Professor Emerita, School of Nursing, University of Washington

SME Takeaways

01

There are a variety of menopausal experiences since signals can be diverse in nature and severity.

02

Menopause research is often devalued because it is a quality of life issue and is considered non-life-threatening.

03

In Western cultures, menopause is attributed to aging and loss of femininity which can lead to stereotypes.

04

When a person enters menopause in a physically and mentally healthy state, they can improve their menopause experience.

First Round of Semi-Structured Interviews

Hearing Firsthand Experiences

"I don’t see it as an issue of singularity. It’s a part of a bigger issue of women’s health..." - P4

In our initial round of semi-structured interviews, we spoke with six women experiencing menopause. We wanted to gain an understanding of their menopausal experience and how it has impacted their lives; from work to relationships to self-image.

letter to pre-menopausal self

PARTICIPATORY DESIGN WORKSHOP

Collecting Shared Experiences

"I will say that I learned that there are phases to it. So what I’m going through now feels like the world is going to end, but that there is some light at the end of the tunnel." - W4

In our first round of semi-structured interviews, we focused on personal experiences. We now wanted to harness the collective mindset of menopausal people and empower them to have an honest discussion about their signals. In order to accomplish this, we held a participatory design workshop with eight women. We moderated three activities and conducted the workshop in two and a half hours.

Workshop activities

01

Letter to Pre-menopausal Self
We asked each participant to write a letter to their premenopausal self.

02

Focus Group
We used the letter to start a group conversation about menopause.

03

Ideation Activity
The participants created an affinity diagram and organized their menopausal experience into five categories: health, relationships, who am I, public life, and other.

Goals:

  • To get people to reflect on their menopausal experience
  • To understand what people wish they have known before entering menopause

Goals:

  • To understand the collective mindset of menopausal people
  • To find out where support structures currently exist or don't exist for menopausal people

Goals:

  • To understand problems menopausal people want solved or addressed
  • To find pain points of the menopausal experience

target audience

Surprising Observation

During the sticker activity, we were surprised at the results because on an individual level people wanted their signals alleviated, while on a collective level they felt that the menopausal community could benefit from more support. This observation helped us decide to continue interviewing menopausal people for our second round of semi-structured interviews.

We felt that there were richer design opportunities with people experiencing menopause since signals directly and indirectly affected them. However, our final design concept may have cascading effects on secondary stakeholders such as premenopausal people, family members, or coworkers.

data synthesis

DATA SYNTHESIS

Generating Insights

To better comprehend our data, we manually transcribed and coded our interviews. We also creat see patterns that have emerged from our research.

From our data synthesis, we came up with four insights and applied ourto them.

research insights

Underlying Themes

Insight

01

Each experience is different.

“Oh, you’ll have all these various symptoms that might be generally true but it’s really unique and the severity, the frequency, all those things can be really unique to a person.” - W3 

Menopause varies between individuals, making it difficult to identify a “typical experience.” Current scientific research is also limited, which contributes to the challenges of what is "normal".

Design principles:

  • Consider the variety of experiences 
  • Be direct and clear
  • Respect agency and empower
  • Be sensitive about the taboo

Insight

02

People don't know what to expect.

“I wish someone (a doctor or any educated person) would have told me what I would (or could) experience later in the menopause state.” - W7 

Since there are no clear expectations of menopause, people feel uncertain about “the Change". There is a lack of clarity around menopause timelines and what to expect during the experience. This mismatch between expectations and realities can lead to frustration or isolation. 

Design principles:

  • Consider the variety of experiences 
  • Respect agency and empower

Insight

03

People are silently enduring menopause.

“So it’s just like what women do we suffer in silence.” - P4 

Menopause is a quality of life issue aging people are expected to silently endure, so there is a lack of interest in creating a broader discussion about it. When people do share their experiences with others, they discover relief through acknowledgment and information exchange. 

Design principles:

  • Celebrate "the Change"
  • Respect agency and empower
  • Be sensitive about the taboo

Insight

04

Body literacy creates agency.

“I’ve educated myself about it and I feel like I’m armed a bit more.” - P8 

People can feel a greater sense of control through body literacy, because when they can attribute a biological change to menopause, they can a) seek appropriate resources and treatments, and b) manage its effect on their self image and social responsibilities. 

Design principles:

  • Celebrate "the Change"
  • Respect agency and empower
  • Be sensitive about the taboo

what we learned

Research Documentation

We took everything we learned from our user research and created a comprehensive research document detailing our methods, insights, data synthesis, and opportunity spaces.

design phase

100 concepts

After 10 weeks of iterative research, we took what we learned and created 100 concepts. We went as broad as possible; from speculative designs such as a Google Map inspired exploration of the body to the quirky idea of a meno-gotchi to more conventional concepts such as a heat-sensing wearable.

choosing a design direction

Concept Sketches

"It's helpful knowing that there’s a community going through the same thing and how they cope with menopause." - M4

We narrowed down our concepts to four possible design directions. Each concept explored a different opportunity space within menopause: support from community, alleviating discomfort from signals, or personalized resources.

We then interviewed five women for feedback on each concept.

drawing of lifestyle website
Lifestyle Website

A personalized lifestyle website that is based on questionnaires about a person's menopause experience.

drawing of subscription box
Subscription Box

A paid subscription service that provides personalized products to menopausal individuals.

drawing of social event
Social Event

A website where a person can host or attend an menopause-related event.

drawing of smart bra
Smart Cooling Bra

A smart bra that can cool a person down during a hot flash. Paired with an app to visualize hot flash patterns.

Takeaways

01

Existing Support Systems
There was a preference among all of our users to talk to existing support systems rather than to strangers.

02

Relief from Signals
Most users reacted strongly to the idea of a smart bra because of the relief from hot flashes.

03

Coping Strategies
All users sought out coping strategies or information on their signals.

Usability studies

Prototyping Vera

"Tracking is probably the reason why I'm opening the app." - L5

For the second round of usability testing, we decided to combine different aspects of our four concepts into a mobile app that personalizes and curates content to each person’s unique menopause experience.

Through our user research and initial round of prototype testing, it became clear to us that tangible and actionable information is a coping strategy for a majority of menopausal people. Therefore, we wanted to create a design response that gave menopausal people personalized information that they can choose to act upon.

We tested this concept with five more people to understand what their motivations and goals would be if they used Vera.

Assessment Screen
Profile Screen Version 1
Profile Screen Version 2

Takeaways

01

Validation
Users appreciated community comparisons which helped validate their menopause experience.

02

Scannable Content
‍‍
Among all of our users, there was a strong preference for data and content that was scannable.

03

Data Tracking
Users were excited by the sense of control that the data tracking provided them.

medium-fi prototype testing

CONCEPT REFINEMENT

Creating Vera

"That’s cool, you want to see where you are. It’s human nature, you want to see how do I compare to everyone else." - H1

Using what we learned from our first and second rounds of usability testing, we decided to prioritize data visualizations which would be supplemented by personalized resources. We then created hi-fi prototypes and tested the interactions of Vera with five additional users.

Takeaways

01

Direct + Clear
Be mindful of the tone, visuals, and diction we used throughout Vera - is it direct, friendly, and clear?

02

Improve Data Visualizations
Better coloring and labeling on graphs to help users understand data visualizations

ui Spec

The Vera Experience

Our UI Spec highlights Vera’s visual design system and mobile app specification.

Reflections

Being Mindful

Throughout the creation of Vera, I learned the importance of interpersonal skills and the role they play in the design process. The ability to observe and empathize with our users was important, especially during our research phase. Menopause can be an uncomfortable and sensitive topic. Therefore, it was important for me to be mindful of cross-cultural differences and the taboo surrounding menopause. I quickly learned to be observant of our participants’ tone and body language throughout our design process.

When I first started this project, I did not realize that menopause was such a complex, political, and sensitive topic. However, it became clear throughout the course of the project that menopause and aging people have been continually devalued in modern society, especially in design and technology. Although, we only had the opportunity to speak to cisgender women, we recognize there is a strong need for more gender-inclusive designs.

In future iterations of Vera, I would like to collaborate with organizations that work with women of color, people from different socioeconomic backgrounds, and the transgender community.