Three mobile screens of Vera
How might we empower people to manage their unique menopause experience?

My role   ——

In collaboration with two other designers, I led the design of the onboarding flow, co-led the user research, and created the product video.

Our deliverables   ——

Research report
User interface specification
High fidelity prototype
Product video

Tools used   ——

Sketch
Principle
Premiere Pro

UX RESEARCH | INTERACTION DESIGN

Vera

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

Advised by Smashing Ideas and Etsy.

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 loved 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.

An illustration of a woman with pink braided hair.

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.

A graphical timeline of menopause

Final concept

Vera

Vera helps you learn about your menopause experience through data visualization, personalized resources, and lifestyle tips. By building your body literacy, you can make better informed decisions about your unique menopause experience. 

How vera works

Your Body. Your Menopause.

Track signals or triggers

Track menopausal signals and other metrics to manage your biological changes and externalize what is happening to you.

A gif of Vera's tracking feature
A gif of Vera's data visualization feature
Reflect through data visualizations

Explore data visualizations to review, compare, and predict your menopause timeline.

Engage with personalized content

Discover tips, articles, or facts that are relevant to your menopause experience through a personalized news feed.

A gif of Vera's newsfeed feature
A gif of Vera's assessment feature
Go beyond signals with assessments

Complete short questionnaires to capture your lifestyle and go beyond what can be tracked day-to-day.

Research phase

Digging Deeper

We interviewed experts from various fields to better understand menopause from different cultural, medical, and historical perspectives. 

A photo of Nancy Woods, a Subject Matter Expert

Nancy Woods

Professor Emerita, School of Nursing, University of Washington
A photo of Nancy Kenney, a Subject Matter Expert

Nancy Kenney

Professor, Gender Studies and Psychology, University of Washington
A photo of Elan Keehn, a Subject Matter Expert

Elan Keehn

A.R.N.P., N.D, Women's Health Center, University of Washington
A photo of Katherine Guthrie, a Subject Matter Expert

Katherine Guthrie

Member, Public Sciences Division,
Fred Hutch
There's a lot of confusion about what is a normal experience.
——    Dr. Katherine guthrie

Takeaways   ——

Diversity of experiences

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

Menopause is not important

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

Stereotypes and generalizations

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

Healthy and positive mindset

When a person enters menopause in a physically and mentally healthy state, they can improve their menopause experience.
An illustration of a woman waving her hand

USER Interviews

Hearing Firsthand Experiences

For our semi-structured interviews, we spoke with six people 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.

Participants grouping thoughts in an affinity diagram activity.
Participants grouping thoughts in an affinity diagram activity.

PARTICIPATORY WORKSHOP

Collecting Shared Experiences

Building upon what we heard about people’s personal experiences, we now wanted to harness the collective mindset of menopausal people. In order to accomplish this, we held a participatory workshop with eight people. 

"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."
——    workshop participant

Workshop activities   ——

Letter to pre-menopausal self

Write a letter to their premenopausal self.

Focus group

Use the letter to start a group conversation about menopause.

Ideation

Create an affinity diagram and organize menopause experience into five categories.

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.

Defining Our Audience 

Surprising Observation

Before the workshop, we didn’t have a clear audience yet. We didn’t know if we wanted to focus on people with menopause, premenopausal people, or secondary groups that are impacted by menopause. 

Unexpectedly, we found the answer during our workshop’s prioritization activity. During the activity, we learned that 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. Because of this observation, we felt that there were richer design opportunities with people experiencing menopause because signals directly and indirectly affected them. 

However, our final design concept may have cascading effects on premenopausal people, people experiencing perimenopause, and their wider environment such as partners, family members, and coworkers.

An illustration of three women standing together

DATA SYNTHESIS

Research Insights

Each experience is different.

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".
“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.”

People don't know what to expect.

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

People are silently enduring menopause.

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

Body literacy creates agency.

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.
“I’ve educated myself about it and I feel like I’m armed a bit more.”  
View Research Documentation
Pinning 100 ideation concepts to a black foam board
Pinning 100 ideation concepts

design phase

100 Concepts

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

choosing a direction

Concept Testing

We then narrowed down our concepts to four possible design directions. Each concept explored a different opportunity space within menopause: community support, signals alleviation, or tailored resources.

We then interviewed five people for feedback on each concept. 

drawing of lifestyle website
drawing of subscription box
drawing of social event
drawing of smart bra
Lifestyle Website

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

Subscription Box

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

Social Event

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

Smart Cooling Bra

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

It's helpful knowing that there's a community going through the same thingn and how they cope with menopause.
——    research participant

Takeaways  ——

Existing support systems

There was a preference among all of our participants to talk to existing support systems rather than to strangers.

Relief from signals

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

Coping strategies

Everyone sought out coping strategies or information on their signals.

usability testing

Prototyping Vera

Using what we learned, 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 concept 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 provided people with personalized menopause 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.

Below are some examples of screens used during the usability testing:

A medium fidelity mockup of an assessment screen
Assessment Version #1
A medium fidelity mockup of an assessment screen
Assessment Version #2
A medium fidelity mockup of a profile screen
Profile Version #1
A medium fidelity mockup of a profile screen
Profile Version #1

Takeaways   ——

Feeling validated

People appreciated community comparisons which helped validate their menopause experience.

Relief from signals

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

Coping strategies

People were excited by the sense of control that the data tracking provided them.

DESIGN refinement

Visual language

Using what we learned from usability testing, we then decided to prioritize data visualizations which would be supplemented by personalized resources. We created hi-fi prototypes and tested various interaction models as well as Vera's visual language with five additional users.

An interview participant walking through one of Vera's prototype

Takeaways   ——

Direct and clear

The tone, visual treatment, and diction used throughout Vera should be direct, friendly, and clear.

Improve data visualization

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

UI specification

The Vera Experience

We've documented and outlined both the visual system and mobile app system in our UI Specification. For our visual system, we detailed visual elements such as Vera's typography and illustrations. Then for our mobile application system, we showcased annotated screens, key path scenarios, interaction flows, and Vera's site map.

A high fidelity screen of an assessmentA high fidelity screen of the home pageA high fidelity screen of the data screen
View UI specification

Reflections

Designing for menopause has taught me a lot about designing for intimate spaces, especially when it comes to inclusivity. 

It is difficult to design for everyone, but we must ask ourselves if we are unintentionally excluding people through elements such as language. Is the vocabulary we’re using neutral and clear? Does our visual language reflect the diversity of ethnicities, ages, abilities, and more?

For my thoughts and key takeaways, please visit my Design Voices piece on menopause and inclusive design.