To Make or To Break

This week Meg, Sarah & I took a break from user testing and focused on pushing through to further develop what we had. We focused on ideating ways to make it less “fill in the blank” and more visual or interactive. We are currently flushing out a series of mini games after each step that also resembles something they can do for their mental health. An example would be to help the elephant calm down through breathing out longer than they are breathing in. Studies show that by breathing out longer than you breathe in, your heart rate reduces as well as your anxiety.

We also went back through each step and reworded pieces that people found confusing. An example would be changing “I would like to see” to “What would you like them to do” because “see”didn’t exactly translate to an action to the people we tested.

During the practice piece, we had no instruction to read the screens aloud, and it required us to explain it every time. So we added more instructions but also came up with the idea of having them look at themselves through the video practicing saying it. It has much of the “look at the mirror while your practice” effect because so much of communication isn’t just about what you say but how you say it. It’s important to understand the nonverbal queue’s you’re giving off as well.

At the beginning of this quarter, I was challenged by Jon not to make as much as possible. Hearing him tell me to try and not make alone gave me a bit of anxiety because it was the thing I knew to do best. He challenged me to stay in ambiguity as long as possible so that when I do make, it’s well thought out. Initially, it was frustrating and made me quite antsy. But this week we were told it’s time to make, and it was brought to our attention how much time we were spending critiquing what we made versus making. I’m personally known to be an extremist, and it goes to show how important it is to take steps back to see where the need for attention is. The rule of thumb we were given was to spend 80% of your time making and 20% of the time critiquing or “breaking” the idea. Truthfully it’s about where you are in the process because during design research there’s a whole lot more thinking than making.  We’re taught how to “break” and poke holes at our ideas just as much as we are taught to just go make a thing. By breaking down ideas, it makes them stronger and give it a greater chance of making an impact. However in ideation, it’s a constant tension between making and thinking thru. So this week, we will be focusing on creating more.

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Thus far, The Elephant in the Room has been tested by seven individuals and this week we will be testing with two participants over a series of days. This will be the first time The Elephant in the Room will be used without our presence. It will be a real test of how intuitive each step or question is and where the app breaks down. We’re excited yet anxious to see the results and if it enables them to address their elephants in their life.

User testing with The Elephant in the Room has been interesting in that we’re asking people we know to certain degrees to share vulnerable details in conflicts they typically wouldn’t. We have found that the fewer the people the more depth of a conflict they will share. They’ve ranged from spousal traffic arguments to feeling unheard at work. The last time we user tested one to one, the participant chose a to discuss an on going feud between her and her twin sisters. In this case, it was interesting to watch her entire demeanor change when the prompts about how her sisters might be feeling came up.


Moving forward, we were also seeking to speak with mental health clinicians or counselors to get their feedback. Could this be a tool they used? Pat reminded us the value of our product if we can qualify the effectiveness of it. Conflicts are inevitable, complicated, and yet critical to overcome in building healthy relationships. If relationships are what dictates a happier & healthier life, then if we can create a product that enables people to do that we will indeed be making an impact on the wicked problem of mental health.