After creating my “Thing” which I describing now as a journey kit for individuals diagnosed with a mental illness focussing particularly on the various ranges of depression, to bipolar, and anxiety disorders.
My first round of user testing was incredibly enlightening and educational. My assumptions that something playful and interactive proved to be a bit too foreign and confusing to my users. No one came out and directly said that, but by reading facial expressions and their interactions with the kit, I could tell that the whimsey surrounding the idea may have come off as not taking the user seriously.
Before I go any further I will introduce first the journey kit, in a very rough prototype that I tested with. Then the series of questions I asked, what I learned, and how I am currently moving forward.
I should say first that as I passed around the kit, I also passed around a potential user scenario in that described what it might be like if your Dr. gave you this thing rather than a bottle of pills. This scenario was accompanied by a one frame image of a woman being handed this box:
With this scenario:
“Jane has just been diagnosed by her psychiatrist as having major depressive disorder. She has been feeling overwhelmed yet hopeless for a while now, so the psychiatrist has suggested that she try out some medication as well as her therapy immediately.
Jane is pretty anxious about taking medication. She has heard a lot of horror stories of side effects, or the zombie effect, but at this point she is really just looking for some relief so she is willing to try anything.
Jane goes to the counter of the psychiatrist office to check out and is surprised when instead of the dr. giving her a sample pack or a bottle of pills she is handed a box.
All that the box says on the top is “Hello. I am here to help”, she is intrigued as to what could possibly be inside. But also confused, “Is this medicine?” she thinks.
The dr. explains that this is a starter kit for her. That having a diagnosis of depression is not the end of the world, getting to a place of self-acceptance is a journey and she would like her to give this kit a try. If the medication and kit process is working for her she would like to keep her on the program, and validates that she is not alone. She is here to help.
She explains that inside she will be guided through the process of taking her first week of medication with this kit. Inside it has day-by-day pull out pill packs, like and advent calendar, clearly labeled “Day1, Day2 etc.). There is her phone number inside the inside cover of the box if she is experiencing any side effects or just needs to talk her number is always there, and on the 4th day she would like her to use the included pre-posted notecard to answer 3 simple questions about how she is doing and mail it back to her so she can keep in touch when they are not face to face in a therapy session.
She also explains that inside there is also a book called “My Story” that has stories of people just like her she can read, and blank pages where she encourages her to write down her story, and to record her thoughts or feelings each day in the “My Story”.
She describes how to take the medication and tells her that the instructions and info about the medication is on the bottom of the box if she ever needs it.
Jane thinks to herself, “my this is different. I hope I can keep up with it all this”, but is uplifted a bit that she is not just being sent home alone with a bottle of pills. ”
This activity was followed up by a short questionnaire regarding the accuracy of the scene, if there was anything that would make the concept more relevant, or more simple, if there was anything missing, and what might you do to improve up it if you could do anything.
The answers were group based, and was a very enlightening discussion.
One woman – age 54 – described the scenario as being seemingly accurate, but definitely hopeful that the Dr. would guide her through the process of using this “thing” because there really was not much direction in the prototype. Rather intentionally actually, a choice made by myself to try to be very clear yet still have a sense of discovery.
Another man – age 47 – thought it was an “interesting” idea, that the postcard was nice, but really the action of taking each pill out of the box, ripping it off of the card and taking it with you was a bit unrealistic and tedious.
My sessions are so far being held in a medical facility where you are not even allowed to bring in your phone, but one man was nice enough to go out to a cafeteria and fill out his scenario there.
So with what I observed, listened too, and got in hopefully honest writing was that I need more focused content.
What I came out of my session was this:
People WANT to tell their story. Affirmations are nice, but the content needs to be packaged more familiar, and the actual content needs to better encourage a few key items.
- The idea that they are not alone.
- That they are not weird.
- That other people share their same story.
- That the idea of being “normal” is such a stretch perhaps it is more of an acceptance that not being normal is really ok.
- People rely on their medications, and switch meds a lot until they find the one that works for them.
The box is staying. The innards are changing a bit, but really just becoming more robust around the narrative listed above. I am now moving forward with the “notebook” kit rather than the advent calendar approach, which I believe will gain me more access to be able to provide guided content, as well as it being a much more familiar and portable solution for people who may need to have their medications with them on the go. I am now focussing on a 2 week solution rather than a one week solution.
The week is moving fast, I just got my second round of just feedback, no scenarios, from a few new people that I will share next time, and hopefully have more people to comment on the actual included narrative of the item, as well as the construction – next week.