Designing with Intuition – Vicki Tan from Headspace

Designing with Intuition – Vicki Tan from Headspace


(electronic hip hop music) – So, hello, hi. I’m Vicki, and I’m a product
designer at Headspace. I’m so excited to be here. I’m a little nervous, so
just play along please if I ask you questions. So, quick show of hands, how many of you have heard of Headspace? Wow! That’s a lot. I wasn’t expecting that many. And who here has meditated before? Doesn’t have to be with Headspace. Okay, so maybe half as many. So, for all of you who
didn’t raise your hand who are new to meditation,
you might think meditation is something like this, right,
like monks sitting serenely on mountaintops, maybe
just completely no thoughts and being like zen,
whatever that means, right? Or maybe you think of
these like stacked rocks, pools of water with ripples in them. I don’t actually know where
these images come from, but they are what you think of
when you think of meditation. And maybe this all makes you
think, meditation isn’t for me. I don’t do yoga. I’m not, you know, zen. I’m like, fast-paced, and I’m
not just the type to meditate. But that’s not what meditation is. As I understand it, meditation is just about being aware of your thoughts. You’re not trying to turn them off. You’re not trying to have any feelings. Like, those are totally okay. You’re just trying to observe
them without judgment. So, I thought it would be
great if we could all together do one of Headspace’s
three-minute mini meditations. And so, don’t be scared if
you’ve never done it before. You just kind of have to sit there and listen to what Andy says. Tell you a little bit more
about who Andy is later. So, I will be up here doing it with you. I’ll get a chair. And there’s no wrong way to do it. This little thing will
be up here to start. You don’t have to look at
it, but if you don’t wanna close your eyes, it’s something
for you to follow along to. I’ve never done this before. Okay. – [Andy] Take a moment to sit comfortably, and when you’re ready,
just taking three nice, big, deep breaths, breathing
in through the nose, and out through the mouth. As you breathe in, that idea of taking in fresh air, the lungs expanding, and as you breathe out, just noticing how the muscles in the body soften and relax. And with your third out breath, just gently closing the eyes, and just feeling the weight of the body pressing down against your chair. And as you pause, just still for a moment, just noticing the movement of breath in the, in the body. Notice where in the body you feel that rising
and falling sensation. If you can’t feel anything,
you can just gently place your hand on the stomach. Some people feel it around
the chest, the shoulders. For other people, it’s the
diaphragm or the stomach. There’s no right or wrong
place to feel the breath. Just noticing where it is. And starting to notice
the rhythm of the breath, whether the breath’s fast, slow, whether they’re deep or shallow. And nothing to do, not
breathing in any special way. Just following a natural
rhythm of the breath, noticing when the mind has
wondered off and gently coming back again to that
rising and falling sensation. And when you’re ready, just
gently opening the eyes again. – All right. So, just gonna slide this. Thank you. How did that feel? It was kind of weird for me up here, but. (audience laughs) Does anyone feel better? Yeah? Does anyone feel worse? Like, was that really hard? So, meditation is hard, at least at first, and it
doesn’t always feel good. And so that’s the challenge. It’s sticking with it until
it starts to feel good. So that’s really what my job is all about. So some of you might
also have been wondering, who was that pleasant British
voice actor that we hired to record all of our meditations? That’s actually Andy, and he’s one of Headspace’s co-founders. And his story is really interesting. So, about 20 years ago,
when Andy was in university, he was going through a really tough time. I’m sure all of us have
had one of those times, unfortunately, and instead
of turning to his friends or maybe family or even, you
know, hitting the bottle, he decided to go to the
Himalayas to study meditation. And he traveled the
world for about 10 years and was kind of learning
at different monasteries, and this all ended in him
becoming a Tibetan monk in India. And so, it was out there that
Andy had learned that the East had figured out something that
the West desperately needed. So he went back to London, and
he opened up a little clinic teaching meditation. He thought, you know, if
he could teach people, he could help the world, and
everyone would be better. And that’s where he met
our co-founder Rich. So he’s the not-bald guy. And together, they had the idea to start doing meditation events. They thought they could help
many more people that way, and Rich, you know, he
was business-minded, so this was kind of his idea. So the very first version
of Headspace was actually these cards that the handed
out at the meditation event. It’s really cool to
see that original logo. That’s kind of where the dot comes from. See the dot in this little guy’s head. It was a little bit creepy,
’cause he was a naked guy, so we ended up removing the body. (audience laughs) But the, the cards taught you
how to sit, how to breathe, and just how to meditate. So, if you’ll fast
forward a few years later and a few app versions later, you’ll see the Headspace
that we have today. We recommend that everyone starts with something called the basics. It’s just these 10 free
sessions that anyone can do. And then if you don’t have enough time for something like that, you
can do a mini meditation. That’s what we just did. And if you wanna go deeper
on something after that, you can try a pack on sleep or stress or whatever it is that
you’re interested in. So, I just gave you a bunch of context. Whoops. And I demystified meditation a little. I talked about what it
is and what it isn’t, and I explained who Andy
is, told you a little bit about the structure of the Headspace app and the different things we have to offer. So, that was kind of our challenge. In moving from an in-person
event very much like this, Andy teaching meditation,
to a digital product, we needed to do all of
that, but on your phone and in much less time
with much less attention. Okay. So, I’m gonna walk you
through a case study of our onboarding redesign, but this story is really
about us as humans and how we have this special
ability to make connections and fill in the gaps. By the end of this talk,
I hope you’ll understand the power of other methods of reasoning aside from data that can
inform how we make decisions and how we design. So, first, I’ll start where we started about six months ago, with data. So, this was our original onboarding flow. You’ll see on the right
the kind of percentage of users that reach each screen, and then along the bottom,
I’ll call out the drop-off. We welcome by reassuring
new users that it’s okay if they’re new, similar to what I did, and that we’re here to guide them. So each of these kind of warmup screens you’ll see a drop-off, about one percent. And then we ask users to
watch an animated video, and this kind of goes
through the same thing that Andy would go through at the events or that those cards would go through. It tells you kind of how to sit, how to breathe, and things like that, but we found that a lot of
users were skipping this video. I mean, you’re often downloading
apps when you’re in line or kind of, you know,
when you’re bored at work. Don’t tell your boss. But, you know, we found that a lot of people
weren’t watching this. So we do one more warmup
card, and then we ask you to jump right into your first meditation. We see that 34% of them,
new users, don’t even begin this meditation, and another
18.4 don’t even finish. So that leaves us with
about just 38% of new users completing their first
meditation during the onboarding. So, these onboarding
numbers are the percentages or the numbers of users
who reach each step, and that’s interesting, but
what we really care about are the number of users
who come back later, who come back to meditate,
whether it’s later that day or later that week or in the weeks after. I think this is called retention. Product managers might know more about it. So, here, we’ve got about 38% of users meditating during that onboarding session. Over the course of week one,
we see another, you know, half as many more come
back, so there’s something going on there where maybe
they thought about it. Maybe they were in line and they weren’t ready to
meditate, but they came back. But by week two, we’re
seeing this huge drop, all the way down to probably about half. So, in the following weeks,
incremental drop-off, I think that’s expected. But something was
happening here in week two. We saw that users that
did meditate in week two, even if they didn’t meditate in week one, were much more engaged, so much so that they were five times more likely to convert to a paid subscription. And so for us, that’s really important. So, improving this number,
I’ll call it week two retention or week two engagement going forward was gonna be our biggest opportunity. So, great. We had all this data. We knew where users were dropping off. We set off to redesign the onboarding. What could go wrong? I feel like Ariel and everyone before you has already primed you,
but play along with me. So, our first hypothesis
was that, you know, based on the data, maybe
users were annoyed that we were making, we were blocking
them from entering the app and kind of making them go
through this onboarding. They just wanted to
see what Headspace was. So, what we did was we just simply made the onboarding exitable. We added an X to every screen
so that during onboarding, you could just cancel out
and go to the home screen. Pretty easy. Our second hypothesis was that maybe users just weren’t excited about
watching these videos. No one wants to watch
instructional videos. And by skipping the videos, again, they weren’t getting any
of that useful information about how to get set up, how to sit. And so we created a flow that
took all of that information from the video and just
made it into a series of animated GIFs so that no one
would have to watch a video. You wouldn’t even need audio. You could just kind of
passively absorb this stuff. And this was a much shorter and engaging sort of video, we hoped. Our next hypothesis was that maybe users, they all wanted to be
onboarded in a different way. So maybe some wanted that instruction. Maybe some wanted to
just meditate right away. And then maybe some just
wanted to explore the app. So what we did was we created
this interstitial screen that let users choose their own adventure out of those three options. And our last hypothesis
was that maybe users were getting impatient,
like an impatient eel. What are those? Because it was taking so
long for their first session to download, maybe they
were on a slow connection and they just didn’t wanna wait. If you’ll remember, we
saw that huge drop-off before session one even began. So, what we did was we
just preloaded session one to include it with the app download so that there would be no waiting time, and they could play their
first meditation right away. So, after we ship these experiments, we monitor the numbers closely. We saw some very promising
early indicators. With that animated GIF
flow, we saw more people were going to session one,
and then our hypothesis was that if you had kind of meditated, you would be more likely to keep doing it. And by making onboarding
exitable, we saw more users getting to the home
screen, and our hope there was that seeing the home screen
and kind of poking around would get them interested
in meditating too. So these metrics, we call
them leading indicators because there’s sometimes correlated, but they can also result
in false positives. So, nothing moved week two retention. And, I mean, that’s the
limitation of data, right? It’s just backwards looking. We can only describe what has happened, but it can’t just, it can’t
prescribe solutions for you. It turned out, maybe
you already know this, but we were designing based on assumptions rather than underlying user needs. So, we decided to take a step
back to really figure out why users weren’t coming back. And at Headspace, we’re really lucky to have a team that many
other companies don’t have. Because we see meditation as
a practice rooted in ancient kind of history, like what
Andy learned in the monastery, and we see it as a
topic of modern science, you know, we have to be
able to prove the efficacy of what we’re claiming, we’ve
got a dedicated science team that are constantly running
studies about this stuff. It was around this time
that that science team was wrapping up a goals
and intentions study, and they were asking users, what are you hoping to
experience in the long term, short term and long term using Headspace? And interestingly enough, we’d
never asked users about this. We kind of gave them the app,
we told them how to meditate, but we didn’t do any of this. So, on the right, you’ll
see a word cluster analysis of those participants’ answers. And you’ll see kind of words like stress, anxiety, and sleep showing up a lot. From this, we learn that
users were really motivated by improving an area of
their life, like those words, stressing less, sleeping
better, or feeling calm. So this might sound fairly
obvious, but I think if you look at the product and the
onboarding we had at that moment, it didn’t take into
account any of this stuff. So, it was a kind of
a key takeaway for us, and we also found that
new users just find value in being asked about their goals. It helped them articulate and clarify why they were there at different journeys, at different points in
their journey, and again, this might sound obvious, but
I think there’s this thing that happens where, you know,
you heard about Headspace, you download the app, maybe you, you know, you think you should
meditate for some reason because you’re so busy
and kind of frantic, but you don’t take the time
to kind of really think about, well, what do I want to improve, aside from kind of focus? So, that was something really helpful that we learned from this study. Around this time also, we
have a design research team, and they were running a
diary study that was looking at very high engaged users
and low engaged users. We wanted to learn from users
that had really, you know, had a great, great time
making meditation a practice for them, and we wanted
to help those users that were struggling the most. I think this kind of is in
line with what Ben and Sierra talked about, like, you
know, look at the extremes. And so what we found were that
actually, most of our users were just completely
new to meditation, 83%. I think before then, we
didn’t know whether or not some people were coming already
with some understanding, or if more of them were completely new. And on top of that, a lot of them didn’t even know what meditation was. Again, they had just heard of it. So, because of that, new users just needed way more guidance than we were providing. We just had these, those
orange warmup cards before each session, and I think users
didn’t find that that was enough. They wanted much more reassurance as they were getting into the practice. Were they doing it right? When would they feel better? And last, most interesting
to me was that time wasn’t actually the
biggest obstacle for them. I think a lot of times,
you hear people say, oh, I’m busy, I don’t have any time. These users reported having up
to three hours of free time, and it wasn’t that, you know,
they didn’t have the time. It was that they didn’t
know how to fit in healthy activities into that time
and, you know, we all know, getting home from work,
you sit down and you watch one episode of Netflix, and
then a couple hours later, you’re like, I’m still here on the couch. Headspace is just 10 minutes. And so it was weird to see
that they had this much time, yet they couldn’t fit
in, you know, this much sort of of a healthy thing. So at this point, we started
to see a lot of themes in what users were saying. They were saying things like, I forgot, or am I doing this right? I just ignore my reminders. I don’t wanna do it,
and, what should I feel? So that’s when our trusty science team kind of reinserted themselves
and gave us some advice. They told us that actually, our problem with engagement and retention was actually just one of
a habit formation problem, and had we looked at that? So for those of you who aren’t familiar, I’m sure you all are, because it’s kind of been
talked about a lot recently, but I’ll use an example
of something we hopefully all do every morning and
night, brushing our teeth. So for brushing our teeth,
the trigger is the thing that cues us to brush. This can be something like that
mossy feeling on your teeth, on your tongue, or maybe even bad breath. If the trigger is good, it will, it will kind of prompt us to take action. And so, in this case, it
can be brushing your teeth or maybe flossing. And then after you
brush, the reward is that minty clean feeling on
your teeth and your breath and maybe, you know, people
act differently around you. Maybe they come closer. And so over time, you might invest. That might be starting
to go to the dentist, or maybe you get like a
nice, fancy toothbrush, and every time you use that toothbrush, your teeth feel even cleaner. So what we did was we mapped what we heard to this framework, and we found that we were
lacking in every single step. Users weren’t being
motivated by our reminders. They weren’t clear about
what they were supposed to be doing, so it was hard
for them to take action. They didn’t know how they
were supposed to feel or what they should be
feeling or when they would be feeling better,
so the reward was unclear, and we weren’t helping them find time in their schedule to actually meditate, so they weren’t able to
invest in the product. So we came up with four new hypotheses that targeted each step of this loop. And if you’ll remember,
they were, these are in contrast to our original
data-driven hypotheses, which were a little more
around just removing friction. So here we go with the videos again. Our first hypothesis was
that intrinsic triggers would motivate users. So, could we relate their
meditation practice to their goal? We had already kind of
gotten some good feedback from the science team. It seemed like a no-brainer. Did a movie play? For the action and reward
steps, we thought that we could provide a little
more guidance around when and how much they should meditate. Is it every day? Is that enough? Or is it three times a week? How much do you need to do? And set realistic expectations about when they would feel better. Is it gonna take a week, a month, a year? So, last, we also wanted
to help users find time in their routine so that they
could invest in the product, whether that was in the morning when they were brushing their
teeth, or maybe at night after dinner before going to sleep. So now, we were at a place that felt good. We kind of had used data
as this jumping off point. We knew how we were
going to measure success. We had used research to uncover insights, and we had learned from our
users’ successes and failures. And then we had also
used behavioral science and this evidence-based framework of the habit formation loop
to organize our approach. Everything felt really good. So, equipped with these
user-driven hypotheses, we set out to redesign the onboarding. But instead of jumping right
into designing and sketch or even in, by sketching,
sorry, same words, we decided to test the concepts. So, our very first round of user testing, there was no UI. We just asked participants
to fill out these worksheets. So you’ll see on the
right that we asked users to circle what motivates them to meditate. These options, we had gotten
directly from that science study, and we saw that users
were circling quite a few. On the left, you’ll see
we asked participants to just elaborate
freeform about that goal. This participant wrote, I
want to manage my anxiety to the point where it
doesn’t disrupt my day as much as it does, and
I’d love to hone my focus and quicken my comprehension
time in daily life. So, these were super interesting
to read and talk through before we even began anything. We also asked users to read
through these science tidbits about the benefits of meditation. You can see the influence of
our science team coming in. We wondered if these would help
set expectations for users. You’ll see here that one
participant circled 14%, and by talking to them, we
learned that it’s really hard for participants to understand what a 14% increase in performance means, or a 19% decrease in anxiety looks like. And so, we found that these science facts were really polarizing. Like, some people loved them. They were like, cool,
that’s like an exact thing that I can point my finger
to and know I’ll get to. And some, they got stuck on the details, like, I don’t know how much that is, and when will I get there,
and does that apply to me, and can you show me the whole paper? So, from there, we got
started sketching the flow, finding a way to just give structure to all these different pieces that we kind of identified
as being important. So you’ll see the early
bits of ideas included goals and maybe some benefits. We wanted to ask people
about their experience level and maybe setting a
schedule around meditating, and then last, some sort
of summary that included this plan that they had told
us, so it would give you like a, a roadmap for
your meditation practice. So, as we brought this into sketch, we continued testing every week or so. We were getting mixed
feedback about some stuff. One of them was this screen here. It was the question, how
often do you plan to meditate? So, some users like that
it was aspirational. They kind of liked kind
of setting that goal and, and the intention of sticking to it. But others felt like it was
way too early to be asking. They hadn’t even meditated yet. They didn’t even know what it was, and so they felt like it
was really hard to know. Another thing that we
kind of stumbled upon was in the goals section
where we asked them about their goals for coming to Headspace, we had included the ability
to sample a meditation. We thought it’d be really
cool for people to listen to like a sleep meditation if
they were planning to improve their sleep, or maybe even
a falling asleep single, because normally, you have to kind of pass the basics to get to set like this. And so, again, we got lots
of different feedback. We heard from some that
it was really helpful to hear Andy’s voice. I mean, some people
love the British accent, and for one user, he said it was, you know, it kind of reminded him of some pub fight he had gotten into. (audience laughs) So, I guess he comes from a
bad part of town, I don’t know. So, some people loved that. Some people hated it. And what was more important
I think was some people mentioned that actually
listening to that meditation right then made them wanna
just go and do a meditation, which is kind of cool, but we were trying to get them onboarded. So, we had to think about
this a little bit more. So we had our data, we had our research, but users were telling
us conflicting things. What were we gonna do? So, I think more often than
not, we have to make decisions with incomplete information,
even with all these tools. And on top of that, kind of
like what Ariel talked about, in a startup environment,
you have to move fast. Time is a limited resource. And for us, there’s like
a new meditation app popping up every day, right? So we have to be
comfortable making decisions with limited information. And that’s where intuition comes in. So, intuition is what
helps us fill in those gaps and make those decisions, and what allows us to move faster, because we can, we could
just kind of continue testing until we were like, very
certain, but who knows what would happen then, except for, you
know, time kind of leaking out. So, I said intuition. You might be wondering, what is intuition? It’s kind of like a loose, vague term. I feel like people use it
often as an excuse or just kind of an explanation when
they can’t quite explain something, when they know
something in their gut, or they just want you to believe them and they can kind of continue
on with what they’re saying. Like, I just feel it in my intuition. But as I understand it,
intuition is the ability to understand something instinctively without the need for conscious reasoning. And so, in this case, intuition
was simplifying complexity. We decided to leave that
question out about meditation frequency, just because
some users thought it was way too early, and we thought
that actually helping users to build that habit would
be much more important than trying to get them
to set the schedule. And intuition also kind of took the form of that gut feeling of like, yeah, even though some people really
like those science facts, it’s probably too early to educate you on the benefits of meditation
if you haven’t even done it. I mean, you’re already there. You’re somewhat sold. We’re just gonna leave it out. So we thought it would be
best to set this expectation a little later on, once you had
done a couple more sessions. We also decided to remove
that sample meditation. Even though some users really
liked hearing Andy’s voice, again, we thought it was
better to get them onboarded, get them set up for success,
rather than detracking them and going straight into that session, ’cause if you’ll remember,
from those experiments, we saw that that session one
completion for the animated GIF flow wasn’t actually correlated
to that week two retention. And so, we decided to focus
on helping users get set up. So, to kind of loop back
on what is intuition, in the context of design,
intuition can take the form of a non-rational pull that can
take us on a different path, or maybe it’s an incongruous idea that leads us to a surprising conclusion. This process of listening to
users, extracting insights, and understanding what’s going on is where the real magic begins. And so the more we repeat this process, the more we can build and
develop our intuition. And over time, this skill
becomes a competitive advantage, because you can move faster, and you don’t have to wait around for even fast user research
to make decisions for you. So, now I’m gonna walk
you through the details of the final flow. First, we start with a warm welcome. We set some context for what’s to come. And then we ask you about your
experience with meditation. If you’re new, we
recommend a short duration, three minutes, like what we did together. If you’re more experienced,
we go up to 10. But we allow you to change this. So if you’re experienced
but you haven’t done it in a while, or maybe
you’re new, and you really wanna do 10 minutes, that’s fine, too. Next, we ask you about your
reasons for coming to Headspace. We took that data from the goal study, and we kind of saw what
people were circling in those user research studies, and we came up with six goals. One of ’em was just checking it out. And that expanded view, it
gives you kind of like a, a bigger snippet about
what Headspace has to offer on each of these topics. So, from there, we decided
to do something really cool, and again, from behavioral science, we know that the best
way to create a new habit is to anchor it to an existing habit. So what we did here was we asked users to pick a habit anchor,
and that could be something like brushing their teeth,
something we already do, or even breakfast or going to sleep. And so, we kind of had a suggested
time there on the bottom. They could change it also. But over time, we hope
that that habit anchor would be enough to just
remind you to meditate. So, every time you brush
your teeth, you’ll remember, oh, I’m gonna go sit down and
do the meditation after that. It was our goal that over time, we could phase out those push reminders, because there’s something
a little anti-Headspace about using push reminders
to get you on your phone to get you to meditate. So, we end with this recap
of what you’ve told us, and we just encourage you to
try your first meditation. Okay, so, it took us
about six weeks to design and build this MVP experience. Our team is just one PM, me, the designer, a researcher that’s kind of
split across a couple teams, and a developer for each platform. And what we saw was a significant increase in that week two retention, about 10%. And in addition to
that, we saw this 90-day conversion rate go up,
so the amount of people who actually bought a
Headspace subscription went up. So, if you’ll remember from
earlier, the retention chart I talked about, we were kind
of thinking week two retention was a leading indicator for conversion, and so it was really
nice to see that at least for this experience, it
kind of came full circle, and both of them went up together. So, this is great. We had moved the metric we wanted to, and we had helped the business,
’cause we were making money, and we had helped our users. We weren’t doing anything shady, so. Okay, before I leave
you to lunch, I think, it’s almost soon, I’m going
to go over what we learned. So, one, data can help
us understand the past, but it doesn’t make decisions for us. It can help us identify opportunities like that huge drop in week two retention, but it can’t prescribe
the solutions for us. So, user research can
help us understand why. It can uncover those insights, and it can kind of, you know,
provide color to the data. In addition, behavioral science
can provide a really nice framework for us to base
our solution off of. But, what users say can be conflicting. Maybe they don’t know what they want, or there’s not enough time to do more. So, this is where we lean on intuition. Decision making is at the
heart of what we all do, and we’re just trying to
take all the information available to us and make
good, fast decisions. So, intuition is what helps us do that. And if you are intentional
about how you develop and grow that intuition,
it can become a competitive advantage for you, your
team, and your company. Thank you. (audience applauds) (bright instrumental music)


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