Cheerly (once called Mynder) is a mobile application that sends positive affirmations to customers via push notifications. Born out of a hunch I had while studying at General Assembly, Cheerly is my pet project that has evolved over the past three years as my own skillset has evolved as well. It is currently in production.
I once received a push notification from Poshmark (a clothing re-sell application) that told me that even though it was Monday, I looked great and today would be awesome. I was pleasantly surprised, and I had a feeling that other people would be too. So, for my third project at General Assembly (our second solo project) I decided to follow that idea. The first phase of Cheerly was conducted in three weeks.
As someone who is passionate about self-help and self-care, I was eager to learn how best to help people help themselves the simplest way possible — positive affirmations. As such, I kept the project objectives were rather open-ended. I wanted to accomplish the following:
Use color and typography to support the sentiment of the affirmations
Determine the best way to deliver, save, and send positive affirmations through a digital medium
Solo project. I conducted user interviews and branding exercises, and created all prototypes
Qualitative research, branding, user testing
Because I had a strong hypothesis about the application’s success, I jumped straight into high-fidelity prototyping. I wanted to be able to test my hypothesis as soon as possible and I wanted to be able to test all points of that hypothesis, from the structure and content to the visual language.
Contextual + Secondary Research
Because of my MVP strategy and the short period of time allocated for the project, I spent mornings of the first week conducting both contextual and secondary research. I conducted eleven in-person interviews in which I asked about which relevant content people consume and how, as well as conducting A/B tests that determined how certain types of content (i.e. Instagram posts, email newsletters, books) made people feel in regards to their self-help.
Secondary research consisted of pulling from existing research studies on the costs and success of the self-help industry, as well as pulling metrics on the use of technology with self-help.
After five mornings of contextual and secondary research, I found the following in regards to digital self-help:
Self-help solutions can make people can feel compartmentalized and simultaneously overly generalized. There’s a lot of similar language utilized (i.e. “steps,” and metaphors about empty cups) but those steps feel more like impersonal buckets of tasks. Because of this, these solutions often feel like snake oil — they make promises of fast and easy change when it’s more complicated than that.
Feeling better takes a lot of hard work. And any applications that ask for the customer to do work (i.e. completing x amount of meditations in order to unlock more) most likely get deleted or ignored.
People want solutions to feel easy and be easy. It’s daunting to start a self-help journey without simple stepping stones to begin with.
We choose self-help because part of us wants to do something that some other part resists. We often know what needs to be changed but we aren’t entirely sure how to go about it.
After teasing through my research findings, I formulated the following insights:
The self-help industry takes advantage of our invisible obstacles like fear, insecurity, self-loathing, and guilt in order to turn a profit. For many people, avoiding self-help feels like admitting to defeat and be labeled a “loser” in our "I can have everything I want without any effort" culture.
Self-help solutions oftentimes perpetuate the sense of emptiness that we’re trying to avoid. They have too much busy work and often feel cold, categorical, egalitarian, clinical, and commercial.
The application should celebrate the unique parts that make up the complexity of human emotion. In this sense, the solution should emphasize fulfillment and individuality, providing the user with organic, accessible, personalized, and hands-off unconditional emotional support. It should come with no strings attached and be ever flexible to the user’s changing moods.
After determining the design direction for the product, I began a cold ideation session with peers who were not interviewed and were thus unfamiliar with the project. This activity allowed me to very quickly generate ideas for MVP features.
These notes and post-its were then used in a features/functionality matrix where they could be determined whether or not they would work for an MVP.
Affirmations are short, positive statements that should be repeated to one's self and written down frequently. They’re digestible and frankly just nice — imagine someone telling you that you’re an incredible person every hour. They perfectly fit into the design direction of needing something flexible and personal. And, due to their inherent length, affirmations could be shown as a simple push notification. They would not require any more work from the user other than simply reading the message.
Laying the groundwork for an identity system began with styleboards and affinity maps that aligned with what I felt like the brand should do.
I then flushed out some key branding metrics that would help to set the stage for color, type, and copy choices.
Vision: To help people support themselves through a sense a fulfillment; to re-shape the self-help industry by providing a simple and straightforward source of unconditional support and love.
Mission: The “how” is technical — Cheerly sends affirmations, mantras, and/or positive quotes to the user via messages, which can be personalized based on subject matter, types of positivity, and favorites.
Values: Unconditional love, individuality, uniqueness, support, self-discovery, excellence
Audience: People who are new, dabbling, or experienced working with self-help. We want to help anyone who needs help.
Positioning: The only daily positive, personalized ‘outreach’ solution that functions with the understanding that everyone is unique.
Personality: Professional and clean but not clinical; quirky and relaxed but not unrefined or silly; warm and friendly but not overbearing or imposing; down-to-earth and wholesome but not unrealistic; contemporary and sleek but not cold or distant.
Color + Type
Initially, I felt as though I needed to communicated a sense of security, serenity, grace, energy, and reliability. I focused on building on a cooler palette with a deep blue-green and jewel green as the primary palette.
The first rounds of user testing showed a definite affinity towards brighter, more energetic colors that felt friendly and modern. I winnowed the first palette to a small group of core colors — a vibrant green paired with with neutral grays and a deep charcoal. Interestingly, the latter rounds of testing pushed for more color, which yielded brighter hues that were softened to avoid visual overload.
Initially, type choices (Montserrat) were made to consider the more playful and friendly tone of the application while also providing a balance to the more serious choice of imagery and color. I wanted to maintain the same sentiment through a geometric sans serif, but I wanted something that felt even more friendly and engaging. After several type iterations and testing, I landed on Larsseit, which uses more humanist letterforms.
Iterating on Features
Although I’m able to iterate without a lot of concerns for client restraints, I wanted to focus on a few key features and continuously iterate on them. Those features are as follows:
1) A wide selection of affirmation categories for people to be able to dive into the subject matter(s) that seems most relevant at the time. Initially the action of choosing an affirmation was as simple as checking a box, which felt a bit commonplace. I landed on more of a Mad Libs approach, which helped allow the users to feel like they were creating their own affirmation story.
2) A highly visible affirmation schedule with the ability to turn off and change a scheduled affirmation. To support and celebrate people’s ever changing moods, the last iteration includes a “turn them off for the day” link, which would mute all scheduled affirmations for that day.
3) Highly customized messages were always crucial to the core functionality of the application. All iterations allowed the user to save their favorite messages as well as create their own. However, several people in the last testing sessions wanted to be able for the application to also send tailored messages according to how they were currently feeling. Although the exact flow of this feature is still being worked out, it has shown to have people feel more emotionally heard and recognized by the application.