Stay Creative: an app to prevent creative burnout.
How I designed the MVP of an app in 2.5 weeks.
As a writer, I've experience creative burnout often, & I know that I'm not alone. Solutions tended to be expensive: retreats, coaching, classes, or therapy.
I designed an app to help prevent & alleviate creative burnout through mandatory breaks, times for reflection, prompts, and celebrations-methods suggested by experts.
"Creative burnout is the feeling that you’ve drained all of your creativity, and there is nothing left. If you’re dreading to start work, feel tired & stressed all the time & suspect you’ll never be able to create something good ever again, you might be experiencing a creative burnout."
UX/ UI Design
Sept 27 - Oct 11
A Deep Dive into the Beliefs & Motivations tied to Creative Work
I interviewed 5 creatives who identified as currently having a creative burnout or experienced it recently. 2 key highlights below.
Sample Interview Questions:
Tell me about the last time you experienced creative burnout. Why do you think it happened?
What does inspiration mean to you? Tell me about the last time you felt inspired.
Pressure to Perform
One of the main factors that led to creative burnout was the belief that we're not allowed to take breaks due to pressure to perform and achieve.
"Our work is closely tied to our self-worth, and when the work is not getting done, the last thing we think about is taking care of ourselves."
Targeted Secondary Research
How have experts defined, prevented, & combatted creative burnout?
After the interviews, I did some targeted secondary research on building healthy self-care & creativity-inspiring habits by reading articles and the books, Tiny Habits by BJ Fogg and The Artist's Way by Julia Cameron, which later helped me prioritize some of the feature ideas.
Create a space for active reflection + intentional time away from the creative work.
Content should be small & easy to digest, breaking things down into tiny behaviors that lead to bigger change.
Evaluating Mental Health, Inspiration, & Habit-Forming Apps
Evaluated strengths, weaknesses, and opportunities of comparable apps:
Breaks need to be designed, so that they affirm & persuade the user that these breaks can help prevent burnout.
Mindful content consumption: Limit the design to NOT allow the user to mindlessly scroll, setting it apart from social media apps or even many mental health apps that have too much to offer.
Creating a Persona + POV & HMW Chart
Needs & Insights: Presenting & Advocating for the User
I created a persona to help define & prioritize what problems to solve for then created a POV-HMW chart. The POV focuses on the most essential needs of the Persona, while the Insights synthesized the user interviews in a way that naturally led to the How Might We questions.
How Might We's
How might we design encouragement & motivation into the app?
How might we remind users to take breaks & convince them of the value?
How might we design prompts or reminders for mindful reflection?
Ideating is Better Together
Preventing Designing in a Silo
Although this was a personal project, I asked my friend, fellow writer & UX designer, to help me ideate solutions to the HMW questions. After presenting my research findings, we put ideas on post-its in FigJam and put them next to the HMW questions, time-boxing it for 10 minutes.
Getting Creative for a Creative App
My friend suggested we do Crazy 8's, so we did and presented our ideas. It was my absolute favorite part about this whole process, and some great screen ideas came about.
Prioritizing Features in a Super Short Timeline
I put all the feature ideas into a Google Sheet then prioritized which features to design based on the research.
Then I drew up a quick App Map and User Flow, intending for these things to change and evolve as I began to design.
Using References & Secondary Research
With limited time, my mentor suggested that I go with screens that I've seen before. She recommended copying screens that I thought did it right, especially because I only gave myself a day to do it all.
The Ugly Process
Starting with Content, Making it Pretty Later
Since the content would be the main driver of this app, I tried to figure out how to organize and write it first in small, bite-sized portions.
Moodboard: Adding Color + Personality
Fresh, Juicy, Journey
I wanted the app to help refresh the creative person and remind them that it's about the journey, so I tried to finds images and colors that match.
Minimal Kit due to a Sprint's Time Constraints
I did the bare minimum here, since this challenge lasted a total of two weeks.
Testing the Prototype
Using the HMW's as a Basis for Testing
Does it encourage Motivation?
Does it prompt Reflection?
Does it remind you to Take Breaks?
Do you feel better about your creativity after using it?
It's NOT Working :(
I was pretty proud of doing this with the given time constraints, but unfortunately, the only thing I got right seems to be the take break notifications. Lots of negative, but helpful feedback to chart the way forward.
"This feels like a lot of work, and I'm not in a place to do it during a creative burnout. I wonder if there's a more relaxing way to reflect?"
"Maybe it's the colors that aren't bright enough, but I don't know if it feels energizing or refreshing."
"It feels like too much reading, which I wasn't expecting."
"I wonder if there are visual ways to spark creativity and inspiration within the app."
Plot Twist - A Completely NEW DIRECTION
Focusing on Clean UI, Inspiring Visuals, Video/ Audio, & Minimizing Text
I found some references & tried out a more creative navigation pattern that would give users more choice to do deep reflection work or to keep things light & easy instead of hitting them with all the choices right up front. I also decided to go for inspiring images to aid the text, applying the test feedback.
Quick A/B Testing
"This one's way better!"
I conducted a quick A/B Test with 5 creatives & the 2nd iteration won out by 100%. Some of the comments included that B feels less overwhelming, B seems more likely I'll come back to it, & that B is just plain prettier to look at, which can be inspiring in & of itself.
A New & Better Way Forward
The design is far from final, but it's on the right path
With the more positive feedback, I revised the app map & user flow, but kept it simple as the navigation and structure of the app should be as simple as possible, helping the user focus more on the content and interacting with content to get inspired & stay motivated.
Could this thing make money?
Creating a User Flow for User Sign-ups
While this is a personal passion project, I hope to eventually make a business plan, charting out how this product would make money, but as an initial starting point, the app would require users to create an account if they wanted to use the Bookmark and Reminder features.
Building Out More Screens
Setting Reminders & Adding Bookmarks
With the new App Map in hand, I built out the Set a Reminder screens & Bookmarks, taking inspiration from existing apps like Instagram, so that users can use existing mental models to guide their actions.
A New Venture?
A Business Plan & Seeking More Feedback
While this is a personal passion project, I plan to continue testing & iterating, as well as, creating a business plan to enter pitch competitions & hackathons. I hope to talk to & learn from mentors & experienced startup founders, so that I can make this product desirable for users, technically feasible, & a viable business.
If you're interested in working on this project with me or have any feedback or tips, please reach out. :)
Tossing Bad Drafts
Not Taking Critical Feedback Personally
I realized that in the first iteration my problems were mainly visual & interaction-based. Thankfully, I had a lot of practice in writing bad drafts and tossing them that restarting with brand new sketches for a brand new visual design didn't feel hard at all.
I don't think it's a matter of thick skin. I think it's having the ability to focus on what's best for the person who will live with whatever I design or write, and that was the goal-- to make my design as helpful and pleasing to use as possible. Hopefully, I can keep working to get there.
Until then, in accordance with the Tiny Habits advice to celebrate the tiny things: Yay, pat on the back for me, and a high-five for you for getting this far in the case study! Hooray! :)