Ailm is a mobile app for sufferers of binge eating disorder (BED) to reduce binge eating by offering virtual environments that allow users to confront stimuli that trigger binge eating episodes. This project was completed as my thesis project for a M.S in UX Design at Virginia Commonwealth University. Ailm provides a safe way for BED patients to expose themselves to triggering stimuli, track their recovery progress, and build community and support with other BED sufferers.
Sep. 2020 - Nov. 2020 (2 months)
Figma, Cinema 4D, After Effects, Illustrator, Final Cut Pro, Invision
Binge eating originates as a response to people feeling triggered in high stress situations
How might I help sufferers of BED feel control during these stressful times and overcome binge eating?
Ailm, a mobile app that helps users confront their binge eating triggers in a safe environment.
Ailm encourages sustainable behavior change around stress coping through goal setting, support networking, and progress reports.
PERSONAL GOAL SETTING
Add pre-made or custom goals to the home screen for daily motivation and validation of small wins towards recovery.
PRACTICE OVERCOMING BINGE TRIGGERS
Pick a stress inducing scenario and virtually confront triggers with provided strategies.
See where most triggers occur, trends in confronting triggers, and comparisons over time.
Build a support network by connecting with other BED suffers through asking question or sharing advice.
So, how did I get here?
Meet w/ experts
Define user pain points
Test & test again
Test & test again
How do BED sufferers feel about recovering from binge eating disorder?
To start my initial research, I sent out a survey targeting BED patients early in their recovery stage and received 25 responses. Together with secondary resources research and competitive product analysis, I was trying to learn more about the BED recovery process and what makes BED sufferers feel helpless about it.
What is the current binge eating disorder recovery process experience?
To build empathy with my users, I conducted a journey map to figure out the current experience of BED patients attempting to overcome their eating disorder.
Enters binge triggering environment
Feels ready to start recovery
Feels a loss of control
Binge eats to cope with stress
Feels hopeless and discouraged
"I know I am going to binge eat the second I step into a restaurant but I have no way of controlling myself"
- interviewed user
What are the main challenges BED sufferers face in their recovery?
After initial research, I decided to synthesize my research through affinity mapping to determine the main user pain points and organize my findings.
Users feel a loss of control in certain enviornments. These places often center around food such as restaurants, holiday gatherings, cafeterias.
Users feel discouraged. Progress is viewed as being only linear- users feel there is no hope or point in recovery.
No way to see improvement in recovery. Seeing an improvement in binge eating leads to less stress and guilt, which thus reduces stress induced binge eating.
Users feel isolated- which leads to more binge eating. Due to guilt and shame, most sufferers do not seek out help.
BED sufferers don't know how to overcome stimuli that trigger binge eating episodes, and lack a support network
How might I help the user from feeling isolated and a loss of control in stressful environments, and stop repeating the binge cycle?
My goal was to build a solution that helps BED sufferers overcome and understand their binge triggers, and provides support and positivity.
I revisited the user's four main pain points to determine what my main user needs were
Exploring far out ideas
I conducted crazy 8's and sketched around 15 off-wall ideas including: a chat bot to walk the user through triggers, and a wearable that warns the user when they feel panicked. I wanted to flesh out any ideas that could help solve my 4 main user painpoints.
The most vital aspect of the design process for me is consistently testing my design and iterate based on feedback from users. I tested my low fidelity wireframes to see if the user journey and flow made sense before moving into the high fidelity design stage.
I asked users to give me general thoughts about the experience and how it made them feel. I then gave users three tasks: 1)view a thread on the forum, 2) complete the restaurant practice simulation, 3)view your progress trends for this year.
Final solution: A virtual practice tool with strategies to overcome binge triggers, a forum space to connect with others, progress analytics, and goal setting.
I looked back at my four main user needs to determine what features my solution will include.
To set long term vision and daily motivation, users will set personal goals they want to achieve in their recovery. This will encourage positivity and encourage users to continue using the solution.
Users can then practice confronting and overcoming their binge triggers by walking through virtual environments that replicate binge triggering scenarios such as ordering at a restaurant, Holiday celebrations, eating at dining halls, and traveling. Users are provided with strategies of how to handle the negative feelings that cause binge eating in these situations.
After practicing, users can see data on where they encounter the most triggers, and how much practice they are completing. This will help show users that they are making progress in their recovery, and fuel affirmation.
To feel supported in their recovery, users will use the community forum space to post questions and advice on their BED story and recovery. Users can build a network and learn by reading other's posts and leaving replies or saving the post to revisit later.
Before designing screens, I created a user flow to identify how my user would access and engage with the four essential features I wanted to include in my design.
Low fidelity wireframe
From my sketches, I narrowed down to the minimum viable product by repeatedly checking back with my primary features and validating my concepts with some of my previous research interviewees. Below are the low fidelity screens.
To make sure the user flow and interactions made sense before moving into high fidelity screens, users were asked to complete two tasks 1) add a goal and 2) view progress analytics for a scenario. Based on the feedback, I made some changes to the language, interactions, and structure of my design.
Goal setting- seeing it right on home screen
Progress comparisons over time
Ability to connect with others
Feels "calm" and "friendly"
Way to make goals customizable
More inspiration "such as quotes"
Break down of analytics of each scenario
I wanted a clean, trustworthy, and friendly look because of the sensitivity and emotion surrounding BED. To achieve this, I incorporated lighthearted illustrations as well as gradients and rounded buttons.
My design centers around the color purple, which represents peace, strength, and compassion.
I chose the name "Ailm" for my app. Ailm is the Celtic symbol derived from the letter “A” of the Celtic Ogham alphabet. Ailm represents strength, endurance, resilience, and healing. The logo, an origami crane, represents peace and happiness. I want my user to feel all of these qualities when working toward their binge eating recovery.
Add pre-made or custom goals
Daily inspiration quotes to foster positivity
View goals on the home screen for motivation reminders
For my independent study project, I am really happy with the results. There are multiple directions that this app concept can scale to. This project taught me how to listen to users, and dig deep to solve for the root cause of problems. When I began this journey, I assumed the scope would focus on dieting or self image- not stress or emotional triggers. I feel inspired to continue learning about BED and expand my project.
Some future directions I hope to take for this app:
Build a web version
Add a messaging feature for users to connect
Add a feature for physicians to walk through the simulations with patients and view their progress