Oprah Winfrey, Jeff Weiner, BEYONCE, Andrew Cherng, Martin Scorcese, and LeBron James are among the 40% of Americans that claim to meditate once a week. In 2014, 16.1 million Americans reported feeling depressed and “grappling with crippling darkness and despair.”

It was a challenging year. The Syrian War reminded the world that pure greed and unadulterated evil still prevailed. Robin Williams committed suicide, the Ebola outbreak brought life to a standstill in West Africa, and the Malaysia Airlines Flight 370 with 239 people on board mysteriously vanished into thin air. 

It was as though the world could not catch a break. 

Yet, we adapted. 

Whether it was resilience, the desperate need to feel happy, or sheer running out of options, we moved our gaze to the practices of the east. Perhaps, the brown men knew a thing or two about disengaging. Believed to have originated in India several thousand years ago, meditation slowly started gathering followers. 

Suddenly, more and more people were raving about the benefits of meditation. It helped them sleep better; even wake up better. Newfound meditation fans were planning their day better, achieving tasks and goals in record time, and not feeling a sense of doom everywhere they went.

Most importantly, it was still 2014, and people learned how to find pockets of calm in their otherwise chaotic day. Mindfulness and mediation had suddenly become the “It” thing.

A white masthead, a serene blue backdrop, and a model facing the camera with her eyes closed – as though she’d found all of life’s answers in meditation. This was the cover of TIME Magazine’s February edition in 2014. 

The Mindful Revolution

Kate Pickert, former staff writer for TIME magazine and the author of “Radical”, recalls in her article “The Mindful Revolution”, how paying attention to her breath and focusing on nothing else but the present moment wasn’t the easiest task. 

She also talks about how she’s chewing on a raisin – a task she needed to complete as part of a mindfulness-based stress reduction (MBSR) class by Jon Kabat-Zinn. The exercise reminded her of how difficult it had become to be present in the present and to take one thing at a time. The benefits of mindfulness techniques such as this one and meditation are wide-reaching. 

Meditation helps one focus, eases anxiety, aids those living with depression and post-traumatic stress disorder, and even helps alleviate the symptoms of irritable bowel syndrome. Now, more than ever, the demand for meditation practitioners and gurus has skyrocketed. Likewise, the number of people meditating in the world at any given moment is speculated to be anywhere from 200 to 500 million. 

Over the past few years, how, when, where, and why people meditate has changed. Most prefer the sanctuary of their homes as their mobile devices guide them to travel in an inwards journey. Apps like Calm, Headspace, Meditopia, and Breethe were downloaded millions of times and have taken permanent residence in mental-health seekers’ phones. As of August 2021, Calm developed by Michael Action Smith and Alex Tew, surpassed 100 million downloads. 

What makes Calm stand out? Why are people willing to pay a premium price to access what is on offer?

For starters, people are increasingly welcoming the idea that taking care of their minds is not weak – that feeling miserable is not normal. 

Calm 

Is easy to use, 

It’s intuitive, 

And always has fresh content to look forward to. 

These are the three main pillars that should be the foundation of the meditation app you’re designing. 

Does one really need an app to meditate? No, but it sure helps. 

You should make people believe that meditation need not be their white whale.

That sitting still and focusing on your breath should be as easy as it sounds. 

That a habit such as this one can be mastered by even those who are most distracted. 

That it doesn’t have to be overwhelming. 

Where does one begin? 

Start by reminding your user that meditation is an ongoing journey. One can’t expect to master the practice overnight. If they can’t sit still for even 5 minutes – that’s not their fault. It’s who we’ve conditioned to become. The more one practices, the stronger the practice becomes. 

Ensure that your meditation app is robust enough to track the users’ journeys and patterns. The better the insights, the better the app will be able to curate a practice aligned with the user’s persona.

Calm worked and continues to work because it isn’t just teaching someone to meditate through the traditional way. It also offers mind exercises, sleep talk downs, guided and unguided meditations. Users are excited to log in because it’s constantly updated with new and helpful things. And celebrities talk to the user too! Almost.

No, seriously. You can listen to Harry Styles’ “Dream With Me”, in which he reads you a story as you drift away into a deep slumber. 

Celebrity collaborations such as Harry’s are trending in meditation apps. The advantage is stratified. 

  • Users feel instantly connected to the celebrity.
  • Users are encouraged to use the app because their idol is on it and actively participating
  • Users feel that paying for a premium such as this one is justified.

But, celebrity endorsements can only take you so far. If your app isn’t aesthetically pleasing, there’s a high chance that people will walk away almost immediately. So, be careful and deliberate with the colors you choose. They play a significant role in impacting a person’s mood and emotions.

In 2022, leafy green shades, earthy browns, warm neutrals, and lavender are quite the rage – whether inside houses, in magazines, or in UI design. Green can bring an immediate sense of calm. It’s the color of nature, and many identify green with being zen, being at peace, and tranquillity. 

While earthy browns may not translate as beautifully in UI design, you can incorporate them in buttons and elements to add a distinct yet subdued pop of color. While some associate brown with feelings of loneliness, most see it as a color of security and being grounded. As it is the color of the earth, it brings about a sense of reassurance and comfort.

Warm neutrals bring balance to any space or practice, and lavender represents calmness, serenity, and silence – all qualities of meditation. 

Sounds and voices, like most other things in life, are subjective. Do your homework well. What may sound like a calming voice to you may sound like a serial killer to another. Provide the same content in different voice options, so the user feels at ease. Likewise, make the nature of sounds in the background adjustable. Some enjoy the sounds of waves, others the pitter-patter rain. You can also include binaural beat music or even the rhythmic ticking of a grandfather’s clock. 

The idea is to give the user everything they need to get started. 

Millions of people using meditation apps often complain about how they “forget” to meditate. Sounds silly, right? Wrong. Between waking up and going to bed and days that don’t let us catch our breath, forgetting when to meditate is relatively easy.

Some days exhausted parents even forget to pack their kids’ lunches. If something as major as that can be forgotten, meditating – a practice that hasn’t yet become a habit is easier to forget. Some days, it’s never even in the back of our minds.

If you want your app to work, incorporate strong reminders. However, don’t go overboard with them. Reminders need not be limited to “reminding” the user to meditate. It can also be a reminder to track their progress, nudge them to start, or reward their day-to-day journey. A good reminder of one’s personal growth can go a long way in aiding their self-discovery. 

The more the user is engaged, the better the app will perform. The app’s aim should be to help make meditation an everyday habit.

Are you looking for an experience-driven digital solution for your product or service?
Author

Alka is the Design Director at Pepper Square and she has defined the user experience for some of the finest global brands over the last seven years.

Alka is the Design Director at Pepper Square and she has defined the user experience for some of the finest global brands over the last seven years.

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