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Healthcare

Designing for Mental Health: Best Practices and Considerations for Healthcare Applications

Anastasia Golovko
Anastasia Golovko
July 12, 2023

As modern people become more conscious and self-aware, mental health apps have recently become especially popular. These apps offer a range of features, such as guided meditations, mood tracking, and cognitive-behavioral therapy techniques, to help individuals manage their mental health. So, the mental health niche creates a lot of winning opportunities for aspiring startups but at the same time, mental health app development requires considering a range of factors, including user needs, privacy concerns, and ethical considerations. That’s why in this article we will discover how to develop a mental health app that is effective, user-friendly, and ethical.

The Most Popular AI Mental Health Startups -Brief Overview

Before you decide to create a mental health app, take a look at the most promising startups in this niche, discovering their business model, unique concepts, best practices, and engagement tactics. So, below are the three most popular AI mental health apps and their brief overview.

Woebot

According to its developers, Woebot is “your personal mental health ally”. It helps users identify, recognize and experience their feelings through conversations with scientifically backed-up chatbots. The goal of this mental health AI chatbot is to provide affordable and effective psychological support using natural language processing and cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT) techniques. 

Woebot has attracted significant investment, with a total funding of $123.3 million as of March 2022, and now the app has more than 4 million users worldwide.

Ginger

The future of telemedicine is here, and Ginger is one of the most prominent application examples that prove it. It is an on-demand mental health service that connects patients with psychologists and coaches. The service provided by Ginger is deeply personalized since an AI-matching algorithm inside helps users choose the specialist based on their specific needs and health conditions. 

Ginger was founded in 2011 as an application for personal goals. Recently, it partnered with Headspace – the solution that focuses on employees’ well-being, so now they have a single platform that covers mental health coaching, therapy, psychiatry, self-guided care, and Employee Assistance Programs (EAP).

Calm

The main goal of the Calm application, as the name suggests, is to help users reduce stress, improve sleep and promote overall well-being with the help of assisted meditation techniques. The solution comes with breathing exercises, sleep stories, and calming melodies that are personally recommended to each of the users depending on their behavior and preferences. Randomized controlled trials showed Calm can potentially be helpful in reducing the symptoms of anxiety and depression. Now, the application has more than 4 million subscribed users globally.

How to Create a Mental Health App – Must-Follow Design Practices

Now, after you get an idea of the most promising solutions in the mental health niche, let’s proceed with mental health app development and design specifics. Below are the main things to keep in mind if you want to create an effective, engaging, and competitive mental health platform.

User-centered design approach

When it comes to designing a mental health app, creating a user-centered design solution becomes more important. The matter is that these types of apps should be especially easy to use and access so that the prospective users have no getting started barriers and have the feeling of being understood from the first seconds of interaction with the app.

That’s why conducting detailed user research and involving users into the design process are the main steps to come up with an effective mental health app design. Partnering with professional mental health app developers and designers would also be a wise tactic since you will be able to access niche-specific expertise, avoid costly pitfalls and carefully meet the unique needs of your target audience.

Importance of simplicity and clarity

An effective mental health app is one that offers simple solutions to complex problems. In other words, the users shouldn’t struggle with the application, in addition to their main pain point. It is also important to remember that this target group may experience specific mental health challenges, like anxiety or mood swings, so the mental health app design should be as simple and clear as possible.

Below are some of the best practices for this goal:

  • Clear and concise UI writing. The language used in the app can greatly impact user experience. That’s why mental health app UI writing should not only help users navigate the app and engage with the platform but it should also sound supportive and encouraging so that users feel safe. 
  • White space. It is also necessary to keep an interface clean and uncluttered so that users can navigate the app seamlessly, finding the sections they need on the first attempt. 
  • Familiar UX patterns. Also, you haven’t to reinvent the wheel when designing a mental health app. Following the standard UI/UX design approaches that are already familiar to users will be the right tactic.

Use of calming colors and visuals

Using calming colors in mental health app design can help create a soothing and supportive environment for users. Colors such as blue, green, and purple are often associated with calmness, relaxation, and tranquility. However, it is still important to take the psychology of color into account and keep your users’ preferences in mind. 

Also, when choosing the right color palette, you have to consider the goal and the context of the app as well. For example, if your app is intended to help users with depression and anxiety, it is better to use a camping color palette with a focus on deep shades. At the same time, an app designed to help users improve focus and productivity may benefit from a more energizing color palette. To make the right color choice, opt for professional app design services and be sure that your future app will be created with your users’ well-being in mind.

Accessibility considerations

Accessibility considerations are crucial when designing a mental health app. Mental health apps should be designed to be inclusive and accessible to all users, regardless of their abilities or disabilities. For example, depending on the target audience, it may be necessary to make your mental health app compatible with voice recognition technologies and screen reading software. 

In this way, Headspace, a meditation and sleep app, uses closed captions and audio descriptions to make the app accessible to users with hearing or visual impairments. When choosing the right design colors, it is also necessary to keep in mind that people with visual impairment or partial blindness may perceive them differently.

Personalization and customization options

Since mental health challenges are diverse and usually shaped by individual experiences, personalization, and customization options become one of the most important features in a mental health app design. While personalized experience has always been essential for user engagement and loyalty, in the case of mental health applications, it also gives the users a feeling of control and an individual approach to treatment. 

As for the examples of AI-based mental health apps that use this approach, Moodfit allows users to track their mood and provides personalized recommendations based on their mood patterns. Users can also set goals and create personalized plans for improving their mental health. Pacifica offers a variety of tools and exercises for managing anxiety and depression, and users can customize their experience by choosing which exercises they want to use, setting reminders, and tracking their progress over time.

Integration of evidence-based interventions

Evidence-based interventions refer to scientifically-validated techniques and practices that, according to clinical trials, can help with different mental health conditions and improve patient outcomes. These interventions may include techniques such as cognitive-behavioral therapy, mindfulness, and relaxation exercises, among others. To put it simply, this is the key content of the app your users will interact with to achieve their goals. 

Leveraging evidence-based interventions is also a way to increase users’ trust, engagement, and loyalty, however, there are no benefits without challenges. Integrating evidence-based interventions in mental health apps requires rigorous evaluation to make sure the application is really effective for specific mental health conditions. It also requires collaboration between mental health professionals and app developers, as well as attention to privacy and security concerns.

Gamification and rewards

Solving a mental health issue can never be easy. However, you can make this path more enjoyable for your users if you add gamification and rewards features. This is also a proven way to increase motivation, engagement, and adherence to treatment. As an option, you can consider incorporating game-like elements, such as points, levels, and challenges, into the app design to make it more fun and engaging for users.

For example, SuperBetter gamifies user experience by turning self-improvement into a game. Users set goals, complete challenges, and earn rewards for building resilience and improving their emotional well-being.

Social support features

Incorporating social support features into your mental health app design is the last but not least consideration you have to keep in mind. Social support features can include peer-to-peer support, online communities, and social networking so that users can get a sense of connection and belonging. By connecting with others who are experiencing similar challenges, users can feel less alone and more motivated to proceed with their mental health improvement. 

For example, the app TalkLife connects users with anxiety and depression, creating for them a safe space where they can share their thoughts and get support. Another app, Moodfit, includes a social support feature called “Circles,” which allows users to connect with friends and family members who can provide support and accountability. Users can share their mood and progress with their Circle, and receive support and encouragement in return.

Conclusion

Designing mental health apps that effectively meet the needs of users requires careful consideration of best practices and challenges. At Tino Agency, we have extensive experience in healthcare solutions development and can help you design a mental health app custom-matched to your users’ goals. With the latest industry insights in mind, we can help you create an appealing design solution and clear user interface, powering your application with reliable technologies, protecting users’ sensitive data, and ensuring legal compliance.

Meet our tech team today for a free consultation!

FAQ

How to create a mental health app?

As a rule, the process of mental health app development is similar to creating any other solution. You have to come up with an idea of how your future app will solve a pain point of the prospective users, validate it, and do extensive market research. The next stages of mental health app development involve creating user-friendly designs, coding back- and front-end parts, and testing the app for bugs and security gaps. After the application is launched, you have to track your users’ feedback and improve accordingly. We, in turn, would be glad to support you at each of the steps of this journey.

How much does a mental health app cost?

The cost to build a mental health app is always individual. It depends on the technologies you use and the complexity of the features you want to develop. For example, embedding a conversational AI for mental health into your app would cost more than opting for a simpler machine learning model. The complexity of the design and even the location of your mental health app development team also matter for the final price tag.