Polar Pals: Making Bipolar Disorder patients’ daily lives manageable — A Case Study

Let me take you through my process of building an app, for making lives of Bipolar Disorder patients manageable, that tracks their moods, sleep cycle, chances of relapse and more.

Time Frame: 25 days

Number of participants: 1 (myself)

Bipolar disorder (BD) , also known as manic-depressive illness, is a severe mental health condition characterized by extreme mood swings between mania and depression. Depressive episodes may lead to inactivity and prolonged periods of bed rest, while manic episodes may cause excessive energy, reduced need for sleep, and heightened alertness and productivity.

Although bipolar disorder can be treated, it cannot be cured. However, with the right medications and lifestyle changes, patients can lead healthy lives.

PolarPals is a comprehensive mobile application designed to support individuals with Bipolar Disorder by tracking sleep, moods, speech, trigger patterns, and medications, and allowing users to share reports with their loved ones.

Experience the heart-wrenching journey of Winnie, who’s been grappling with extreme mood swings and uncontrollable anger. Follow her parents as they struggle to track her daily symptoms, and uncover how technology can come to the rescue to alleviate the daily struggles of those affected by bipolar disorder.

Will Winnie and her family overcome the challenges thrown their way? Stay tuned to find out.

In order to better understand my users, I conducted both primary and secondary research. While the primary research provided in-depth insights about my users, the secondary research helped me validate my assumptions and ask more targeted interview questions.

  • Bipolar Disorder can affect individuals of any gender and age group.

The stigma associated with the disease can make it challenging for individuals to seek treatment and speak openly about their struggles.

Reference: The Economic Times
  • I also identified common symptoms in most BD patients, that could trigger a relapse such as-

Mood Patterns

Sleep Schedule

Inadequate medication

Triggering points.

I followed a the five step design thinking process.

The process I followed was iterative and involved going back and forth through the design thinking process until I arrived at a satisfactory solution.

Design thinking process
  • I conducted interviews with three individuals, including two patients aged 23 and 19 years, and the mother of a 13-year-old child who had been diagnosed with bipolar disorder.
  • I primarily asked questions about their daily routines, symptoms and their current methods for tracking their symptoms and communicating with their doctors.
  • I also delved deeper into understanding what families do when they are away from the patients due to work or household responsibilities.
  • The expression of bipolar disorder symptoms can vary greatly from person to person, making it challenging to develop a one-size-fits-all approach to managing the condition. However, some common symptoms experienced by many people can be effectively addressed.
Actual images of tracking patient’s daily routine by one of the participants- Using pen and paper method

1. I found myself overwhelmed while listening to the heart-wrenching experiences of both the patients and their parents, as I could empathize with their situation.

2. I had preconceived notions and assumptions about bipolar disorder based on my personal experiences that I had to consciously set aside to ensure that the insights gathered were based solely on the experiences and perspectives of the participants.

3. I learned to be a patient listener as it was important to let the participants express their experiences and needs without interruption or judgement.

  • I created user personas that helped me understand participants’ characteristics, needs, and pain points.
User Personas

Imagine Winnie and her family struggling with the devastating effects of bipolar disorder. The situation is dire, and their daily lives are consumed by the constant fear of triggers and relapses. As we read through the empathy maps, we can feel the weight of the pain and sufferings of the patients and their families. But what are the specific challenges they face, and how can we help them find a way to manage their lives?

Let’s dive deeper and uncover the answers that could change everything.

The interviews with participants have helped me analyse the severity of the situation and develop a need statement to aid both patients and their family members.

Living with bipolar disorder can be a daily struggle due to unpredictable symptoms that make managing the condition difficult. A personalized solution is required to assist patients in tracking their symptoms and provide insight into the likelihood of relapse, benefiting both patients and loved ones. This tracking enables early treatment, making it highly advantageous for those with bipolar disorder.

After defining the problem statement, I conducted more research to understand why these individuals were not using existing products, even though many are available in the market. Specifically, I aimed to determine why they were more dependent on pen and paper methods for managing their condition.

I searched for existing apps in the market that help patients with bipolar disorder. While many apps solved specific problems related to bipolar disorder, such as mood or sleep tracking, there were also many apps that addressed mental illness as a whole, rather than specifically focusing on bipolar disorder.

I wanted to know some other symptoms that were common in bipolar disorder patients. As I progressed, I discovered a prominent symptom that could indicate the onset of an episode — SPEECH PATTERNS.

Refence: bipolarindia.com
Reference: National Library of Medicine

Direct and indirect competitors

  • The two direct competitors were- bipolar uk and Up. These two apps were directly focusing to address the problem of Bipolar disorder.
  • There were a lot of indirect competitors in the market who were solving the issue of mental illness as a whole rather than just Bipolar disorder. But for this project, I’ve considered mainly the direct competitors.
Competitive analysis for Bipolar uk and Up

1. Understood the strengths and weaknesses of your competitors’ products: Ex- Complex health report generation.

2. Gaining insights into what features and functionalities are most important to my target audience: Ex- Timely reminders for tracking medicine and other symptoms.

3. Discovering gaps in the market that your product or service can address: Ex- Simplified health report tracking feature.

4. Identifying opportunities to differentiate your product or service from the competition: Ex: Speech Tracking Feature.

I constructed How might we (HMW) questions that frame the problem(s) for ideation.

Possible Solution:

One of the possible solutions is to not only track mood and sleep patterns but also incorporate a feature that tracks trigger warnings and monitors speech patterns. By analysing these patterns over time, the app can provide early warnings to patients and their families about the likelihood of a relapse.

Possible Solutions:

One possible solution is to incorporate a feature similar to Instagram, where patients and their family members can follow each other. This will enable them to maintain their privacy by allowing only selected participants to view reports. By updating their daily logs, patients can provide real-time information to their family members, who can view the reports and stay up-to-date on their loved one’s health.

Possible Solution:

One possible solution is to generate weekly reports instead of daily reports to avoid overwhelming users and their family members with minor mood swings that are faced by all humans regardless of their mental state. To accurately determine the likelihood of an episode being manic or depressive, the reports should consider the patterns of mood, sleep, triggers, speech, and medications altogether. This will help patients and their families better understand the chances of a potential relapse and take preventive measures.

One potential solution is to present symptom data in a chart format, making it easier for patients and their families to understand the data quickly. In addition, an overall result indicating the onset of an episode can be displayed at the top of the report, enabling users to determine whether they should consult a doctor.

Once I had a set of HMW questions generated during the ideation phase, I used them to inform the design of wireframes. By focusing on the desired outcomes and possible solutions, I used the HMW questions to guide the wireframe design process.

Throughout the process of designing the screens for the Polar Pals app, I took into consideration various laws of UX and adhered to the Material Design 3 guidelines, which enabled me to create an intuitive and consistent design.

1. The Home Screen

Old Version v/s New Version: Home Page
Old Version v/s New Version: Section — Today’s Entries

While iterating, I also realized that the UI was boring. So I iterated more on improving the aesthetics while keeping in mind the UX of the UI.

2. Trigger Tracker Page

The page is supposed to track the triggers that bothers them.

Landing page for Trigger Screen

During the wireframing process, I initially considered using a full-length dialog box for adding the trigger feature. However, after gathering feedback from users, one concern arose:

  1. Frustration with the inability to add multiple triggers at once. As a result, I revised the design and incorporated a FAB that takes the user directly to the section where they can add triggers with ease.

I conducted another round of competitive analysis to gather insights on which direct, indirect, and other competitors are using a similar feature of adding multiple items at once. Additionally, I recalled asking about the social media platforms used by the interviewees during the user interviews, and I focused on those apps as well. As a result, I found that Twitter was using a similar feature for adding multiple tweets at once. I also compared the feature of adding new skills on Linked in but discarded it during analysis since it wasn’t allowing multiple skills to be added at once.

had high hopes of incorporating a similar feature for PolarPals, but as fate would have it, my attempts to do so fell short. Let me share with you the intriguing tale of how it all unfolded.

Old Version v/s New Version: Trigger Page

3. Speech Tracker Page

The page is supposed to track the user’s speech rate ( words spoken per minute) and it’s pitch to analyse how loud the voice is.

Old Version v/s New Version: Speech Tracker Page

4. Medicine Tracker Page

Old Version v/s New Version: Medicine Tracker Page

Read the full article here

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.

Weekly Design Inspiration #391. via Muzli design inspiration | by Muzli | Mar, 2023 | Muzli

Weekly Design Inspiration #391. via Muzli design inspiration | by Muzli | Mar, 2023 | Muzli

The best design inspiration — expertly curated for you

Designers, what are you fighting for?

Designers, what are you fighting for?

Are you fighting for design?

You May Also Like