Phase #2

Tappable prototype.

During the winter of 2022, David and I made a tappable prototype. The objective was to create a way for people to react to the ideas and assumptions latent within the narrative that is informing the "shape" the app takes on.

21 people to tried the prototype in conversations that invited them to:

  1. Imagine themselves within 8 scenarios related to each of the method's steps

  2. Use the tappable prototype to “act out” something in response to each scenario

  3. Narrate the feelings, questions, ideas, uncertainties, etc. that emerged in their minds as they did "1." and "2."

What follows are the key findings, questions, and broader conclusions these conversations surfaced.

Key findings

1. Customization is crucial

Some people appreciated how the interface appeared in grayscale. Some people were interested in being able to set a different color scheme.

Some people found the font legible. Some people found it felt too formal.

Also, consensuses did not emerge in various places. Like what might be more intuitive ways to name the Say more and Favorite buttons or what lenses people consider to be more useful than others.

Common among the above is the importance of acknowledging that what people need to feel at ease and empowered to journal varies.

As such, how the app looks and feels needs to reflect the personal sensibilities people have developed.

2. Reinforce relationship building

What happens if you notice yourself using the app to capture ideas/thoughts/questions/etc. relevant to something specific you are trying to make, do, or otherwise express?

People asked versions of the above throughout the prototype conversations. And while I'm not yet sure how the app might enable you to represent these relationship(s), I think it's important to make an explicit choice here.

Reason: I think neglecting to think intentionally about this choice could result in people attempting to "hold" these relationships in their minds or store them elsewhere. In either case, I think peoples' ability to make sense and meaning with our without the app could be impacted.

3. Meaning making happens over time

If effective, the app will inspire people to revisit thoughts they captured previously. As such, they're likely to arrive with new information to imbue these "previously written thoughts" with and new meaning to find within them.

The app ought to account for this natural process and enable people to embed this meaning so that they can use them as guides.

4. Be a good neighbor

It's important that the app compliment/enhance/extend/support/etc. peoples' existing journaling practices.

This app and method is tightly scoped to turning tiny bits of resonance into insight and action. It does not seek to assume responsibility for the many needs peoples' existing journaling practices help them to meet. As such, it's important that the design of this app evolve in ways that are informed by the journaling and reflecting people are already doing.

5. Time feels natural

The prototype is opinionated about defaulting to organizing thoughts by time.

People found navigating thoughts this way to be intuitive and relatively unremarkable.

6. Stay snappy, simple, and uncluttered

People consistently named simplicity as the most noticeable facet of the app.

Some people anticipated that the moment they needed to start thinking about the interface is the same moment they would be likely to stop finding the app useful.

7. Prompts are curious

People seemed to see and resonate with the prompts and how they were presented in a range of ways.

Set on a black background, some people appreciated how distinct the prompts felt from the rest of the app and reacted to how focused they felt looking at them as a result.

Some people wondered whether there could be a future where prompts could be presented within cards that invite you to explore a thought in ways you hadn't yet considered.

Some people entered the idea of it being possible to share prompts/see prompts authored by other people.

Whatever the implementation, it seems there more prompt experimenting to do.

8. Make many doorways

Everyone seemed to feel energized by the prospect of there being a large, and expanding, set of ways they could find specific thoughts and tease out patterns latent within and between them.

One idea for how the app might act on this: offer people the ability to edit and expand the lenses/filters presented in the "for you" experience.

9. Prioritize privacy and security

The method and app assumes that you are being honest about what moves you.

As such, it's crucial that people be confident and certain that:

  • No one besides them will see anything they input unless they explicitly say otherwise.

  • What they use the app to express remains in their possession across time, regardless of whether the app is still operating.

10. Embrace "journaling"

Coming into these conversations, I hadn't developed a practice of using the word "journal" / "journaling" to describe the app and method.

Leaving these conversations, it became clear that "journaling" is what this is.

This adjustment in language feels significant in that it continues to be a reminder to:

  1. Ensure the method and app meets people where they are

  2. Embrace, share, and feel at home in my own story

Open questions

These conversations also exposed questions that have to be addressed. Questions like:

  • How opinionated might the app be about guiding people to develop the kinds of "insights" and "meaning" the method draws inspiration from?

  • Where/how might people use the app to place/locate this meaning and insight in ways that it is available to them in the fleeting moments where they have opportunities to apply it?


Zooming out, this prototype, and these interviews, were oriented around the following:

  1. Learning: Do people see/feel/imagine themselves using this app within their current everyday lives?

  2. Deciding: Will I continue investing time, and perhaps money, into turning this prototype into an app we can all use?

In short, I think the answer to both is “yes” with some nuance…

There were some people who seemed to intuitively and clearly see the app complimenting practices and routines they’ve already established.

There were some people for whom using the app seemed a bit more like a stretch or departure from how they currently move about their days.

The key bit of information that seemed to predict how people responded to the prototype was whether they already “reach for” journaling as a tool to help them process their experience and help catalyze action, and sometimes, stillness.

This feels like an important overarching finding to me for it surfaces choices that I think will lead to additional clarity around:

  1. Communication: To start, how might we conceive of the app? Might we position it as a “neighbor” to a journaling practice someone has already established? Might we position it as an “onramp” to developing a journaling practice? Something else?

  2. Product design: How opinionated (read: how quickly and explicitly) might the app need to demonstrate to people the value that can come with consistently noticing and naming tiny moments of resonance?

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