A long road to recovery
Brain injury usually results from a violent blow or jolt to the head and driving after such an experience
can be a daunting task. Recovering patients struggle with driving fatigue, anxiety and low memory retention.
Many find it difficult to afford professional caregiver supervison to practice driving during
the long recovery period and handle multiple therapy appointments.
How might we then use technology to help brain injury
survivors get back to driving?
Stepping into their shoes
Since we picked a very niche target audience, we came up with an extensive research plan to step into the shoes
of a brain injury survivor and understand their struggles and goals. We focussed on the trajectory
of patient recovery, therapist-patient relationship and the recovery plan. Throughout the research, I pushed to
include questions about the patient's emotional state.
Driving anxiety and fatigue
During their recovery period, the patients struggle with the following symptoms which hamper their driving ability.
- Anxiety and low confidence
- Fatigue and the inability to realize that they are tired
- Forgetting basic details such as the reason for their trip
- Overwhelming recovery plan
Current product landscape
Currently, the market has outdated hardware tools which lack digital components. Moreover, these tools
do not support personalization according to the patient's recovery plan or any integration for therapist
Journey map: 4 stages of recovery
The journey map helped us identify the struggles that brain injury survivors face during the 4 phases of recovery. We
narrowed down our scope to the prime recovery period phase and the maintenance phase when considering design opportunities.
I felt it was important that I approach each step of the ideation process with an intention to
minimize distraction instead of adding to it. While sketching my ideas, I was tempted to add
multiple features but working with the goal of least distractibility helped me stay on track.
My sketches of our original set of ideas that we went ahead with
Testing paper prototypes
We started with paper prototypes and tested with 8 participants. I found paper prototyping to be a hands on
method of testing your high level ideas to finalise the direction you want your solution to go in. After testing, the overall
feedback was positive and indicated that we were headed in the right direction. However, since our solution
involved multiple devices I decided to outline the user flow across different touchpoint of our application
in an ideal situation. This helped us account for any missing functionality as we move towards higher fidelity prototypes.
Touchpoints in the user journey of using our solution
Testing wireframes and finalizing application flow
We tested the wireframes through moderated usability testing with 3 participants which included one
driver who is Speech-Language Pathologist/Brain Injury Specialist, one driver who had a Traumatic Brain
Injury (TBI), and one driver without a TBI. Task based usability testing helped us further define the
application flow by eliminating and adding features based on user interaction.
HIGHLIGHTS FROM FEEDBACK
Severity 1: Two out of the three participants found the visual reminders in the midst of driving to
be ‘verbose’ and an actual distraction to go about reading them while driving.
Severity 2: All participants appreciated the ability to customize
every setting in the preferences screen but they also found it overwhelming when
starting out with the app for the first time.
Severity 3: One of the participants was confused whether to wait for the in-driving visual reminder
to disappear or to close it manually.
Finalized application flow
Moving into the third iteration, I started thinking about the visual design as the core functionality had been established.
I decided to adhere to the material design guidelines with customized theming based on the needs of our target audience. As
a designer who is designing for patients in their recovery stage from a serious injury, I wanted the visual theme to convey
a distraction free and simplistic look. At the same time, I wanted it to be motivated and cheerful.
In choosing the theme, I was heavily influenced by mindfulness and meditation applications which I feel have a balance of simplicity with cheerfulness.
Handling user preferences
To ensure that each feature was customizable according to the user's needs I gave significant
thought to designing application preferences. It was a challenge to provide granularity for
different features while avoiding complexity for the users. Intuitive categorization and
default preferences during app onboarding helped in simplifying the experience.
Improved preferences screen after usability testing
A driving companion
For the final prototypes we focused on 3 key features of our application: pre-planned trips with breaks,
progress tracking with therapist and reminders during driving. Our solution also had a component for driving
reminders which works with major car navigation applications (Google Maps was used in prototypes).
Framer prototype as final deliverable
Bringing awareness to the problem
As a team we believe that our application helped start a conversation around the need for products aimed at recovery from brain injury.
We helped raise awareness about the experience of brain injury survivors and extensively researched to avoid common pitfalls. However, more
iterations would be needed with a bigger sample of our users to launch the application for real time use.
Given more time, I would work on incorporating the experience of the therapist with the application. We envision
Mighty to be a HIPAA compliant solution that benefits both the patient and the therapist through exchange of