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 supervision to practice driving during the long recovery
period and handle multiple therapy appointments.
How might we then use technology to help brain injury
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Currently, the market has outdated hardware tools that lack digital
components. Moreover, these tools do not support personalization
according to the patient's recovery plan or any integration for
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 intending 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
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 finalize 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 touchpoints 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 a 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
Severity 2: All participants appreciated the
ability to customize every setting in the preferences screen but
they also found it overwhelming when starting with the app for the
Severity 3: One of the participants was confused
about 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 visual
design as the core functionality had been established. I decided to
adhere to the material design guidelines with customized themes
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
In choosing the theme, I was heavily influenced by mindfulness and
meditation applications which I feel have a balance of simplicity with
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
your 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 the exchange of healthcare data.