Well-Being

Do we need another meditation app?

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What’s more calming than a wall of options?

Today, I wanted to change my meditation habits a bit. I typically wake up to a 30-minute silent sit with some nature sounds at the most. Lately, however, the practice has been feeling a bit stale. While clarity of awareness is critical for living an examined life, it’s just as important to direct that newfound awareness in helpful ways.

I chose to take advantage of my Headspace subscription and search for some gratitude or appreciation practices.

Searching Headspace

I wanted a course that was straightforward and focused on either gratitude or compassion. I had a hard time finding that, but I did find a course called ‘Appreciation,’ but then the ‘Pro Series Part Four’ is focused on compassion, so maybe that one’s better? I was also overwhelmed by choices and saw lots of repetition in the options.

And I can’t help but admire the irony: I’m looking for a way to take better advantage of my attention while the service I am using to find this is causing me to waste my attention.

Are numerous options counter-productive to the app's objectives?

Meditation has to do with acknowledging that ‘now’ is the only place we have ever lived our lives. So the ability to distill your attention down to a single moment or ‘thing’ is a skill you are developing. With that in mind, it’s clear how an extensive set of options can get in the way of sitting calmly in relative silence.

It’s also been well-documented that choice can equal frustration.

The assumption is that if the choice is good, more choice is better. 
But that’s not necessarily true.
—Barry Schwartz from The Paradox of Choice

Take me writing this blog post, for example. I was going to sit down to meditate and enjoy my subscription, but now I am here talking about the overwhelming number of options that Headspace has available. If there was only one course for the category for which I was looking, I might be meditating right now.

Every option that is presented to the user is another opportunity for the user to feel overwhelmed.

We need to treat options like straws on a camel’s back: only pack what you need! So it makes me wonder if meditation apps wouldn’t benefit from a more straightforward user experience. The problem with that is, since I just finished working on Calm’s meditation app just a while ago for a personal project, I learned through my research that users love a vast selection of options while complaining about too many options.

Some users love a vast selection, while others find it overwhelming. So how do we please both?

The answer may be found in a toggle that allows the user to switch between simple and complex or beginner, novice, and expert. Rather than having the skill sets kept in their own sections, like in most of today’s products, having a simple toggle would allow the user a more straightforward experience when they are just starting. As they play with the toggle, more and different options appear.
Too many products are being designed with a ‘one-size-fits-all’ mentality that isn’t serving them. Onboarding can ask specific questions that drastically alter the number of options users see until they flip a toggle to see more options. If they happen to find it overwhelming, they can switch it back.
An ‘Option-Amount’ toggle can’t be the only solution, but it illustrates the point that the same users, at different points, want a different number of options to choose from. As it is, many users feel overwhelmed by options because they’re not sure where to start. This can be quite a challenge for a product whose selling meditation since many users are beginning skeptical of the entire enterprise.

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