An app that supports
emotional wellbeing

Branch Out is a UX research project designing an app
to support emotional wellbeing for young people.

Joining the project

We were approached by NHS Fife and Fife Council to bring a human-centred design process to the Branch Out project. Collaborating with pupils, teachers and child psychologists we explored how emotional wellbeing of children can be supported.

We interviewed the council-run child pedagogy team on current schemes that operate around awareness of emotional wellbeing and how they are involved in the schools and individual classrooms.

NHS Fife and Fife Council logos

Classroom research

We spent a week in classroom observation in several different schools. Initially, we were surprised by how aware children as young as 8 were about their emotional health.

Classroom programmes begin in their first year at primary school, growing in complexity as the children develop. This indicated there was no lack of awareness about emotional wellbeing but speaking individually with the pupils there was a lack of tools to continue supporting them outside of the classroom.

Idea generation in the classroom

Research enquiry

In collaboration with Edinburgh-based social enterprise ‘Space Unlimited’ we held a 2-day enquiry with high school pupils. The aim was to find out how they keep emotionally well and what can be done to support this.

In groups, they developed their own ideas, ranging from lunchtime clubs to fully-fledged social networks. These were shared with stakeholders within the school and council with some being taken forward.

Stakeholders speaking with pupils about their ideas

Defining the problem

Most of the classroom content around emotional wellbeing was in textbook or worksheet form. While practical, the absence of interactivity left many of the ‘iGeneration’ disengaged.

The overwhelming majority of school children used a smartphone for the bulk of their content consumption. With this in mind a mobile app/site was the ideal platform for conveying information.

Students showing example apps for emotional wellbeing

Digitising content

Working with a team of NHS child psychologists, we discussed the material currently used and how it could be enhanced for digital interactivity.

While they worked on updating the content, we analysed the current exercises to create a more engaging experience while keeping true to the underlying psychology of each task.

Cover of the original workbook

Wireframing

Once the content was reimagined, we started wireframing based on the insights we gathered about the pupils preferred styles and use of apps.

To introduce each exercise, we replaced paragraphs of information with bite-sized chunks accompanied by visual aids to engage the children for longer.

Wireframes of Branch Out app

Prototyping

Iconography was an important part of the design, combined with bold colours to differentiate between tasks. We sought feedback from both pupils and teachers throughout this stage, user testing the different levels of fidelity.

We received pivotal comments on areas of improvement and positive experiences which we used to push the project further. More interactivity was highly requested, with children used to animations and feedback on each action.

High-fidelty prototype of Branch Out app menu

Solution

Branch Out is an app to support young people’s emotional wellbeing. Using exercises developed in collaboration with child psychologists, the tool enables people to develop and improve their wellbeing wherever they are.

This flexibility is required for the generation growing up with on-demand services. It also allows the platform to be used as a classroom aid during teaching.

Welcome screen of Branch Out app
Introducting to calming breathing

Introduction to calming breathing

GIF showin breathing animation

Animation in breathing exercise