torge bergmann
3min read

About coco:nuts
Coco:nuts is a product providing inclusive services around Mental Health Therapy. It aims to make therapy accessible to everyone everywhere. The focus lies in connecting people who are seeking for help, with the most suitable therapists for their needs. Next to that, it offers support in organising and maintaining peoples' entire therapy. From booking appointments, connecting insurances, to keeping track of therapy progress and helping to change therapists without any troubles.

This product is the outcome and a possible solution from the
UX Design Case Study "What is their problem?".

UX Plan
Competitve Analysis
Online Survey
User Interviews
Data Analysis
Design Persona
Job Stories
Task Analysis
User Flows
User Journey Maps
Paper Wireframes
Digital Wireframes
Digital Prototypes
Usability Test
Preference Tests
Solution Ideation
What happened (in short)
Before any research, I was already aware that the mental effort one has to bring up to find a suitable therapist is relatively high. Combined with peoples' distressed state of mind, that becomes quite a difficult situation. I compare it with walking to a doctors place if you just broke your leg. Quite exhaustingly painful.

After research, I understood how severe the fear of not finding a new therapist could become, even for people who already have a therapist. Next to it, other major pain points occurred; the most significant ones are the general availability of therapists, enablement of people to integrate therapy into their lives and to maintain a constructive relationship with therapists..

I decided first to develop reasonable solutions for the described major obstacles. All design decisions are based on the conducted research.

My goal is to design an inclusive, positively calming product experience, which allows distressed people to find their desired support.

Finding therapists does not just describe the process of searching for it, but also the way it happens. That's why I chose to implement the possibility to get matched to a therapist. The users' effort is minimized to answer some relevant questions in a questionnaire - the rest does coco:nuts.

Different as in a standard survey, people are enabled to jump through the questions and also see a full overview. It showed that people strive to receive guidance but are allowed to take full control. Transparency builds trust.
Availability got tackled from two sides, one is a feature for users to book appointments themselves, instead of asking (or in an interviewees words "begging") for an appointment. The other side is offering immediate help, via various ways of communication, for anyone who is in a severe state. Research exposed that just the mere possibility of reaching out to a therapist, at any time, leads to a less distressing state of mind in general.
Integration of therapy into their lives is as important as the therapy itself. No matter if solely in-person meetings or a mix of video, in-person and text chat, the importance lies in making a therapy that works for both sides and suits their life and its circumstances. Combining different communication possibilities increases the inclusiveness of therapy itself.
Trust is not just crucial between therapist and client, but also towards the product which offers such services. That is why I decided the basic features are for free, and neither requires sign-up nor subscriptions.

Instead, people can choose to save their selection and bookings via a booking code. Additionally, that opens the product to anyone who might want to start anonym, out of whichever reasons they might have.

Important to state, the privacy and private data of potential users are under all circumstances to protect. For that, the WebApp does not save data once the browser got closed.
During the entire process, until the very moment, I am typing this word here right now, I continued to reveal more problems and ask myself more questions about the digitalization of Mental Health Therapy.

If you like, let's talk about it.

I am not done with this case, and I am looking forward to continuing working on it. Maybe with you in collaboration?

If you are interested, you will find the more detailed documentation of the entire process after this part.

Any feedback is always welcome.
Thank you.

The start
The case study was the central part of my UX Design Immersion Course at CareerFoundry. The research is an ongoing process, as is my developing of skills in the field of UX Design.
The initial objective given in the project brief was:

Enable anyone, anywhere to instantly chat with an expert in virtually any field.

Natural for any school, the briefing gave space to develop something more specific and suitable for the interests of each student. Out of personal experiences and interest in the field of e-health, I decided to specify the objective.

Enable anyone, anywhere to instantly find a therapist and connect with them virtually and in-person.

Following you can find the vital parts of the entire process in their occurred order.
To better understand the market and existing solutions trying to solve a similar problem as mine, I made a competitive analysis of several products.

Competitive analysis
The small number of products already existing could have meant to have an easy job comparing and analysing.
Still, it was hard to dive deep into it - as all products require within a short time subscribing to their service, which in case of mental health therapy can become quite expensive. I missed most to test, at least, a session with a therapist, even only 30min. With that, I faced an old issue - financial exclusiveness.

An issue, I thought new products would solve better.

Another pattern occurred over time analysing several products, national and international, small and very big, the dullness of their interfaces. Some look like selling insurances; others are so complex that I had difficulties in understanding them. Not to mention what happens to people trying to seek help.

I leave the competitors analysis with the following questions:
Can we apply standard design patterns for this kind of new, delicate products?
Is it smart to ask for money before building trust?
Does mere digital mental health therapy work?

Without a doubt, I also learned and seen a lot of good ideas, intentions and solutions. As in my opinion, each product trying to help people with mental health issues is at first a great product, I will not name or show pictures of my findings.
User Research
Real people, real problems, real solutions.
88Survey participants
Online survey anonym
21 - 56 years
multiple nationalities
diverse gender
diverse sexuality
0 - 9 tried therapists
Remote video interviews
multiple nationalities
diverse gender
diverse sexuality
1 deaf
1 Transwoman
2 - 10 years of therapy
2 - 6+ therapists
?the user research for this project is still ongoing

people who are
against therapy
afraid of therapy
have no experiences
just had good experiences
Online survey
Backed with the new knowledge about the existing market,
and questions in mind, I conducted an online survey.

Research goals
    To better understand user behaviour and pain points concerning the activity of searching for counsellors.

    To determine which tasks users would like to complete using a digital counselling product.

    Identify users experience with digital counselling.

    Identify the user’s need for different privacy options.

    My goal was to evaluate quantitively peoples experiences with mental health therapy, their troubles and what they wished for.

    My idea of the problem found through the survey its validation; looking for a therapist makes people anxious and stops them even from doing so—even the ones experienced with long years of therapy.

    How do you feel about looking for a therapist?

    It's work, it sucks but the efforts are leading you somewhere.
    I found one but was on a waitlist for 4 months.
    33% It stresses me even to think about it.
    Using the new findings, I went over to dive deeper into gaining qualitative data.

    User interviews
    At this point, I want to state that I initially planned more interviews, but time constraints for the course at first had to be followed.

    However, the four interviews conducted, until now, delivered remarkable findings. These interviewees represent what can be considered the demographics of miniorities.

    V.30 years of age
    lives in Mannheim
    Man, Gay
    fresh “coming out”
    2 years of therapy
    2 therapistss
    A.28 years of age
    lives in Berlin
    Woman, Heterosexual
    6 years of therapy
    4 therapists
    G.26 years of age
    lives in Berlin,
    Fashion Consultant
    Human, Gay
    4 years of therapy
    3 therapists
    AX.36 years of age
    lives in Cologne,
    Project Manager
    Woman, Heterosexual
    Clinical stay
    11 years of therapy
    6+ therapists
    Research goals
    To better understand user behaviour and pain points concerning the activity of searching for counsellors.

    Identify importance of relationship between user and therapist.

    To better understand users experience with changing therapists.

    Identify users experience with digital counselling.

    To determine which tasks users would like to complete using a digital counselling product.

    These interviewess faced some extreme troubles and were able to provide crucial input. I learned that it needed are a more inclusive approach on behalf of the majority demographics to identify a greater amount of issues one can encounter during their way to find a therapist. So I added another interview.

    One of the most critical findings was the fear of talking honestly about their progress. Being afraid to lose the therapist became an issue, as looking for a new one daunted them. And all the invested work would have been for nothing.

    I was afraid to tell my therapist that I don't see any success with her.
    Need always to find an interpreter I trust first.
    I think I would like to change my therapist.

    Highlevel direct learnings
    Survey & interviews

    1. Looking for therapists is perceived as stressful
    2. It takes between weeks and months
    3. Finding therapists works mostly via internet research (active)
    4. Participants would wish to find it by recommendation instead (passive)
    5. It needs several testings to find the right fit - which makes the process itself a mental exercise
    6. Participants tend to keep their therapist though they are not satisfied
    7. Speaking about problems to non-experts is not an issue, speaking to an expert brings barriers
    8. Participants consider text messaging as not personal enough
    9. To find the right counsellor would be the primary goal using a digital product
    10. Interviewees feel they can not speak openly to their therapists about specific topics
    11. Keeping a record brings mixed opinions about its usage
    12. In-person sessions are mandatory
    After the survey and the interviews, I went on with common technics to synthesise findings into insights to form a real problem.

    I prefer digital sticky notes or products like Condens.

    Hand-pressing ginger juice
    That is how first I perceived synthesising these findings. The process took a little to become fluent and enjoyable. While getting closer to the real insight, ideas on how to approach them appeared, and everything became more evident.

    So, what is their problem?
    Individuals, who are experiencing mental health issues need ways to get suitable support with the least effort and within the shortest time possible because their distressed state can evolve with any insufficient or failed approach of searching for therapists, as well as during therapy.

    And who are they?
    At first, it was a challenge for me to combine all that data into multiple design personas. Especially for the topic of mental health, it felt unnatural to "just" boil down demographics and goals and some behaviours. I decided after several iterations that to reflect better the highly personal aspect and challenge, to write a story dedicated to each persona I identified.

    The persona "David" is still open to finish, as relevant research still needs to be conducted. Also, I still want to create a persona spectrum to increase the inclusive thoughts behind the product

    Let‘s change to a dark background. Personas should remind us, for whom we are designing for. The product's target group has some real problems. Some visual drama might help.

    Information Architecture
    User flows & journey maps
    are methods I dearly enjoy and find as very important, to build and focus on experiences before and without paying attention to any visuals. In my opinion, they should reflect the real complexity of an experience to guarantee functional simplicity for the end-user.

    Including real-life distractions into the journeys, helped me to shape the experience even further and ask myself critical questions.

    What happens if you close the browser?
    Do we save the highly personal data in the cache?
    How can we proceed during platform changes without pushing the user to sign up?

    Of course, to bound any user to the product, I desire they sign up and enjoy the entire provided and prepared experience. But, I think to win their trust, to put the user in a real focus, bounding them comes secondary. I came across some good ideas, already existing but not in that context—a generated personal code, which allows the user to use the product to a certain degree. Changing devices, or just interrupting actions and coming back later to it, would be possible without bounding users with a sign-up. Also, it allows people who wish to stay anonym, to get help, and with that, we build trust.

    Yes, I like animations.

    Prototyping & its testing
    Actually, not mobile first
    Mobile-first was not my approach. The survey showed that the majority of people taking part used laptops or desktop devices to search for therapists online. So I decided to follow the lead and started with a desktop version. That brought the great opportunity to design screens which would require minimal scrolling action, as I thought user with small mental capacity would find long scrolling too exhausting.

    The conducted usability tests should prove me wrong.
    What seemed like easily digestible screens on paper, became heavy content loaded ones in the mid-fidelity prototype. Today I can say, I should have conducted a usability test before already. The balance between too much information and not enough information is especially for potential distressed user very delicate.


    For the first usability test, I chose the following objectives:
    - Understand users what it means to get matched?
    - How do users react to the code?
    - Can users book appointments intuitively?
    - How quickly can users access immediate help?

    To evaluate better how the participants felt during each task, I used the NASA-TLX method to measure their workload.

    The tests went very well and allowed many small and some significant observations. The most severe error occurred, unpleasantly, during the task which should have been the most accessible—getting quick, immediate help. For me, this shows perfectly how crucial and inevitable usability tests are, even with a small number of participants.

    See a short report on the most severe issues in more detail.

    Issue 1
    The Immediate Help CTA's were not recognized as buttons to continue with the process. (only desktop / no mobile prototype)

    83% of participants thought the buttons were decoration.
    In the rare cases of reading the copy above the buttons, they thought these are some filter to sort the therapists below. P2, the stressed participant, gave up with the task as she could not figure out how to proceed.

    Suggested Change
    The circular shape of the CTA's only appears once within our product, so changing the form to a rounded rectangular and adding a more precise explanatory headline to it will highlight the CTA's as such.

    The second issue states as you will read, that the entire layout of the screen did not work. I found it essential to separate one from another as I could change the design but leave the buttons as they are.

    Issue 2
    The Immediate Help start page layout did not allow an intuitive and frictionless proceeding in any of its functions. (only desktop / no mobile prototype)

    83% of participants perceived the page as overwhelming, confusing and distracting in itself.
    "Oh, wow, lots of information. I am lost" - P5, the stressed participant.
    "I expected to get immediate help and not so many options."- P2, the stressed participant, when she stopped with the task.
    The Task load index is in average 15% higher than during the other tasks.

    Suggested Change
    Breaking the layout in several more pieces to scroll down. That includes a small onboarding /steps to go at first, CTA's more prominent after, available therapists separated and with a more explanatory headline.

    Preference tests.
    I conducted several preference tests during the process to validate some design decisions. One of the first ones was for me the most interesting, as it reflects the emotional side of colours very well.

    The goal was to determine which way users feel more comfortable projecting themselves in the patients' role. And on the contrary, which way of help they would like to receive.

    22 anonym participants took part.
    73% chose version A as their preferred choice.
    These two quotes represent the majority of answers when explaining their decision.
    The symbolism of the therapist bringing colour into my life.
    "Shows therapist bringing colours to the greyness of the mentally suffering patient."

    Why it was so interesting, the results reflect my intention. But after reviewing the introduction, it seemed I degraded the "patients" or potential users. The results proved my intentions to be right. However, I tried to find a balance as under no circumstances potential users should feel uncomfortably addressed by an illustration.

    This study is not finished and I will add changes and more results from further research.

    How full is
    UX Design Sprint
    Study app with focus exercises to support concentration.
    Education & Health
    Mobile App
    10days sprint May'20
    sole UX Designer