Tracking Health: Menstrual Cycles
The pursuit of health and wellness with the quantified-self
Healthy lifestyles and wellness are defined differently by everyone. Someone might feel their best after a thirty minute run, a mindful meditation session, or after downing a magical green potion of spinach and kale. Whatever it is, a healthy lifestyle is lived differently by everyone.
As for those just beginning or revisiting a healthy lifestyle, the quantified-self (QS) movement has allowed users to quickly define health for themselves by tracking and monitoring personal metrics. QS aims to acquire self-knowledge through self-tracking; knowledge is represented as an objective number-based tracking system.
The pervasive uses of wearable technology has introduced a gamification aspect to tracking particular lifestyle patterns. At the intersection of QS and technology, learning, adopting, and integrating new habits has been more enjoyable than ever as users are affirmed with insights about their tracking consistency and new personal insights. This encouragement of health behaviour can be attributed by the educational tools and convenient access to resources that are available on QS apps.
Tracking one's reproductive cycle is hardly new. From moon-based rituals to pen and paper and intricate excel sheets, almost everything has been used to track period cycles. Now, with only a few taps and swipes, individuals are now able to track their period from just a small mobile device.
Changes in one's period can draw information that may indicate an underlying medical condition. As your blood pressure or pulse, the menstrual cycle is a vital sign that can inform when the body is going through normal or abnormal changes. Similar to how we track our daily water intake or physical activity, it can be important for menstruators to track their cycles for any consistencies and variations that can warn them of noticeable health conditions. Consider the period to be an individual's personal health report card.
Most mobile period trackers:
1. Use a singular-model that doesn't account for, or is inflexible to the user experience of individuals with irregular cycles and period symptoms.
2. Provide comprehensive facts and writing about menstrual health, but does little to draw implications and elaborate on the importance of tracking such symptoms to help users understand the relationship between their periods and overall health.
To build a user experience that provides individuals with menstrual cycle insights that empowers them to use data about their own bodies and health in an easy and convenient way.
In the realm of mobile period tracking, the top three apps are Clue, Flo, and My Period Tracker. I downloaded each of these three apps onto my own phone and conducted a content audit of each app's features.
Ultimately, Flo, Clue, and My Period Tracker help users achieve similar and/or the same goals: to effectively track periods and predict future cycles. To understand and audit key features, I went through three basic period-tracking actions: recording the period start date, logging period and cycle symptoms, and reviewing historical entries.
1) Recording the period start date
Both the Clue and Flo app had landing screens with a large call-to-action button cueing users to efficiently log data from just the first screen
Few to no pain points were gathered from this step
2) Logging period and cycle symptoms
The Clue and Flo user is conveniently advanced to a symptoms entries screen after pressing the big “Enter today’s data” button.
Logical screen advancement as reporting at the moment is preferred over trying to recall the type and degree of a symptom the user had previously experienced
My Period Tracker can achieve the same data entries, but the user hops between two to three screens before finding the Symptoms page.
It’s important to note that users who have adopted MyPeriodTracker as their preferred tracker are still getting lost on the app.
3) Reviewing historical entries
Across the three apps, the user can review historical entries by swiping through previous calendars and selecting specific dates with marked symptoms
In addition to the calendar view, Clue offers a comprehensive dated list view
Dependent on preference, but some may find this list redundant with the calendar
Competitive Analysis and Content Audit
Periods are worth tracking because the average menstruator spends the equivalent of 10 years of their life menstruating. One period may not seem like much, but it adds up to a hefty amount of time for one's body to undergo cycles of biological change. After conducting 6 user interviews, I had a better understanding of what information the different groups were looking for when making a decision.
When I inquired users about their decisions to begin tracking their period, an overwhelming amount of the responses included how tracking gave users a sense of control. Through period tracking, felt empowered and in control of their bodies, schedules, and well-being to anticipate PMS and avoid period surprises.
90% of interviewees use a mobile app or mobile calendar to track their periods. A sense of control could also be attributed by the convenience of receiving an automated reminder to (prepare to) track upcoming periods and PMS symptoms.
Besides those who meet regularly with their doctors, many users had little knowledge about menstrual health beyond their own body, or what a symptom trend truly represented besides being another numerical metric. Despite the plethora of online articles on periods and reproductive health, users don't feel inclined or motivated to do additional research themselves unless the information is conveniently available for review.
Through the interviews, a common pain point was identified among users. The growth of quantified-self has increased the possible methods and types of trends a user can choose to monitor. In the context of period tracking, the large amount of data trackers are able to collect is incongruent to the small amount of insights synthesized that are supposed to provide valuable insights for users to better understand their body and/or health patterns.
My solution is On The Dot, a free mobile app that allows users to track, log, and review their period data and insights. In addition to keeping track and predicting periods, On The Dot analyzes the user's data entries to provide insights that pertain to their body trends.
Features that make this app unique:
Individualized symptom trend summaries
Articles curated based on the user’s period trends
Recommendations and suggestions to alleviate symptoms
Data entry and analysis flow
High Fidelity Mock-Ups
Symptom Trend Summaries + Reccommendations
On The Dot includes notifications when the app has noticed a particular symptom has been entered more frequently than usual. The warning screen provides a shortcut button to the user's Trend Analysis where they can review their most frequently experienced symptoms. The Trend Analysis briefs users about what to expect if symptoms continue to become difficult to manage. In the same matter, to help users feel more in control, On The Dot provides recommendations that are within the user's power to help alleviate their symptoms.
Including the Insights on the Menu Bar gives users an easy way to access additional resources and thought pieces. Articles categorized under For You would be curated based on the user's trends. In the case where users come across a helpful or impactful reading, they have the option to archive articles for later reference.
Upon reading the challenge brief, I was honestly stumped being tasked to design anything that encourages people to live healthier lives. Just following New Years, many around me set resolutions to improve their inner and mental wellness. Contrary to the typical diet and fitness plans, many of my family, friends, and classmates were keen on identifying types of wellness practices which could help address, reveal, and educate themselves about their bodies and opportunities for improvement.
Designing a new period app was a daunting thought, but the other ideas just didn't resonate with me as much as the period tracker did. From speaking to other menstruators, they were tired of a period tracker that was unresponsive. Keeping that in mind, I wanted to design a period tracker that could not only do the job but would open a world of knowledge for individuals to understand the correlation between overall health and a period cycle.