The idea of digital wellness isn’t new but it’s never been more relevant, especially for brands in and near the wellness space. Digital wellness simply is wellness, or wellness in a digital age.
Today, most people are cognizant of the impact digital environments have on the way they think and behave. The impact of harmful design on both a societal and individual level is being recognized by experts, questioned by governments, and has become part of a wider public discourse on technology and the public good.
People are now aware of how technology and design influences behavior and are becoming conscious of how they spend their attention. Customers are more discerning than ever, and for companies in the wellness, beauty, and natural products space the bar is even higher. They expect to see brand values and esthetics reflected in their design, marketing, and packaging, at every touch.
Purpose-driven customers look for brands aligned with their values. With mindful design, each touchpoint is considered with the brand’s values and the user’s experience in mind. If you’re thinking that this sounds a lot like design thinking, it is. Mindful design is design-thinking at its core, carried out from your value proposition into each little detail of the experience.
New Consumer Expectations
Mindful consumers are coming to expect digital properties and experiences designed with their mental and emotional health considered, especially from brands who support wellness with their products and services. Just as consumers are educated about details from supply chain inputs to production standards and packaging, they are becoming aware of dark patterns and harmful design practices. Avoiding these tactics when possible and being mindful about our design choices shows clearly that we value the user and respect their wellbeing.
Mindful Digital Design Defined
Mindful design centers the user’s wellbeing and needs as they move through their experience. This encompasses everything from the way things are organized, to ensuring that everything works well, to choosing the right visuals and language to convey the message in clear, affirming, inclusive language.
Mindful design is a user-centered approach that results in an experience that is thoughtful, meaningful, and intuitive. It calls us to particularly value the user’s autonomy, time, and attention when designing digital properties and experiences.
In this blog post, we will look at these intersecting values and how mindful design answers them, especially for companies in the health, wellness, beauty, and biotech spaces, where these values often align with a brand’s core value propositions. We will look at some harmful practices that can creep in and explore our role as creators, designers, and makers in designing mindfully with the user’s wellness considered.
What Is A Digital Experience?
A digital experience begins the moment a customer engages with your brand on a website or other digital medium, through to the conclusion of that engagement–for example, they sign up for an email, read a blog, make a purchase, or simply exit the site and conclude their visit.
“Mindful digital design encompasses the whole person and respects their dignity, privacy, and experiences. it is inclusive, welcoming and thoughtful.”
Respecting User Autonomy
Ethical design encompasses privacy and permission, which leads into user autonomy. Autonomy is the ability of the user to control their experience and act in accordance with their interests and values. Some of what is accepted practice in digital marketing takes autonomy away from the user and makes it difficult for them to control their experience or understand the outcome of their actions.
These are called dark patterns, and many accepted digital design practices rely on them. As the name suggests, dark patterns lack transparency. These are all the tactics that build pressure, create uncertainty, and overwhelm or trick the user into taking actions they would not otherwise take. These tactics may drive clicks and impulse buys or get a user to opt into a list, but they don’t build relationships or lasting brand loyalty.
In contrast, the mindful design gives the user space to decide. It is minimalist but meaningful. It guides and invites. Mindful design can motivate, but it does not coerce. It gives the user control of their own experience.
Without a mindful approach focused on the user experience, it’s easy to slip into making some of the above mistakes without even intending it. For example, a lack of clarity on a landing page can cause a user to make the wrong choice or have incorrect expectations.
On the other hand, poor website planning can create a poor user experience and lead to frustration and confusion, making it difficult to complete an action, or leave the user wondering what they should be doing.
Once interest is sparked your design should invite action and then make it easy for the user to complete the process. Just as bad as an experience that does not give the user a choice is an experience with too many choices or no options at all.
Designing For Shortened Attention Spans
Good design doesn’t waste time, it gets straight to the point. Today we live in an attention economy with companies competing fiercely for a few moments of our time and attention.
Shortened attention spans and limited cognitive resources mean things need to happen easily and without too much effort. According to Google data, users only spend about 15 seconds on a page, and this is an average. Most people make the decision to exit in milliseconds. To earn even a few seconds of attention, you have to quickly communicate your value prop and make it immediately relevant to people. To earn a few minutes, you have to offer a well designed and planned experience that engages the user and rewards them for moving forward.
Mindful Design Is Functional
Good design just works. Navigation flows seamlessly and the user is never left stranded. The menu choices are clear, there is continuity from page to page, landing pages and forms are designed to be as simple and easy to use as possible.
Be nice to show some different pages from a single website that demonstrate this continuity, maybe using arrows or some other device to denote the flow. Then below we can take out the individual pieces to use below. Finally, we can caption these images explaining some of the choices and why they were made or some other fact.
Images, examples (this one below is just an example)
Colors And Images That Are Not Too Complex Or Challenging
The heart is one of the earliest human designs, and a universal symbol recognized by all, but its origin in the collective imagination remains shrouded in mystery.
Designing With Purpose
Where does mindful design begin? With purpose. You begin with a purpose, to persuade the customer that your solution or product best fits their needs. Your design is a path for them to take on a brief journey of discovery. Is that path clear? Can they find what they need? Purposeful design guides the user down a path. The experience is guided by many different elements, from menus to forms and buttons that allow for navigation.
Beginning With Values
Mindful design communicates more than what you do or what you sell. It communicates your purpose and values, establishes trust, and connects with your customers. Brands that help customers live healthier, richer, more fulfilling lives can extend these values into their properties with experiences that reflect this purpose. The messaging should align between the brand and the customer’s shared values.
Customers today, especially millennials and Gen Z, want to spend their money, time and attention with brands who share their values. They are looking to connect with brands that are aligned with their values, and they have a high level of expectation of an experience that reflects this.
Design For A Better Future
Today we are learning about some of the negative results of technology, and how design choices have impacted the way we think and engage with one another. As brands in the health, wellness, beauty and biotech space, our customers are looking for an alternative to toxic messaging, negativity, and stress.
At the same time, designers are becoming aware of their role in designing digital spaces that respect users’ time, attention, and autonomy. As we learn more about the impact of harmful design practices, designers are rethinking how we design experiences to not just minimize harm but also maximize wellness.
Working together, we can create healthier, safer and more inclusive spaces. These choices can ripple out to influence the greater culture. In fact, according to Twilo’s 2020 global engagement study, not only is customer experience a defining value for customers when they have a positive experience in one space, these expectations carry over into all the other brands they do business with. Because of this, wellness and biotech companies can help lead the way towards a healthier internet, as well as healthier individuals.