Problem

Only 1 in 3 adults in the U.S.
have made plans for their end-of-life proceedings
or have spoken to loved ones about their wishes.

Focus

Individuals who haven't made plans or made wishes known, and are still relatively far from the average life expectancy.
A 5-month research-driven studio turned into a long-term passion project, by
Product Design
Brand Design
Comm. Design
Design Writing

I led the end-to-end product design efforts. Research, Strategy, Ideation, Interactions, Prototyping, Testing, and Storytelling

Key Research Insights

The barriers to planning
Lack of awareness, knowledge, motivation, and commitment to act.
Lack of access to resources to help navigate complex systems.

"I just don't know where to start." — a 32-year-old non-planner
The complexity of planning
There are various decisions to make, critical roles to assign, complex systems to figure out, and tedious processes to go through.

"We went through them in such a higgledy-piggledy way over many many years."
— an 86-year-old planner
The drawbacks of current planning methods
Information can be scattered all over the place, and physical documents can be outdated or misplaced.

Life-saving info could be nowhere to be found during emergencies.

Design Goals


1. Make planning for mortality more approachable.

2. Make legal + medical planning easy to work on.

3. Make information streamlined and accessible by the necessary others.

Success Metrics


1. # of users started a plan

2. # of plans created

3. # of plans authorized access

Human-centered Design Principles


Our guiding design principles were discovered and informed by the human experience investigated in our research.

Personal Curation

Accessibility and Approachability

Progressive Guidance and Autonomy

Selective Sharing

Design Solution


LifeKit is a mobile intervention (as part of the OS ecosystem) that makes planning for emergency and mortality more approachable, streamlined, and easy to work on.

It integrates long-term planning with the celebration in good times, so the important things are not left to chances in uncertain times.

Key Design #1


Connects the past, present, and future — Captures significant moments for celebration and provides a unique opportunity to pause and think ahead to the future.

Breaks down the complex systems and puts the crucial items to work on front and center.

Key Design #2


Breaks down complex tasks, walks through the daunting decision making processes, and allows to do it in manage chunks, step by step.






Key Design #3


Empowers updating wishes, authorizing access (make known), and legalizing plans at one's own pace.

Also enables the potential to connect to remote online notarization processes.

* As of April 2021, 29 states have enacted remote online notarization to meet the pandemic crisis.



‍‍


Notification Mechanism


1. Prompts at the time of life events (e.g. new marriage) to encourage making or updating plans to keep it dynamic and relevant.

2. Prompts at unprecedented times (e.g. 🦠) to help take charge of what we can control for better peace of mind.




Business Value + Ecosystem Effect


It makes customers for life for the OS system.

The digital infrastructure also opens up opportunities to enhance the ecosystem, connect fragmented processes, and integrate into larger systems.

The Process >>>>

Phase

> Exploratory

> Generative

> Ideation + Evaluative

> Design + Evaluative

methods
- Expert Interviews
- Stakeholder Interviews
- Group Observations
- Secondary Research
- Experience Audit
- Participatory Workshop
- Storyboarding
- Concept Testing
- Competitive Analysis
- Wireframing
- Prototyping
- Usability Testing
Mission
Finding the specific problem space within preparing for mortality. Understanding what troubles does it bring.
Discovering why people don't plan, what they need, and how we might help.
Exploring directions and variations, and learning from what others did well + what warrants improvement.
Receiving feedback and iterating to refine the concept and design details.
Design progress
Defined the problem space, design vision, and who to design for.
Found the major pain points + Defined the design goals.
Nailed down the concept direction + Refined design principles.
Refined UX and UI that achieve the goals.

Project background

Challenged to "Design to Improve Life"
Despite the diversity of life — one universal fact of existence is that it ends. Our team wanted to explore how looking at the end of life can open up opportunities to live more mindfully and sustainably in the present and contribute to an improved future beyond one's lifetime.
We explored the Design x Mortality landscape and identified a gap in understanding how the living prepare for mortality.
From reviewing relevant publications, we learned how Design x Thanatology (the study of death) looks into materiality, social identities, temporality, and methodologies. We resonated with the value in understanding how people prepare for mortality and designing supportive tech. We wanted to focus on the living instead of the dying, since life is uncertain.

1  Exploratory Phase

We looked into how people regard mortality nowadays and found that many neglect getting prepared for uncertainty and postpone planning indefinitely. Therefore, we defined our design vision.

Expert Interviews (n=6)


We met with professionals in Medical, Legal, Social Work, Religious, and Senior Living fields and learned from their perspectives on the collective human experience of approaching death and dealing with loved ones' passing.

Stakeholder Interviews (n=15)


We spoke with individuals in their 20s-80s, each with unique experiences and perspectives. We carefully prepared to make them feel comfortable speaking with us about this topic.

Group Conversations (n=3)


We also hosted and observed 3 groups in different social contexts having conversations on the topic to see what death means for individuals and their social relationships.

Key Insights

How do people usually start to plan
Life planning is oftentimes only brought into focus when an individual survives or sees a loved one survive a life-threatening event, or when feeling "old enough" to do so.

The motivation comes from realizing the limited chances to communicate wishes + how much the unplanned manners would burden the bereaved.
Have people thought about legacy wishes
People have ideas about what they want, but most do not formalize it or communicate their intentions to those who matter.

Most ideas in mind are half-formulated that still takes time to think through.
How ready for planning
Many are not aware of how to prepare for the long term, also not ready to navigate the complexity of legal, medical, and government systems.

Design Progress

Defined Design Vision
How might we motivate and mobilize individuals to prepare for the unexpected?

2  Generative Phase

We dug deeper into the why and what. We learned about the barriers, the complexities, and the drawbacks of the current methods. Thus, we defined our primary design goals.

Secondary Research

What does "being prepared" mean?

To help people get prepared, we need to understand what it means to be prepared first.

We reviewed lots of legal, medical, and planning resources.

Experience Audit

What does it take to be prepared?


We tried out a few resources from the secondary research. We grasped a big picture of what it takes to be prepared and the dependencies involved. Since everyone's life is unique, it entails diverse planning needs and complexities.

Generative Workshop

Why don't people plan? what do they need?

We designed a participatory workshop for in-depth discoveries about what matters most to individuals, what a preferred end-of-life future looks like, what motivates planning and the barriers, and what could help shift mindsets and behaviors.

Key Insights — Major Paint Points

The barriers to planning
Lack of awareness, knowledge, motivation, and commitment to act.
Lack of access to resources to help navigate complex systems.

"I just don't know where to start." — a 32-year-old non-planner
The complexity of planning
There are various decisions to make, critical roles to assign, complex systems to figure out, and tedious processes to go through.

"We went through them in such a higgledy-piggledy way over many many years."
— an 86-year-old planner
The drawbacks of current planning methods
Information can be scattered all over the place, and physical documents can be outdated or misplaced.

Life-saving info could be nowhere to be found during emergencies.

Design Progress

Defined Design Goals
1. Make planning for mortality more approachable.
2. Make legal + medical planning easy to work on.
3. Make information streamlined and accessible by the necessary others.

3  Ideation + Evaluative Phase

We explored directions and variations, and learned from what others did well + what warrants improvement. We then nailed down the concept direction and refined design principles.

Storyboarding for Concept Testing (Speed Dating, n=10)

We came up with various concepts and consolidated them into 4 directions.

We then created storyboards to showcase how users could interact with the design and speed-dated with 10 people online.

Key Insights

Format
1. People prefer participating in life planning individually v.s. in a group.
2. People prefer platforms or systems that they have engaged with in the past.

→ People prefer the solution to live in their smart phones and trust the OS system more than other prevalent online services.
Mechanism
1. Prompting at the time of life transition events can often reach individuals that don’t typically plan for the future.
2. People seek external facilitation that nudges them and keeps them engaged with planning over time.

Competitive Analysis (n=6)

We analyzed 6 products/services in a similar space of legal + life planning. We learned from what others did well and what warrants improvement.

We also spoke with a CEO and learned about practical challenges for a start up team to bring a product like this to life.
Cake
Fabric
Tomorrow
LegalZoom
Trust & Will
LifeFolder

Key Insights

Product Positioning
Reassured the niche positioning to mobilize the unplanned.
Content Strategy
1. The tone of voice should be non-threatening and balance both friendliness and professionalism.
2. The writing level should be at a grade school level for accessibility.
User Experience
1. Engage the user's attention on the most critical things in bite-size pieces.
2. Provide clear next steps and facilitate the process.
3. Require low setup efforts and low initial commitment.

Design Progress

Nailed Down Direction
A mobile app in the OS ecosystem that help formulate future plans, making planning a part of living.
Defined Design Principles
Personal Curation
"What do you value? Memories - my archives, what makes me, me!" by Workshop Participant

Accessibility and Approachability
"Our phone is definitely an extension of ourselves." by User Tester


Progressive Guidance and Autonomy
"Walk me through the process of daunting decisions, and allow me to do it in manageable chunks." by Workshop Participant

Selective Sharing
"Within my family, I would prefer that my mom handles my proceedings." by Interviewee

4  Evaluative Phase

We made wireframes and prototypes to receive feedback and iterate. We refined design details to achieve the vision and goals.

Wireframing + Prototyping for Usability Testing (n=8)

We did rounds of usability testing online and offline to refine our design.



MAIN SCREEN




MAKE A PLAN

Final Design

Reflections

Reflecting on our MVP design,
I'd like to continue working on these as a side project
1. How might we make the process of formulating a plan more engaging and motivating + tackle the emotional challenge when working on it?

2. How might we better balance empowering autonomy and facilitating the process?

3. How might we find a balance in helping people keep things organized while also embracing human nature to be indecisive?

Project Development-wise
We might consider the platform connectedness, the agency of data and privacy, and how to sustain longevity. We would also need to iron the legal frameworks needed for this solution to actually exist.
Potential directions include pivoting to a technical framework/protocol, a proprietary walled garden, or a standalone mobile app. Require thorough examinations of legal requirements, content breakdowns, and legality reviews.

Learnings

I learned tremendously as a designer and a collaborator! We were a very diverse team. It was how we learned to work together that helped us overcome challenges, adapt to circumstances (#2020), and develop a design that we're proud of as a team!

A round-up of my learnings —
Collaboration and Communication
- How to navigate team dynamics and utilize each other's strengths.
- How to work productively as a team and get shared buy-in.
- How to connect on a personal level but respect boundaries.
Productivity in Remote Collaboration
- How to establish a productive practice with a team.
- How to set up a backup mechanism for unforeseen challenges.
- How to be effective and efficient in online meetings and combat zoom fatigue.
Design Process
- How to lead the process and innovate on methods for ambitious challenges.
- How to prepare ourselves for navigating unfamiliar domains.
- How to build trust with people and engage them in sensitive topics.

I'd love to connect and chat more in details! Hit me up! :)