Who are they?
Calm is an award-winning meditation and sleep app, filled with hundreds of mind exercises, meditation practices, and sleep stories that are written and recorded by leading professionals in the field. While the app has largely focused on teenagers and adults, Calm has a section for children called ‘Calm Kids’ and has promised an expansion into this children’s section to address the rising demand from parents for content that can improve their kid’s mental health.
- A multitude of breathing exercises
- Easy-to-use interface for both adults and kids
- Real-world visuals & sounds
- Constant updates
- Uses gradual mood and fitness tracking technology
- Sleep stories for all ages
- A kid’s section (Calm kids)
- Cutting-edge profession and narrative work
- Calm Masterclass – focuses on overall mental wellness and breaking habits.
- Hundreds of curated soundtracks for different scenarios (Sleep, walking, etc)
- Famous artists, narrators and actors – this can make the app feel more ‘trustworthy’
- Calm Body – 8 10-minute movement sessions
- Gratitude rewards such as streaks, etc for completing tasks
- Expensive subscription fee-based at $14.99 monthly or $69.99 yearly
- While it does offer a range of wellness programs and services, some of the content can feel lacking such as the ‘Calm Body’ section
- Although easy to navigate, I found the app’s colourful background mixed with the diverse photographic components very disorienting
- While proved to aid it is not a substitute for treating depression or anxiety
- Some people mentioned the sleep stories were too long and it actually woke them up after going to sleep
- Nature sounds can be considered distracting instead of relaxing
- The thin typography used can cause visibility issues especially when sedated
The content is curated around the user’s day. This means it changes depending on the time of day. If a user wakes up in the morning they are greeted with the sounds of gentle water running and birds tweeting. It also shows a great wealth of ways to start a user’s morning through narrations, meditation techniques, walks, etc.
A more recent feature that has been added is the mood tracking feature. It allows the users to communicate and monitor their mood through emojis which then they are presented an inspiring quote. Additionally, they can follow up on this by adding tags or adding a note for themselves. This sense of self-communication can help users reconnect with themselves.
The app also consists of a ‘profile’ section which presents the user’s statistics, library, history and check-ins. Additionally, it offers a calendar so they can see their longest streaks with the app. This helps a user reflect on their development over a period of time.
Additionally, the app consists of many alternative features such as breathing exercises, master classes, calm kids and more. This offers the user a wide range of techniques and methods to relax and meditate.
The app itself is moderately straightforward to use. I look at it as the Spotify of relaxation and meditation. The backdrops use purple gradients often accompanied by a realistic, immersive video backdrop that both visually and audibly changes depending on the time of day. However, on Kid’s Calm, we find a less diverse structure of components showing different reading material/animation programs displaying many other additives you would find on other apps such as the heart button, etc. Additionally, the app is very selective in the colour scheme it provides using more moderate colours to avoid any uncomfortable viewing.
While Calm doesn’t use any visually engaging buddies or illustrative guides. It does, however, offer the user a unique communicative approach through the pretext of its written feedback. Essentially, the app subjugates its identity into a user’s mind. A relevant Japanese saying would be “our three faces”. For example, this is apparent from the very start, as soon as the app is downloaded, it tells users to “take a deep breath”. These mannerisms are found throughout the app. Reading these words inside your head creates an identity within the user. Additionally, the onboarding process is very subtle and slowly introduces the user’s to the app through gradual interactions and declared data. Through this, it teaches users about the many app features and gives them a chosen tier of functionality.
One thing I have to note is the overall UI for the app, while it is easy to use for adults, I can’t say the same for kids. The use of thin weighted and small typography combined with structured yet visually obtrusive components can easily fluster a kid. This is especially true when you have to navigate to the ‘more’ section of the app in order to find the Kid’s Calm section. Additionally, Greg Justice, VP of content agreed to recognise the urgency of enhanced app materials directed towards children, given the spotlight, the pandemic has put on children’s mental health, I really think this is a market that can and perhaps will be expanded on in the near future. However, some vital adjustments to the app must be made first.
Headspace: Guided Meditation
Who are they?
Similar to calm in both popularity and mass consumerism, Headspace is a mindfulness and mediation app that helps users focus on working on their mental health. It is one of the most frequently downloaded mental wellness apps in the world which has garnered a wide spectrum of people. Thus, it presents itself as an app for all age ranges while additionally, having an emphasis on kids who are going through puberty (10-13).
- Unobtrusive UI
- Easy to navigate interfaces
- Fun and engaging illustrative design
- Offers a wide range of famous cartoon characters for bedtime stories
- Gradually tracks user progression
- Option to add a personal ‘buddy’ that tracks user progression
- Hourly group meditation sessions
- Wide range of workout techniques
- Time scaled meditations
- Option to choose a different tutor/guide to take lessons
- An abundance of family-friendly features
- Extremely user friendly
- Immersive animations
- Similar to Calm, headspace offers most of its content behind a paywall at $12.99 a month.
- Some of the reviewers describe the meditations to be repetitive
- No Mood tracking element
Unlike Calm which presents itself as a spiritual/religious awaking in some instances, this instead provides to the point coaching to support a daily meditation practice. Some of the features that are included in the app are body scans, sitting meditation, breathing exercises, etc. This is usually accompanied by fun, minimalistic animations that go along with many of the programs. Examples of this would be, “Breath with the cat” where the user breaths intuitively with an animated cat.
Additionally, feedback is judged on the user’s profile located on the homepage. It contains completed sessions, total time meditating, chart packages, etc. All to give vital feedback to the user.
There is many features that engage the user can progress tracking, session timers, high-quality imagery/videos, community, etc.
It uses the same ‘inner voice’ technique Calm uses to onboard, guide and relax the user. However, it alternatively uses both written guides and buddies to do so with the ability to swap out tutors/narrators and buddies.
The interface is minimalistic, flexible and easy to use. Meditation sessions are guided in stages rather than in one go to let a user go at their own pace. It also uses subtle interactions to create a more immersive and engaging experience.
While the app is more visually and functionally inclusive toward children than Calm, I think the need for a separate app/section for kids can still be present. While it does host a wide range of features and illustrative directions that are targeted at kids. The layout could be seen as confusing along with some of the written content posing a visibility issue with children.
Who are they?
Mantatee is a mental wellness app that focuses on building a healthy and sustainable relationship between parent and child. It names itself a “family-first mental health app for the modern world.” It helps children conquer anxiety, depression, ADHD, stress and more, helping kids build communicative trust to talk about their problems to their parents.
- Appropriately scaled typography
- Easy to navigate interface
- Streaks to monitor progression
- Deals with a wide range of mental disorders
- AI chatbot
- Personal journal
- Parenting tips/quizzes
- Reward-based system
- Self-harm detection
- Parent controls
- Can be viewed from a single or multiple devices
- Bland illustrative design, colours and characters
- Lack of buddies
- Lack of engagement
- Can be seen as systematic
- Similar to the systemic approach, TOV can be off
Mantatee content is straightforward, there are two sides to the app; parent and child. The parent’s app consists of four screens – Home, child, parenting and learning. On the ‘child’ screen in the parent’s section, we can track the child’s progress such as their journal entries, chatbot check-ins, points collected, rewards redeemed and self-care activities. We can also assign a variety of goals to the child such as “building social skills and friendships”. This is then displayed in an infographic type format for the parent to see. The app also provides quizzes, tips, questionnaires and reading material for parents who are worried about parenting.
On the other hand, the kid’s section of the app is more “gamified” as it possesses a reward-based system for completing goals and in return can unlock rewards. Additionally, kids can set goals themselves, record a note in their journals and can talk to an artificial chatbot. They can also access a ‘self-care’ section that is meant to make the user laugh at the funny content displayed and single danger.
Manatee offers a casual onboarding experience bringing both parents and children through the app to showcase its simplistic features. However, while it is easy to navigate through screens, the app’s architecture can feel cluttered and poorly presented at times this can halt users from having full control over their experience.
Unlike a lot of previous apps I’ve looked at, this app puts major emphasis on communication and the directional vision of the app is great. However, I do feel like this app has been let down through the limitation of illustrative design, non-engaging TOV and boring user interfaces which lacks any distinctive character.
Additionally, UI, typography and illustrations/media can feel inconsistent throughout the app.
Who are they?
Daylio is a mental wellness and tracking app that offers meditation and guided visualisation for children and teenagers who are experiencing anxiety or other related disorders. It helps deal with anxiety, sleep problems, focusing and more.
- Extremely inclusive interface
- Easy to navigate interface
- Reward system – achievements, streaks
- Customisable interface colours
- Customisable emojis
- Constant updates
- Over 2000 icons to describe feelings
- Fun and professional illustrations
- Lack of buddies
- The full version costs £18.99 a year
- Doesn’t offer much feedback such as tips, etc
- Lack of engagement
- Systematic approach
The app offers a rich library of emojis for the user to describe their feelings. It also allows them to pick different subject matters of what went right/wrong on that day. The app also allows users to creatively customize their emojis into different shapes and sizes making it extremely inclusive for personal viewing.
The profile section also allows for the user to recap on their day, week, month or year report. Displaying a diverse and comprehensive infographic type progress. Allowing users to reflect on their progression.
The app is extremely simple to navigate and holds a minimalistic design. It heavily relies on component boxes to engage small sequences of information. Highlight colouring is present throughout the app, especially when focusing on the moods while the overall UI can be customised in a different arrangement of colours – this can often conflict with the highlights/interactive components leading to confusion.
The app offers a brief onboarding of their features which makes the already easy-to-learn features easier!
The mood tracker and activity section are extremely easy to learn. However, this conflicts with the comprehensive data charts that allow users to recap their progression. To add to this, most data charts don’t provide adequate information which may confuse the user.
While I think the app is extremely strong in its purpose; mood tracking. I do think it should offer a more user-engaging narrative in the app as after the onboarding process is done, the user is left to fend for themselves. This can be especially prominent in the recap section which offers limited background information to explain the statistics.