UX design and mental health intersect in ways that are becoming increasingly important to understand. Good design can have a significant impact on our mental health and well-being. It's not just about creating aesthetically pleasing objects or spaces; it's also about creating functional and comfortable environments that promote health, happiness, and productivity. In honour of Mental Health Awareness Month, let's dive into this intersection a bit deeper!
As a bit of personal background, my perspective on mental health has been heavily influenced by my time managing people within the service industry. My philosophy as a leader has always emphasised treating every person that walks through the door with empathy, humility, and respect. I strive to not only meet but exceed the practical needs and expectations of my staff and customers.
These foundational values led me into the field of user experience. I craved learning about what makes people tick. I wanted to expand my understanding of how design and the human mind overlap. The line between mental health care and the user experience should be simple and seamless, providing the most beneficial experience possible.
A Deeper Dive
UX refers to the experience that users have when interacting with digital products or services, such as websites, apps, and software. The way that these products are designed can have a significant impact on the mental well-being of users. Every single decision that a designer makes when designing an interface has implications that go beyond immediate stakeholders.
As such, the workflow of a UX designer brings empathy at every level. It is a constant back-and-forth of iterating, testing and tweaking. When positive mental health is brought into the design conversation, designers can create experiences that promote positivity and growth to their users.
One way in which UX can impact mental health is through the design of products that promote healthy habits and behaviours. For example, a fitness app that encourages regular exercise or a mindfulness app that promotes relaxation and stress reduction can have a positive impact on mental health. Similarly, products that provide information and resources on mental health issues can help to reduce stigma and improve access to care.
Another way in which UX can impact mental health is through the design of products that reduce stress and anxiety. For example, a calming meditation app with a simple and easy-to-use interface can help users to relax and reduce anxiety. Similarly, features such as notifications or reminders can help users to stay on track with self-care routines and promote positive mental health habits.
Poorly designed UX can also have negative impacts on the user's mental health. Products that are difficult to navigate or understand can lead to frustration and stress. Similarly, products that are designed to encourage addictive behaviour, such as the infinitely scrollable nature of our social media apps, can contribute to feelings of anxiety and depression.
Products and services that are riddled with constant notifications or interruptions can contribute to feelings of being overwhelmed and distracted. All too often we notice products and services that promote self-comparison or negative self-talk. These products can contribute to low self-esteem and feelings of inadequacy.
How can I be a Thoughtful Designer?
UX designers need to be mindful of the potential impact of their designs on their user's mental health. They should strive to design products that promote healthy habits and behaviours, reduce stress and anxiety, and provide access to resources and support. It’s also important to consider the potential negative impacts of their designs and work to mitigate these risks.
Ultimately, UX designers have a responsibility to prioritise the well-being of their users and to design products that contribute to positive mental health outcomes.