All this screen time can leave kids feeling anxious and disconnected. As parents, we can try our best to limit screen time, but digital devices are increasingly becoming a part of daily life. To combat this trend, Catherine Mayer of The Catherine Mayer Foundation had a vision to create the L.A.U.G.H. App, nicknamed “The Un-App App®”. This iPad® app would combine the visual arts, music, movement and breathing exercises to create calming and positive energies for kids.
Nine months into design and development by another agency, it appeared that their output was not in alignment with Mayer’s vision, and their capabilities were being tested. It became clear that she would need a new partner and Mayer turned to UpTop to pick up the pieces of the project.
“I approached UpTop because of their expertise in user-centered design and development, but also because of my prior working relationship with their UX Manager, Michael Woo,” said Mayer. “I knew that the synergy of this partnership would make communicating much easier and allow for more creative moments to happen.”
— Catherine Mayer, Founder
Besides delivering a fully functional app that aligned with her vision, there were two other important objectives that UpTop would need to address. The app needed preparation for a series of clinical studies at the Seattle Children’s Research Institute that would ultimately result in the evidence supporting the app’s effectiveness. The qualitative and quantitative findings of these studies would be key in shaping the direction of the app. Lastly, a product strategy and roadmap for the app needed to be developed and all it’s possible future enhancements.
Unlearning Best Practices
Several times throughout the project, we were challenged to stop and rethink our natural design inclinations. For example, we would try to make it easier for users to get to certain parts of the app. But we were kept in check by the feedback we received from Mayer that this process is not about making it easy for a user to jump to a specific activity, but rather allow them to go through the “Guided Experience”, as proven by the evidence based findings. We had to remind ourselves that the app is unlike most apps and philosophically goes against many of the traditional UX design and marketing principles that we would use to encourage user engagement.
“As designers, we were challenged to unlearn a lot of the techniques that we’ve been practicing for years, which made this project unique and interesting.”
— Michael Woo, UX Manager
The L.A.U.G.H. App for iPad was released to the Apple App Store in March of 2017. UpTop is currently working with The Catherine Mayer Foundation on a variation of the L.A.U.G.H. App with Madrona Elementary School in Seattle and the University of Washington Research Program to test the impact it may have within the classroom environment.
Additionally, a version of the L.A.U.G.H. App for adults is underway for the iPad. Although the target audience is different, the fundamental goal is the same.