Designing holistic wellbeing for children

Photo Credit
MIchael Mims

Happy Kids = ?

When Sri came to my team at DESIGNATION, he wanted to build UPsQool, a child activity tracking app. His goal was to helps kids succeed in life. To do that, he wanted to create a tool that helped parents gain insight on their child's growth both intelligently and emotionally.

Although he had no kids of his own, he is an uncle and watched his nieces and nephews grow up. He saw recent statistics showing that people were more likely to be hired if they had both high IQ and EQ (the emotional version of IQ). Over the next two weeks, it was my team's goal to test Sri's idea and bring it to life.


Sri Aparajithan


iOS App


Amber Bell
Harry Smith
Jenny Lin


We had questions

Sri had plenty of sitemaps and spreadsheets ready to hand off to us, but before building the app, we wanted to answer a few questions.

We knew that our goal as UX Designers was to make sure we were designing the right thing. Even with all the research Sri had done, we knew we had to dive in to see if this is what parents really want and need.

Photo Credit

Does happiness look the same?

What are people's definitions of happiness and success? Are there any cultural considerations we should pay attention to?


How can we guide parents and their children towards happiness without telling them what to do? Not to mention across cultures? 


What data would be useful to a parent? 

How can it translate into something meaningful and actionable?

It’s been proven that just having data doesn’t mean anything. It’s not enough to incite people to change their habits. So it’s important that the data we collect actually provides insights to our users as well as a path to action.

Is success measurable?

How do parents currently keep track of their kids? Is there a standard process to raising a happy, successful children?

Happiness doesn’t necessarily mean success, and success doesn’t necessarily mean happiness. What kind of measurement is appropriate?


The Big Picture

During our conversation, one thing we did realize was Sri’s big picture: happy kids. Tracking was just his way of accomplishing it.

This was important because in all the details of the plan he had set for himself, he understood that whatever the means may be, happiness is the most important. We needed to keep this big picture in mind as we continued with the research towards making this application.

Photo Credit
Annie Spratt

Phase 1: Research

In this stage, our goals were to identify the strengths and weaknesses of UPsQool’s concept. We proceeded with the following research methods:



Three Moms, Three Dads

Parents were our primary users, as they would be the ones interacting with the app the most. We interviewed a range of people that varied on income, age, gender, and background. We focused on what parents currently do for their kids, how they find activities, if they currently track their children's wellbeing, and whether or not they practiced "holistic" upbringing.


Two South Asian American Adults

We interviewed two South Asian American adults as secondary users to gain insight on any possible cultural differences that played a large role growing up. Our main questions surrounded their upbringing environment, relationship to their parents, and if they can tie any previous activities to their current success.


One Child Psychologist, Two Teachers, One Social Worker

Our Subject Matter Experts helped us fill in the psychological, behavioral, and social aspect of parenting.  Our questions ranged from how to track kids' success, to identifying patterns, to breaking down ideas of discovery and growth in structured and unstructured learning time.


Our parent personas highlight the range of goals, frustrations, and philosophies they have to parenting. Additionally, their children are of various ages to highlight the difference from babies to teens.

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    "My kids are most engaged and happy while they’re playing, and this includes learning. But sometimes it's hard to find new activities."
    The Engaged Mother
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    “I want my children to excel in areas that they're interested in! They should spend time cultivating their talents, but it's difficult to gauge their success.”
    The Always-Mindful Mother
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    "I want to help manage my kid’s time and interests effectively, but it feels impossible. There's too many activities to keep track of, let alone their progress."
    The Schedule Oriented Father


In addition to our personas, we affinity mapped out our key quotes to identify trends and relationships between the parents, adults, and subject matter experts. Below is our synthesis:

Parents can easily tell if their children are happy, especially when they’re young. No app necessary. Long term trends are more important.

You can feel successful and happy when seeing your own growth.

Allow for flexibility and discovery: structured activities are as important as unstructured ones.

Parents like the idea of data, but not the work of tracking.


Actionable Insights

We wanted to turn these takeaways into action. Moving forward, we focused on these three elements to bring to life in our prototypes.

Focus on emotions over time. Details are secondary.

Allow parents to learn parenting on the job.

Create a personal metric that shows your trends, not how close you are to a goal.

Our Problem Statement

Parents who want the best for their children may assign different meanings to the definition of success. No one wants to be told what to do.

By providing data insight within a delightful and effortless framework, we offer guidance towards their own definition of balance as they learn parenting, on the job.

Phase 2: Prototyping

In our second week, my team and I went through the following process:

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    Prototype A – Fun & Playful

    Prototype A had an emphasis on tracking mood trends through an everyday documentation tool: photography.

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    Prototype B – Activity Focused

    Prototype B documented activities in specific categories to see your progress.

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    Prototype C – Schedule Focused

    This was my prototype. Prototype C helped parents record emotions alongside their scheduled activities, supplementing their current habits.

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    Prototype D – Quick & Easy

    Prototype D aimed to be as minimal as possible, outlining only the most basic of tasks for a big picture snapshot.

Prototypes A, B, C & D

We created four different prototypes, each varying in flow and focus. Our goal was to test this app against varing degrees of parenting styles to see if there was an approach that fit all.

Additionally, we varied in how to gather data. Some focused on gathering photographs, honing in on current habits. Others harnessed impromptu activity recording or schedules already made on third party sites.

User Testing

We tested each prototype in various order with five parents. At the end, we asked survey questions to evaluate the app based off of their interest and usability.



Prototype A

Average Score: 5.56

Prototype B

Average Score: 5.27

Prototype C

Average Score: 5.47

Prototype D

Average Score: 4.17


What we found stuck true to our users habits. Each response reflected their parenting philosophy, and there were heavy patterns that emerged. The charts show those who preferred Prototype A did not like Prototype C, and vice versa. Prototype B provided more mixed results, and Prototype D was too simple to be useful. (Note, Prototype D came later into the testing, and was given to parents who preferred schedules)

In our qualitative analysis, we found that some parents wanted to use this app for children who need to track certain behaviors, such as depression. Additionally, coaches, psychiatrists, teachers and parents could understand long term trends and correlations between activity and mood.

Other parents expressed interest in using this app as a way to communicate to their partner. With such busy schedules, often times both parents can’t attend all activities, missing out on important moments such as baseball games or other accomplishments. This app could help them connect more with their children’s lives.

A few also said that they’d be interested in having their kids participate, logging their own activity. Parents would want to track younger kids’ activities to get general overview, but then as the kids get older parents would like to use it as a way to keep communication open. While this idea would have to be tested, many parents saw potential in investing time towards this goal.

Most importantly, parents were interested in seeing an overview of mood, emotions, and recommended activities based off of the children’s happiness and whether or not they’re having fun. Our users stressed the importance of simple input methods, and that qualitative notes were more insightful than quantitative, so they can look back and see what was going on during a specific day.


From here, we took our most popular features in user testing to combine into a final prototype.


Capturing an activity through a general mood emoji was intuitive and broad enough to encompass different interpretations.


For parents who already adhered to a schedule, seeing this layout felt practical and familiar to their parenting style.

Pre-loaded Activity

Parents loved the ease of pre-loaded activities to input data. As their lives are already hectic, it was important to keep it simple.

Suggested Activities

Many parents didn't know where to go for a variety of activities. Most of it was word of mouth. They loved the idea of a list.

Monthly Graph

This monthly graph showed mood trends and number of hours spent on an activity. This correlation helped the big picture view.

Progress Bar

A quick snapshot of weekly goals helped parents understand how far along they were in their progress.

Our Final Prototype

Fit to Your Lifestyle

We understood that life changes constantly, regardless of parenting styles. Perhaps you plan a bunch of classes, but find playtime more rewarding for your child. Or maybe you realize you need to add a little more focus and structure into your routine.

We wanted the app to encompass all of what life throws at you. So we have a schedule centric view with quick and easy add-on events.

Progress, not Goals

As one parent said, "I want to love my children, not judge them." To keep our app from centering around quantitative data, we focused on personal growth and progress to keep spirits high and engaged. Instead of measured progress bars, we incorporated color saturation as the primary indicator. Tracking in itself is not fun, nor immediately rewarding, so it was important to keep our users motivated.

In this way, we want parents and children to be proud of what they've done, not just see what they haven't.

Built off of Insights

We wanted the data collected by our users to be rewarding and useful. At first glance, you see the information in quick snapshots. How many documented times did they have a "good" experience this week, and how "not so good"? What do they seem the most happy doing? What do they spend the most time doing?

Based off of these trends, we recommend activities around the area to continue pursuing the children's talents and interests.


Final Thoughts

Our testing revealed the need for more testing. Our suggestion for Sri was to choose one of the two main parenting styles: quick & easy, or schedule oriented. When we tested the final prototype, parents still preferred one mode of input or another. 

As our app depends on quality and quantity of data, we urged him to focus on better methods of input, and to utilize future phone features (ie notifications for rating and calendar alerts).

Below is our roadmap for future implementations, left to right. We felt that Sri could run and test the qualities of an MVP, and work his way into more usable and delightful aspects of his app.

MVP - minimum

Activity Track
Progress Update

Option 1: Activity Focused

Find a way to track activities without a calendar

Option 2: Calendar Integration

Keyword Search
Import Calendar


Interactive notifications for rating


Connecting users to parks and rec and other activity centers