UX process of designing an app during a pandemia

How to turn a challenge into an app in just 6 weeks.


In the context of the global crisis due to the Coronavirus pandemic, UXER SCHOOL called on the global design community to turn that situation into an opportunity to creatively resolve all the challenges related to the virus.

As I was wondering how could I help as a designer, I saw this initiative as a wonderful opportunity to try to bring some helpful solutions and contribute to the situation by applying human centered and design thinking methodologies.

From my own experience of the situation and the observation of the people of my environment, I particularly witnessed the emotional weight of the quarantine. As I was especially receptive to this issue, I decided to focus on the health sector and joined a team that wanted to focus on the problematic of bringing psychological assistance for people experiencing difficulties when dealing with their emotions.

For this project I had the chance to work with a team of two psychologists: Gabriela Ramírez, behavioral psychologist from Mexico, Eduardo Lantigua, clinical psychologist from Dominican Republic and Unai Aberasturi UX-UI designer from Spain. As for me, I am a human-centered designer, and I took over the role of project’s manager for this challenge to build the solution that I am going to present below.

Research & definition

Defining the Audience

We started by writing down the people and groups that would be directly involved in or reached by our challenge, so we could spot the areas where we probably were lacking information.

Then we created a visual representation with a stakeholder map, in order to easily understand and define how to deal with each of the different roles previously identified.

Mapping of the possible stakeholders for Sayf app project


Once we had our scope defined, in order to test our first hypothesis and gain insights about user behaviors, needs and motivations, we started to run interviews.

As we needed to speak with several psychologists and people in quarantine from different backgrounds and profiles, we set two scripts so we could adapt our questions to both profiles: the professionals and the direct target audience.

Building understanding and empathy

In order to help us define the needs, goals, and behavior patterns of our target audience we built an empathy map, that gave us the basis to realize our Persona model and Customer Journey.

Empathy map for Sayf app project

Defining the problem


As we still had a lot of information to process from the interviews, we decided to organize our main insights into clusters and turned them into “How Might We questions”. This way, we were able to formulate our first assumptions to define our main problem statement.

Problem Statement

How might we create a personalized space that inspires confidence so that people who need psychological help express themselves and learn to manage their emotions?

Ideating, Deciding & doing it again…

Ideate and…

As we had our problem defined, we entered in the next phase of the design thinking process: the ideation. For that, we brainstormed and organized crazy 8 sessions that worked really well as we were able to come up with a variety of ideas for our future interface in a really short amount of time.

Once we had a lot of ideas, we used a value proposition canva in order to organize and prioritize them so we could start to verify that the value we were offering was fitting our target audience pains, gains, and be useful.

…Troubles in paradise…

As we were clarifying our solution concept, we were then able to clearly identify our main competitors, and therefore decided to do a quick analysis of the existing solutions.

Unfortunately, we realized that some products had just appeared in the market, were already offering the same value, pain relievers and gain creators, as our concept.

So, we went back to our interviews’ insights and started to rethink our user’s problem. We realized that our problem statement was still valid, but that we had to focus our solution on a different angle in order to create value. So we decided to operate a 180º rotation by starting with a new core assumption which was:

People with low moods have a hard time seeking help in whatever form (talk to a friend, family member or professional).

This way we were able to offer a solution that would help not only the user with psychological needs but all kind of users to express themselves in an easier and more free way, instead of only offering them mental health assistance, as our competitors.

value proposition canva sayf app project

Here we go again…

We started by writing down the people and groups that would be directly involved in or reached by our challenge, so we could spot the areas where we probably were lacking information.

Then we created a visual representation with a stakeholder map, in order to easily understand and define how to deal with each of the different roles previously identified.

persona and customer journey sayf app project

Prototyping and Concept sketching


Before creating any mockup of what the team had in mind, we first decided to test our value proposition with a survey in order to validate some of our hypothesis.

We were able then to classify the learnings from the survey into two categories:

  • The behavior that people have in moments of low mood
  • The effect of community and social networks
hipothesis survey result sayf app

As those learnings helped us reduce some uncertainties, we started to rough sketch our ideas so we could quickly build a first low-Fi prototype with Balsamiq.

This first round of testings with real users highlighted really valuable insights. However, although our value proposition seemed validated, some problems in our navigation flow and profile screens appeared.

sketchings and drawings sayf app
low-fi prototype: wireframes sayf app

For instance, some of the main learnings that came out during the prototype’s interviews were:

  • “Comunidad”: we identified a dysfunctional pattern as the users didn’t understand the difference and purpose between the categories showed in “Grupo” and “Descubrir”.
  • “Perfiles seguidos”: users found the concept of “influencers emocionales” disturbing as the word itself suggested them a concept more superficial which was affecting the credibility and purpose of the app for them.
  • “Grupo”: users had troubles understand how they could access this screen.
  • “Mi perfil”: the distinction of features allowed between the “public” or “private” mode of the profile screen wasn’t clear enough to bring value to the user.

We turned all these learnings into opportunities of improvement of our current prototypes, and used them to build new wireframes.

Our solution

Defining the UI

Our goal was to design an app that would inspire energy, safety, confidence and serenity to help our users. That’s why, based on color psychology principles, we used a palette of shades of orange and turquoise blue.

We built a Design system library in order to create a uniform visual language and then we let the magic happen using our skills on Sketch.

design system library sayf app

screen preview home sayf app

The solution

Sayf is an app that offers you a dedicated space to freely express your feelings, and where only you decide what to share and to keep private.

How does it work?

Sayf offers you:

  • Public space: to feel identified and to feel support.
  • Private space with:
    • Diary to record your moods
    • Possibility of sharing them
    • Various forms of expression (photo, music, videos, quotes, ...)
    • History of your moods, to see your evolution and contrast your emotions

How are we different from the competition?

Sayf allows:

  • Immediate interaction: thanks to its social network format.
  • Focus on human connections with:
    • A community of users and professionals
    • Social challenges as a motor of action
hipothesis survey result sayf app


I cannot express enough how great was this experience. I had the chance to work with great people from different professional areas, to collaborate and share knowledges and resources with them and witness how we became during this project a dynamic and enthusiastic team.

It also has been a personal challenge as I learnt how to lead a team in remote from scratch with different time zones, schedules, and professional backgrounds, in the context of a global health crisis.

This experience, convinced me more than ever, of the importance of communication as a key of the UX process. My team and I, realized that if creating a coherent customer experience takes a lot of research and analysis, most of the work comes at the moment of sharing and communicating the information collected during every phase of the design process.

Finally, this challenge also highlighted that communication is not just a way to successfully facilitate your meetings, but it is also the ability to listen, to receive feedback, to have an open mind and to be able to put yourself in someone else’s shoes.

What's next?

For the next steps of this project, we will need to do some testings of our Hi-Fi prototype with real users. Then the analysis of the insights collected will help us make all the necesary improvements to enhance the user's experience. And finally, if the team is on the same page, we might keep going with the app and try to launch it for real.

To be continue...