PAL + PAL TEAM

My Role: Lead UX Designer
Timeline: 8 weeks
Scope: End-to-end product development

THE CHALLENGE: THE PURSUIT OF HAPPINESS

Do you wake up each morning knowing you are going to use the day to do something you love? Do you go to bed feeling fulfilled and satisfied that you utilised your gifts and passions doing work that was meaningful to you?

We are often encouraged to think of happiness in terms of acquisition and achievement. We try and get as many qualifications as we can so we can get good jobs, earn good money, buy possessions and pleasures and slowly work our way up the ladder of success. But many people find this path unfulfilling and experience burn out, anxiety, depression and a sense of hopelessness.Do you go to bed feeling fulfilled and satisfied that you utilised your gifts and passions doing work that was meaningful to you?

THE TENSION: MONEY vs MEANING

For a long time, I remember being frustrated by the conflicting desires of wanted to live a life of meaning and consequence while also enjoying a certain lifestyle that came with having money.

The Japanese concept of Ikigai ie. a ‘reason for being’ is a lifestyle that strives to balance the spiritual with the practical. This balance is found at the intersection where your passions and talents converge with the things that the world needs and is willing to pay for. This helped to bring into focus everything I’ve struggled to articulate on my own.

It has been said that knowing your purpose will reduce your stress, focus your energy, simplify your decisions, increase your satisfaction and give meaning to your life. But do people really stop to consider this?

BUT… IS THE PROBLEM, EVEN A PROBLEM?

Your life purpose is the central motivating aim of your life—the reason you get up in the morning. It has been said that knowing your purpose will reduce your stress, focus your energy, simplify your decisions, increase your satisfaction and give meaning to your life. But do people really stop to consider this?

According to an international Gallup poll, less than 20% of respondents strongly agreed that they enjoyed what they did each day. Those who reported feeling engaged with their work had higher levels of happiness and less stress than those who reported feeling disengaged.

MY PROBLEM STATEMENT

Develop a product aimed at helping people identify what truly matters to them so they can live fulfilled lives. Existing products aren’t helping individuals identify how to align their gifts, talents, values and world contribution to create a purposeful authentic life. This causes people to feel trapped in a life of busyness, burnt out, disconnected from humanity and experiencing emptiness, anxiety and depression, despite having financial success.

THE RESEARCH: RESEARCH METHODS

I used a variety of research methods, to gather information and insights on this topic, including:

  • face-to-face interviews
  • desktop research and
  • competitive analysis.

Interviewing 11 people (men and women) from a cross section of the community confirmed that this indeed was a very real issue for a lot of people.

DESIGNING THE INTERVIEW

Before designing my research guide, I listed out my research goals, which were to find out if:

  • purposeful living is something people consider during their journey?
  • if so why is it important to them

I designed my interview guide with open-ended questions, non-leading questions, preparing to listen intently and probe further. When selecting people, I told them I was doing some research to help me understand:

  • what brings them joy and happiness
  • what makes them feel satisfied
  • what are they most passionate about and, why
  • what matters the most to them, in life do they incorporate things that make them happy in their life. if yes, how and how often
  • what does it mean to live a fulfilling life
  • when did this become a focus for them and why

THE ANALYSIS: INSIGHTS AND FINDINGS

My research produced extremely rich data. Analysis of data using affinity mapping revealed the following groupings:

  • The fuel: passions, joys, strengths
  • The catalyst: experiences, pain, desires, dreams, value-clashes
  • The priorities: what truly matters
  • The support: to do this journey well
  • The inspiration: to keep pursuing the journey
  • The obstacles: mindset, conditioning, learning, personal growth, self leadership
  • The legacy/goal: wanting to leave behind a better world
Affinity mapping

The research showed that many begin their journey being influenced by society, media, advertising, family, tradition, education, culture, religion regarding what careers they should pursue and who they should become.

All of them, without exception said that knowing and finding your purpose gives you direction, stretches you beyond your comfort zone, breaks the comparison cycle, motivates you, brings contentment and satisfaction and stops you from living selfishly.

Research insights

All of them, without exception said that knowing and finding your purpose gives you direction, stretches you beyond your comfort zone, breaks the comparison cycle, motivates you, brings contentment and satisfaction and stops you from living selfishly.

The research also showed that whilst people knew the benefits of finding their purpose, there were obstacles that prevented them from getting on this path. The reasons for this were varied but the key ones were:

  • discovering their purpose later in life, meant pursuing a new direction which was financially challenging due to the commitments
  • fear of the unknown stopped them for making decisions and taking action
  • lack of training and resources to guide them
  • not having a tribe of people who were big thinkers who would steer you along
  • mindset issues prevented them from trying new things and
  • self worth and value issues ie. I’m not good enough or worthy enough.

THE TIMES: A TIME TO PAUSE AND REFLECT

Its important to mention that this research was conducted five months into the pandemic. People had started slowing down a little and had already begun reflecting on what was important in their lives. Most of them admitted they didn’t need to do as much as they used to and said they were looking at how they could:

  • simplify or downsize their lives
  • make a difference in the lives of others
  • make more time to pursue their passions and dreams
  • seek connection within their local communities and families
  • travel within Australia.

The research also showed that whilst people knew the benefits of finding their purpose, there were obstacles that prevented them from getting on this path.

Research insights

THE DISCOVERY: INSIGHTS THAT REDEFINED MY GOALS

Questions about life purpose can arise at any time in life. However, the research showed this was especially prevalent during times of transition or crisis.

My research subjects revealed that it was only after they encountered one of (what I call) Life’s Shipwreck Moments that they stopped to ask themselves:

  • What on earth am I here for?
  • What makes me truly fulfilled?

This generally happened half way through life’s journey and for some, in the latter part of their lives. Some of their encounters were life-changing ones that included:

  • divorce
  • early loss of a close friend due to work stress
  • spouse having to go into care
  • a scam that left them financially ruined
  • diagnosis of a brain tumour.

RESEARCH PRODUCED A CURVE BALL

It was during the analysis phase that I started to question whether something could be done to help people discover their purpose sooner, rather than later on in life.

One of the top five regrets at the end of life was: I wish I’d had the courage to live a life true to myself, not the life others expected of me and do things that really mattered.

The Guardian

According to The Guardian, one of the top five regrets at the end of life was: I wish I’d had the courage to live a life true to myself, not the life others expected of me and do things that really mattered. When people looked back on their life it was easy to see how many of their dreams had gone unfulfilled and they had to acknowledge the choices they did and did not make.

I started to think about how great it would be to design a solution that helped people discover their purpose sooner, rather than later, in life. Would some of ‘life’s shipwreck moments’ be avoided altogether? What if people said Yes, instead of No to their dreams and passions? Could I design a solution that helped people achieve this?

THE APPROACH: UNDERSTANDING THE DEMOGRAPHIC

Creating an empathy map and persona of my users helped me gain a deeper understanding of their pains and frustrations, their goals and needs and their behaviour. I learnt that my users:

  • were extremely busy and experiencing burnout
  • didn’t have much time to relax and unwind
  • lacked positive role models who did things differently
  • believed the lie that high levels of stress are part of life and you could not have healthy work boundaries
  • felt trapped and craved a simple life/inner peace
  • wanted to live more meaningful lives but did not feel they could carve out a different life for themselves.

THE FRAMEWORK: HOW I GOT THERE

The understanding gained while putting together the empathy map and personas, guided me in coming up with a design solution that was wholistic and supportive.

The research also indicated that when people faced this dilemma:

  • they didn’t find a place where they could get the guidance they needed to find direction
  • whilst they wanted to find meaning and purpose, they didn’t know who would be able to help
  • they found it challenging to find an inspiring group where others had been on similar journeys
  • most of them just fumbled their way through till they came across something that they felt passionate about

Most people who were faced with this dilemma just fumbled their way through till they came across something that they felt resonated with them.

Research insights

Competitive analysis revealed there wasn’t one place that provided a range of services and support and this is how Your PAL (Purposeful, Authentic Life) and The PAL Team was birthed. Your PAL is a ‘safe place’ for people to discover their purpose and their unique blueprint for life.

THE VISION: CREATING A BLUEPRINT, A UNIQUE ROADMAP

My vision is to create a solution that will assess people’s values, skills, passions, strengths, experiences and the contribution they would like to make to the world. Based on their responses, detailed reports would be generated that would provide possible:

  • career options
  • work environments best suited to them
  • ‘altruistic’ passion projects they could be involved with and much more.

This would help them build more meaningful lives based on their unique identities. There would be a community aspect built into this website and people could become valued members and join a community of like-minded people inspiring and encouraging one another. Social channels of connections would also help them stay connected.

WHY INCLUDE ALTRUISTIC PROJECTS

Further research found that an altruistic and ‘self-expansive’ purpose was strongly associated with well-being. (‘Self-expansive’ ie. a person’s sense of purpose to grow, to expand themselves and their horizons and fulfil their potential. This often means following a creative path or a path of personal or spiritual development.)

Altruism is fulfilling because it connects us to other people and helps us transcend the pre occupation with our own desires or worries. In other words, rather than encouraging consumerism and competitiveness, we should encourage altruism, creativity and spirituality.

Further research found that an altruistic and ‘self-expansive’ purpose was strongly associated with well-being… In other words, rather than encouraging consumerism and competitiveness, we should encourage altruism, creativity and spirituality.

THE DESIGN SOLUTION: YOUR PAL (Your Purposeful Authentic Life)

The solution chosen was a website (also accessible on a tablet). The reasoning for this design solution was that discovering your purpose is an important journey that takes time and focussed energy. Its an activity that shouldn’t really be done on the go. So it is important for people to be more deliberate about putting time aside to do the assessment and make their decisions.

Your PAL’s mission is to help people uncover their unique purpose so they can live a purposeful authentic life. When they become PAL Team members, they can:

  • create a customised blueprint to guide their Purposeful Authentic Life (PAL) journey
  • hire coaches for one-on-one personalised guidance towards their PAL
  • attend workshops, retreats and events for personal and professional growth
  • access free tests to get better acquainted with their real self.

VISUALISING THE USER JOURNEY

The initial drawing of the user flow displayed, started out as a sketch of my thoughts. As I started to develop it, I realised it needed to be a lot more detailed, structured and ordered.


Initial sketch of my user flow thinking about how the user would interact with the site

The research had indicated that people wanted to feel a sense of belonging and do the journey with others. The membership portal allows users to do just that – join an exclusive club and become valued members.

I progressed the user journey by creating three sections showing the user’s journey from the time they first encounter the website, to when they decide to become valued members of the PAL Team:

  • Encounter: the user visits your PAL and is learning more about your PAL, the team and what this site is all about
  • Explore: the user gets a more detailed understanding of what Your PAL’s offerings are and what it means to discover and live your PAL.
  • Exclusivity: the user realises they want to be a valued member of this exclusive club because it can help them on their journey. They join The PAL Team because they realise that other members can also become mentors and/or guide them on their journey as they seek to keep learning and growing.
The user flow is now divided into different sections that show the users first encounter, followed by their exploration of the site and finally the user joins the exclusive club to be more invested and to gain a sense of belonging

Since creating the user flow, I introduced a shop where 100% of the profits from sales will be donated to a charity. This will provide users the opportunity to make a purposeful purchase. I did this to show PAL ‘in action’ and how easily users can start their PAL journey, should they choose.

ESSENTIALS TO LAUNCH

The MVP was a great tool that helped me plan the different stages of product development.

Using this tool was so great because I could see exactly what features I needed to develop to launch an effective, engaging product that provided great value to my users and got them started on their journey towards happiness and fulfilment.

A list of features for phase two include:

  • a list of mentors for members to contact
  • volunteer opportunities with reputable not-for-profits and charities that members could explore

A list of features for phase three includes:

  • digital vision board creator
  • digital boards games on strengths, values and passions for friends and family to participate in
  • an online journal for members to jot their ideas and keep a record in the one place, as they continue their journey

THE PRODUCT: SKETCHING OUT MY IDEAS

I started sketching out ideas for the main site and included the following content that would help guide the users when they first encountered the site:

  • home page (including details about what is a purposeful authentic life, the blueprint for your PAL, a your PAL audit and a button to join the PAL team)
  • get inspired page (featuring inspiring videos of those users who had discovered their PAL and were living it)
  • a shopping page (products page that donated 100% of profits to a charity, offered the opportunity to swap/sell your good quality pre-loved items)
  • a join the PAL team page.
Low fidelity wireframes for the main site

The low fidelity wireframes helped me finalise the information architecture and organise the content so members would have an intuitive and enjoyable experience.

I then developed low fidelity wireframes for the membership site. This included pages that offered information on how to access the following solutions:

  • your unique blueprint for your PAL (the assessment tool and navigation through this section)
  • coaching packages
  • events (learning and development, training programs and weekend retreats)
  • free resources (for people to get value from the site, if they were not comfortable about committing financially)
Low fidelity wireframes for the membership site, The PAL Team

DEVELOPING THE INTERACTIVE PROTOTYPE FOR USER TESTING

Struggling to name this site the desire was to have a solid identity that people could relate to. Coming up with Your PAL (Purposeful Authentic Life) was exciting because of the dual meaning it had ie. your friend for life, which resonated perfectly with the project.

Your PAL and the PAL Team logos

High fidelity wireframes and an interactive prototype was created for users to experience the website. User testing would help me observe how users accessed information, how intuitive they found the experience, whether they found all the information they were anticipating, how easy it is for them to become a valued member, purchase products and access the free resources available.

It was also important to test some of the UX writing used on the site and get feedback on the success messaging that were used.

High fidelity wireframes for the Your PAL site. Helping people understand what it means to live with purpose and authenticity. Users can also get ideas and inspiration from those who have done this journey before them

In order to give users a great experience, I created feedback messages to let them know they had successfully completed certain tasks eg. when purchasing decisions were completed. In this way, users were provided with the ‘whole experience’ just as if the site was live and running. This also meant they could comment on how the experience made them feel, and how I could make their experience even better.

THE OUTCOME: USER TESTING AND ANALYSIS

The user tests were extremely successful with growing interest in the Your PAL product.

Users particularly loved the success messaging screens and the feedback messages and some were so excited with these messages they suggested additional ways to further improve the messaging.

Users were also extremely thrilled and pleasantly surprised to encounter a massive page that listed a wide range of free resources: including tools and tests, free challenges etc that were available to them, in the event they were not in a financial position to purchase things.

High fidelity wireframe of the Freebies page with a lot of interesting resources

My research showed that people struggled finding support and guidance and users were also very excited to see the events page and coaching options available.

Extremely great insights gained at the user testing stage resulted in a series of iterations. The major iterations are listed below, and displayed: making buttons more visible on the pages improving the messages on success pages changing the ‘generate my blueprint’ icon into a ‘submit’ button for more intuitive design removing pricing from the main PAL Team page to encourage users to understand offerings adding an opportunity on the top bar to sign up and login to become a valued member (more details below on this section)

The sign up/login process went through some major changes after user testing:

  • a tab to join the team was provided on the nav bar however, some users missed it. This functionality underwent significant iterations and I created a bar at the top of the site to provide users a sign up/login opportunity
  • submit button had to be made more prominent on the login page as some users missed the original button
  • returning customers needed to have a login page

A Sign up / Login nav bar was placed at the very top of the site. Further user testing proved this was a much more effective option and none of the users had trouble trying to locate how to become a valued PAL Team member.

LEFT: The submit button was not as prominent and was being missed by the users.
RIGHT: The submit button was changed to red so users did not miss it.

On the membership sign-in page, the submit button was changed to red so it became more prominent. This was done after user testing showed a few users missed the button when it was in the dark green colour. Also, if users accidentally came to this page they had the option to login from this screen as well.

Returning members are welcomed back with a friendly, welcoming message that reads, “We’re glad your back!”.

During my user tests, one of my testers had a 16 year old who was in the process of trying to figure out what career would interest him. He was given a massive career book that he is making his way through.

She thought the Your PAL assessment tool would have been extremely helpful to assess his capabilities and make suggestions for him to explore. She did mention the younger generation like to do everything on their phones, so there could be an opportunity to create an app in phase two or three. I will need to do more user testing to confirm there is enough demand for an app.

Final iterations incorporated the following feedback received from the latest user tests:

  • a simplified sign-up form was designed to keep things easy
  • a page explaining the multiple benefits of living a purposeful authentic life and providing users with inspiration
  • creating better messages on success pages and key action buttons
  • simpler questions in some of the assessment categories, adding radio buttons and making it easier to respond.
LEFT: Original member sign-up page had too many fields and was proving overwhelming.
RIGHT: Simplified member sign-up page with better messaging, encouraging more users to join.

Below are two feedback messages the user receives as soon as they process a payment. They make the most of the opportunity and ask users to ‘share this site’ with their tribe if they found it helpful. During the user tests, users asked if a link could be added to make it easier for the user to share the link immediately with friends and family. This was a brilliant idea and so it was incorporated into these screens.

Here are two feedback messages the user receives as soon as they process a payment. They make the most of the opportunity and ask users to ‘share this site’ with their tribe.

The feedback messaging was improved on these two pages based on user feedback. We changed the wording to ‘Congratulations!’ instead of ‘Thank you!’ because it celebrated the users on their decision and backed them in their decision to start this journey, no matter how small or big the step was. I noticed this message pleasantly surprised the users, during our final user tests.

A brand new page was added to the main Your PAL site to explain to users the benefits of living a purposeful, authentic life that aligned with their values. It also features a couple of inspiring videos of other people who have already started this journey.

High fidelity wireframe for a deeper understanding and benefits of living a Purposeful Authentic Life

This was the final set of high fidelity wireframes.

NEVER FORGET WHO YOU ARE

I am reminded of the scene from the Lion King when Musafa says to Simba: Remember who you are… Remember!

Image credit: Walt Disney

Life can be pretty tough and if we let it, it can take everything from us ! You can re-discover who you are and take back your heart. The journey won’t always be easy, but it will be totally worthwhile!

WHO COULD BENEFIT

This product can bring hope and passion to a wide range of people including:

  • kids trying to figure out what careers to choose
  • people who are financially successful but not feeling satisfied with life
  • people keen to find purpose and meaning
  • people who are ready to live life more authentically and closely aligned to their values and who they are.

My next steps are to look at partnering with the:

  • Mental Health Commission
  • Department of Education High Schools Universities
  • Corporate organisations

People with a strong sense of purpose are better able to handle the ups and downs of life. Purpose can offer a psychological buffer against obstacles—thus, a person with a strong sense of purpose remains satisfied with life even while experiencing a difficult season of life. These people know how to ‘turn­ life’s lemons into lemon­ade’.

You are a masterpiece. There is no one else like you, so be your unique beautiful self. The world is waiting… to experience your genius!