Creating an app that should actually HELP someone without just taking their time and money is not an easy feat. The reasons are varied:

  • Usually the developer stronger knowledge is either in psychology OR technology, quite often in neither.
  • It’s hard to make someone return to a fun game. So it’s much harder to expect people to return to training apps after the first use.
  • People psychological issues are personal, and often secret.
  • Training can be very boring.
  • By using a mobile device people are very prone to distractions.

Therefore, there are a few things we should take into consideration when designing the digital experience:

  • Simplify things as much as possible, and let users jump straight into training without too much “meta”. Content has to be king here, and not gamification.
  • Let users remember they have this app installed by sending them local push notifications 1 day, 2 days or 7 days after the last play. Don’t be too obtrusive and respect their privacy.
  • The app icon, description and title should not be too telling – so if someone peeks into your phone screen at work, they shouldn’t be able to tell you have an app about depression, for example.
  • Because training using CBT methods can be boring and repetitive, it’s possible to use one or more of these strategies:
    • Be quick and let the user train for less than 5 minutes a day
    • Show them progress (but meaningful stuff, not just tons of data)
    • Give as much as you can as quickly as possible. don’t let users train for a month before they get to the core of the method.
    • Make the first session compelling. Analyse using metrics if users finish the first major task on the first session. If not, improve the experience until they do.
    • Following the previous point, your day 1 retention should be above 30%.

The challenges in training apps are quite big, however the payoff – seeing people using the app and improving mentally – is priceless.