(self-initiated, timeline: after-work hours)
Current apps meant to facilitate quitting smoking do not have any aspect allowing for accountability.
An app that not only offers a timer, a supporting community and resources for professional help, but most importantly an app where a buddy system allows for more responsibility to meet the goal of quitting.
ResearchAlongside with NPR's amazing "How To Quit Smoking, With Help From Science" podcast episode, throughout my research I stumbled upon an incredible study finding:
“The American Society of Training and Development found that people are 65 percent likely to meet a goal after committing to another person. Their chances of success increase to 95 percent when they build in ongoing meetings with their partners to check in on their progress.”
Building on both of these resources is what ultimately informed my entire design aimed at maximizing the chances of an attempt to quit smoking being succesful. Thus the idea of an accountability partner or buddy was one, that ultimately needed to be paired with resources to beat or understand at the very least the four-headed dragon of smoking addiction described by Gary Tedeshi in the NPR podcast episode. Each head of this dragon represents an aspect of smoking addiction that we need to tackle and be aware of in order to be successful in our quit-attempt.
The physical aspect alludes to the actual bodily withdrawal symptoms. This can include anything from cravings to nervousness to the inability to focus on anything else and more.
The behavioral aspect points out the habit of the act of lighting up. For many, smoking can mean getting away from their desk and taking a break. Changing that behavior and possibly repopulating this down time with another activity should be considered.
The psychological side of smoking can be our thoughts surrounding our bad habit: do I really need to quit smoking now? How will it really benefit me?
Finally, the social aspect of smoking is perhaps one of the harder facets of the addiction to beat. Over time, it’s possible that smoking is a social act, and even friendships may have been formed over taking breaks together to light up. To quit smoking may mean losing this social connection – something that can be very painful for many.
Two more research papers have served as keystones to bringing this project together. Notably the paper "Quitting smoking" (C.L. Duncan, July 1992) which describes the importance of replacing the first cigarette of the day with a new habit, and finally Yale's School of Medicine that points to the findings that women have a harder time quitting. The app thus needs might need to appeal to women (I recruited my girlfriend to be the judge of graphics), and allow for something novel to be seen every morning to replace the habit.
Analysis + Competition
Many of the apps that are readily available to combat smoking addiction can be reduced to the function of a timer with at most some resources and perhaps an app specific community. But none of the apps had any feature involving accountability.
Thus, the goal was to go far beyond a tool to track time. Creating a community, providing the possibility to partner up and achieve goals together, alongside with resources pointing to professional tried and true help all seemed like a necessary add-on that I believe pushes the functionality of my design beyond the existing options.
Engaging the now non-smokers with ever-evolving graphics was another tactic used to create something new to look towards to every day.
I love doodling. Some of my other projects showcase perhaps better sketches than this one, but I wanted to expose how blunt some of my thought maps can get, my train of thoughts, as well as one of the more final sketches leading to the design below.
Paul is an architect by profession. As the pandemic shifted his workplace to his own living room, smoking has become even more of an escape from his "desk" and overall living space. As he wakes up in the morning, the commute has been replaced by extra sleep and smoking a cigarette on the porch with his coffee in hand. As he starts the day at work, he ends up taking multiple breaks both in the morning and in the afternoon to get away from his desk, as well as his own living space. With not much to do outside, it’s very easy for him to slip into the habit of smoking every time he goes outside of the house to take a break. He can feel his lung capacity and overall energy go down especially during weekend hikes with his family, where even simple walks through nature seem to become harder over time. His wife is a smoker as well, and they're thinking of quitting together.
Paulina works as a journalist for the Wall Street Journal. She works in the field and found out that sometimes smoking and socializing outside with others can lead to the most interesting connections and conversations allowing her to further develop her own research and network. As she grew into the habit further, she frequently takes smoke breaks when she writes to clear her head. She has entertained the idea of switching to a vaping product, but knows that ultimately she’d like to get rid of the habit altogether. She has tried to quit before, but since she doesn't have anyone to hold her accountable, she usually tells herself it's ok to maybe buy another pack.
One of the many findings of a variety of studies suggest that smokers that light up within the first few minutes of their day, are prone to having the least success in an attempt to quit. Engaging the user with graphics that load over time is a direct attempt to give the recent ex-smokers further motivation to keep at it and see their graphic complete after a full year of not smoking. And a small manifestation of their progress is something that they can look forward to every morning.
The buddy system is one of the key features that has been proven to help people meet their goals. These people can be complete strangers but also friends or family that can create an account on the app just for the sake of being a supporting buddy, holding their friend accountable.
Upon the creation of an account and finalizing the choice of available buddies, users can see each other's progress and send supportive messages. Making one's progress not only public but also tied to a specific person, will in theory maximize the chances of a quit attemt succeeding.
One of the important aspects of this app is the possibility to not only be in touch with a buddy, but also with an entire community. As now-ex-smokers login to their account they can engage in the comment section under a selection of forum topics that help them further understand their past addiction that they may be still battling. And links to professional resources, podcasts and research papers will be there to facilitate this understanding, and further solidify the decision to quit.
Throughout the app, the imagery of tabacco products is absent for a reason: to prevent triggering any longing to smoke again. However, a subtle and faded reminder of the action of quitting smoking especially in the logo seemed appropriate. Keeping this put out cigarette as dark and shaded as possible follows the intention described above.
Analyze and Conclude
I started regularly buying my own cigarette packs when I turned 18. With a few breaks here and there (some lasting for numerous months), it's fair to say that I didn't really quit until nearly 6 years later. I remember trying to do so for many times. I tried many things and yet even if the frequency and intensity of my habit became less and less important, I somehow always found my way back to smoking. At some point it became clear that I couldn't just substitute my habit for something else - the disgust for smoking and the decision to quit, needed to come from within and be everlasting. I found out that if not only I had a reason to quit, but more importantly if I volunteerly promised to someone close to me that I wouldn't smoke again, suddenly my own reputation was at stake: if I started smoking again, it meant I couldn't hold my word. This is the root behind this self-initiated study.
Working on this project made me realize the power of UX/UI design. It isn't simply about pretty graphics, good organization and accessibility. It can be about gathering some of the most incredible knowledge, studies, research papers and more from professionals that may have devoted their lives to some of these subjects, and using that to inform the design of a tool that can serve others. And while this case study may be nothing but a paper project, in so many ways, I think I am further understanding the inspiring impact that ideas paired with good UX design can have.