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Tech Blog

The Latest at nOCD: Android Update

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Because I know how it feels to have OCD, it tears me apart every time I have to tell someone that the Android version isn’t ready. So today I’d like to apologize for all the vague explanations we’ve been giving, and tell you why the Android version has been delayed. Then I want to tell you about our plans to release nOCD for Android in 2018.

In the past few years, management of our iOS app has fully occupied our part-time development team and pushed back any plans we had made for Android. We knew we would need full-time developers, so we focused on growing our business to make this financially possible. But the most important thing we have at nOCD is our community, and we should have been more transparent with you throughout this process.

In 2018, we’re committed to offering you nOCD on Android. We started the new year by hiring two full-time engineers who will be working to build a great experience for you. We’re working hard to learn from any issues our iOS users have faced so that the Android app will be the best nOCD experience we’ve ever offered. And we’re building a great community every day by creating the best resources for OCD awareness and treatment.

As you probably know, half of our team has obsessive-compulsive disorder. We know how difficult it is to cope with frightening thoughts all the time, and we’ve all endured the isolation of having nobody understand what you’re going through. To make sure we’re not leaving anybody stranded, we plan to give you more regular updates on our progress.

Your enthusiasm about nOCD motivates us every day, and your willingness to trust us on your path to recovery from OCD means more to us than anything else. Thank you for your continued support as we enter another productive year with lots of exciting plans. Please continue to check back for more nOCD news updates on those plans, from the Android app and innovative new resources on our website to exciting collaborations with people doing the latest OCD research. We’ll all need to work together to come up with better solutions to mental health issues, and we look forward to sharing the next part of that journey with you.

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How did nOCD come to be?

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Whether you’ve been following us on social media for a while, found out about the nOCD app from a friend, or just stumbled across our blog, you might be a bit confused about what nOCD is and where it came from. We’ve already covered some of the basics in our post about the nOCD team, but we’d like to give you a clearer picture of why all of this exists in the first place, and where it’s headed next.

The Beginning: From Worried to Worse

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Stephen grew up in suburban Chicago, playing football and frequenting the local Italian restaurants with his family. As a kid he sometimes suffered bouts of intense worry about becoming sick, or even getting cancer, but mostly things were fine. When he finished high school in 2012, things were looking up: not only was he heading to college in Texas, but he’d be the quarterback of their football team.

By the time he was a sophomore in college, Stephen’s anxiety had only gotten worse. His old compulsions of looking things up for reassurance– the old WebMD Symptom Checker trick that many of us know too well– were no longer keeping the daily worry at bay. He made it home for a break from school, and then his symptoms reached their peak. Stephen could barely leave the house, suddenly reduced from performing at his best to simply getting through the pain and making it to the end of each day.

In Therapy: Good Treatment Is Hard to Come By

The distress became so bad that Stephen felt he wouldn’t be able to stand it much longer, so he set out to figure out what was going on and get it treated. He looked online first, and connected with psychologists who told him he would just need to fight the thoughts, or maybe move away from home. These clinicians gave him a lot of advice, but nobody really taught Stephen any strategies for getting better.

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Even once he finally secured an appointment with an expensive OCD specialist, Stephen didn’t learn everything he needed to know. And he found that the symptoms he experienced in between his therapy sessions could quickly become overwhelming. It was extremely difficult to complete ERP (exposure and response prevention) homework while already in the midst of a crisis, and an hour of treatment per week wasn’t enough to prepare for the 167 other difficult hours he would face alone.

The Solution: OCD Treatment on a Smartphone

Finding that there was nothing else out there, Stephen came up with his own solution: an application on his phone that would allow him to do ERP exercises and get help during an OCD episode, while tracking data on where he was when the symptoms hit, how severe the symptoms were, and how long they took to subside. His phone was always with him, and his friends never asked why he was using it.

While working on something for his own treatment, Stephen knew that it would benefit lots of other people who were struggling to get treatment for their OCD symptoms. The app would make it much easier, and much cheaper, for people to find treatment, stick with it, and get better. No longer would it take 17 years on average for people to even get the right diagnosis and start on what would likely be a long journey through OCD treatment.

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Team Building: Talented People with Close Ties to OCD

From then on, Stephen has worked tirelessly to build the nOCD app and the community around it. But a big part of nOCD’s success has been Stephen’s decision to surround himself with other people who are driven to help people with OCD and highly skilled at what they do. Because around 1 in 40 American adults has OCD, most people have some association with OCD through friends or family. nOCD is no exception: all of its team members either have OCD themselves or know someone who does. And when you’re close to this disorder, it doesn’t take long for you to wish there were more ways you could help.

From summer 2014 through fall 2016, the nOCD team grew as Stephen invited people from around the country to take on different roles. While Stephen focused on meeting researchers, clinicians, and business partners, developers in California and Texas began helping him build the app from the ground up. From UI/UX design to concerns about cybersecurity, nOCD’s talented developers worked with Stephen over this period to get the app ready for release. Meanwhile, nOCD’s team of clinical advisors vetted the app to make sure it adhered to the same treatment standards they would use in their own practices.

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Community Building: That’s All Of You

Around the time the app was released in late 2016, we also began to focus more on bringing people of all sorts into our community. Through social media, a new website, and most recently this brand new blog, we’re working toward our goal of giving everyone a place to learn about OCD and mental health. At 80,000 people and counting we’ve already gathered the largest OCD community in the world, and we’re just getting started. It’s bad enough dealing with OCD, and people shouldn’t have to face the added nightmare of going through it alone.

We can see everything from up here!

A few months ago we moved to a brand new office in a tall building on Michigan Avenue in Chicago. We continue to add team members, allowing us to focus more closely on a bunch of things. Here are three of the main things we’re focusing on:

  1. Continuously improving the nOCD app so it’s more helpful to everyone using it (Also: Yes! There is an Android version in the works.)
  2. Growing our community around the world, and providing the best educational content so misconceptions about OCD fade and people realize it’s a common, treatable mental health condition and not an annoying personality trait
  3. Partnering with more of the best, most knowledgeable people in mental healthcare, business, and tech so we can reach more people around the world and improve what we offer to them

Getting nOCD to where it is today has required constant testing, meaning we would still be at square one without all of our active community members like you who choose to get involved, offer feedback, and help us grow in the right directions. In other words, your constant support is the single most important thing we have at nOCD. Thanks for being a part of this, and for working hard along with us each day to make OCD treatment better for everyone.

Do you have any questions about nOCD or suggestions about what we could be focusing on? Please let us know in the comments!

Well, that’s all for now.

-The nOCD Team

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Whether you’re feeling stuck with OCD, concerned about someone you care about, or just curious what a global community of people working together on their mental health looks like, feel free to check out the nOCD website for more: www.treatmyocd.com

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If You Build It: Learning UX/UI Design From Scratch

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When I was in middle school, I regrettably had little appreciation for my mom’s cooking efforts. I would come home from school every day anticipating to see Mrs. Fields in the kitchen baking me cookies. This unrealistic expectation led to a series of disappointments and a decade’s worth of scoldings. I would often ask myself, sometimes out loud, “How hard can it be to actually make a good meal? It looks so easy.”

(Yum)

I realized years later that, in fact, it’s very hard to cook well, especially under the time constraints my mom regularly faced. My mom had the responsibility of feeding me and my four siblings: five equally obnoxious children who each had unique nutritional needs and taste preferences — and this was just one of her many responsibilities. When we offered unsolicited feedback on her food, although obviously frustrated, my mom listened, researched other recipes, and continuously improved her cooking until my house became known for its food.

Learning to design user-friendly software is similar to learning how to cook- it takes time. In fact, unlike in the movie Field of Dreams, “if you build it, they will most likely not come.” Just like someone learning to cook for the first time, beginner UX/UI designers often have little idea “where to start” when designing an interface, so they just use whatever design feels most intuitive, without doing much research. This often leads to blunt negative feedback, the kind that bratty kids give their parents who are trying to hone their cooking skills on top of a seemingly endless amount of other tasks.

#FieldOfDreams

We had a similar experience at nOCD two years ago when I started building our first UI. Because I didn’t know much about UX/UI design at the time, I created a design that I felt was intuitive, paid a firm to make it look more professional, and shipped it to our users. They hated it with a burning passion, as they expected the app to flow as well as other popular mental health apps like Headspace and Pacifica. I quickly felt a level of frustration similar to what my mom must have felt when my siblings and I gave her grief for her cooking ability. I put all my effort into making a product that I thought people would like, and they spat it back in my face with distaste. It was YEARS worth of work, verbally ripped to shreds in a matter of seconds.

The old nOCD app

I quickly realized I had to do something to avoid losing the company, so I decided to learn UX/UI design myself. I came to the decision while I was at my parents house eating a delicious bowl of chili that my mom made. I thought, “If my mom can learn to cook, then I can learn UX development from trial and error.” In retrospect, the challenge forced me to think through the problem intuitively. Here’s what I did:

1. I created a clean system for collecting “event” data and went through each of the app’s “event funnels”, to objectively understand how users navigated nOCD.

When building any kind of software, it’s crucial to have a clear system in place for collecting event data, since it will allow you to understand which screens get the most traffic and which ones don’t. For example, if you have an app and it logs 10,000 events on your first onboarding scene and 7,000 events on your last, then you can deduce about 30% of your users “bounced” in the onboarding flow.

Here’s the data from the testing period

Taking the time to establish a clean system for tracking event data enabled me and my team to learn about our users quickly- they simply weren’t coming back to the app. This data forced us to ask questions like, “Do we really need this one feature, if it’s not gaining traction? Is the current app providing enough value for our users? Is the app’s user interface too complicated?” From a high level, we noticed a deep UX problem, which required us to take a deep dive into our product.


2. I reached out to people with OCD in our social media community to better understand the problems they faced, in hopes of figuring out how to solve them and improve nOCD.

Finding “Product Market Fit,” the answer to premier UX, is not just about asking questions, it’s about asking the right questions in a manner that will engage your audience enough to reveal deeper levels of meaning. We came to this epiphany when we asked our users via Instagram, “If you could wave a magic wand and fix three things related to OCD treatment, what would you fix?” This question sparked a dialogue that encouraged people from all over the world to not only answer, but also support others who shared their story. From this dialogue, we realized the power of the question, as it revealed a need for people to talk and share their story, the real value proposition.

The Instagram post for feedback

3. I used Sketch to create multiple UI prototypes of a 24/7, in-app community support feature. Then, I created an Invision prototype to get market validation.

The Annotated Sketch wireframe
The Invision prototype

No matter how confident you are in an idea or a new direction, it’s essential to get market validation first using UI mockups. An idea is only an assumption, and making UI mockups is significantly cheaper and more efficient than coding it and releasing it to a user base. There are some phenomenal tools that you can use to build and test UI mockups, such as Sketch and Invision. In Sketch, you can design your UI mockups and easily export them into Invision, a free prototyping service that enables you to turn your mockups into a clickable prototype. After making a clickable Invision prototype, you can then show it to users or videotape yourself going through the flow in QuickTime.

For the nOCD community feature, I created the mockups in Sketch, dropped them into Invision where I made a clickable wireframe, and videotaped myself navigating the feature’s flow in QuickTime to show our user base the feature from a high level. Then we dropped this video into a Google Form, and got over 150 people with OCD to analyze the video and give pointed feedback. Over 90% of the respondents rated the feature a 9/10 or higher, and left incredible feedback. We then had data to support our assumption- proving that a community feature would enhance nOCD’s usability, allowing us to hand off the problem to our brilliant engineers. Our dev team implemented the UX enhancements, and now the app’s two-month retention rate is 25% higher than what it was prior to testing.

The UX mods helped nOCD become the largest online platform for OCD treatment in the world and the highest-rated platform for social cause by UX/UI Awards 2017. We still have a lot of work to do, but if I could thank one person for nOCD’s success outside of my brilliant team, it would be my mom, who taught me to summon the gusto needed to compartmentalize my frustration and improve. Might I add, she is now one of the best cooks around.

#NuffSaid

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