Migraine Diary

Migraine Diary

Project Details

Timeframe: January – April 2013
Skills: UX Design
Tools: Illustrator, Paper Prototyping, Omnigraffle
Mobile app design developed for an iPhone 4

Prior to attending graduate school at NYU, I took a course in User Experience Design offered by General Assembly. Throughout the course, I worked on designs for a mobile app to track migraines and headaches.

The Problem
Approximately 18% of American women and 6% of American men experience migraines (~36 million people). Migraines are considered a chronic neurological disorder characterized by extreme headache, and a variety of symptoms – nausea, light sensitivity, fatigue, and cognitive impairment. Migraine triggers include everything from sleep, schedule, changing routine, mood, skipped meals, stress, hormones, weather, loud noises, and odors.

Unfortunately, most “migraneurs” do not know the particular combination of factors that trigger their headaches. 90% of those who suffer a migraine attack are not able to work during their migraine leading to $13 billion in lost labor annually.

Design Goals

  • Allow user ability to quickly and easily track headaches even if experiencing extreme pain and cognitive impairment
  • Help user figure out his or her migraine triggers
  • Encourage user to set goals to decrease headache frequency and avoid triggers

User Persona

Competitive Analysis
As part of the design process, I reviewed headache tracking apps currently on the market. I found only a handful of diary applications dedicated to tracking migraines and headache episodes such as iHeadache and My Migraine. The apps succeeded in:

  • Providing user with information and assurance about why collecting certain information, especially relevant given the apps are designed to collect personal health information
  • Provide user with ability to create a report of headache history to show doctor
  • Allow customization of diary form to create own symptoms, triggers, medications, etc.
  • Calendar view of headache episodes to visualize headache frequency over time
  • Detailed charts to show user frequency of symptoms, triggers, etc

However, the actual user experience and visual design of the apps was severly lacking:

  • Diary apps feel clinical and impersonal as if doctor created the application and user is filling out medical forms for an appointment, feels like work
  • Don’t allow user to track headache that lasts longer than 1 day, even though migraines can last anywhere from a few hours to days
  • Migraines cause cognitive impairment, light sensitivity and extreme pain. Diary apps do not take these factors into account in the design. Screens are bright white, buttons are small, and questions are repetitively worded
  • Apps don’t track location or weather, missed opportunity to track weather triggers
  • Apps are not “sticky”, and do not provide enough reason for user to continue to engage with and use the application
  • Could be improved upon by providing more data to user and gathering more data from other apps to help user understand triggers

Mobile App Feature Set

  • Profile/Dashboard: customized profile screen with migraine history, weather and location
  • Headache Diary: Personable diary entry form allows user to track multiple headache episodes per day or headache that lasts for more than 1 day
  • Headache Calendar: visual representation of migraine frequency
  • Track Triggers: user can authorize app to communicate with other apps user to help user track triggers.
  • Personable Visual Design: personal and engaging visual design
  • Dim Screen: when user logs headache episode, screen will automatically dim

User Flow


Splash Screen / Location Notification

Headache Screen / Diary Screen

Pain Rating / Triggers Screen

Medication Screen and Active Headache Screen

Identifying Triggers Screen and Sync Screen

The goal of using Migraine Diary is to discover patterns that are meaningful and can be acted upon. One of my joys in developing this app was learning about the Quantified Self-Movement whose motto inspired this app and its direction: self knowledge through numbers. While I don’t believe a mobile app can cure headaches, I do believe the data collected by phones could provide users with a wealth of information that could help pinpoint headache causes.

Date:May 19, 2015

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