Palm is a Christian Spiritual Growth app that empowers Christians to align their plan with God’s by putting Christ back on the throne of their ever-glorified to-do lists. Palm as it exists today was created in a semester of research, ideation, design, and user testing beginning in September 2020. View the original Palm concept.
Conducted market and user research, created user profiles, set the product vision and phased feature set, and designed the user experience and interface.
Market research, user interviews, and secondary app audits
User profiles, product vision, app interaction model, wireframes, and testing
Mobile app, desktop calendar plugin, watch app, and app promotion designs
When I began this project, I already had the final solution in mind. However, I knew that ignoring my assumptions and collecting real data were essential to developing a useful and marketable product. Check out my case study book for full detail on my research process and findings.
Market Research Surveys
I conducted a survey on personal planning methods that had 97 participants from a range of locations and industries and a more faith-focused follow up survey for 14 of those respondents.
Related App Audits
I audited 15 related mobile apps to get an idea of what interactions, features, and flows were working well.
Finally, I interviewed 7 potential Palm users about their personal planning methods, faith identity, and spiritual habits.
The results of this survey taught me a few things. First, most people (77%) plan on a day-to-day basis, so my final solution had to primarily focus on day-to-day life (versus weekly or monthly). Second, there was a big gap between how many people said faith was important (67%) and how many considered it a priority (8%).
In the follow up survey responses, it was clear that people are most comfortable with the most flexible and commonly discussed spiritual practices, such as prayer (87%), attending Sunday services (59%), and worship (49%). However, the most shocking find was that 0% had a plan for spiritual growth, therefore 77% struggled to hold themselves accountable to their spiritual practices.
One interesting and unseen insight was from Life360, a family safety membership-based app. With this app, family members are automatically notified of others' locations and can easily check in or send an "SOS" message. This concept ultimately inspired the idea for automated accountability updates within Palm.
Talking with possible users face to face helped me clarify the boundaries of my audience. In all of my interviews, the five themes listed below came up consistently and helped me frame my thoughts around both the problem Palm is addressing and many possible solutions.
Connecting with individuals outside of daily in-person interactions with family and co-workers for accountability and inspiration
Engaging with faith-based articles, videos, and podcasts outside of straight Bible reading for inspiration and help with understanding
Information and guidance for the practical parts of life (fitness, parenting, etc.) for help with aligning behaviors to personal values
Information and guidance to help with spiritual growth and application of Biblical principles to daily life
The strict demand for integration, syncing, and ease of use for any new digital products to be introduced into their daily life
Once I had collected as much qualitative and quantitative data on my users, their struggles and motivations, and how other apps addressed related needs, the real work began. View the case study book for more detail on my user profiles, product vision, app features, and how it all came together in the clickable prototype.
There are three distinct groups within the Palm user base. First is Hannah, the young intern that wants to strengthen her confidence and identity in her faith. Next is Michael, the thirty-something entrepreneur and dad trying to give his faith and his family more than just his leftover energy. Third is Thomas, the middle-aged, established dad who has a little more time on his hands to be intentional about making a difference in his world.
The current process of prioritizing faith is different for every believer, but there are some patterns. The first issue is that spiritual practices like studying scripture, attending church, solitude, and generosity are the first to go when everyday life takes over. The next issue is that believers aren’t as confident in their pursuit of spiritual practices as they are in pursuing work projects or family affairs. Finally, we are often not held accountable to our spiritual practices through our existing personal relationships. Christians need a new process for spiritual growth that recenters their technology-driven lives on biblical principles of discipline, godly insight, and relationship.
Our culture is in a hurry and our busyness has become a source of self-worth—but this is not what God intended for us. Palm will bridge the gap between Christians’ intentions and actions to strengthen their relationships with God by providing clear paths for spiritual growth, relevant Christian content, and digital tools for strengthening accountability relationships.
Palm meets each of the main needs identified in my research with a core feature. Baseline spiritual practices tracking strengthens faith-based habits. Curated Christian lifestyle content informs and inspires. Action-oriented paths provide guidance for spiritual growth in any area of life. Group messaging and automated updates build in accountability.
The five core screens are shown across the center of the diagram. These core screens are linked in the main navigation. Each of these five screens have corresponding flows that integrate the core features of Palm: completing baseline items, following paths, group messaging, and discovering relevant content. The black screen labeled, “start here,” is the screen users land on after log in and every time they use the app (unless a notification with another specified entry point is selected).
Wireframing helped me clarify screen layouts for further design and development, make sure every user interaction is accounted for, and develop testable prototypes. Shown here is just an example of the app wireframes. View the case study book for more detail on this part of the process.
Getting feedback on the concept through online user testing was crucial to tailoring the Palm app experience to users. To make sure I was grounding my design in data, I conducted tests on a low-fidelity, sketched wireframe prototype and a high-fidelity digital wireframe prototype.
The most regularly used features of Palm (marking off completed baseline practices and steps) and the most tedious features (scheduling reminders and building custom paths) can be made easier by pulling these features into users’ existing task management workflows. The first way to achieve this will be the Palm Google Calendar Plugin, with more plugins or desktop applications on the horizon based on adaptability and user testing. Making Palm features more accessible and usable for busy users will make Palm more integral to users’ day-to-day spiritual growth approaches and create more opportunities for lasting personal impact.
Dedicated watch users love effortless access to information and simple notification management. Bringing verse focuses, baseline tracking, step tracking, and simple group interactions to the wearable experience will empower users that want and need disruption from their day-to-day in order to change passive spiritual habits. Beyond these features, phase two of Palm adds even more value to the watch experience with guided exercises for several baseline practices. The Palm watch experience will put spiritual depth and habit building at users’ fingertips no matter their environment or head space.
When it came time to design the user interface, I had a few goals in mind. First, I wanted to tie the app concept throughout the visual design by introducing palm leaves or related design elements. Second, I wanted to make sure the design did not end up feeling too feminine and therefore alienate a lot of potential users. Finally, I knew Palm was content-heavy, so it needed to be extra light feeling and accessible. To make sure I met these goals, I created several moodboards and kept my user profiles in mind throughout the design process.
This design direction is uplifting, minimalistic, and natural. Since Palm is encouraging growth in a personal aspect of people’s lives, positivity will be key to retaining users. The minimalism of clean lines and open spaces helps make this content-heavy app more digestible and approachable. Applying some natural elements recalls the name and story behind the app, reminding users of why they are there in the first place—to glorify Jesus by laying down their everyday palms.
Encouragement cards throughout the app change periodically to keep users interested. Leaf markers hold users accountable and are reminders that it’s all just part of growing. Fruit illustrations show progress and encouragement to keep growing. Navigational and functional iconography help users know where they are and where to go next within the app. The Palm user interface is designed to bring clarity, direction, and encouragement.
Schedule steps by simply dragging them into your calendar. Keep scripture at the center of your work day. View and manage your paths from your desktop. The Google Calendar Plugin makes integrating Palm into your schedule easy and delightful.
View your verses anytime and anywhere. Mark off your baseline and steps on the go with just a swipe and a tap. Keep God at the center of your day, even when you're running between meetings with Palm for Apple Watch.
The Palm app icon represents the concept by depicting a palm tree, cross, and open Bible all in one design element. It also uses the same colors and styles as the user interface to preview the experience for potential users. The app store screenshots give interested viewers the value propositions of Palm in a simple and visual way while also previewing the Palm user interface.
I learned so much about user-centered design, time management, and flexibility from this project. Two key takeaways are the importance of real data and empathy. Firstly, I learned that it takes significant qualitative and quantitative data to develop user profiles that guide great design for real market segments. Further, talking with people outside of your suspected niche is key to drawing lines around user groups. Second, I learned that what people want when they are on their phone versus looking at their work calendar or running between meetings varies drastically, and good design fits into each of those moments gracefully. All in all, this process has been a blessing, and I am excited to apply my learnings to my work moving forward.
Where to Go From Here
All along the way, I have had mentors that have encouraged me that what I have accomplished so far will not be the end of Palm. I plan to continue working on making Palm a reality because I believe strongly that the intersection of good design and the leading of the Holy Spirit is where many lives will be transformed.