Calm - Group Meditation

UX/UI Designer

In the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic, people across the world have experienced significant disruptions in their daily lives. Many face feelings of isolation and depression as a result of quarantine restrictions. In order to improve psychological health during this time, mental health professionals are encouraging people to find ways to maintain connections and develop healthy habits. Given this need in the current climate, I was inspired to add a synchronized group meditation feature to the Calm app, providing people the means to form healthy habits and maintain their connections with others.

The Overarching Challenge

I wanted to find a way for meditators to build healthy habits and also connect with others despite the social-distancing restrictions imposed by Covid-19.

Understanding the Problem

I performed both primary and secondary research in order to achieve the following goals: 

  • Learn about Calm’s current user demographics and mission.  
  • Complete a UX audit of Calm’s existing app to learn more about its functionality.  
  • Learn about the ways quarantine is affecting users’ lives.  
  • Gain insight into other products that utilize synchronized streaming/listening services.
  • Learn more about the role meditation plays in users’ lives.
  • Learn about how COVID-19 has impacted users’ meditation habits.
  • Identify pain points and positive experiences users have when using existing meditation apps.

Secondary research was an important aspect of this product. I looked into the shifting psychological and social needs of people during quarantine. As I had suspected, many people have experienced heightened mental health concerns. Mental health professionals advise people to do all they can to connect with others and also to establish healthy routines to combat these issues. I learned more about Calm's user demographics and also looked into synchronized streaming services that offer features comparable to the ones I wanted to create.

Challenges and takeaways: Since this was my first time adding a feature to an existing app, it was both challenging to be limited by existing parameters and overwhelming to be faced with the possibilities of adding a new feature. I found that brainstorming was really important during this phase, thinking both about what I could use in my life and also doing more generalized research to learn more about what was needed in the current climate.

Competitor Analysis

Primary research was a crucial part of this project as I wanted to gain insight into meditators' psychology and understand how COVID-19 has affected their lives. I interviewed five meditators over Zoom to further explore my research questions:

I gained the following insights:

  • People have issues with consistency and focus.
  • Group meditation increases motivation.
  • People utilize meditation in order to connect to a sense of calm and relaxation.
  • People utilize meditation in order to instill a sense of quiet and emptiness.
  • People utilize meditation to increase productivity.

Challenges and takeaways: I had assumed that more people would utilize apps/videos to meditate, but I found that this wasn't the case. For this reason, I didn't gather a ton of data on users' experiences with apps, but I did gain a lot of insight about overarching motivations for meditations and specific practices.

Defining the Problem

After creating an empathy map, I distilled my research insights into one persona and problem statement.

Challenges and takeaways: Prior to this project, I hadn't fully grasped the importance of problem statements. I pushed myself to express not just the needs but to extend the statement to encompass how the users' lives will be improved as a result of using this product.


Problem Statement

Users need to participate in synchronized meditation through the Calm app in order to increase accountability, thereby strengthening their meditation practice and reaping its full benefits.

Creating Solutions

User Flows

After defining necessary features, I mapped out flows for three different user journeys. I focused on users wanting to schedule meditations, users joining a pre-scheduled meditation, and users proposing changes to a scheduled session.

Challenges and takeaways: For the first time, I considered multiple types of users. This pushed me to think about different use cases. I also thought more about the different choices users could make in various flows and tried to plan for all possibilities.

Link to User Flows


I moved on to sketching my main flows. This was a crucial step in connecting to the existing app and merging my design with it.

Challenges and takeaways: It was really difficult to find ways to add my feature without disrupting the existing page layouts. I wonder if I was too focused on leaving the existing designs as is, especially on the individual meditation pages. If I were to go back to this stage, I might have explored more layouts and been less afraid to play with the pages to see if overarching design could be improved as I accommodated the new feature.

UI Screens

I jumped right into my UI screens after sketching. I decided to skip wireframes as I was relying so much on the existing layout.

Challenges and takeaways: I had to come up with creative ways to reproduce the screens. Calm was especially difficult to work with as the app utilizes a lot of overlays, gradients, and background images. I relied as much as I could on screen shots and created new components when necessary.

Flow 1: Schedule a Group Meditation

Flow 2: Join a Group Meditation


Flow 1 - Flow 2

Testing the Feature

I conducted usability testing with five participants over Zoom in order to test out the two flows.

General results:

  • 100% of participants completed both tasks.
  • Three participants didn’t realize they could scroll down on the mobile screen, so they missed the “join session” button in Task 2; however, they all reported that this was an issue with the prototype, not the actual “join session” flow.
  • 100% of participants reported that the tasks were relatively straightforward.  
  • The time to complete Task 1ranged from 1:00 to 1:40 minutes. The time to complete Task 2 ranged from0:15-0:35.

Task 1:

  • 4/5 users encountered issues of low severity surrounding the durations for solo sessions on the anxiety release page. 4/5 users encountered issues of low severity surrounding touch targets.   3/5 users encountered issues of low severity surrounding group meditations tag in the browse section.

Task 2:

  • 5/5 participants clicked on the anxiety release card from the home screen.

Priority Revisions

Given the results of my testing, I focused on the following revisions:

  • The group meditations tag should be re-labelled—it’s confusing because users thought they had to go there to schedule meditations rather than see the ones already scheduled.
  • The invite friends icon should be more prominent.
  • There should be a pop-up reminder to join the group meditation in case users get confused by the durations of the solo meditations. The pre-existing layout of the meditation page should remain the same to keep consistency with the app.

Revised Flow 1 Screens

Revised Flow 2 Screens

Final Thoughts

This was my first time working within the confines of an existing app. I learned a lot by conducting a UX audit and trying to think about why the designers made the choices they did. This is definitely a process I will keep using when working with future products. It was also challenging to merge my vision with the existing design. I attempted to be innovative without being disruptive, working with the confines of the current app as much as I could.

I also learned a lot about the importance of secondary research and brainstorming. I wanted to create a product that addressed relevant needs, which meant doing research both about people's needs in the current climate and all the apps that then addressed those needs. This meant looking outside of just meditation apps and also considering all the ways that people are able to have shared experiences remotely, through such avenues as video and music streaming.

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