Challenge  How might we create tools to help bring people together in meaningful ways?

Solution  Create an end-to-end app with an interface for parents as well as digital and traditional tools for children to enhance family values, simplify lives, and bring families closer together

Client  Philanthropic partners

     René Otto 
Lead UX researcher, product definition, service design, UX design
     Antonio Mendola Lead UX designer, UI designer

Tools  Interviews, group workshops, Miro, Zoom, Figma, paper and pencil

Timeframe   2 weeks

Background  I joined my friend, Antonio Mendola, to help facilitate the design of his passion project "Pushed," a new personal growth app. Through an extremely fast, lean collaboration we created a completely new solution that includes and goes beyond an app. "Yes Day" products enhance daily communication between caregivers and children fostering closer family connections, family values articulation and expression, and meaningful life creation.



First Product - Pushed
We started by reviewing Antonio's "Pushed" app.  His two year-old, high fidelity prototype held a lot of promise. Pushed allowed people to push and be pushed by their friends and family to engage in new activities based on their interests.


Antonio had conducted some competitive research considering platforms that encouraged people getting together in the physical world such as 


He created what he thought would be a more personalized, fun way to urge others to grow and connect in new ways. His panel interviews and user testing with teenagers and millennials in 2019 showed generally positive responses, and we hoped to build upon this foundation, update the UI, and employ Apple's HIG iOS design elements to replace the Android Material design system.

Product Variation- Nudge
I recommended we consider renaming the app "Nudge" based on the book by Richard H. Thaler and Cass R. Sunstein, as "nudge" had a gentler tone.


We decided to look at current comparable apps and websites since a lot has changed in two years, and there were likely more products addressing the same idea. The most relevant ones we found were the Airbnb Experiences app, Red Balloon website, and The Nudge app.


Second Product Variation - Nudge Twist
Realizing that there were not only a lot more digital products on the market, consumers in the U.S. had also become more radicalized in the past two years. People generally longed for more extreme experiences in their lives due to rising political tensions, marginalization of groups of people, hate crimes, violence, the COVID pandemic, and the strong influence of extreme personalities on social media. To address this, we spun "Nudge" into "Nudge Twist." This opened up the possibilities for people to think and grow "outside the box," playfully nudging others with a "Twist." From, "Let's go for a hike on a new trail" to "Let's dress up as superheroes and parade through the city!"

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First Target Users for Nudge Twist, Millennials 25-35

Our target audience was tech enthusiastic millennials ages 25-35 because they are an avid app user group, and would be the most likely to pay for a subscription for a product to enhance their lives. I drafted an interview script and arranged 30 minute Zoom interviews with six participants assuming they would confirm the previous qualitative research that Antonio had done with Pushed two years ago.

Instead we learned

  • 5/6 of the interviewees were generally complacent, set in their ways, and happy "as-is," not looking for new experiences, much less an app to help them find new experiences.

  • The exception 1/6 was a single male who was an outdoor adventurer with a lust for life. 

  • 5/6 of the participants recommended that we interview younger people, teenagers and college age students, since they would likely be more excited about new adventures.


Second Target Users for Nudge Twist, College Students 18-26

Back to the drawing board, we researched relevant apps that college students enjoy.
Seek Discomfort was the most similar to what we were proposing, and we looked at TikTok due to its extremely popularity with this audience. TikTok emotes positive emotions, makes it easy for people to accomplish tasks, and has few barriers to entry. Both apps use challenges as a primary way to engage users. Challenges can be as simple as, "Post a video of yourself doing this bottle cap kick
" or as uncomfortable as "Live a day handcuffed to a friend."

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Unfortunately, this group wasn't interested in our concept either.

In our group Zoom interview session with five college students we walked through our Pushed prototype and explained the Nudge Twist premise.


  • 4/5 interviewees said they would not use the app because it was too "Facebooky" with the social feed, likes, shares, followers (fans) and image posting



  • 4/5 stated that they already use Facebook, Snapchat, and Instagram for those types of social media activities

  • 3/5 said they like the idea of having a closed group of intimate friends to do "Twisted Nudges" with, but said they could get their immediate friends together on their own using direct messaging, and that they wouldn't really be looking to go on extreme adventures with people they didn't know.

  • 2/5 said that doing Twisted Nudges with new people might be a cool feature on a dating app, but they already have dating apps that they use and wouldn't want to use yet another one.

Third Target Users for Nudge Twist, Middle and High School Students 12-15

The college students told us that Nudge Twist might be fun for middle and high school aged kids, so we interviewed three students ages 12-15. They were definitely interested, since most of them had only had their own cell phone for a few years and were embracing apps of all sorts. They especially loved that they could use the app to "dare" their friends into doing crazy things, like pulling up their shirt or pulling down their pants in front of a class full of students or daring a friend to drink or eat something terrible quickly. Because we did not want to facilitate unsafe behavior, we were forced to reconsider our concept again (sigh).


Turning Point—Solve for PAIN

In our three rounds of contacting people to interview the hardest people to get in touch with were parents. Any caregivers to children, even stay-at-home moms were nearly impossible to reach, much less book 30-60 minutes with.  Their lack of accessibility represented a pain point that none of the other groups seems to have, which was a lack of time


Up to this point, our app concept was about enhancing lives and facilitating growth through pushing boundaries with new activities. As each group pushed us to consider younger and younger audiences, we recognized that caregivers to children are the MOST interested in growth and new experiences, not for themselves, but for their children.  So we thought,

“How might we lessen their burden while creating a tool that facilitates growth
and new experiences for the people who need this most -- children? 

The right audience emerges—caregivers

Antonio asked if I had seen the movie, "Yes Day" starring Jennifer Garner on Netflix. I hadn't. He said it was about how parents gave their kids a "Yes Day," meaning the parents said "yes" to everything their kids wanted to do for an entire day in order to prove to their kids that they actually can be fun and they can all have fun together. 


As a parent of two kids myself, I agreed that one of the worst parts of parenting is always having to set parameters around kids' activities and nudge them to grow without feeling like I am nagging them all the time and creating animosity. We wondered, "What if we created an app that motivates children to grow in healthy ways and the reward is a Yes Day, like in the movie?"

The Yes Day app is born!

Stoked with this new concept, we simultaneously did competitive research and interviewed three parents for 15-30 minutes each, and those three conversations shored up incredibly positive feedback for the idea because they had many frustrations with organizing their kids' tasks and systematically motivating them with rewards.


Due to my struggles with my own kids, I delved further into research about family values and children's developmental needs, basing my inquiries off of these two launchpads, The New Adolescence: Raising Happy and Successful Teens in an Age of Anxiety and Distraction, by Christine Carter, and The Big Disconnect: Protecting Childhood and Family Relationships in the Digital Age, by Catherine Steiner-Adair.


Competitive research showed us that there were lots of apps on the market to help caregivers. Many of them were chore managers, some were about family values with deep religious overtones, and many were to help kids learn to manage money. None of them brought family values together with task managing and a reward of family time, or the ability to select a currency type as a rewarding mechanism.


More research indicated these issues:

  • Teens use entertainment screen media for an average of nearly 7.5 hours a day – not including the time they spend using screens for school or homework. [Common Sense Media, 2019]

  • As teens’ time on social media specifically has gone up, so have their depression rates. One study found that, between 2009 and 2017, rates of depression among kids ages 14 to 17 increased by more than 60%. [Journal of Abnormal Psychology, 2019]

  • 80% of students mistake “sponsored content” ads for legitimate news. [NPR, Stanford, 2016]

  • 50% of teens report feeling “addicted” to their phones – as do 27% of parents. [Common Sense Media, May 2016]

  • 88% of teens who use social media have witnessed others being cruel online. Children who are cyberbullied are 3x more likely to engage in suicidal ideation than non-bullied children. [Pew Research Center, May 2018; JAMA Pediatric, May 2014]

  • The average American child receives his/her first smartphone at age 10 [CQ Researcher, 2016]

Solution oriented organizations stated:

“Maintaining and fostering the value of strong families ensures a sustainable development of a country. Strong family with stable values is an excellent instrument of resistance and adaptation to the external world and pressures.” 

[Research Gate, International Scientific Conference, May 2015]

And this got me thinking about caregivers co-creating WITH children:

“Being heard and listened to as respected citizens in their own right enhances children's feelings of importance in their community.”

[Australian government's Institute of Family Studies, June 2011]


We realized that we were simultaneously needing to address the needs of two distinct user groups, caregivers and their children, and various subgroups of children according to their ages.

From our caregiver interviews we were able to clearly define our audiences and create personas, empathy maps, and a storyboard script lining out a day in the life of "Tami."


Having spent most of our design sprint time on identifying people with pain who wanted to grow in new healthy ways, we quickly built a conversation driver app experience for caregivers with these two basic task flows in mind:


Some quick and incomplete low-fi wireframes helped direct our initial app screens and onboarding process content:



Immediately following this we went straight to a conversation driver companion app for kids, ages 10-12 to be able to run both of them past caregivers in a group workshop to see if we were on the right track.

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We gathered caregiver participants and created  two group Zoom workshops.

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In the workshops we explained our overall task flow mission


Walked them through the conversation driver prototypes, one for caregivers, one for 10-12 year olds

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and shared our future vision of additional tactile and touchpoints for children of all ages to be integrated into a complete service design set of offerings


We asked direct questions applicable to our app in the seven main areas of UX research as defined by Ximena Vengoechea, thought leader on UX research

     •  Who is my user and what are their needs?
     •  What features are most important to my users and why?
     •  What motivates people to use an app?
     •  What do people think of my brand?
     •  Is my product usable?
     •  Is my product easy to understand?
     •  If I build it, will they come?

We learned from our workshops 

  • Caregivers are so busy they often don’t have time to effectively manage their kids’ lives

  • Caregivers often know what they value but don’t often articulate “family values” in a way that makes sense to their children

  • Children and caregivers have activities they would like to do with their families

  • Caregivers have tasks they would like their kids to do like chores, getting better grades, and being kinder to others

  • Caregivers would use tools to inspire connection and creativity based on family values

Delightfully, 6/6 caregivers whole-heartedly embraced the idea and offered an abundance of feedback and recommendations, and 6/6 offered up their own children for us to interview and test the child touchpoint prototypes with.



  • Survey with name options for apps to caregivers and children

  • Create priority matrix of next features to add to caregiver app prototype 

  • Test child app prototype with 10-12 year olds

  • Design and test tablet prototype with 5-9 year olds

  • Design and test tactile wall board concepts with 2-5 year olds

  • Create mood boards, logo design, and UI kits for caregiver and child apps
    and tactile touch points

  • Test aesthetic and language palettes with audiences of each touchpoint

  • Apply to high fidelity prototypes

  • Test, iterate, test, iterate, test, iterate..... let caregivers and kids create, through us, what they need



  • Solving for PAIN is more valuable than solving for perceived enhancements or upgrades to life

  • There is a LOT of pain in the world to solve for

  • Not every problem can be solved with a digital product

  • UX design itself is ever changing

  • There are many ways to approach a situation or challenge

  • The most important tool is listening

  • Co-creation is fun and necessary for growth

  • Where there's a will, there's a way, or as Antonio says,

We have to just break it, break it, break it, and keep breaking it until the right thing emerges.  Let the users create it.

It's our job to ask the right questions
and  l i s t e n  .   .      .