Roa: An App To Help With Depression Detection (and Treatment)

Roa: An App To Help With Depression Detection (and Treatment)

Mental disorders like depression or dysthymia can be difficult to detect on many patients. Roa is an app that measures your habits to establish a score, and helps you detect good (and bad) habits in your lifestyle.

Depression Sucks. No, Really.

Although it can be easily forgotten, depression is one of the biggest problems our society faces. According to the World Health Organization (WHO), depression is the leading cause of disability worldwide, with more than 300 million people of all ages suffering from it.

“Without mental health you can’t live, you can only survive…”

Anonymous reply to survey

Spain is the fourth European country with the most depression cases, just behind Germany, Italy and France. WHO estimates that more than 2 million Spaniards suffer from depression, but more than half of them don’t receive any kind of treatment.

As part of a (fictional) brief from National Wellness Institute (NWI), I started to work on a tool focused on this issue. The NWI’s requirements were that the tool must track the user’s progress and encourage commitment to a healthier lifestyle, and that the UI should reflect an updated image.

Roa, An App To Track Your Mental Health

Roa is a mobile app, designed for iOS and Android devices, focused on three functions:

  • Happiness Score, a way to quantify user’s mental health status according to its habits.
  • Diary, where the user can reflect on their lifestyle, also serving as a way to track user’s daily progress.
  • Tips, custom to every user according to its habits and diary progress.

Roa’s objective is not only to detect depression or dysthymia cases; but also to encourage its users to follow a healthier lifestyle, helping to treat or avoid depression as a final goal.

Prototype Video

How Roa Determines Your Score

One of the main app functions is the “Happiness Score”. With that score the user can easily asses its mental health status, and compare its actual score with past results.

Roa uses a study developed by Universidad de Navarra researchers to determine this score. This study found a connection between depression and the patient’s lifestyle, using data from an existent cohort that was created to detect cardiovascular risk. It uses components like cigarette and alcohol use, physical activity, television exposure, time spend with friends and hours spent working.

The app can calculate your score through two methods. The first one is a survey that the user can complete regularly (on a week or biweekly basis) inside the app. The second way of determinig your score is through the information provided by Apple’s Health platform, with the benefit that Roa would be able to automatically extract and updated data from other platforms and devices like the Apple Watch.

(Apple HealthKit is an iOS exclusive feature; Google Fit or Samsung Health could be used to gather data automatically on Android/Tizen based devices.)

Also, user’s personal input is important to detect patterns in his behaviour. That’s where the “Diary” function interacts with the Happiness Score. It serves as another parameter to influence the final score, using more variables than the survey or the activity data.

UX / UI Research Behind Roa

UX Research

  • First, a Lean UX Canvas was created, breaking down business’ needs, user’s needs, possible solutions and next steps.
  • To determine Business’ needs, three psychologists were interviewed
  • To determine our User Persona, 130 users completed a survey and 5 users were further interviewed.
  • Having in mind the User Persona was determined, an Affinity Map, Empathy Map and User Journey were created.
  • Finally, using all the information generated during research, solutions were ideated and prioritized with the MOSCOW method.

User Personas

Based on the information obtained from surveys and investigation, two User Personas were determined:

  • Main User Persona | Marco (Male / 24 / Single), a person that thinks he might have gone through depression but it was self-diagnosed. He’s happy right now, but he’s worried about his mental health.
  • Secondary User Persona | Daniel (Male / 29 / Single), who has gone through a diagnosed depression before. He wants to avoid it, and he’s searching ways to improve his life.

Competitive Analysis

Competence in this sector can be divided in:

  • Applications based on meditation techniques | Calm, Headspace, Sanvello
  • Applications based on problem-solving techniques, focused on self-help | Daylo, Moodnotes, Happify
  • Applications based on problem-solving techniques, focused on counseling | Moodpath, Talkspace, 7 Cups

Roa embraces an intermediate space between self-help and counseling.


  • Roa’s name is inspired by Icelandic idiom: Róa means “Calm
  • Roa’s logo captures two elements: Old Norse’s Valknut and the shape of a mountain
  • Roa’s colors (orange as main + blue as secondary) were chosen based on a moodboard. The moodboard’s main color is blue; colors were inverted to avoid feelings like loneliness or depression detected on early desirability testings.
  • Roa’s typeface is Sofia Pro; it was chosen as it’s elegant, friendly, versatile and readable.


According to interviews with psychologists, people literally “prefers to spend their money on beers than on a psychologist”. Given the lack of focus on mental health by the Spanish population, Roa shouldn’t monetize through user’s subscriptions or one-time payments. Options include monetizing the platform through health professionals (see Roa’s Next Steps for more information).

Prototyping & Testing

As part of the design process, a low-fidelity and a mid-fidelity prototype were created and tested with users. This helped refine the design, achieving a more visual aspect on the final prototype.

Landing Page

A Landing Page was also designed to reach users through desktop and mobile devices. It includes app screenshots, descriptions, testimonies and a newsletter.

Roa’s Next Steps

With Roa’s goal to treat or avoid depression cases in mind, professional help is essential. Roa doesn’t want to be a substitute of a psychologist or a psychiatrist, and it shouldn’t be used as such by users.

Given this consideration, Roa can be a powerful tool for mental health professionals. It could be used to gather objective information about the lifestyle of a patient, or to track a patient’s progress during treatment.

That’s the reason why the next steps should be focused on integrating Roa’s platform with the work physicians already perform during treatment. It also opens up a way of monetization: the possibility to charge professionals to access the platform.

Focused on the user’s UI, next steps include:

  • Integrating tips on the Happiness Score
  • Applicating gamification into the app to further motivate the user
  • Including Happiness Score survey questions into the Diary



Contributing Editor turned Product Designer. Portfolio >

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