Bluddy is a blood glucose tracking app concept that encourages better diabetes control through a friendly interface, helpful reminders, and fun rewards.
Type 1 Diabetes is a chronic disease affecting an estimated 3 million people in the United States alone. The pancreas of a diabetic does not produce the insulin required to convert glucose from food into energy, resulting in high levels of glucose in the blood. A major component of managing diabetes involves frequently testing your blood sugar with a glucose monitor, and recording those readings so they can be analyzed and assessed. As a diabetic since the age of 12, I can tell you that this kind of sucks.
There are several apps out there that allow you to track glucose readings, but there are severe issues with nearly all of them. Many have not been updated in several years. Some sport a robust feature set, but in doing so become confusing and overly complicated to use. There is a coldness to the interfaces that might feel unfriendly or intimidating to a young person who has just been diagnosed with diabetes. Even Apple’s new Health app invites you to record your glucose reading by asking you to “Add Data Point,” which sounds pretty bleak.
I set out to design a concept for a blood glucose tracking app that someone might actually want to use, or at least take something that they have to do and make it a little less painful and a little more fun.
Tracking and viewing data about yourself can also result in increased mindfulness about certain activities, which can lead to more constructive decisions. For example, Moves might make you more aware of how much or how little walking you’ve done in a day, which can in turn influence you to walk a few blocks instead of take the bus.
My goal was to design a solution that makes logging a glucose reading easy enough to build a habit, and to present that data in a way that makes the user more engaged in the management of his or her diabetes.
Sketching and Ideation
I began with a very loose sketching and ideation phase, where I primarily concerned myself with what features I wanted the app to have and how the different components would work as a whole. During this phase I also began to roughly sketch how certain visual elements might look and how certain screens might be laid out. I find that working on paper at this stage helps me get through ideas quicker and not get precious with the fine details. This first stage cumulates with a very rough initial wireframe, made with sticky notes and hung on my somewhat dreary apartment wall.
Polishing the Wireframe
My next step was to translate the rough wireframe into a cleaner and more thorough wireframe. I experimented with this step, and created something that was less of a visual wireframe and more of a text breakdown of what each screen is made up of, and what actions are available to the user on that screen. This helped me focus on the structure of the app without making any design decisions. While this worked for me in creating an app concept, I would imagine that this process would have to be heavily modified in a real world development situation.
Initial Visual Design
After completing the wireframe, I began the visual design process. This included collecting visual inspiration, as well as developing how the app was going to look. This is also when I settled on the name Bluddy and created the Bluddy character, which in turn influenced the rest of the design.
The name “Bluddy” (a combination of “bloody” and “buddy”) might seem morbid to some, but the inspiration came from a fact of life for diabetics: there is a lot of blood involved. Diabetics are forced to become accustomed and comfortable with blood in a way that few others are, and the Bluddy character is intended to be an inside joke about that comfort. For newly diagnosed diabetics, the character would hopefully be seen as a friend and make the act of pricking your finger several times a day slightly less intimidating.
Finalize Designs and Animations
The last step was to finalize the screen designs and animate key interactions. I knew that motion would be a huge part of the feel of the app, so I worked on certain animations before I had every screen finalized. I strived to achieve a balance in the animation and design that was fun and slightly whimsical, but still felt trustworthy and snappy.
Log Your Glucose Readings
Entering a glucose reading is something that a user would be doing several times a day, so Bluddy is designed to make this action as frictionless as possible. Upon opening the app, the user is immediately entered with a field to enter their last blood sugar reading, and can log the reading with one tap. The results page indicates if the reading is on target using color (blue for a low reading, green for an on target reading, and yellow to red for a high reading) and presents other relevant data points. The user can also adjust the time set for the reading, add a note, or set a reminder for a retest.
View Your Data
Presenting the user’s data in a way that is clear, understandable, and accessible can help lead to more awareness of the patterns and problems with the user’s diabetes management. The app could also alert the user of patterns it finds, and offer an easy way of sharing that data with a doctor. These features are intended to encourage a more proactive and mindful approach to diabetes management. The more the user is aware of how their glucose changes across time and responds to certain activities, the more the user can make changes positive changes to their own habits and methods for managing their diabetes.
Bluddy is designed to use iOS’s robust notification system to keep the user on track and consistently logging glucose readings. Notifications can be customized to suit the user’s needs. They can be programmed to offer anything from gentle reminders if the user has gone a certain amount of time without logging a reading to more invasive alerts that require a direct action from the user. While the more frequent alerts might seem like overkill to a large portion of users, they might be invaluable to diabetics (like me) who could always use a reminder to test and log their blood sugar.
Bluddy rewards consistent and on-target glucose readings with badges. Badges are awarded for specific challenges and each have their own unique animation. I am generally skeptical of the “gamification” of everything, but I think this is a case where it could serve several specific purposes, especially for younger diabetics. First, it would inspire users to be extra diligent about logging their blood sugars, in hopes of being able to earn their next badge.
Second, and perhaps more importantly, is that the badges are designed to be something that you might want to share with friends. For diabetics that are self-conscious about their condition, sharing a badge that they earned might be a big step towards feeling comfortable with being diabetic. It would encourage the idea that being diabetic is not something to hide or feel ashamed of, but a fact of life for some people. For people who might see the badge posted on social media, it would also give an implicit invitation to further talk about the condition, and in turn create more awareness and understanding.
The current concept of Bluddy is designed to do a relatively simple task: to log and track the glucose readings for diabetics. However, further advances in glucose testers and diabetes management as a whole would have huge impacts in how Bluddy works. Glucose monitors could incorporate NFC technology to automatically send readings to Bluddy. Continuous Glucose Monitors could give an exponentially more detailed set of data for Bluddy to analyze. Bluddy could interface with insulin pumps to control doses of insulin. No matter the feature, the goal of Bluddy would remain the same: To encourage better diabetes control and to make an unpleasant disease a little easier to deal with.