Trapper Markelz - Three Useful Schemas in Health Product Design


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In cognitive theory there are two types of memory. There is working memory (WM) where we can only store small amounts of information for short periods of time. There is also our long term memory (LTM) with its unlimited capacity. It is there we store schemas that represent a wealth of concepts that constitute our knowledge. When we want to apply our vast knowledge to a problem, it is from these schemas that we pull that information. As I have spent the past three years in the health industry, I have been constructing various schemas in a health context about how we can create engaging and effective products. I will share three:

Schema 1.0 is the person-centric schema. It was constructed mainly in 2010 as I built the team at MeYou Health and came to understand the problem space. It demands that a health product be realistic about what it asks you to do, is convenient enough to factor into your life, gives you immediate positive feedback, and is genuine about the interaction. By genuine it means that the focus is not on adherence in which you are told to use the product, but instead focuses on engagement in that you choose to use the product.

Schema 2.0 is the gamification schema. It was built up in my mind through 2011 as we refined our Daily Challenge product. Sure, gamification is an over-hyped word, but the reality is that the valuable application of game dynamics and mechanics is here to stay and their power to create a valid context for social behaviors has been proven time and again. The primary elements of this schema include understanding the journey of an endless game that typifies the health experience, Appointments that establish a trigger and predictable dynamic, Accountability that drives both engagement and support, and Progress which pushes the experience forward in ever expanding ways.

Schema 3.0 is the attention schema. It is my most recent schema and has grown through the end of 2011 and the beginning of 2012 as we have been out in the market selling a new and different type of solution. The main concepts are an understanding of Attention Equality and how we have to give as much as we get, Choice Architecture and how we can be deliberate when presenting options with intent to influence for the positive, Spacing which helps us overcome the Ebbinghaus Forgetting Curve, and a concept of Attention cost which helps us understand if our application is operating at a sustainable level of attention.

All three schemas have been applied to Daily Challenge and results from published research ( and internal metrics will be shared.

In this talk I will share five principles learned while working on Daily Challenge that can help you streamline your online health product and become a celebrated steward of attention.

Published in: Design
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