Lumosity

Please tell us about your consumer product, and help us understand what makes your product noteworthy or exceptional.: 

Lumosity grew out of the intersection of neuroscience and physical exercise, and the desire to create a product people of all ages could use to challenge and train their cognitive abilities. The continued goal has been to design a personalized cognitive training program based on peer-reviewed neuroscience research that is both engaging and effective. This core user-centered mission has put Lumosity’s user needs and usability at the forefront of product research and development from the start. Today, Lumosity is available on the web (www.Lumosity.com) and on the iPhone and iPad. Lumosity features more than 40 games that are designed to challenge and train five cognitive areas: memory, processing speed, flexibility, attention and problem solving. Through adaptive technology, Lumosity creates a personalized program to guide each user through a training plan based on their personal life goals. The program is tailored to each individual’s starting interests and automatically adjusts games based on their progress. Each training session includes five recommended games and users can track how they’ve improved over time, and how they compare to others. With daily training reminders and the ability to continue training on the go with our mobile apps, Lumosity is designed to easily fit into consumers’ lifestyles and encourage healthy habit formation. Many consumer products excel in either being effective or engaging, but few offer both. Lumosity provides a comprehensive product that fulfills user needs and usability by being both universally appealing and intuitively designed. We believe that anyone can benefit from challenging their cognitive abilities and have created a product that reflects this mission.

What can others learn from the successes and failures of the design of your consumer product?: 

Consumer-focused online brain training programs are a relatively new concept and technology. When Lumosity launched in 2007, it was one of the first research-based, scientifically designed consumer products to provide the tools and technology to challenge your brain. As the brain training research and industry has grown, Lumosity’s design has continued to evolve with the field. While a great deal of work is put in to ensure that Lumosity’s games are fun, they are also based on a combination of common neuropsychological and cognitive tasks, many of which have been used in research for decades, as well as new tasks designed by our in-house science team. We rely on science to guide our design principles, from which we’ve created more than 40 challenging, adaptive games. As a neuroscience research company at our core, we come up with hypotheses and test everything, including our product updates and design. We leverage the power of our database, which includes over 1.5 billion data points from performance on our games. Culling this resource has provided us knowledge and insights into user behavior and game design that we then incorporate back into the product.

Lumosity is currently available on the web, iPhone and iPad, and designing a consumer product that creates a seamless user experience across these platforms can be challenging. One important lesson we learned was to design for the platform first. We consider mobile and web games to be separate tasks because the input methods are different, which impacts game play. For example, playing Memory Matrix on your phone, requires using your fingers to click on the tiles, while playing Memory Matrix on the website, you click using a mouse. We solved this challenge by saving mobile and web game scores separately in the users’ training history. This remains a work in progress as we consider platform distinctions. In addition, some of the games available on the website version do not translate to mobile, including field of view attention games (e.g. Birdwatching and Eagle Eye), and verbal fluency word games that require a keyboard (e.g. Word Bubbles). Instead of trying to force a web based game to work on mobile, we focused on optimizing the mobile experience for games that excel on this platform. Lastly, the mobile design supports the brief interactions of on-the-go users by providing shorter games and mid-workout guidance. While the website version is designed for users who intend to complete a full workout in one sitting.

What factors, information, research, etc. most heavily influenced the design of your product, and how?: 

Lumosity’s design is most heavily influenced by our users and data. We spend a great deal of time integrating data, customer feedback and user testing to design new experiences. We are constantly iterating on not only individual game experiences but the whole product itself based on user feedback and testing. In addition, our in-house team of neuroscientists continually evaluate data from over 1.5 billion game play datapoints to improve Lumosity. These findings help us learn more about cognitive game performance, and in turn, allow us to apply those findings toward improving our product.

What were the key ways in which user-centered design and research practices affected the concept and design of your product?: 

One of the biggest surprises and most important lessons we’ve had was discovering Lumosity’s demographic. Lumosity was initially conceived as a product for baby boomers. We spent two years evaluating data and user research before launching the first version of Lumosity, and from that research, realized that brain training had a much wider audience and was interesting to people across ages. We also learned that we could evaluate the data quickly and efficiently, and that the findings could both advance neuroscience research and improve Lumosity’s product design and experience. Since then, we have taken a data-driven user-centered approach to design across the board. While redesigning the iPhone app in 2012, we did more user testing than we had ever done in the past. We talked to users about our design decisions and the way we executed those decisions. We got to see what they were excited about and what they missed about the old app, and tried to be responsive to everything we learned from them. Having these open, candid conversations with users gave us invaluable feedback that helped refine the concept and design of our product. These user experience design changes resulted in a 250% increase in mobile engagement over the previous version, Lumosity Mobile reaching No. 1 in the Education category of the Apple iTunes App Store in nearly 40 countries, 25 million downloads overall, and featured spots in the U.S. Apple iTunes App Store in 2013.

How did you test your design concepts and prototypes for your product with users, and what effect did that have on the final design of your product?: 

Over last 7 years, the design concepts and prototypes have changed considerably in response to user needs and changes in technology. The original research, design and prototyping started in 2005. After showing positive results in clinical trials in late 2006, we launched the consumer subscription service at Lumosity.com in 2007. Since then, we’ve grown to over 50 million users, which has resulted in over 1.5 billion game plays to-date. In conjunction with on-site user testing, this database of game plays allows us to learn about how people use our product. Using insights from this data, we can continually refine the product through iterative design. We also test other markets to see how existing user-bases might react to product changes. For example, when we launched the redesigned iPhone app, we first released it in Canada to get initial user feedback and gauge their response. We spent the next six months iterating on that app, fixing it and making it better, and then relaunched it country by country. We gradually released it to the rest of the world. By the time we released it in the U.S., we knew exactly how people would react and felt confident about the final product.

How does your product transcend just being a tool or object to create a greater experience for users?: 

Lumosity is like a gym for your brain, and provides the tools and technology to challenge core cognitive abilities. Users can track their game performance over time, track self-reported mood and hours of sleep, identify trends, compare themselves to others, and learn more about themselves. The goal of our product experience is to create the best and most accessible brain training experience for our users. However, we are also committed to advancing neuroscience through our research platform, the Human Cognition Project. With a continually growing database of currently 1.5 billion game plays across seven years, we are uniquely positioned to both examine this data to learn more about the human cognitive performance. We can also provide technology to allow researchers to run studies faster, more efficiently, and on a much larger scale. The insights from the Human Cognition Project research has the potential to help shape our understanding of cognitive training and the brain.