Journaling App That Helps People, Through Design

{ 🎙 } – Interview with Henry Latham from journal app Scribe

When smartphones took off after the iPhone was introduced, we didn’t yet know how much of an impact they would come to have on our lives.

On the one hand, we got easy access to our friends, navigation, transportation, and other useful information. On the other, we became addicted to being connected. This device-addiction has made us less aware of the physical world than we used to be.

A resurgence of mindfulness is trying to address that, with more and more apps (like The Fabulous) popping up, designed to help us be more present in daily life.

A major category of these are journaling apps, and Scribe is one of them. Its approach is different though, focusing more on giving the user an overview of his/her emotions.

We talked with Henry Latham, Head of Product at Scribe, who introduced us to the app and explained the design process behind it.

You’re welcome to listen to the audio interview with Henry as well. The podcast is also available on Apple Podcasts and Spotify.

Scribe – Helping People Through Journaling

The idea of Scribe was born when Henry and his co-founder Jonathan realized how much value they got out of years spent journaling. It helped them both to go through breakups, decide to quit jobs they didn’t like, and deal with anxiety.

They wanted to share it with other people, and give them a tool to help overcome life’s problems.

We see a lot of people around us suffering from anxiety and depression. They don’t know where to turn.

Henry Latham, Head of Product @ Scribe

There are already many journaling apps out there, but Scribe is taking a different approach. The core feature of the app, besides an ability to journal, is giving users an overview of emotions, that can be found in their entries. It’s something that lets a person reflect on their emotions, and see what things, events, and people had an impact on their feelings.

They are able to do it using IBM’s Watson, which analyzes the text and is able to describe the emotions behind it. Of course, all of the entries are encrypted before they are sent to the cloud, which is especially important with such an intimate product as a journaling app.

Scribe, journal app for helping people
Scribe, journal app for helping people

The app itself is very simple. But it’s made in a way to be a very good place to journal. By simplifying the interface to a bare minimum, or having calm music in the background, Scribe is letting the user fully immerse into the process of writing.

The app was initially going to be targeted to people who are already journaling regularly. Down the road, Henry, Jonathan, and Mike, the third co-founder, realized that they’d rather focus on people whom Scribe can really help. Everyone who suffers from anxiety or is just over-stressed can get a lot of out of something as simple as journaling. Giving the overview of emotions allows these people to reflect on their writing, and maybe even act on it.

When we tried this tool out [IMB’s Watson], a lot of people didn’t realize that they were angry at their boss or girlfriend.

Henry Latham, Head of Product @ Scribe

The rise of meditation apps has made more people aware of the importance of mindfulness, and it’s not that hard to achieve. Scribe’s goal is to do the same thing, but with journaling.

The value here can be finding greater calm and happiness. The challenge is to help people develop the habit of journaling regularly, and that’s definitely something that Henry want to address through design.

Design Process Behind Scribe

There are many things about the app that Henry is trying to solve in the design process. His main focus is to explore people’s journaling habits, and understand how people feel about the app. What helps here is having an engaged community of beta testers, and conducting dozens of user interviews and testing sessions.

Henry is using that feedback to work on new features. The best way to find out if they are worth adding to the final product is to prototype them, so he ends up building out many of these ideas and testing them with users. He doesn’t worry that much about the fidelity of prototypes, it’s more important to just quickly check if the idea works.

We seat down as a three, present ideas, and then very quickly come with a prototype. After that, I’ll test it ideally on our users. If not, I’m trying with new people who are not into journaling. That lets me work very quickly.

Henry Latham, Head of Product @ Scribe

It’s easy to get distracted and start developing new app features when you’re getting so much feedback. That’s when you have to take the risk and target the app to a specific group, which is going to find the product the most useful. This focus helps to keep the app simple and make it truly serve its purpose – helping people.

If you want to try out Scribe, be sure to check out their website. You can also visit Henry’s Medium, where he covers Scribe’s development process.

If you want to contribute to next the issue of Phase Magazine, just drop us a line:

Nick Budden Avatar

Nick Budden / CEO @ Phase

Designer, and sometimes-writer. Canadian in Taiwan ✈ Berlin. Trying to help people enjoy being creative.