BrushBuddies is an app designed to encourage healthy oral hygiene habits among teens through social connectivity and friendly competition among their peers. It was created by Valerie Le, Orville Mo-He, Betsy Stubbs, and Yuki Obayashi.
Adobe Photoshop, Adobe Illustrator, Figma
Direction: Sun Young Park Interaction Design
We researched the attitudes and practices surrounding oral hygiene habits in teenagers aged 14-16 living in the United States by conducting interviews and secondary research. We targeted young teenagers because they are the most important demographic to aid when it comes to prevention.
The problem was therefore to create an interesting and engaging mobile app that helps develop better oral hygiene habits for teenagers with busy schedules. We approached this first by conducting several literature reviews and gathering user research, then delving into concept development, refinement, validation, and prototyping.
We created an app that syncs with a Smart Toothbrush, which offers accurate brushing feedback, personalization of user interface, and social connectivity among friend groups and family members. Our aim is to promote consistent and effective oral health behaviors that will last throughout adulthood.
Username and password protection
Control over what health and personal information is shared
Design of user's personal profile
Visibility of Status:
Easy access to goals, tasks, challenges, etc, on landing page
Integration into Everyday Life:
Not rely on larger social media platforms to function
Gamified app with rewards (social transparency, gain-framed messages)
Brushing feedback (location, pressure, time, etc.)
Educational app with resources (videos, animations, sections on dental care, nutrition, external factors dealing with oral health)
Personalized app with goal-setting, rewards
Accountability (can see when friends are using the app/brushing their teeth)
Methods: We conducted 12 individual interviews using a convenience sample: 3 dental professionals, 1 predental student, 1 professor, and 7 teenagers. Our interviewees were 9 women and 3 men varying in age from 12 to 60+. The length of the interviews varied between 15-35 minutes each. Our interviews gave us great insight about how dental professionals approach treatment of teenage patients as well as how teens think about their own oral hygiene practices.
Findings: We found that teens' major concerns regarding oral hygiene is more focused on beauty and social acceptance rather than avoiding health risks. This was further validated through our interviews with dental professionals who iterated the fundamental importance of a teenager's sense of belonging in a group. Additionally, the teenagers we had interviewed expressed their interest in an app that incorporates an element of social connectivity when it comes to common oral hygiene practices. After our interviews, we had a solid direction and intention moving forward with an app that utilizes translucency for connection and accountability.
"I like the element of competition"
"If I saw that my friend was brushing their teeth, I think I would be more inclined to brush mine"
"Peer pressure is a good idea to motivate people"
"That's really cool to have the syncing--tracking brushing frequency and habits would be most useful"
"Brushing feedback is a really good idea to help you with specific ways to brush"
"If I saw that my friend was brushing their teeth, I think I would be more inclined to brush mine."
After the first iteration of wireframes, we had 3 different students perform a think aloud test, where they went through their thought process when interacting with the app.
Task: Walk me through how you would create a new challenge.
How to indicate flossing - categorical or numerical?
Add monthly/weekly views of progress
Navigation bar on the bottom to see all different pages
Consistent colors representing different groups of data
Check out the BrushBuddies prototype!
Background information: Julia is a 16 year old girl who is struggling to maintain a consistent hygiene routine. She is on student council, the volleyball team, and is taking multiple advanced classes, so her schedule is constantly jam-packed. Little tasks like brushing her teeth often get forgotten or do not seem as important. Julia knows that it is important to brush her teeth twice a day, but some days it just isn't a priority.
On a particularly busy Monday even after school and volleyball practice, Julia is tired and just wants to take a shower and go to bed. Julia brings her phone into the bathroom to play music when she showers. When she gets out of the shower, she sees a notification on her phone that her best friend just finished brushing her teeth through the BrushBuddies app. She sees that all of her friends are on the leaderboard for completing their daily brushing. Julia realizes that if she doesn't brush her teeth, she risks losing points. If she loses her points, her friends will also be able to see this, which acts as a motivator for her to complete the task. She is very competitive and wants to win the challenge, so she picks up her toothbrush and begins brushing her teeth.
Why download the app? BrushBuddies is a fun and engaging way to improve oral hygiene and peer group dynamics. Individuals and friends become self-aware of their own oral hygiene and the app provides a constructive approach to group health improvement.
Why continue using it? The app contains real-time updates when friends complete certain tasks and notifications for the user when it is time to brush. A sense of accountability and accomplishment complement the user experience while providing the means for oral hygiene habit formation. The app will reward task and challenge completion that go towards prizes and discounts on toothbrushes, toothpaste, etc.
What are the end user benefits? Users practice better and more consistent oral hygiene in a way that is social and gamified.
Caraban, Ana, Maria José Ferreira, Vítor Belim, Olga Lyra, and Evangelos Karapanos. "SmartHolder: sensing and raising families' awareness of tooth brushing habits." In Proceedings of the 2014 conference on Interaction design and children, pp. 341-344. ACM, 2014.
Judah, G. , Gardner, B. and Aunger, R. (2013), Forming a flossing habit: An exploratory study of the psychological determinants of habit formation. Br J Health Psychol, 18: 338-353. doi:10.1111/j.2044-8287.2012.02086.x.
Tiffany, Brooks, et al. "Mobile apps for oral health promotion: content review and heuristic usability analysis." JMIR mHealth and uHealth 6.9 (2018): e11432.
Yonker LM, Zan S, Scirica CV, Jethwani K, Kinane TB. “Friending” Teens: Systematic Review of Social Media in Adolescent and Young Adult Health Care. J Med Internet Res 2015;17(1):e4. DOI: 10.2196/jmir.3692.