Case Study

Qwell - Build a healthier relationship with alcohol



I led the design and direction for a mobile app to help people build healthier relationships with alcohol.




UX/UI Design


10 Weeks



Problem Statement

There are limited support resources available for people who want to drink less and do not struggle with addiction.

For people who struggle with alcohol dependency or addiction, professional guidance and support structures such as counselling, AA and rehab provide great help. For those who want to drink with more accountability, intention and have more drink-free days, options for support are difficult to find.

The Solution

Qwell is an app designed to help people drink with more intention and accountability.


Challenges and Compromises

The greatest challenge going into this project was the lack of resources and time. Leading a design project with a limited understanding of the domain and tight deadlines required me to spend more time understanding users and their context and less time designing and prototyping. I also needed to be highly resourceful when it came to collecting research as I had no access to medical professionals.

Research Methods


Secondary research




Competitive research


Usability studies

Secondary Research Findings


Alcohol is the most commonly used & abused substance by Canadians.


Nearly 25% of Canadians report heavy drinking at least once a month. (Heavy drinking: 5 or more drinks in a sitting for males, 4 or more drinks for females)


Consumption rates are expected to grow 17% in the next 10 years. 


Problem Drinking is 4x more common than having a physical dependence. (Problem drinking: alcohol use that creates problems in a person's life but does not include physical dependence) 

Source: The Lancet

Starting with Question...

I created a list of ‘How might we…’ questions to guide further research and ideate on the right problems. 

  1. How might we help individuals wanting to better manage their drinking habits make a positive change?
  2. How might we provide an experience that is engaging and valuable to users? 
  3. How might we provide a tailored experience that supports and encourages users through their mobile devices?

Defining a Target Audience

Defining my target user as someone who is motivated to change their drinking habits and does not struggle with addiction.

I focused on individuals who do not struggle with dependency for 2 reasons. Firstly, I do not have a medical background and was unable to work with medical professionals within the scope of this project. Secondly, my research pointed to the fact that Problem Drinking (alcohol use that creates problems in a person's life but does not include physical dependence) is far more common than addiction providing for a larger target audience to support.


Insights from User Interviews

To learn more about the common pain points, goals and motivations of my target user, I talked to 3 individuals who have improved their life by lessening the importance and need for alcohol. In hindsight, with more time and a larger budget, I would have ideally interviewed more participants representing a broader range of identities and experiences. Below I've shared 3 key insights.

  1. Professional support structures provide great treatment but don't meet the needs of people who just want to cut back.
  2. Nutrition tracking apps do not provide enough meaningful insights and stats.
  3. Setting SMART goals relating to important areas of one's life (health, career, relationships, etc.) made it easier to get a better grip on drinking.

Synthesizing Findings into a Persona and Journey Map

Creating a persona to help me stay anchored on the user & avoid letting my desire for features trump user needs.

Following user interviews, I synthesized the findings and created a  persona and journey map which formed a great foundation to move into feature ideation and prioritization.


Core User Needs and Opportunities for Design

Allow users to log their drinks so they can see if they've stayed under their limit.

Many individuals want to drink more mindfully and limit the number of drinks they consume per specified timeframe. A logging feature is important for users to be able to track their progress. 

Show users detailed insights and stats on their progress so they can develop a deeper understanding of their drinking patterns. 

Many individuals were frustrated that nutrition tracking apps did not keep them engaged and provided little to no actionable insights. Offering meaningful and actionable insights is important to meet user needs. 

Allow users to set SMART goals related to why they want to drink less so they stay focused on the big picture.

A common motivation for drinking less alcohol is a desire to focus on important aspects of one's life including their health, career and relationships.  Allowing users to set SMART goals will motivate them to focus on the big picture. 

Competitive Research

Existing products were targeted to people with more serious drinking problems and did not cater to people just wanting to cut back. 

Since many interviewees had tried various apps to journal their drinks, a competitive analysis was done to examine the existing platforms, their functionalities and gaps. I focused on apps that were clearly targeted to users wanting to manage their drinking habits to stay focused on the problem space. 

  • Most were targeted to people with addiction
  • No option to track drinks consumed or set a limit on maximum drinks per timeframe
  • Tracking days sober and a community component was common
  • Many apps were somewhat negative, focusing on what alcohol takes away from your life vs the positives to gain from less drinking

The Making of Qwell

From the data I collected, I decided what actions and features were crucial and designed a draft task flow, sitemap and sketches around these conclusions.

I wanted to create a seamless experience for my target users and therefore collected some early user feedback, leveraging my pen and paper sketches prior to wireframing. This ruled out a few concepts from my brainstorming session. 


Task Flow: Adding a goal


Draft Site Map V2


Variations of Home Screen


Variations of Goals Page


Variations of Log Drink Page

User Testing

Mid-fidelity screens established a realistic experience to encourage more useful user feedback.

With the first version of my prototype, I moved into usability testing. I decided that with the time constraints, it wouldn’t be feasible to implement every recommendation.  Therefore, I utilized a 2x2 matrix looking at the value to users vs. effort to implement to assist with prioritization. Below I've summarized some major changes that were made between versions 1 and 3 on the home screen.



Users experienced information overload on the home screen due to the amount of content shown 


'Days without a drink' section prioritized based on user feedback and remaining content arranged into separate pages



Users wanted to see their progress towards their personalized goals on the home screen to help keep them motivated


Show weekly progress towards goals on the home screen



Users wanted to be able to add a goal from the home screen and not have to navigate to the 'goals' page


'Add goal' button added to the tab bar

                 Version 1


Version 3


Brand Identity

Enhancing the experience with a brand identity

With the prototype tested, I started thinking about what I wanted the visual identity of the brand to represent.  Using the adjectives below, I searched for inspiration, created a colour palette and selected typefaces that reflected the brand personality.  

  • Friendly
  • Reliable 
  • Comforting
  • Positive 
  • Relaxing
  • Supportive 
  • Motivational
  • Familiar

High Fidelity Designs

Monitor your drinking

Set a moderate drinking goal or decide on sobriety and use the drink tracker to track your drinks against your limits. 


Measure your progress

Get insights and stats on your progress with elegant and comprehensive reports. 

Form habits that stick

Qwell allows you to create and track habits related to why you want to drink less so that you are driven by a purpose.


Moving Forward

If there was more time available...

  • Gather more research and user testing to refine the final product design
  • Explore adding a greater level of personalization within the app so that it's more convenient to use and more useful to users
  • Explore adding a community feature, dry challenges and a leaderboard

Measuring Success

There are 3 main metrics I'd measure to validate success: User Acquisition, User Engagement and User Retention. Prior to launch, I'd want to define the number related to each of these KPIs. The greater number of users I am able to acquire, engage and retain, the more value they find in Qwell, creating an opportunity for monetization in V2. 


Test early and often

It's easy to only seek validation and just because a task is completed successfully in user testing doesn't mean it's perfect. It takes a lot of courage to invite criticism but ultimately tightening that feedback loop will uncover problems and opportunities while avoiding expensive errors down the line. 

There will always be limitations to work within

Reflecting back on what I could have improved on, one of the major blindspots in my process was only interviewing 3 subjects within my personal network due to time constraints. In hindsight, with greater resources and time I would have liked to conduct more interviews with additional participants. In the future, I would like to explore new and creative solutions to better offset limitations.


Thanks for stopping by. Have a great day!