Designing for pain accessability

According to the American Migraine Foundation, migraine affects over 144 million people worldwide. Migraines, a neurological disorder, are strong, long lasting headaches, which increase sensitivity to light and smell.

People suffering from migraines are often tracking them and the surrounding circumstances, and are often doing so while the attack is ongoing.

I created a migraine tracker that enables migraine patiens to record their migraine while in pain to ensure accurate tracking. 


User impact

Helps users to record migraines
Usable during an attack
As easy as a physical booklet

Business impact

144 million people affected
1 in 5 women
1 in 16 men


the user


Migraine patients are predominantly female, with women having a three times higher likelihood to develop migraine in some point in their life.


Users want to track migraines not just for their neurologists, but also for themselves to understand triggers and medication effectiveness.


People living with migraine want to share their experiences and learn from migraine patient communities.

user journey scope


Enter data for recording


Creating and displaying reports for users and doctors


Sharing personal experiences in a community


as-is scenario for data entry

To understand the user workflow, I created an as-is scenario map based on the biggest migraine tracker in the App Store.

Phase 01
The first symptoms of the migraine appear. The user immediately goes into damage control mode: If possible trying to find a dark and quiet place, take medication.

Phase 02
The user starts tracking the migraine with the mobile app, despite looking at a screen intensifies their discomfort. 
The app asks for a lot of details when starting to record a migraine, further increasing the user’s discomfort.

Phase 03
If the user wants to add symptoms during the hours of migraine, they might have to go through several screens with symptoms categories.

Phase 04
To finish recording their migraine, the user will need to find the “End” button, which has no indication of being a button and is the smallest UI element on the screen. Afterwards they have to add the end time, more details, and finally save the attack.



One major problem with other apps offering to start tracking when the migraine starts is that the users forget to finish it and subsequently do not fill in the rest of the details. Solving this was a priority.

The app lets a user quickly start to record an attack by bypassing adding details apart from the starting time entirely and offering a push notification to remind the user later to finish it.  This lets users with a migraine keep the interaction as short as possible, but at the same time enables users to track afterwards, or fill in the details immediately.


user testing

After building the first idea into a prototype, testing revealed some oversights. The prototype, while not being final visually, was already built with a dark color scheme in mind in order to be easy on the eyes of people suffering from a migraine. While the dark scheme was appreciated, the contrast was too high. Furthermore, the “Record Attack” button was too small to comfortably use while suffering from an attack and demanded too much mental effort. Lastly, the defaults for some screens, such as the “Record Attack” screen, were unclear, or impractical.


final iteration

Changing to lower contrast visuals everywhere and modifying the “Record Attack” button into a major part of the main screen, helping to further minimize cogintive load. Additionally, a few other minor issues from user testing were addressed. 

conclusion & what I learned

The concept I worked out was positively received even though it concentrated only on the data entry interaction part and did not include features like an overview screen of the triggers, medication, etc. There is potential for further development, as two parts of the experience were not touched. Furthermore, starting tracking quickly with voice, or via an Apple Watch, are logical additional features complementing the core concept. 

Designing for people using an application with severe health issues was a unique challenge and seeing validation in user testing for the solutions was great. This app would very likely to be financially viable, seeing that it is not a congested market and the options on the market are mostly valuing features over good user experience.

business prospect

There seems to be a profound business potential for this concept. The competitor analysis showed how the competing applications are oftentimes severely lacking in the user experience part by focusing entirely on features and are still financially viable. As one tester said: 

“I’d definitely pick this flow over /competitor/ if I had the choice, no joke.” - Reddit user on /r/migraine

complete final user flow


Tools used: Sketch - Figma - InVision