The CHANI app is the #1 astrology and wellness app for iOS. Downloaded over 1 million times, it has the most thorough birth chart reading available on the internet, as well as a suite of personalized tools for mindfulness and wellbeing.
Based off of our user personas and competitive research, we decided upon a few key features for the MVP.
The cofounders of the company are Sonya Passi and Chani Nicholas. I was the founding product designer (employee #3) and director of product on the team, building this app from 0 to 1. We worked with the engineering nonprofit Annie Cannons for its development. We contracted 10 freelance writers to write the copy in the app, and also had two freelance graphic designers who made the illustrations. Once the app launched, we were able to take engineering and content in-house and scaled the team from 4 to 16.
Chani's business model previously was centered around online courses & workshops, and we knew we could innovate her offerings to be more mobile-first. We looked to competitors in the space like Headspace, Calm, Co-Star, Sanctuary, and the Pattern to gauge what existed and what we could uniquely offer in the mindfulness space.
Our goal was to create the most thorough, customized, and engaging wellness & astrology app available, to not only compete with but leap-frog the existing market. Our strategy focused on creating a playful and unique visual design, a high bar for the quality of content, and a frequency of new information & content launching to justify a subscription business model. Because Chani had an existing fan base, we knew our MVP would have to be more than minimum viable quality; we took the time to ensure the 1.0 was solid and well designed to stand up to public attention, and an anticipated high install base.
As an influencer who had amassed quite a following online and who already sold workshops to customers on astrology topics, Chani had an existing subscriber base we knew would download the app immediately. We studied our existing customers through quantitative and qualitative research to get to know their habits and needs, and created the following user personas.
A challenge/opportunity for me from a design perspective was that Chani has a surrealist collage illustration style and was very keen to not have the UI feel "corporate." I had to balance the need for usability, UI best practices, and content readability, but also hold space for her creative direction. I also specifically created a design system for the app that would be extensible and reusable for future versions and new features of the app.
I was a key decision-maker in how how we organized the flow and heirarchy of information, what headless CMS and API services we used on the backend, what that content structure and logic involved, and how/where we paywalled information.
Throughout out the design phase, we tested mid and high-fidelity wireframes amongst beta testers to get feedback on usability, layout, and any points of integration we could have missed. Based on user feedback, we adjusted designs accordingly.
After 1.5 years of brainstorming, designing, building, testing and re-testing some more, the app was ready to go!
We launched the CHANI app on December 19, 2020 and within 12 hours were on the top 10 list of Apple's top free Lifestyle apps. We immediately surpassed our download and revenue goals, and people across the internet lauded the app's features, functionalities and design.
In the end, we produced:
● A native mobile iOS app, coded in Swift, leveraging Contentful as the headless CMS and Astrology API as the astrological ephemeris, with integrations with Google Analytics, Mailchimp and OnePush
● A free app with an in-app purchase/subscription model, using RevenueCat to manage IAP
● Chart interactions to animate relationships of different signs and planets in the user’s chart
● Personalized presentation of birth chart content, pulling information and displaying content per user's unique birth chart - over 8,000 permutations of content to reference and pull
● Interactive features including a journal and audio player
● An infrastructure that supported a successful launch - 25,000+ users signing up within 48 hours of launch