I was contacted by an entrepreneur from Stanford University who was in the beginning stages of creating a unique product called Raha. Raha is a meditation app similar to Calm, or Headscape, but geared for my stakeholder's native country, Saudi Arabia. 

My primary role was User research, as well as wireframing and ultimately interface design. The research was a unique challenge as the users were all based in Saudi Arabia. This proved to not only be tough logistically, but required me to completely throw out my "western sensibilities" and understand a culture that is completely new to me.

As you will see below, creating this app was not as simple as translating English to Arabic, but demanded a completely new way of relating to foreign users.

Role: Researcher, UX Designer

The beginning stages of the design process consisted of three conversations with my client about the app's current features, success metrics and the graphic design elements (which were already provided to me). 

My client's current design iteration was very similar to the meditation apps "Calm" and "Headspace." What I set out to do was make this product unique, and not just a translated version of these American meditation apps.

To clearly organize this case study, I will break it down based on these Four major insights...


The full experience should relate to Saudi women. Not just the text or the imagery. 


Most Muslims in Saudi Arabia pray up to 5 times a day. Users expressed that prayer had the same effect as meditation.


It was important to be able to set aside time, and have a deliberate space for meditation (and prayer) to be most effective. No distractions.


Changing the experience during Ramadan. The islamic culture slows down during the month of Ramadan, and it was important for the app to adapt with its offerings during this month.


...relate to Saudi women.

Initial interviews informed me that the appearance of the app would be very important. It would need to clearly be clearly made for Arabic women. Initial designs from my client's graphic designer featured a white woman in a crop top. This may seem like a superficial change, but according to the users, it was very important for them to be reflected throughout the app.

Also, from a content perspective the app did nothing to tailor it towards Muslim women. It was just generic "stress relief" or "sleep training." I worked with my stakeholder to at least formulate the proper content for the MVP.

"Your status" feature was taken out all together. Clearly a "zen master" is not a proper trope for Arabic women, plus this feature did not resonate in usability tests.


... Users expressed that prayer had the same effect as meditation. Try to find a way to separate the two.

Since all of the users expressed prayer as a form of meditation, I felt that it would not only be important to have unique meditation offerings, but to also time them around your daily prayer schedule.  


...have a deliberate space for meditation

-Having live, virtual meditation courses provided a unique experience that is much different from an Islamic woman's typical prayer routine. Also I am always a big fan of incorporating social accountability into my designs.

         From User interview.... (Mona) - "taking time out of your day to physically go to a place makes meditation more significant, makes it more intentional. There are no distractions"


...important for the app to adapt with its offerings

Muslim culture is dynamic and very different than western culture. Specifically during Ramadan, the pace of life slows down. Based on user input, my client and I agreed that we should change the experience accordingly. For instance, a personalized program for "calming the mind" or "expressing gratitude" could be put forward during this time. 


-Going further into a religious context. This was an interesting conundrum, with an app like this you don't want to limit who can use the app. However, based on my research if the app was to go "all in" on the islamic faith and really tailor the experience towards the users relationship with "Allah" it would be a much richer experience, and could be used concurrently with daily prayer. 

-Have a better onboarding process. Onboarding is not specific to the research that I was conducting for this app, however I felt that it is very important to personalize the experience for the user, and get to know their preferences for meditation (ie... experience level, convenient times etc).


This entire project was admittedly very daunting for me at first glance. I thought that this would be way outside of my wheelhouse, but as it turns out, this really helped me build confidence in my favorite aspect of UX design... User Research.  Learning about a new culture, and getting really specific on particular aspects of religion and meditation made me really ditch my preconceived notions about what a meditation app should look like. 

I had the most incredible experience interviewing several Muslim women and getting a holistic understanding of just how important prayer is to them. On a deeper level, it even helped me to understand my own spirituality, and has inspired me to continue learning more about the Islamic faith.

Thank you.

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