The mental health and wellness app sector is a trending area for startups. In this post, we explain why, share Onix-Systems’ experience in mindfulness and meditation app development, and offer tips to help you create your own meditation app.
As everyday stress and mental health awareness grow, people look for ways to calm down and relax. This has propelled the popularity of yoga, meditation, and other spiritual practices. For example, our company has assisted in creating an Oculus VR meditation game. InnerVR offers diverse virtual environments and experiences that help players ease their minds and recharge daily, making mindfulness a habit. And people love it!
Simultaneously, the adoption of mobile devices and sensor technology-based health-tracking applications has been growing. Together, these factors gave rise to mindfulness and meditation mobile apps.
Virtually all know the pioneers’ names: Headspace and Calm. In 2010, a Buddhist monk and his ex-client founded the Headspace startup in the UK with only $50K of initial capital. Today, it has reached 70 million downloads and provides guided meditation and stress relief activities in multiple languages across 190 countries. Headspace generated around US$15 million through in-app purchases (IAP) in Q1 2023, 7.5% up from the previous quarter.
The Calm meditation app arrived in the UK market in 2012. The app has since exceeded 100 million international downloads and 4 million paid subscribers. Calm’s IAP revenue in Q1 2023 reached US$22.5 million.
A wave of Headspace/Calm app clone development followed. Between 2015 and 2020, over 2,500 meditation apps were launched. However, by 2021, the two leaders shared around 70% of the U.S. meditation app market.
In the B2C meditation apps segment, revenue from subscriptions and IAP is projected to reach US$4.64 billion in 2023. The United States will account for most of the revenue – $940.3 million. Growing at a CAGR of 11.06%, the global market should exceed $7 billion by 2027.
If meditation app development like Headspace or Calm seems like an intriguing idea, you’re in the right place! Here, you can learn about the essential features of such apps, how they can be improved, how they are built, and how much the development may cost.
If you are not convinced yet, the following chapter should provide context for meditation app development.
These apps offer instruction in breathing techniques, relaxation, and mental images. They help users find inner peace during stressful periods, fall asleep faster, overcome anxiety and strain, and even help manage depression, chronic pain, high blood pressure, and other health issues. Moreover, mobile apps bring guided meditation to practitioners’ homes – exactly what 21st-century consumers appreciate.
However, there’s much more to meditation apps that makes their development a promising endeavor for entrepreneurs.
Mindfulness and meditation techniques are easy to explore, learn, and practice for anyone and come in a variety of types, presenting nearly endless opportunities for app developers and marketers. Various use cases, feature sets, types of content, and business models are possible, allowing for great creativity and flexibility.
For example, meditation app developers can consider, at a minimum, the following types of meditation to include in their app:
Since meditation is a deeply personal practice, there can be no one-size-fits-all solution or format. Despite a huge number of existing apps and the Headspace/Calm domination in the US, users worldwide still seek alternatives.
Any newcomer has a chance to stand out, for instance, if they come up with a significant improvement to the user experience (UX) or a way to meet their target audience’s needs better.
The expected notable mindfulness app market growth will be driven by
- growing mental health awareness and increasing government support of yoga and meditation-related projects
- the rapid digitalization and surge in smartphone penetration
- the rising application of sensor technology and smartwatches
200-500 million people worldwide meditate regularly, and this number continues to grow. Meditation and mindfulness practices are so popular that schools encourage kids and businesses their employees to practice at work, stimulating meditation app developers to offer corporate plans.
Meditation app user penetration, estimated at 2.85% in 2023, is likely to reach 3.46% by 2027.
Region-wise, Asia-Pacific, specifically Japan, China, and India, remain significant participants in the global mindfulness meditation app industry. However, it is North America that is expected to lead the market due to favorable government policies that boost innovation, a substantial industrial base, and high purchasing power.
Several free app monetization methods can be applied and combined in meditation apps. Many popular services have successfully implemented premium subscriptions and accustomed audiences to paying for a mindfulness app.
The most popular monetization models for meditation apps are:
Subscriptions. An app offers a free trial period with complete access to all features or some introductory meditation sessions for free. If users want to keep using the app, they opt into a monthly or annual subscription or pay a one-time fee that grants access forever. Premium subscriptions facilitate steady cash flow and profitability and are Headspace’s primary monetization method.
Freemium upsell. The Calm app is built on a freemium model. Users can listen to free content as long as they want. However, they need to subscribe if they want to unlock the entire library. These fees may unlock advanced features, remove ads, or provide other perks.
In-app purchases. Users may pay for particular services or content on the platform as well. These digital items should be moderately priced so that users wish to pay for them on top of the subscription fees.
Fee per download. Although an upfront payment may be a friction point for potential users, some apps also charge a small fee for downloading the app. Buddhify is an example.
Ads. Apps providing meditation sessions for free may display ads and receive payments for views and clicks. This method should be used cautiously: while a free app attracts users, excessive ads may have the opposite effect. For users annoyed with ads, publishers may offer an ad-free app for a small fee.
Partnerships and sponsorships. An app with a substantial audience may attract brand partners. For example, Headspace has collaborated with Amazon, Apple, Nike, Spotify, and other companies.
Meditation goes well with many other practices beneficial to mental and physical health. App owners can scale it in multiple directions to meet their users’ evolving needs.
But let’s review the essential meditation app features first.
There are 5-8 core features that any user expects to encounter in any app like Headspace or Calm.
It is generally recommended to simplify the sign-up form. An email address and password should suffice. Signing up with a Facebook or Google account is fast, convenient, and eliminates the need to remember one more password.
This is where users can quickly access information about their subscription plans, the history of their meditations, progress, and, if you’re using gamification, leaderboards, bonuses, etc. Users should also be able to access settings to change the app’s language, add photos and profile status, change their credentials, turn on/off and tweak push notifications, customize interface colors and sounds, and further personalize their app experience.
The primary meditation app feature is high-quality content organized into a searchable structured catalog. The more diverse your content, the more people it attracts and the longer they stay in the app.
The library should be divided into logical groups and thematic sections. Each item should show its type, format, theme, length, and other information for users to know what to expect and sort and filter content.
Users may also appreciate the ability to bookmark/like items and create folders or playlists with favorite meditations.
Content categories and labels facilitate a quick and intuitive search. A search filter and search by theme, purpose, or even author or narrator will improve the user experience. Effective voice search may become your meditation app’s competitive advantage.
Play/stop and rewind buttons, video scrubber, and volume, speed, and voice settings should be prominent and convenient to tap.
As most meditation exercises require closed eyes, it’s helpful to have a 3- to 5-second pause between the moment the user hits play and the meditation starts. The app may also include a countdown timer for any session so that users can set it to 5, 10, or 30 minutes, after which a soft alarm sound wakes them up.
Consider offering both streaming and downloading at least short audio meditation sessions when a user is offline.
The admin panel is usually web-based. The app owner needs instruments for:
A mindfulness meditation app can’t be functional and valuable without these features. However, if you want to stand out from the crowd and succeed, your app should offer much more. Here are several ideas.
Introduction to the app is a crucial step in a user journey, especially for beginners and skeptics. The app should quickly communicate what it does, highlight its most important and unique features, and explain how users can navigate its parts. A slideshow, animations, or a 60-90-second introductory video may do the job.
The user journey in Solomiya, a meditation mobile app Onix helped develop, begins with a survey that helps assess the user’s mental state at the beginning of the app use. In the future, it will enable Solomiya to recommend the most suitable meditation courses or techniques based on each user’s response.
Consider implementing machine learning (ML) in your app. The app’s ML algorithm can automatically recommend the first batch of content based on an onboarding questionnaire filled out by each user. Eventually, artificial intelligence (AI) can analyze the users’ preferences and recommend the most relevant content.
The more payment options, the better. PayPal, ApplePay, or GooglePay will likely be helpful for any target audience.
Firstly, push notifications act as triggers to open the app. Users can set up a daily reminder so that every morning, the app invites them to meditate to prepare for the work day, or reminds them about a session scheduled 10 minutes before they go to bed. This will help users form new habits.
The app may also help users track their mood and other indicators or share motivational quotes and congratulatory notes about their daily progress. These app notifications should be unobtrusive and customizable, with the ability to opt out of them anytime.
Push notifications will also update your users about new content, app features, subscription renewals, discounts, etc., keeping them engaged and interested.
Trackers are particularly valuable if your app is designed to help with specific issues, such as insomnia, mood swings, eating disorders, etc. For example, the app may regularly ask users to evaluate their mood or let them track their weight right in the app.
It may be helpful to enable sharing of data on the user’s mood changes, sleep patterns, and other health-related indicators with the user’s therapist.
The app may send notifications to smartwatches and fitness trackers, reminding them it’s time to relax or go to bed, facilitate breathing exercises without a smartphone, and collect data related to mindfulness and meditation, such as sleep quality.
Visualized results, progress bars, and rewards, such as badges, motivate people to continue meditating. For example, the Headspace app includes a run streak feature that records consecutive days when a user meditated.
Suppose the app includes trackers or is integrated with wearables. In that case, the app may demonstrate improvements in the user’s sleep quality, moods, weight loss, or other indicators, statistics, and patterns to help adjust the users’ routines and plans.
If your business model includes live meditation instructors, you may implement video call functionality to provide consultations and real-time guidance to users.
Read also: How to Build a Telemedicine Application
A chatbot trained on frequently asked questions and responses can both educate users and substitute your support team.
The app may offer tips for healthy sleeping, fitness, dieting, and more, as well as encourage users to share their success stories and tips that will be published to encourage others to meditate and improve their lives.
Read also: Diet Planner App Development – Onix’s Guide
These are just some of the possible options. Research and brainstorming with your team and experts may help you generate more ideas on how to create a meditation app for a particular audience. And that’s the subject of the next chapter.
Mindfulness app development requires research and expertise both on the technical and creative sides. We recommend the following:
Your app must offer accessible and effective techniques and supply relevant, up-to-date information and content. You must start with at least a hundred and eventually provide thousands of meditation sessions. If you want to monetize your app successfully, you need not only to entice people to spend a few minutes daily or weekly with your app but to make that time beneficial.
Hiring consultants and content creators among experienced and certified meditation instructors early in the project will help make your mindfulness app efficient and unique and speed up your meditation app development.
A minimum viable product (MVP) enables entrepreneurs to quickly test the target audience’s reaction to a product and its ability to benefit their business or generate revenue without spending a fortune. If an MVP proves to be successful, chances are it will start bringing you some ROI, and you will continue improving the app based on feedback from real users. If not, you will know you’ve minimized your money loss.
An MVP is basically a version of your app with the essential functionalities plus 1-2 distinguishing features. There’s no point in a complete Calm or Headspace app clone development: you need to improve their app experience or enrich it with something new – your unique value proposition (UVP).
Read more: Building an MVP from Scratch: 5 Main Steps
Proper meditation app design is as important as the right feature set, so it’s recommended to engage an experienced designer to create the user experience (UX) and user interfaces (UI).
Ideally, your meditation mobile app should be available to both Apple and Android users to cover a larger market, but it’s reasonable to choose between an Android and iOS MVP. If your MVP succeeds on one platform, a version for the other will follow.
Cross-platform development on Flutter or React Native is an alternative scenario. For example, our Solomiya meditation app tech stack included Flutter. This framework provides a fast and cost-efficient way to build apps for both iOS and Android devices.
A meditation development team is likely to include:
A meditation app tech stack may vary from project to project, but we can list some technologies to look for on candidates’ CVs and case studies:
Hosting: AWS, GoogleCloud, Microsoft Azure
Services: Jitsi (for streaming), MySQL (database), LoadNinja (testing)
Back-end: Django (Python), Laravel (PHP), Node.js, Spring Java
Web front-end: React.JS, Vue.js
Payment gateways: Platform-specific SDK
If you don’t have these experts on board, it is most reasonable to engage external specialists who have completed mindfulness-related projects and know all the technicalities.
We recommend engaging at least an experienced PM and app designer as early as possible: their assistance will be invaluable when you research and plan your meditation app project.
Firstly, you need a clear vision of the type of your meditation app. You need to formulate the problems your product should solve, for whom, and through what means.
It’s crucial to study your target audience. Children, teenagers, women, seniors, religious and other groups have different goals, face different challenges, and prefer different coping techniques. The audience’s age, mindfulness experience, cultural peculiarities, and financial standing may determine your design and content decisions, the choice of platforms, and monetization strategy.
Explore and assess the available methods of relaxation, dealing with stress and anxiety, sleep and eating disorders, or whatever your app will focus on. They must be popular with consumers and effective because you’ll want users to open the app regularly.
Sometimes, a target audience can be as limited as a particular clinic’s patients or a group of disenfranchised individuals. For example, Solomiya is intended for refugees dealing with the trauma of the Russian invasion of Ukraine.
However, a preferable scenario is to target an audience as broad as possible by offering all types of meditation for all demographics with all kinds of needs and problems.
If you have to choose between an Android and iOS MVP, your choice should primarily depend on the target audience’s preferences.
Once you have decided on the app type, the next step is to research the market and the competition.
The 2022 Mindfulness Meditation Application Market Research identified the following major players: Calm, Headspace, Inner Explorer, Meditation Moments, Mindfulness Everywhere Ltd., Simple Habit, Smiling Mind, Stop, Breathe & Think, Ten Percent Happier, and The Mindfulness App. The Mindfulness Meditation Application Market study also listed Breethe and House of Deeprelax.
The comparison of top-ranking apps in your niche will help define the best and worst practices in mindfulness app design and development, and the analysis of user reviews may help you come up with a few UVP ideas.
The necessity of decisions regarding an app’s architecture and technical solutions is another reason why it’s beneficial to involve professional developers during the research and planning. The discovery process is an integral part of Onix’s software development but can also be a separate service.
At the end of this process, you should have at least a project requirements document. The experts you invited, or any other team or company, can use it to estimate the time frame and cost of developing your mobile app.
The requirements document will also guide the product development team at subsequent stages of your project.
Using the product requirements specification, UX/UI developers create low-fidelity, medium-fidelity, and high-fidelity prototypes, one after another, using feedback on each one to improve the next. Users can interact with a high-fidelity clickable mock-up of your app as if using a real app, allowing developers to check the features’ work without coding anything.
Simultaneously, your meditation apps’ color scheme, style, and branding will be created.
After getting feedback on the final prototype, the team can fix any identified issues and tweak the UX and UI accordingly before coding.
NB. Remember that you will also have to contract certified meditation instructors, writers, videographers, graphic designers, musicians, professional actors, voice-over artists, and other professionals to create content for your app.
Using the project specifications and design prototype, the programmers will build the app’s client and server sides and integrate necessary third-party services. The backend (server-side) will be shared by any apps you make: native iOS, native Android, cross-platform, and even a web app you may add eventually.
Uninterrupted playback is one of the challenging tasks in meditation app development. The programmers must ensure that the audio and video files with narration or music play smoothly. Simultaneously, decent quality of the audio and video, especially with extended narrations, is associated with big files that require significant bandwidth.
AWS-based custom streaming may help with this issue. The system creates multiple copies of each file in different sound quality, and the app streams the file that corresponds best to the user’s connection quality.
Most types of testing associated with m-health apps are essential to meditation app development:
Once any identified bugs have been fixed and you’re satisfied with the app’s look and feel and performance, you can prepare for submitting it to Google and Apple’s app stores. Your product must comply with the respective app store’s guidelines and monetization requirements before it can be published.
After the app launch, you will need to track user engagement and other KPIs to identify improvement areas. Some of the indicators and issues you’d want to track include:
The app’s content needs to expand continuously to keep users engaged and increase customer retention, which is crucial to your app monetization. You will have to regularly create and upload new guided meditations, music, sounds, and any other content your users and market trends may require.
Your team should also maintain the app’s high loading speed.
The metrics you monitor and the collected feedback will determine your next steps regarding your app development. The analysis of users’ activities will help you understand what they enjoy and dislike, or what is lacking. By tailoring the app’s experience according to these findings, you will be able to retain more users and engage them over the long term.
The work on app improvement never ends. The development team will have to remove, add, and modify features, update layouts, fix bugs, and more.
Let us share a few more tips for successful mindfulness app development.
An app helping users to cope with stress, anxiety, and similar issues must have the most user-friendly and intuitive interface ever. A cluttered layout, annoying colors, or occasional distracting visual elements may scare off irritable users.
Your meditation app must be easy to navigate, and prominent buttons should encourage users to tap and dive into mindfulness content. Everything, from the app’s logo on the splash screen through transition and fade-in effects and typography to the sounds, should create a smooth and soothing app experience and help tune the user’s mind into meditation.
The minimalist design approach and pastel color palettes are common for apps like Headspace and Calm. The designer should provide maximal value for users with the minimum of elements on each screen.
Light shades of pink, violet, blue, and green are favored. Earthy colors, such as muted shades of orange, brown, and beige, are also perceived as soothing and warm, inducing feelings of security and tranquility.
Nature-inspired tracks and imagery may enhance the overall meditation experience. Abstract art and audio are another popular option.
Cute or funny illustrations, images, animations, sound effects, tunes, and videos can build an emotional connection but should be used with caution. Animations may substitute text, and short videos may help users understand new app features.
A meditation app’s onboarding process requires some extra care and creativity. While explaining to first-time users what meditation is and what your app offers, it must be engaging and appealing and convince them to stay and continue exploration. So, whatever medium you choose, you should make the story easy to understand, engaging, or even interactive.
InnerVR solved this problem brilliantly by introducing a cute virtual character to guide users through the app experience.
If you want animated elements in your app, you must ensure they are well-designed, run smoothly, and are functional rather than filling the gaps.
However perfect you may think your app’s UX and visual design, you should still enable users to personalize it to meet individual needs.
Gamification is one of the best ways to keep app users engaged and interested. Most people like reward systems; many enjoy competing with peers, while others want only to see their streak going.
A meditation app may award points and badges for users’ regular meditations or for completing a particular session series. For example, the Headspace app allows users to track their daily performance on the app. This can also help create a loyalty program and eventually entice users into a paid subscription.
You can run A/B tests on your target audience to discover preferred gamification models or implement several methods at a time to please more users.
People can utilize mindfulness mobile applications on smartphones, smartwatches, or tablets. However, modern users typically switch between smartphones and laptops throughout the day.
Your app should work consistently and synchronize on all popular platforms, OSs, and all screen sizes to maximize convenience and efficiency. This means that besides applications for Apple and Android mobile devices, your product line should include a web app eventually.
If you want to reach as many consumers as possible or even compete globally, you should make your app’s interface and content available in multiple languages. Be ready to hire specialists to correctly translate all labels and content and narrate it professionally in each language.
The following formula can be used to roughly calculate any mobile app development cost: app development time X app developers’ hourly rate.
Here’s a rough breakdown of a meditation app MVP development process:
However, even an accurate calculation of these variables is tricky because each app and each entrepreneur’s situation is unique. The factors that determine meditation app development cost include but are not limited to:
Given the gap between the designers’ and programmers’ hourly rates in developed and developing economies, the minimal cost of making the same app may vary from $110K in India to $314K in the US or Canada. At the average of $50-99/hour rate in Ukraine, the same product might cost around $116K.
In any case, the best way to get an estimate is to contact expert software developers. Such as Onix.
Onix’s specialists have recently participated in a social project a group of German healthcare professionals initiated.
Solomiya is an MVP of a mobile app designed to help users who struggle with stress, anxiety, PTSD, insomnia, and related issues after traumatizing events. The app will be free.
Solomiya will provide information, strategies, activities, and other tools to help users get back to their normal selves.
The app’s key features include:
Onix’s experts were responsible for the app’s back-end development, working with PHP and Laravel.
Onix also developed Solomiya’s app design, logo, and parts of branding, focusing on convenience, empathy, and serenity while being culturally sensitive and inclusive.
Our designers followed all meditation app design best practices. Through thoughtful choices of colors, images, animations, and branding elements, the app aims to convey a sense of tranquility, hope, and support for people on their journey to better mental well-being.
You are also welcome to check our InnerVR case study to learn how to create a mindfulness app for virtual reality.
For a meditation app startup, a solid product idea and reliable contractors are more important than initial capital. Here are a few tips:
If you think of designing a meditation app or growing your wellness business with a digital solution, please don’t hesitate to contact Onix. With our extensive experience in mindfulness and mental health app development, we can cover all your needs and requirements, from ideation to data-driven improvement, on time and within budget.
A mindfulness meditation app should include
A web-based administrator’s panel should include a content management system, dashboards, and analytics.
The basic recommended steps to meditation app development like Headspace or Calm are:
Typically, a simple version of an app like Headspace with the functionality described in this blog takes around 4.5 to 6 months to build.
The cost of mindfulness app development may range from $110K in India to $314K and beyond in the US or Canada. The best way to get a more accurate budget estimate is to share your idea with experts.
One way is to start with a minimum viable product (MVP), a basic version of your app. This scenario will enable you to test market hypotheses and validate your business idea with minimal resources, time, and budget.
Another way is to outsource your meditation app development or hire a dedicated team. For example, the US often has the highest hourly rates, whereas Eastern European rates may be twice lower without compromising product quality.
Yes. Onix-Systems offers services and dedicated teams for web, mobile, and VR/AR development projects and possesses experience in mindfulness/meditation app development. Our company is among MobileAppDaily’s top VR companies and was one of the most reviewed mobile app developers in Ukraine and AR/VR companies globally in 2022 (according to The Manifest).
Our experts can answer your questions, estimate the development cost, warn you about possible risks and technical challenges, suggest solutions and offer advice, design a delightful user experience and interfaces, and build your mindfulness app from A to Z.