Published: March 4, 2018
13 min read
Last updated: May 2, 2022
📰 Success Story Behind the Headspace Meditation App
⚙️ Top Features of Meditation Apps like Headspace
💰 How Much Does it Cost to Build a Meditation App?
💵 How to Make Money with a Meditation App?
🛠️ Tech Tips
Some say that our smartphones make us unproductive and distracted. But what if we say that it depends on how you use them? Sometimes it may have the opposite effect!
Take a look at any meditation app. Nowadays some of them — for example, Headspace or Calm — have over 10.000.000 downloads. They are the bright example of how your smartphone can help you stay concentrated, rested and productive throughout the day.
Mobile apps can not only distract but help you concentrate and relax (image by Alfrey Davilla | vaneltia)
Modern trends also tell us that the popularity of meditation apps will only grow.
It became especially clear during the 2019-2020 Coronavirus lockdown all over the world. Millions of people had to stay at home and look for new ways to suddenly fill in those free hours and days. During this time, mobile apps turned out to be the perfect solution in many industries — from food and grocery delivery to meditation, home fitness, online coaching and others.
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One of the biggest mobile app advantages is that they can be used by anyone from anywhere. Where most of the traditional offline businesses faced new challenges, mobile-centric companies found a new opportunity to grow and scale.
Just look at the Google Trends data for the meditation apps request. Do you notice that huge jump from the beginning of March 2020, when many countries set nationwide lockdowns? That’s it!
Let's take a look at the story of Headspace to find out why such apps are that demanded.
Headspace was launched in 2010, and its origin story is quite interesting. The app was created by a few friends and one of them was… a Buddhist monk! Well, not as you may have imagined that, right?
Andy Puddicombe was born in Bristol but at the age of 22 left the country for a 10 years long Tibetan monastic training across Asia. After coming back to Britain, together with his friends he started holding live meditation events. The crew eventually came to the idea of meditation app development.
It likely wasn’t the most obvious decision for a guy who spent a decade device-free and was pretty skeptical about modern technologies. However, the app was their ticket to reaching millions. Moreover, it was something fresh and unique back then.
They didn’t have that much in the very beginning — around $50,000 from their friends and family. Taking into account that they couldn't be 100% sure that their idea will be profitable or at least won't go into the red, it's not a big amount of money.
The first version of the Headspace app was quite different from what we can download now. Actually, it was a set of 365 meditation sessions — all are recorded and voiced by Andy Puddicombe.
Lesson # 1: it’s possible to create a successful app without enormous spendings.
The company scaled gradually. In 2014 (4 years after the launch), they started to add tailored “packs” on specific topics like stress, sleep, sports, relationships, focus and others.
The Headspace app
Also, they’ve modified sessions for different levels of complexity: starting from sets for kids to tracks for experienced meditators.
Lesson # 2: start with an MVP (implement only essential features first) and then scale gradually.
Eventually, they managed to develop a meditation app with a wide user base that included both males and females ages 18 to 70 in over 200 countries. Impressive, isn’t it?
Today the Headspace app has over 11 million downloads and 400,000 paying subscribers. This generates an annual revenue of about $50 million dollars. It proves that mindfulness app development can be a great choice from the business perspective as well.
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But what are the secret components that helped the app (and other apps like Headspace) succeed? Here they are!
Meditation becomes more popular with every coming year. Yet, for many people it’s still something likely unknown and even a bit exotic. If you don’t want to leave your users frustrated, you should create a comprehensible onboarding screen.
An Onboarding Tutorial is a short walkthrough that appears when users open your app for the first time.
The example of onboarding screens (image by Hendra Gunawan)
Here are a few tips to follow:
Meditation practices are all about making you calm and concentrated. So, the design of your app should contribute to this goal as well.
Firstly, don’t use colors that are too bright. Some of the best choices can be:
This meditation app uses a nice combination of colors in its design: pink and purple (image by Abhishek Bandhu)
These are the colors that mainly used in Headspace and Calm apps, so if you want to create a meditation app like Calm, stick to this palette.
Secondly, make sure your design doesn’t look too cluttered. Actually, this is the golden rule for any kind of mobile application, not just for apps like Headspace.
If you take a look at the most popular meditation apps, you will see that they usually have a very minimalistic design - just the list with their available sessions and no excessive navigation elements. Thus, the application is more content-centered and not that distracting.
The bright example of the app with a plain and minimalist design (image by Guilherme Pires)
Thirdly, take care of animations. They should be smooth and quite plain. Your aim here is not to impress users with some complicated design features but to create a specific mood, a sense of relaxation that will help to catch the right vibe and get the best after-effect from your meditation sessions.
LUNSegmentedControl developed by our Stormotion team is a great example of such a smooth animation. It can be used in apps like Calm to move between different tabs of screens.
Personalization is an essential part of any mobile application but if you want to create a meditation app like Headspace it’s particularly important for your project. Here are 2 main reasons why you should care:
There are plenty of reasons why people start meditating in the first place. Some see it as a 10-minute break in the middle of a working day that helps to rest and clear the mind. For others, meditation may be key to a better sleeping schedule or a more efficient way of fighting stress, fear and depression.
Profiles provide users with a tailored experience according to their preferences. By using machine learning algorithms your meditation app can analyze what session a user has already listened to and offer them similar sets to improve their experience. Sounds complicated, right? In reality — it isn’t. Check out the link to find out more.
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Yet, profiles can bring you more benefit from the business perspective as well.
Profiles can be used to make users more involved in your app (image by Imran Ashraf)
For example, the Headspace app has its own achievement system — users can get badges for completing sessions 1, 3, 10, 15, 30, 90, 180 and 365 days in a row. The desire to keep up with the score makes them visit the Headspace app on a daily basis, thus, increasing retention and KPIs as well as eventually, getting more involved and purchasing a paid subscription.
Many people find themselves looking forward to progressing in the application and reaching new milestones, so feel free to use it to your advantage during your meditation app development!
The feature we are going to talk about now is definitely the most important one if you want to develop a mindfulness app. So, what should you know about it?
Meditation sessions are made in the form of podcasts. These are conversations on selected topics, combined with calm background music or nature sound effects. The duration of such sessions isn’t limited, but the generally accepted format is a recording of 3, 5, 10, 15, 20 or 30 minutes long. However, longer options (45 or 60 minutes) are also possible.
Image by Piotr Kmita
As we’ve already said, everyone has their personal reasons for meditating. One of the pillars of Headspace’s success, as we learned it earlier, is that they’ve managed to offer valuable content to people of different sex, age and needs. We'd recommend taking that into account when you create your own meditation app.
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At the MVP stage, it’s possible to create a single pack (or a few ones) to introduce users to meditation and cover a few basic topics like stress, concentration and sleep.
Yet, as your user base will grow and scale, adding new session sets or improving the previous ones will become one of the most important tasks for you.
This screen is one of the most important in mindfulness apps. It also has a pretty plain and minimalistic design. The central part is usually occupied by a “play” button with smooth animation, to create a specific mood for their session.
Also, don’t forget to place a nice background image. The best options to go are some beautiful landscapes with soft green and blue colors or gradients with warm colors.
Finally, you may also add some background music. Yet, it’s not obligatory. For example, the Headspace meditation app has only Andy Puddicombe’s voice talking to you while the Calm app enhances sessions with nature sounds.
Great example of a play screen (image by Guilherme Pires)
Furthermore, we want to share with you a few ideas regarding additional functionality that you can implement:
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To keep users engaged with your app you need them to check it at least once a day. And nothing can motivate them to do it as much as the discovery option.
Basically, this is a separate screen where users can explore new meditation packs, sessions and other valuable content.
Your app should offer users different meditation packs (image by Jessica Luch)
Providing a few free trial sessions (considering that packs usually have 10-30 sessions) can have a positive after-effect for your business. Users will be more likely to buy a pack or a subscription after they get a chance to experience locked sessions on their own for free.
Finally, don’t forget to integrate push notifications when you create a meditation app like Headspace. It’s a powerful retargeting tool that will help you to keep the users near your app.
Here are a few ideas on how you can use push notifications in apps like Headspace:
Push notifications are great for retargeting (image by sarafrbrito)
So, these were the top features that you will need to develop a meditation app like Calm. Earlier we also mentioned that the development doesn’t require as many financial resources as you might think. So, in the next section we'll talk about the cost to build a meditation app.
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As usual, our team prepared a rough estimation of the main features. Don’t forget that the estimation for your project might be different depending on your individual list of features and other factors.
Yet, the cost estimation of the Headspace app by the Stormotion team will help to form a general idea of the possible cost to build a meditation app:
Features estimated in hours
Using React Native
Sign in screen
Sign up screen
Password reset screen
Home Tab 📱
Discover Screen 🕵️♀️
User Profiles 👥
Invite a buddy
iOS Calendar integration
Overlay tooltip that explains some functionality
"GOT IT" block between elements
Fullscreen Video Integration
Note: we took an average rate of $45/hour but it depends on many different factors so don't think of it as the final price.
This block of our article was about spending money. But what about earning it? Read on, cause we have something to share with you on this topic too.
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You could notice that we’ve already shared a few ideas on how to make money with this kind of apps. Nevertheless, we decided to make up a table where we listed all the possible options. Enjoy!
Paid downloads are quite outdated and, frankly speaking, not an effective way to make revenue with such an app. Modern users don’t want to buy a pig in dwell and prefer to explore the app before paying for it. Yet, there are still some apps that use this monetization model.
Example: Buddhify - $4.99 for iOS and $2.99 for Android.
Subscriptions is the most common monetization model for apps like Headspace. The idea behind it is as simple as that: users get unlimited access to all the features as long as they pay for them on a monthly or yearly basis. Subscriptions are used by the main industry leaders, so their efficiency and profitability don’t need additional confirmation.
Another option for you is to implement in-app purchases. That will allow users to buy specific session packs without unlocking other content.
Example: the Insight Timer app offers (along with the monthly subscription) to buy separate collections at a price of $2-$3.
Finally, you can generate revenue from advertisements and leave your app completely free. However, since you are going to make your own meditation app, you might want to think about users' mental state in the first place. Thus, we'd not recommend using this monetization model since some people might find it somewhat irritating.
We would also like to share a few tech tools that will help you create a great mindfulness application. Check them out:
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Meditation app development seems like a good idea for a startup. It’s not very expensive or complicated from the development perspective, yet, it can be quite profitable. The cost to build a meditation app starts from $14,760.
Top elements of the app that require the most attention are:
Contact us! We are ready to help you with your meditation app development and provide an estimation of your project within 24 hours. Let’s change the world together!
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