The recent pandemic and other global stresses of today make people take proactive care of their mental health, emotional stability, and simple good night’s sleep. Of course a person can hardly deal with cases of depression and other psychological issues on their own without qualified help. However, otherwise healthy people can effectively manage their stress levels and improve well-being by practicing daily meditation. This is where dedicated mobile apps come in — they help establish a good habit, offer voice and visual guidance through various meditation techniques, and allow users to track their progress on the path to a calmer, healthier state of mind.
The market of meditation apps is expected to see rapid growth at a rate of almost 14% (2022-2027), reaching $7 billion by 2027. Despite the presence of such popular solutions as Calm or Headspace, there are still plenty of opportunities for a new meditation app to build a loyal audience, offer unique user experiences, and grow successfully.
Picking the right tech stack for meditation app development plays an important role in the development process and how fast, good-looking, and secure the app will be post-release. Currently, one of the popular technologies for mobile and web development is Flutter cross-platform framework. Having created apps for over a decade, Surf gained rich development experience with various technologies and, in the article, we’ll discuss the main features of meditation apps, as well as why Flutter is one of the most suitable frameworks to create a meditation app.
Reasons behind success of top meditation apps
With expert guidance and various types of meditation practices, such as mindfulness, loving-kindness, body scan, and breath awareness, meditation apps are aimed at helping people achieve a number of goals.
- Manage stress and anxiety. The main purpose why people use meditation apps is to reduce the stress of everyday life through mindfulness and calmness that are promoted by practices of focusing on breathing, being aware of your surroundings (sounds, noises), and others.
- Healthy restful sleep. With practices specifically aimed at relaxing in the evening and quickly falling asleep, meditation apps promote good sleeping practices that help establish sleep/awake cycles.
- Coping with negative emotions. Audio lessons on how to be happier regardless of what is going on in your life that are easily available on a smartphone can be useful for people facing difficult periods in life: a loss of a friend or a breakup, for example.
- Focus and attention improvement. Regular usage of meditation apps can also help to be more focused, cutting down continuous “white noise” coming at us from bot outside and inside (in the forms of distractive thoughts).
Now let’s take a look at some of the top meditation apps and what makes them stand out among competitors.
Calm: Sleep Stories and kid-friendly content
The most downloaded meditation app, Calm offers a wide array of guided meditations, breathing programs, and stretching exercises that help users to decrease stress and improve mental wellbeing. The app also boasts a Sleep Stories section that has over a hundred bedtime stories narrated by well-known actors, as well as a library of music and nature sounds that help to relax. Calm has a dedicated kids section with meditation practices and Sleep Stories designed for children. To gain unlimited access to a constantly updated collection of meditations, stories, and music, Calm users can purchase a monthly ($14.99), a yearly ($69.99) or a lifetime subscription ($399.99).
Healthy Minds Program: a well-structured path to zen
Healthy Minds mobile meditation app is built around a comprehensive journey through 5 blocks: Foundations, Awareness, Connection, Insight, and Purpose. A mix of guided meditations and audio lessons, this journey, which every user can take at their own pace, is aimed at teaching the basics of meditation, the concepts of how to be more focused, aware, and caring towards those around us in everyday life. Healthy Minds app also provides plenty of meditations for various life situations, such as being overwhelmed by stress or relationships. Every few weeks the app suggests a user take a short survey to assess stress, focus, and mindfulness levels to track their progress. Currently, the app is free with an option to donate and support the developers.
Headspace: The Wake Up, SOS, and mini-meditations
Another popular meditation app, Headspace, has a rich library of guided meditations that can help users manage everyday stress and anxiety, as well as improve focus, sleep, and mind-body health. The app strives to provide an opportunity to fit meditation into any lifestyle. The Wake Up short videos help begin the day mindfully; Move Mode is an at-home mindful fitness course; mini-meditations help reset mentally in 2–3 minutes; SOS sessions are for those moments of heavy stress and anxiety, while Sleep makes Headspace a perfect sleep meditation app. To access all features Headspace users can choose between annual ($69.99) and monthly ($12.99) subscriptions, as well as student and family plans.
Main features for creating meditation app
To estimate how much it costs to create a meditation app and plan the development process, it is important to establish a detailed set of features. Of course, the exact list depends on the app’s functionality, but some of the features can be considered more or less essential for any type of meditation app.
A screen every user starts from is the initial sign-up screen. Since people sometimes download an app from a store and then tend to forget about it for a while, consider adding a short slideshow that describes your meditation app functionality and the benefits of using it at the first launch. When a new user is ready to create a profile, suggest doing this via existing accounts in Gmail, Facebook, or Apple to save their time and autofill some of the details. If you plan to implement a social aspect in your meditation app, integrations with social networks also make it easier for users to connect with their friends who use the app.
After the initial sign up it may be a good move to prompt a user to take a short questionnaire focused on their reasons to try meditation, as well as stress and anxiety levels assessment. Gathered data can be used to create more personalized suggestions of practices and track how their mental well-being improves with time.
Arguably the most important screen of the meditation app, the content library can be designed in many different ways. For example, it can be a journey consisting of different stages that combine both guided meditation practices, audio lessons, and other content, or it can be a set of cards categorized by types of meditation or life situations. A search option where users can find suitable meditations according to length, difficulty level, and so on can also come in handy if your app has an extensive content library.
It should also be noted how important a well-thought and unique UX/UI design is for a meditation app. Since the main reason why most people use such apps is to find peace of mind in the hectic everyday life, a difficult-to-use or stuttering interface effectively nullifies this purpose, forcing them to search for alternative apps. Also, pay attention to designing dark mode, especially if your app includes bedtime stories or evening meditations. This way the users will have less strain on their eyes and won’t have their ‘sleep hormone’ melatonin levels affected by using the app before sleep.
Another key feature of a meditation app is the built-in audio/video player. A clutter-free interface with smooth animations and an option to quickly rewind 10-15 seconds back (in case a user misses something) is likely the best way to go about a meditation app player. A lag of 2-3 seconds between hitting the play button and playback start can also be implemented to give users time to take a comfortable position and close their eyes before the practice begins.
To provide a top user experience it is important to maintain good responsiveness of the app even during high-resolution video playback. To achieve stable performance regardless of internet connection speed use such technologies as dynamic resolution and pre-caching, as Surf did when creating Flutter app for a video-streaming platform.
An ability to visually track their progress through meditation lessons and how their sleep and stress levels improve plays a significant role in keeping mediation app users engaged. The latter can be implemented through visually appealing easy-to-read graphs. Some of the biometric data regarding sleep and activity can be imported from wearable devices, such as fitness trackers. Since the majority of wearables manufacturers provide API packages, there is no need to code the integration with every smartwatch brand from scratch. Learn more about fitness tracker app development in our dedicated article.
Also, consider adding statistics on the app’s usage: an average time spent meditating daily, a total number of hours spent meditating, and so on. Things can be taken even further by gamifying the experience, for example, awarding a user with a badge for meditating 7 days in a row.
If your app provides premium features for paid subscribers, it is always a good practice to make the payment process as hassle-free as possible. Make things easier for users by allowing them to choose from several payment options, including bank cards, Apple Pay, and Google Pay, as well as PayPal, WeChat Pay, and others. Using trusted payment gateway APIs, such as Stripe or Braintree, not only speeds up the process of developing payment logic but also ensures high transaction security.
Help users establish healthy habits of daily meditation by sending reminders to meditate in the morning or before sleep. Such notifications can include motivational quotes that help to set a mindful mood. Of course, users should be able to tweak the frequency of such reminders or set an exact time for them — it is always better to provide flexibility and avoid stressing out users by an excess number of notifications.
While usually implemented via a web interface, an admin panel can also be accessible through the meditation app itself. Its functionality should be dependent on the user’s level of access, for example, a content manager should be able to upload new lessons and meditations, while a senior manager or analyst should be able to view and export usage statistics along with analytics reports.
Why use Flutter to build meditation app
The overall market of mHealth (digital technologies in healthcare) is a highly competitive one, and the meditation segment is no exception. The basis for the app’s future success is laid even before development when choosing a meditation app development company and tech stack. While the former aspect is covered in our article on hiring the best team for healthcare app development, here, we’ll discuss why Flutter cross-platform framework might be the development technology of choice for building a meditation app.
Single development team
Introduced by Google in 2017, Flutter is an SDK (software development kit) running on Dart programming language that allows developers to create apps for Android and iOS from a single codebase. The latest version of the framework, Flutter 3, also extends its support to other main platforms: Mac, Windows, Linux, and web. What does this mean for your project? Instead of hiring a separate team of developers to build an app for each platform using different technologies, you can do it all with just one Flutter development team. This practically eliminates the issue of coordinating and synchronizing several development teams, providing a more streamlined and efficient development process.
Lower development costs
It is true that hourly rates of cross-platform developers can be slightly higher compared to native Kotlin or Swift engineers. However, this doesn’t mean more expensive development because the total number of development hours with Flutter is usually smaller compared to coding native apps for iOS and Android. For example, when Surf took up a healthcare marketplace app development, Flutter allowed us to create 6 apps (iOS and Android apps for each of 3 brands) with a single code base, saving the client almost 40% of their budget allocated for native apps development.
Faster development speed
Flutter comes with the Hot Reload feature that enables developers to apply any changes to the code instantly, without reloading the whole app. Besides, the framework has extensive testing support on all three levels of an app: single function; component; the whole project. It also comes with a huge library of ready-to-use but fully customizable widgets. All of this makes the routine parts of the development process more streamlined, letting developers devote more time to creative and complex tasks.
For a meditation app, smooth animations and beautiful UI are an essential part of the user experience. While too simple and plain design risks dissolving the app’s identity among competitors, a stuttering unresponsive interface is another place where no app wants to find itself. In contrast to other cross-platform technologies, such as web-based Ionic or Cordova, Flutter mobile apps show performance on par with native ones even in the scenes with heavy graphics and animation. This is achieved with the help of a performant Skia rendering engine and Flutter’s architecture that doesn’t employ a ‘Java bridge’, communicating with platform’s native components directly.
Native look and feel
Flutter comes with an extensive library of widgets that are used to build every element of the app. While each widget can be customized to meet development requirements, Flutter fully supports the latest versions of Android-native Material Design and iOS-native Cupertino visual styles (icons, fonts, navigation, etc.) and updates the app look automatically to match the platform’s visual style. This means one less thing for developers to worry about when releasing an app for a wide array of devices that run on different OS versions, and more happy users for your meditation app.
The majority of developer’s unanimously praise Flutter’s code structure for its simplicity, which makes bug fixing and code maintenance much easier compared to other technologies. For example, the development team behind the latest Google Pay said they saw 70% decrease in engineering effort and a 35% decrease in lines of code after the app migrated to Flutter 3.
Nevertheless, code maintenance depends not only on the choice of the framework but also on the development team’s practices — comprehensive documentation makes post-release support and project’s in-house transfer significantly easier. We at Surf always adhere to the best industry practices, covering all architecture and functionality aspects of the app consistently throughout the development process. A common practice of transferring the app for support to a smaller in-house team after initial release has always been quick and smooth for our clients.
Developing a Flutter meditation app requires careful consideration of many aspects, from distinctive UX/UI to an unobtrusive way of guiding a user toward more complex and longer meditation practices. All in all, using a meditation app should make users feel calmer and a little bit more relaxed in the bustling world of today. The app’s success is directly related to how it is built. That is why hiring experienced developers who can pick the right technologies for your business goals and supply expertise from other industries is so beneficial for mediation app development.
Advanced development solutions
Surf continuously contributes to Flutter’s evolution. For example, SurfGen and Surf Gear are our homegrown solutions that enhance the development process on Flutter. The former one automatically generates routine code, while the latter one supplies ready-made utility packages for recurrent development tasks. Another Surf’s creation, Elementary library, divides an app’s modules into blocks helping Flutter developers adhere to the principles of Clean Architecture, decreasing maintenance effort, number of revisions, and testing time as the result.
Speaking of testing, Surf employs numerous testing automation practices to effectively cover the majority of code with tests (in some fintech cases, the testing coverage can reach almost 100%) without stretching out the development process. For example, when Surf’s team worked on a B2C banking app, E2E (end-to-end) automated tests that emulate various user actions, such as clicks, button taps, and switching between screens, were used to cover about 65% of the app’s code, which were followed by automated widget tests. Combining several testing approaches allows us to keep the development within tight deadlines and catch the bugs earlier, compared to manual testing only.
The story of Surf began in 2011 with a small team of native Android developers. Fast forward 11 years, and we are a company of over 250 people with tens of finished projects built with native and cross-platform technologies under our belt, as well as many returning customers. Surf has partnered with companies from multiple industries, including large banks, emerging trading platforms, healthcare marketplaces, retailers, and digital media. Such multi-faceted expertise helps us to come up with arguably the best currently available solution for every project, be it native, Golang, or Flutter app development services.