FOCUS, resiliency training for military families

Problem: Communication breakdowns and family turmoil during wartime deployments cause soldiers to lose focus.

Solution: Create a program to teach military families “resiliency training” skills. Now take that program online and spread the love…

An interesting project that I’ve been working on since September ’09 has gone live. The project has a few phases that are launching over the next month.

FOCUS- Screen shots of the current site.

The Project

FOCUS (Families OverComing Under Stress) provides an on-site training program designed to help military families learn practical skills to meet the challenges of deployment, as well as create a happier, healthier family life. The program is jointly administered by The Department of Defense and UCLA Semel Institute. My colleagues and I at The Groop, created the online version of FOCUS in order to extend the program and reach a larger audience, particularly those without access to a local military base where the program is offered.

I took the lead on a number of activities from user research, to solution generation and finally as the interviewer of military families for the FOCUS image film you’ll see below. I helped translate the fundamentals of “resiliency training” into an interactive experience that took the form of two websites. Before I go on, let me say how much respect I have for military families. This project opened up a world most of us are unaware of: the alternate reality of our military bases, their communities, and the struggles of the service men and women. My hat is off to them.

Public Website

The first project is a public website intended to market the program to active military families and the political stakeholders who provide the funding. This is their lead touchpoint converting interest into active participation. The site distills the core benefits of the teachings and their influence on the primary family roles.

Screen shot of the public site, particularly of the Spiral Loop, experienced by military families.

Private Website

The second project, and the most engaging from a UX perspective, is the private website where spouses and children can interact with tools, play games and learn key communication skills from exercises designed by myself and The Groop team in collaboration with the Focus staff. The activities are mostly flash based within an HTML frame. Using simple game mechanics, we gave expression to common family interactions around a variety of important subjects, such as self-awareness, anger management, emotional regulation and many others.

The private side experience of Focus World- a flash game environment.

Creating the FOCUS WORLD required a series of highly creative and collaborative white boarding sessions to develop the overarching narrative of a metaphorical house where each room represents a training exercise. For instance, start in the basement to learn about the Feeling Thermometer and how to regulate the temperature of your boiler. These and other scenes use video game concepts of discovery and rewards to engage different age users and generate repeat visits.

Lastly, I worked with a camera crew to capture the experiences of military spouses and resiliency trainers at two military bases and a Focus facility. It was a great experience coaching them through the questions, drawing them out in order to get the most heart-felt, poignant answers for the final image film.

View the FOCUS film – short version.

Client Site:
My Partner’s:

Development team:
Jose Caballer, Executive Creative Guru
Charles Erdman, Experience Guy
Kirsten Hudson, Supply Line Producer
Matt Paladino, Interface Wizard & CMS Mathematician
Aure Gimon, Pixel Beauty Professional
Adam Irving, Video Maestro
Kevin Cheng, Sound Sleuth
Bruna Mori, Word Smith Extraordinaire
Corum + Guerrette, Flash development


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