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Designers and users test new concepts in Uganda


December 20, 2017

Author: Dianna Kane

A CHP with a hand-drawn icon of herself at Kayunga branch

In mid-November, Medic designers from Senegal, Kenya, Nepal, and the United States came together in Kampala, Uganda for a week of learning, user testing, and exploration.  Medic has strong partners and an increasing presence in Uganda, making it an ideal location for our most hands-on annual design retreat yet.

Despite being globally distributed, Medic’s design team works in close collaboration throughout the year to share insights, prioritize features, and inform product improvements with the diverse contexts in which we work. This year, we’ve grown the team from four to seven, making this year’s meeting particularly special. We’ve also been discussing a couple of big new ideas that we couldn’t wait to work on in-person with users.

We teamed up with long-time partner, Living Goods (LG), to hold workshops with their community health workers, named Community Health Promoters (CHPs), and branch management teams. Our aims for these sessions were three-part: 1) to user test app icons, a critical component to ease of use and navigation, 2) improve upon how the app helps CHPs to plan visits and target families most in need of care, and 3) explore new product ideas, including a home page and updates to our overall user experience, both of which are in the works for next year.

Medic designers preparing prototyping materials for the workshop at Mpigi branch

Living Goods was among the earliest adopters of the Medic Android app and we’ve continued to work closely with their team to improve and scale the experience. Inviting users into the design process is an essential part of Medic’s human-centered design approach, and we structured activities to encourage CHPs to see themselves as co-designers. The LG CHPs have been using Medic in their work for nearly two years and have a valuable perspective on how our tools can help them have an impact in their communities.

Living Goods CHP at Kayunga branch using the Medic app while conducting a pregnancy visit

To kick things off, we presented CHPs with a series of concepts that have icons associated with them in the app. Icons can be very culture-specific and difficult to get right. Well-designed icons reduce cognitive load, speed up trainings and help users discover useful features, easily navigate, and quickly identify important content. CHPs privately voted on the icon they felt best matched the concept we described. Where none of our pre-made options resonated, they drew their own and contributed it to the set of available options.

CHPs at Mpigi branch voting on and drawing icons

CHPs often serve several hundred families across a great distance. In order to further support their critical work of quickly identifying and following up with families needing care, we told stories, created journey maps and role played their daily experiences. We explored a number of scenarios to learn how visits are prioritized, and then brainstormed and prototyped possible changes to the product — from new ways to sort their families to options for differentiating important tasks — to get immediate feedback on which ideas would solve the challenges they described.

A CHP’s journey map

To make exploratory product ideas more tangible, like the introduction of a home page, CHPs built their own paper prototypes using post-its and large phone outlines. They mixed and matched ideas for components of the new page and individually selected their top four. With our prototypes in hand, we then discussed what this page should be called and which icon should be associated with it. Designing in this way will help us build a vision for the page from the ground.

CHPs in Mpigi designing home pages

The CHPs got to explore high-fidelity prototypes of improvements to the overall navigation and ease of use of the app that our team has been working on the past few months. Using a side-by-side approach of comparing the new look to their existing app, we were able to get much more directed feedback on what changes they are excited about, and which elements of the current experience the CHPs would like to retain.

CHPs at Kayunga branch reviewing new app UI

At the end of the week, the Medic team came together to synthesize the feedback. Individual preferences of CHPs varied but themes emerged, such as common elements in some of the top-selected icons and core desires underlying the most popular home page ideas. A challenging part of any design process is applying feedback from of a subset of users to an app used globally. To help inform these decisions, we conducted the icon survey across the Medic organization. Our designers will also repeat portions of this workshop in their individual regions.

Medic design team in a synthesis session in Kampala

As designers, weeks like these are incredibly energizing. We’re really grateful to Living Goods, the CHPs and branch teams for participating so fully in these sessions.

The Medic design team continues to grow, and we’ll welcome two new designers in Nairobi and Kampala in January. Follow Medic on Facebook and Twitter (@medic) to stay abreast of job opportunities and all our latest product releases.

Dianna Kane is the Chief Design Officer at Medic Mobile. Her favorite part of her job is seeing the sparks that fly when designers and health workers come together.

Medic designers: JoyAnne Muthee (Nairobi), Dianna Kane (San Francisco), Jane Katanu (Nairobi), Ranju Sharma (Kathmandu), Marème Soda Gaye (Dakar). Not shown: Amanda Cilek (Portland, OR), Aika Matemu (Nairobi)
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