2 posts tagged “product manager”

Behind the scenes at PatientsLikeMe! Take a peek at user research (aka usability testing)

Posted February 7th, 2018 by

Have you noticed changes on PatientsLikeMe in the past year? (We’re guessing you’ve spotted quite a few.) Did you know that we involve members in testing out various features or updates to the site before rolling them out? We do!

Member Barbara’s user research session with Kris Engdahl, principal user researcher (left), and Nicole Barron, UX designer (right)

On any given Thursday at PatientsLikeMe, there’s a good chance that Kris Engdahl is leading “user research” (aka “design research” or “usability testing”) sessions with members. Kris is our principal user researcher, and she works with PatiensLikeMe user experience (“UX”) designers and product managers to get member feedback on our website and product design.

In 2017, more than 70 members participated in testing the PatientsLikeMe website, mobile apps and aspects of the member experience. Sessions usually take place over speakerphone, sometimes with screen-sharing so that Kris and a small group of PatientsLikeMe designers and/or product managers can watch a member “test drive” a particular web page or feature that’s in development.

“When members volunteer to participate in a [usability] study, they are helping us find problems in a design before we unleash it on the world,” Kris says. “They perform a real service for the PatientsLikeMe community.”

On a recent Thursday with eight (30-minute) testing sessions on the docket, two members let us sit in for a look at how the sessions go.

First up: Bill

Bill (bill_stearns) is living with major depressive disorder (MDD) and multiple autoimmune conditions.

“Everything you say is right,” Kris says, kicking off the session. “Don’t hold back.”

Bill notes up front that he’s worked in the IT field for a while (as a systems software developer), so he’s not the average user.

“Usability testing has been my life,” he says. “I learned a long time ago that what was usable for a geek like me might not pass a laymen’s test.”

He looks over the web page (a prototype of the one that’s being designed), and Kris asks him to walk through how he’d use the page. Is it clear overall? Do the sections and buttons make sense? Is anything in the way? The prototype is sort of a “kitchen sink” model with a lot of different boxes or sections on the page, so Kris asks Bill which three boxes he finds most useful. His feedback (and other testers’) is compiled so that our UX designers can spot trends and understand member perspectives.

We followed up with Bill to ask him why he wanted to take part in user testing. “I think PatientsLikeMe is a great application of modern information technologies and has the potential to benefit everybody,” he says. “Whatever I can offer PLM, whether my personal medical data or my other expertise, makes me a part of something bigger than myself, and that gives me satisfaction that I make a difference.”

Next up: Barbara

Barbara (Beau10), pictured above, is living with relapsing-remitting multiple sclerosis (MS). She has never worked in the IT field or participated in usability testing. She’s a former K-12 special education teacher.

“Walk me through what you see — what you’d use,” Kris says, as Barbara takes her first look at the prototype webpage.

“One thing I’ve noticed is that, if I look at all of this [the page as a whole], I get overwhelmed,” Barbara says. “I like that, by grouping things like this [with different boxes with subheads in the prototype], I don’t get cognitively overwhelmed. When that happens, I click off a page.”

Because some health conditions — including neurological disorders like MS — can cause cognitive or visual symptoms, perspectives like Barbara’s are very important.

We followed up with Barbara and asked her what she’d like to happen with her feedback. “My hope for my input in the usability testing is that the organization of the page will be simple and easy for people to navigate on their own without help from others,” she says.

More about Kris: PatientsLikeMe’s user research expert

Kris has a master’s degree in Human Factors in Informational Design and has been working in the user research field for decades, starting back in the days where tests were always conducted through a one-way mirror. She has conducted usability research for everything from business intelligence tools to medical devices, including at-home kidney dialysis machines and insulin pumps.

At PatientsLikeMe, Kris is leading design research on a website with 600,000 members with 2,700 different health conditions.

“Understanding our members is key to our ability to make the site work as well as it possibly can for members,” Kris says. “The better we understand how members approach the site, and the more we see how well our designs work (or not) for our members, the better we can design in a way that supports member goals. Without our members’ input, we would very likely guess wrong about what they need.”

Member feedback matters

We’re always interested in hearing feedback from our members, and the Community Team is listening. The moderators notice when members provide feedback in the forums and let the other teams here at PatientsLikeMe know what you’re saying about your experience on the site. Community Moderator Sarah Lembke works with Kris and the Product Team to find members with a variety of health conditions to participate in user research. Depending on the particular usability study, we may be seeking newer members or longtime members, or people with Androids vs. iPhones, or a mix!

If you’re a member of PatientsLikeMe and are interested in participating in usability testing, drop us an email at interviews@patientslikeme.com.

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A Day in the Life of PatientsLikeMe Product Manager Maureen Oakes

Posted June 20th, 2012 by

What’s it like to work at PatientsLikeMe?  We are continuing to reveal just that with our monthly blog series “A Day in the Life,” which features employees from different departments.  So far, we’ve interviewed User Experience Engineer Cris NecocheaResearch Assistant Shivani Bhargava, Office Manager Alison Dutton,  Research Scientist Timothy Vaughan and Biz Dev’er Arianne Graham.  Today we’d like to introduce you to Product Manager Maureen Oakes, or as she’s affectionately known around the office, “Mo.”

PatientsLikeMe Product Manager Maureen Oakes

1.  You’re the Product Manager at PatientsLikeMe.  Tell us what that involves.

A little bit of everything! I read in an article that product managers are like “embedded CEOs” because you drive the core decisions to improve and change the product, which in this case is the PatientsLikeMe website. That means different things depending on the circumstances. Sometimes my job is getting all the right people in the room to make a decision, and sometimes it is making a decision myself. In all cases, it involves listening, asking good questions, weighing all the options and following up to make sure what needs to get done actually happens.

Each day I split my time between planning ahead for enhancements we could make to the site in the coming weeks and months and ensuring the things the engineering team is building now are going smoothly.  For example, when we are trying to decide what to work on, we have to ask, “Is A more important than B? What is affected if we choose to work on C instead? Who benefits most from each of those options and how much work is it to accomplish?” It’s my job to tee up those questions so that we are working on the right things at the right time.

The same goes for things we are building now – there are tradeoffs and decisions to be made all day long.

2.  As a longtime employee, what milestones stick out to you?

There are so many! But I think the first would be the launch of the mood conditions community in 2008. I joined PatientsLikeMe in 2007 so it was the first time I participated in building out a community – hearing the research team’s thoughts on disease measures, showing examples to get feedback from patients, and being there to welcome the first members. There was a New York Times Magazine article about PatientsLikeMe around the time we launched, so several thousand people joined that first week. It was amazing to see the community take off so quickly.

In 2010, we started work on another milestone – a project to open up PatientsLikeMe to anyone with any condition. That was a ton of work, but it was great to have the whole company focusing on a very clear goal and working closely together to achieve it. I was especially motivated because my mother was undergoing treatment for lymphoma at the time, and every day I wished we had had PatientsLikeMe members and tools available for her condition. In 2011, she went into remission and PatientsLikeMe opened its doors to anyone with any condition, so that was huge, both personally and professionally.

Maureen's Famous Boston Cream Pie

3.  You’re also the resident baker at PatientsLikeMe.  What treats do you make?

I’m a big fan of celebrating birthdays so my standing offer is to bake whatever a PatientsLikeMe employee requests for his or her birthday each year.

I’ve made all kinds of things – Oreo and whipped cream desserts, carrot cupcakes, brownies, apple cake, triple chocolate cake. But the biggest challenge has definitely been Boston Cream Pie. It is not easy to make, but it’s a huge hit, so now lots of people keep requesting it.

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Want to make a difference in patients’ lives?  Maureen is currently searching for a Senior User Experience (UX) Designer to join her team.  “This may be my biggest project right now!” she says.  “We already have one great designer, but we need help to keep improving the site at a faster pace.”  Learn more about the benefits of working at PatientsLikeMe on our Careers page.