2 posts tagged “UX team”

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

Posted 6 months ago 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 User Experience Designer Flavia Gnecco

Posted October 21st, 2015 by

By now, you’re probably familiar with our “Day in the life” series. But in case you haven’t had a chance to check it out, here’s a quick overview: members of the PatientsLikeMe community share a lot about their health journey and experiences on the site. In turn, we like to share stories from the PatientsLikeMe team every now and then to help everyone get to know us, what we do and why we’re happy to be a part of PatientsLikeMe.

Today, we’d like to introduce you to Flavia Gnecco, a User Experience Designer on our UX and design team. Flavia, a world traveler, joined us last October (happy 1 year anniversary, Flavia!). Read her interview below, and don’t forget to take a look at the other posts in the “Day in the life” series if you haven’t already.

1. How did you first hear about PatientsLikeMe? What brought you to the organization?

I first heard about PatientsLikeMe while I was working at NIBR (Novartis Institute for Biomedical Research) back in 2012. The name came up while brainstorming around how researchers could find out about actual patient experiences. Fast forward a two years later and I came across a job posting for user experience designer at PatientsLikeMe. The name had stuck in my mind. When I learned how PatientsLikeMe was founded, I was sold – it is so authentic and the mission is one that I knew I could stand behind. I got into design specifically so I could work on projects that were having a positive impact on the daily lives of others. I studied Industrial Design in grad school and never thought I’d end up working for a website but when I realized that the process was the same and the outcome was exactly what I was hoping to achieve, it made a lot of sense.

2. Tell us a little about your role as a user experience designer. What kind of projects are you working on right now?

Right now I’m working on a few things. My biggest project so far has been to figure out the first steps towards improving how members can record their experiences, with different conditions. It’ll make things more engaging and the result will be more meaningful to our users. For now that means I’m doing a lot of sketching for how different interactions might work on the site (i.e. if you click a button, what should happen next?).

I collaborate a lot with the engineers who make sure things actually work on the site, and the UX team also works very closely with the health data integrity (HDI) team to design questions and make sure they are accurate but also sound like a human wrote it. Admittedly, it’s a work in progress! While I was in design school I specifically remember saying, “You can apply the design process to anything – you can even design how you ask a question!” Who knew I was predicting my own future? 😉

I’m also working on an ethnography project and get to talk directly to people who are figuring out how to live with a chronic condition. This is really inspiring and I know will influence how I think about the rest of my work – and my life!

3. What’s your favorite part about working at PatientsLikeMe?

Just one?! The people – definitely. There is always an interesting conversation happening and I’m constantly learning something new. I’ve been here a year now but I have yet to be bored. I take that as a good thing. I also really like the fact that PatientsLikeMe is an organization that’s trying to do right in the world. I’ve learned from experience that it’s very important to me. Oh – and bonus – I get to be mentored directly by Kim Goodwin and Robert Reinman.

4. You’ve traveled all over the world and are fluent in 4 languages. What’s your favorite destination outside of the U.S. and why?

Tough question! I’m lucky that I have multiple places that I can call home that are also incredible destinations (Florence, Italy; Lima, Peru; and in the US, Boston; New York; San Francisco) I get to go to those places almost every year.  My two-year-old son has already been to all those locations except NYC…but that’s already in the works.  I don’t know what I’d do if I couldn’t travel!  But honestly, my favorite destinations are all those places I still haven’t been to. I’m definitely a fan of the journey and discovering new places but I’m a quiet adventurer – more on the foods, museums, dramatic landscapes and hikes. High on my list of things to do soon is to buy a round-the-world ticket.

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