This week PatientsLikeMe announced two new appointments to the team: Kim Goodwin and Sally Okun. Here Kim, one of the world’s leading user experience (UX) experts, shares her thoughts about why she’s joined the company, and what she hopes to accomplish on the website for members. You’ll hear from Sally too, later this week.
What will the new user experience team do?
Our job is to make everything about the PatientsLikeMe experience more usable, useful, and compelling. We figure out what our members need, then sketch some ideas of what to build. We work with other PatientsLikeMe teams and our members and other patients to make sure we’ve got it right. When we all think it’s in good shape, we turn it into a design blueprint for our engineers.
Right now we’re designing some essential renovations, like cleaning up screen clutter, fixing search, and making it easier to find your way around. After that, we’ll be looking at ways to make data entry easier and smarter, designing for mobile devices, and eventually adding more content and functionality.
Why are you here at PatientsLikeMe?
Of all the products I’ve designed in the last 20 years, the ones related to health have always been my favorites. Making a great phone or a slick commercial website can be fun, but nothing is as inspiring as helping people live longer, healthier, or better lives.
PatientsLikeMe is even better than other healthcare work I’ve done, though. The whole company is driven by patient-centered values in a way I haven’t seen anywhere else. My job is to make sure those values are evident in what we deliver to our members.
How have you improved other products?
As a consultant, I once worked with a big online pharmacy that made people go through a bunch of unnecessary steps to fill a prescription. They saw an immediate drop in help desk emails after my team eliminated those steps and got rid of some jargon.
Whether it’s a glucose meter for Abbott or a website for Lexus, I’ve found the same approach works very well. Get the whole team focused on what users want to accomplish, how they think and feel about what they’re trying to do, and the language they naturally use, and it’s easier to come up with the right solutions.
What will you help PatientsLikeMe do differently?
PatientsLikeMe has always listened to members; the community team in particular makes sure the whole team is hearing member suggestions and concerns. The user experience team will be involving patients and caregivers even more closely in how we build products. We’ll also be talking to people who aren’t members yet, and to members we don’t hear from as much because they don’t hang out in the forums.
Before we design something new, we’ve started doing in-depth interviews with members and other patients, sometimes even in their homes. We’re not just looking at how people use our site. We’re trying to understand what it’s like to get diagnosed and live with different conditions, so we can help address the most important questions and challenges. We’ll keep doing more of that as we add new communities to the site.
We’ll be asking small groups of members to try things out and give us feedback before we launch any major changes. We’ll be testing designs with some non-members, too, because some updates will focus on making the site easier to learn when you first sign up. This should mean things go more smoothly when we roll out a site update. Of course, the community team will still be listening for any issues we don’t catch, and our engineers will be on duty to fix any bugs.
What do you hope to accomplish for members?
Of course I want to make some aspects of the site easier to use, but we’ll do much more than that. We’re thinking about how we can answer questions like what helps people sleep better, or how long they’re able to work with this condition, or how does stress affect certain symptoms.
We want to do a lot on the social aspects of the site, too. One thing we’ve heard consistently in patient interviews is that a “patient like me” isn’t just someone who shares my condition. It’s someone who also shares my life experiences and interests, like trying to stay employed or be a good parent when you have no stamina, or trying to find natural treatments that work.
How can members get involved?
We’ll soon start inviting a few members to help us test some ideas for simplifying the site navigation. Later on, we’ll have more invitations like that. We’ll be asking people to participate in interviews now and then. In the coming months, we’ll also be looking for a few members to get involved in a bigger way.