2 posts tagged “UX expert”

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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New To the PatientsLikeMe Team: Kim Goodwin, UX Expert

Posted March 19th, 2013 by

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.

Kim Goodwin- Vice President of User Experience

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.