A better title for this section might be “How I made time for UX as a solo designer in a fast-moving start-up”. Going in to this project, I knew I was going to have a lot being asked of me, so staying organized, flexible, and focused on deadlines was crucial.
Too keep a cool cruising speed, my strategy was to:
- Identify what parts of the UI and visual design of things didn’t have blockers that could be started on right away.
- Not to start from scratch. I wanted to do as little second hand research as possible, and instead rely on SME’s, REAL PEOPLE, that could give me insights into the subject area and the problem we’re tackling
Building blocks of a design system
A soon as I could identify an element in a wireframe as being something that could end up on a screen, it became a component. This helped me expedite the process of upscaling wireframes to a version that could be shared, tested, or demoed.
I brought this all the way to the atomic level. A little trick I like to use if icons need to be updated is to cut and paste the incoming icon into the wrapper of the outgoing icon. If the wrapper is saved as a component, all other instances will be updated!
Simultaneously, I used the following methods to learn more about our business and user needs.
- I organized 1-on-1 interviews with each of the founders to learn about their respective goals with the business & product, vision, and target user groups. I wanted to dig deep into what exactly they think we’re building, why we’re building it, and for whom. This was also an opportunity for me to get a handle on our existing research and how they have interpreted it individually.
- We held bi-weekly meetings with our (impressive) board of advisors, who's expertise was hugely beneficial to my understanding of the current health system and mental health crisis.
Using connections provided by the founders, I was put in touch with a variety of SME’s and stakeholders that could help me understand the needs of our different target user groups and build empathy:
- I conducted 1-on-1 interviews with young patients of the Diabetes Prevention Program at Johns Hopkins Hospital to learn more about their needs as they navigate the health care system for the first time and their information behaviors as they relate to their health and wellness.
- I interviewed clinicians at the Diabetes Prevention Program to learn more about where they struggle with patient-retention and how they track improvement
- I interviewed members of the National Alliance on Mental Illness communications and outreach team to understand where they were falling short in engagement and what admin tools were important to them.
- I facilitated workshops with a group of high school students who interned with us as part of their STEM program’s final project. Leading them through the design thinking process, we tested three feature concepts and gathered tons of great user data from their peers with surveys and prototype testing.
Here’s the high school group giving their final presentation on the work they completed with us!
Diagramming & sketching ideas
I’m reminded time and time again of the importance of using diagrams and sketches early in the design process to as way to brainstorm, communicate, and keep a record of ideas.
Continuous testing and feedback
For the most part, my design cycles were about 2 weeks in length, which didn’t leave much time for developing prototypes to be used specifically for testing. Instead, I made outreach to our user groups a part of my workflow and invited input and feedback whenever I could get it.
Here was my strategy:
- All incoming users receive an email after one week since creating an account. The email welcomes the user and ask them to complete a survey which assessed their satisfaction with the major features of the app
- At the end of the survey, I placed an ask to book a 20 minute feedback session with an open calendar invite
- Every week, I posted the open calendar invite to topical social networks
- Once the app was live, in-app entry points were created for users to leave open feedback and / or book a feedback session using the same calendar invite
- Our App Store review alert directs the user to our feedback page if the user answers ‘No’ to the question of if they’re “enjoying the app so far”.
Here’s the payoff!