Case Study: Connected’s In-House COVID-19 Symptom Tracker
July 30, 2020
This article takes you through a project by Connected Labs—our dedicated R&D function—aimed at building a COVID-19 symptoms tracker that could be put to use for businesses as they look to head back into their physical spaces.
After months of being shut down, offices and other indoor public spaces are starting to re-open, making it critical to track and contain the spread of COVID-19. Given this, the initial task presented to our team was simple: build a solution that allows people to report on their COVID-19 symptoms so that businesses can monitor the health of their employees as they begin to return to work. As the team began to brainstorm ways to tackle this problem, we were met with a slew of additional questions and potential risks to consider:
- How might we differentiate our solution from the symptom checker apps that currently exist?
- How might we make this experience engaging without being onerous on the user?
- How might we enable the use of these features without requiring every employee to download a new app?
- How might we respect the privacy of individuals using this solution, giving them peace of mind?
These considerations all boiled down to a single, overarching question that guided the approach to our work over the subsequent weeks:
How might we expand upon the idea of a simple symptom checker app and build out a desirable experience, both for an end user and an administrator?
The name of the game was to build out a proof of concept for a COVID-19 symptom checker app over a two and a half week sprint, keeping the above goal in mind. With a team of one Product Manager, one Product Designer, and two Software Engineers, we got to work using the following approach:
Step 1: Research (two days)
When building a product, it is always important to understand what solutions currently exist in the market that may be fulfilling a similar need. Based on these findings, it becomes possible to identify gaps that our product can address and try to incorporate impactful elements into the experience that we build out.
Our business research was centred around understanding what value this solution could provide for an organization. We investigated metrics and data that would be useful for the business to collect, how the solution might differ for a large company (i.e. 1000+) vs. a small one, and how we might build a product that is easily adopted by a business regardless of their technical competencies.
User research focused primarily on analyzing existing symptom checker apps and thinking about ways that we could improve upon these flows to design a more engaging experience for the end user while they go through a process that may otherwise feel mundane.
Lastly, technical research involved looking into various technical details including tech stack options, backend requirements, third-party integrations, and user privacy.
Given the short timeframe, we timeboxed our research activities to a couple of days. At that point, we moved on to Step 2: Concept Generation.
Step 2: Concept Generation
Based on the findings that came out of our short and scrappy research phase, we developed a baseline user journey with draw.io that incorporated various feature ideas as well as the main value proposition of the app: to collect and track covid symptoms. In building this journey, we emphasized the importance of a linear and straightforward user experience.
Since this project was quite short and highly agile, we did not have the full user journey mapped out before the team started designing and building the prototypes, but focused more on generating concept ideas that we could explore and flesh out during Step 3: Design and Build.
Step 3: Design and Build
Low-fidelity wireframes were created by our Designer, RJ, based on the user app concepts we had generated to establish the basic structure of the UX.
The primary focus for the user application was designing an experience that resonates with peoples’ everyday lives; we wanted to build features and flows that encourage daily usage of the app and ideally turn it into a habit-forming product. This meant designing flows that are intuitive, easy to understand, and yet provide value to the user.
Once we had team alignment on the wireframes, RJ created a beautiful branding and style guide which was applied to the wireframes in order to produce high-fidelity mockups. We took this set of mockups through a round of design critiques with the Design Guild at Connected, leading to another iteration of designs that improved upon areas highlighted by our peers. Our engineers Alejandro and Nenad were then able to pick up and build out each screen using Flutter, a UI SDK that can be used for cross platform development.
In addition to the user app, we also generated designs for an administrative portal that would be used by an organization to track a variety of metrics that should prove useful for monitoring employees’ health, happiness, and productivity. Here, the emphasis was on creating a tool whose wealth of data is intuitive and easy to digest at a glance. The portal was also designed to empower the business to customize and configure various features in the user app, such that the experience could be tailored to business needs and requirements.
All in all, our goal coming out of the design/build phase was to create interactive prototypes that simulate the final product experience and would allow us to uncover any usability issues or potential opportunities for improvement.
And now… the fun stuff! At the end of the two and a half week sprint, we ended up with three separate prototypes:
This app was built out in Flutter and proved technical viability from a front-end perspective. Through this app, users can go through a symptom checker survey to assess their health risk factor and eligibility to work in the office, view and select available office seats, receive relevant company announcements and resources, and answer questions about their happiness and productivity at work. These features are pushed to the user app via the Admin Portal, and any activities in the app feed into the metrics displayed in the Portal.
The Slackbot integration prototype demonstrates the value and seamless usability of third-party integrations. Forcing users to download a net new app in order to take advantage of the experience we’ve built introduces a large barrier of entry. By developing integrations into existing business and HR tools, this barrier is greatly reduced and more users are enabled access.
An admin portal enables businesses to do a wide variety of activities, including monitor health/happiness/productivity of their employees, customize the user app with different widgets and surveys based on their business needs, and more easily manage the flow of workers back into their offices.
To learn more about this project and to discuss a walkthrough of the product, please reach out to firstname.lastname@example.org.
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