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Confer Health Diagnostic Home Device for Fertility Testing

In-home diagnostic testing device which processes biological samples and delivers results within minutes. The device connects to wifi and is controlled by a companion mobile app.

DATE

Spring 2018

ROLE

UX designer focusing on the behavior of a hardware device with tasks including workflow design, user research, and light animation

COMPANY

Confer Health

EXECUTIVE SUMMARY

Define the experience of a medical hardware device, using light signals to communicate with users

I joined this team as the UX designer of the hardware device, and was tasked with defining the behavior states of the device.
 

  • I designed the behavior of the device in various use scenarios documented in a state diagram.

  • I developed a “light language” that the device would use to communicate with users when different states or actions were taking place.

  • I led a week-long diary research study with potential users to learn about how the device would fit within a user’s home and daily life.
     

At the time, the device was also being developed by several different team members so this work required close collaboration with a UX designer, an industrial designer, software engineers, scientists, and hardware engineers.

PROCESS: INTERNAL RESEARCH

Understanding the use cases

I needed to first understand the intended use of the product, so I interviewed company stakeholders to identify the main use cases, environments, and core functions it should perform for the user. From this, I discovered three main use scenarios:

Single home use: One device would be in a home used only by one person. This device would only need to connect and be controlled by one user account on the app.

Multiple users in a home: One device would be in a home shared and used by multiple users. This device would need to connect and be controlled by at least 2 different user accounts.

Clinical use: Several devices in a clinical setting used by one or several different users. These devices would need extra authentication steps to ensure the right user account is controlling the intended device.

Knowing how many users in a space was important since the device would be pairing to mobile phones, and because this was a medical device and we needed to be sensitive to user information being shared.

PROCESS: DEFINE DEVICE BEHAVIOR

Flow maps to outline main device functions, state change moments, and error handling

Once I defined the intended use cases, I built flow diagrams for how the device would operate and pass information in each scenario.

Device power on and establish a wifi connection sequence

A device state diagram including all the steps the device will go through to power on and connect to wifi.

Inserting and processing a sample

The science and hardware engineering teams determined much of what needed to occur in this process to ensure the most accurate results.

A device state diagram including all the steps the device will go through to process a medical sample.

PROCESS: DEVICE COMMUNICATION

Designing a status light language

In the flow diagrams I identified all the moments when the device would need to provide feedback to the user about an information state. This led me to realize I needed a way for the device to communicate with the user in a way that they could easily understand what is happening.

I developed a system of colors and light animations that portrayed meaningful information to the user. I leveraged familiar colors for certain messages, and used different speeds for animating the light to differentiate between them.

A table including device states and the light animation styles and colors to convey different messages

To determine which colors and expression to assign to each state, I researched common product light behaviors and established principles for non-verbal communication to inform this design.

I then prototyped animations of each expression to demonstrate the different behaviors for each scenario and tested whether the intended message was conveyed.

PROCESS: USER RESEARCH

But how will this fit into user's lives?

Next, I needed learn how this device would fit into user's physical space and daily routine so I set up a week-long diary study with participants and shipped them a box with a prototype.

Prototype packages

Participants received a package with all prototype components of our product and minimal instruction on where to set up device. This was so I could learn where they instinctively chose to place it in their homes.

Chatbot communication

To maintain consistency and timely communication with participants, I used a chatbot to send them daily use instructions and surveys to complete. Participants responded with keywords that would trigger communications from the chatbot.
 

Since they were completing the tasks via text message, I gained additional use data such as time stamps of when tasks were completed.

A view of the moderator's messages on a laptop and the participants view as text messages.

Results: Device locations

From my research I learned why users chose to place the device in certain places, as well as when and how they interacted with it. With these findings I could make recommendations on how to improve product hardware and improve the device behavior.

Affinity diagram of where users placed devices in their homes

Illustration to show where devices were placed in the context of a home setting

CONCLUSION

Key learnings

  • By coordinating closely with science teams and mechanical engineers, I learned the importance of designing within constraints to preserve the integrity and accuracy of the science. A poor quality result was sure to lead to a terrible user experience so maintaining quality was my priority when doing my design work.
     

  • Working with a device that could only communicate with light pushed the boundaries of how I think about design. It was a new creative challenge that called on a different set of skills not typical to UI design work and I enjoyed learning about colors, animation, and directing the user’s attention with light. 
     

  • Setting up the remote diary study led me to use technology I wouldn’t think to use in research, such as a chat bot. I was again pushed out of my comfort zone which led to a creative solution that provided a new set of skills for me.

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