Overall at Well, we knew there was a lack of user research. A lot of the company's decisions were driven by outside stakeholders and we felt like the product was being built more for them than our actual user's needs. Most research was gated by the customer experience team and they mostly focused on validating their own ideas and not value for the user. Design also had little control or input over any of the research.
Portrait was the first research project I got to work at Well. Portrait is a health profile that has a "Well score" and includes activity related information like insights, progress, and rewards all in a new section of the navigation. When I joined the team, the design for Portrait was already far along, so I aided in created the clickable prototype and was responsible for writing the interview script and leading the interviews.
My research on our updated Journeys feature was the last project I worked on at Well. Journeys guide users over a period of time and help them take meaningful steps towards managing a chronic condition or building better habits. We wanted to increase overall journey engagement and increase flexibility within the journey structure. I worked with another designer on the prototype and then took the lead on the interviews.
When we first discussed potentially doing research for Portrait and I learned I might be involved, I spent a lot of time going through the Figma file on my own and with the lead designer so I could understand the intricacies of the project. Then we had an initial meeting with the project manager to discuss the goals of the research and what outstanding questions we had that we wanted to get user's opinions on. I was also given the amazing responsibility of writing the script, so I then worked with the lead designer to create the flow of the prototype in tandem with writing the script.
After writing an outline for the script, I shared it with my manager, the Portrait designer, and the project manager. After some really great feedback, I flushed out the outline and wrote the first draft of the script, which we then shared with the customer experience team for additional feedback. I had to balance all the stakeholder's requests and feedback, while still making sure the script wasn't too lengthy and would allow time for the user to explore the prototype. After multiple iterations of the script, we shared a final draft with the head of the design and product team while we began scheduling the interviews.
We worked closely with the customer experience team because they controlled the budget for any research. Together we decided to interview current Well users for the study. The customer experience team had just got great responses from a survey asking user's if they would want to participate in research and we were curious how they would view such a big change within the app ecosystem. They ended up being the ones to choose the exact participants, so we ended up with all users who already loved the app. While it is great to talk to user's like that, it can sway the feedback because many of them only had positive things to say, so we made sure to kept that in mind for our next research endeavor.
We talked to 5 different users, 3 woman and 2 men of leaning towards middle and older ages. I lead all of the interviews and was accompanied by the Portrait designer and alternating members of the customer experience team. The interviews were over Google Meet and we originally wanted the participants to open the Figma prototype and share their screen, but the participants faced some technical difficulties, so ultimately I mostly shared the prototype on my screen. I had them think aloud and tell me what to scroll through or click on to eliminate as much of my bias as possible. Overwhelmingly, all the users were very interested in Portrait as a whole and the personalization it surfaces.
The main goal of this research was to get current users' reactions to a completely new feature that was much different than anything already in the app. We also got some great feedback around the new community aspect that Portrait began to uncover, some users were ecstatic about it and others repulsed. Since there were such polarizing reactions to potentially being compared to different types of user groups, this led to further research around opting into a community and still protecting PHI when sharing user information. This was the first time in my career that I actually got to talk directly to users, so I let the positives and negatives of this process help shape the next study that we did at Well.
While we got some great feedback from users from our Portrait research, our design team wasn't entirely satisfied with the overall research process that we had at Well. The three designers on our team set up a bi-weekly meeting with a product manager and UX writer who shared the same concerns about our company's research process. We all agreed that research should be done earlier in the product process when ideation is happening and not after just to check a box. We created a preliminary document to solidify our goals and even brainstorm potential research. From that we decided that we wanted to focus on content for Q4 because we had started to some exploration around changing the structure of our main content feature, Journeys. To follow that up we created a more specific research plan that solely revolved around content, which I then took to create various research project pitches to present to our team.
Project Pitch & Preliminary Script
One of my learning goals for my co-op at Well was to improve defining ambiguous problems on my own. In school, all project scopes are already determined and exact parameters were given. Although it was difficult and resulted in a lot of scribbling in my notebook trying to grasp all the facets of Well's content ecosystem and many collaborative meetings with my manager, I was able to create a final project pitch that had clarity and a focused purpose.
We decided to use external participants for this project because we wanted truly unbiased opinions. Since the pool of users that our customer experience team always pulled from were only users that absolutely loved the app and used it almost every day, we didn't want to get biased feedback when showing them such a drastic change of the Journey format that were accustomed to. We didn't share the project pitch with the consumer experience team until it was very developed so we could clearly discuss our goals and secure funding.
While I was finalizing the script, I worked with my manager to finalize the Journey V2 prototype. We used the script to guide the flow of the prototype and then made as much clickable as possible so we the participants could have a full experience. The participants would be asked to track their first day of their sleep journey and then explore the following summary screen.
Setting Up Interviews
As we were finalizing the script and prototype and my co-op was about to end, we posted the study on userinterviews.com to start recruiting participants. We quickly started to get applications, so my manager and I read through them one by one and tried to select 5 diverse participants, from various areas of the country, different family life, genders, and ages. We did skew the ages, so the average age was upper middle age since that is our primary user base.
We used Google Meet for these interviews as well. I lead them and my manager took notes, while some of our coworkers joined various calls. We sent to the link to the prototype in the chat and walked everyone through how share their screen. I always left some time at the end for my coworkers to ask questions.
After the interviews, my manager and I consolidated the notes and talked about our findings and things we found interesting at our bi-weekly product research meeting. It led to some really great discussion about where we saw the app going in the future. I then created a more formal slide deck to present to our greater product team with recommendations of specific projects our finding could lead to and specific next steps. Since this was my last week at Well, I wanted to make sure I could leave all of the information behind clearly, so when I left there was no confusion.
After leading these two research studies, I learned so much about the innerworkings of UX research that I had never thought of before. I was always drawn to the idea of UX research, but never had much exposure to it. The research we did in class felt very artificial and at my previous co-op, I got to plan and prep for a research study, but my co-op ended before we got the funding approved so I never got to see it come to fruition. I am so grateful that my manager and coworkers trusted me with the responsibility of leading these studies. I now understand that UX research is so much more than just asking user questions, it's a whole process within an organization and if that isn't running right, then you aren't going to get the maximum value out of your study. I also became so comfortable talking to participants of all ages and gained confidence in my ability overcome any challenges that arise during interviews. I definitely love the feeling that I got talking to users because it made all the design work feel worthwhile!