Aggressive deadline turned into an opportunity to align stakeholders around a high-profile wellness incentive platform. Our corporate jujitsu opened up dialogues about content and objectives, while we used pair design and rapid iterative testing to advocate for users and still deliver on time.
“We’ve tried several times to do this, and no-one was successful. This time, we got something that accomplishes what we need ... and we’re picky!”
~ Senior stakeholder and business owner of this project
Interaction design, Pair design, Project management, QA, User research and usability testing, Visual design, Workshop and critique facilitation
For the better part of a year, UPMC Health Plan’s member portal had been undergoing a technical and experiential redesign known internally as “modernization.” As part of this project, senior leadership was eager to overhaul its high-profile wellness incentive platform, Take a Healthy Step. When the assignment arrived at our doorstep, we were asked to deliver in little more than a month.
Take a Healthy Step was complicated. It had the hallmarks of many similar web redesigns, including stakeholders with competing priorities and ancient ruins of technical debt. But what really made it complex was its myriad client customizations and tangled hairballs of meaning. To illustrate but one example, every Take a Healthy Step configuration included what were called “requirements,” but for some participants a subset of requirements were optional, and for yet other participants none of the requirements were required. On top of that, stakeholders wanted the the optional requirements not to appear optional, and at the same time they wanted the program to be intuitively clear.
I was assigned to lead the design, and I argued that if we were going to do this accelerated project, then we were at least going to adhere to a process. This was an opportunity for corporate jujitsu — we could use the urgency around Take a Healthy Step and redirect it toward opening up dialogues about content and objectives. So we started by facilitating a series of hour-long sessions to talk about the boundaries of the project and what success would look like. We emerged with four problems everybody agreed to focus on, and high-level objectives related to each. We had assured skeptical stakeholders that pausing to do this work up front would speed and smooth out the rest of the project going forward, and indeed, more than one stakeholder later told us how much they loved the problems/objectives “poster.”
With our path clear, my teammate Kelsey Humphries and I jumped into concept exploration. We used a pair design approach to push and refine ideas, each of us playing “driver” or “navigator” for a while before trading roles. Co-designing led toward better solutions than we could’ve produced alone, and the way we collaborated in real-time got us there faster and kept us on track.
Pair design in action: What you see above is mostly my handwriting. During this session, I was the “driver” whose job it was to generate ideas. Kelsey acted as “navigator,” asking questions and synthesizing context to critique what I was generating. Only one marker allowed in the conversation at a time. You can see in the lower right corner where Kelsey’s handwriting begins, as we traded roles.
Meanwhile, we also really dug into Take a Healthy Step’s language and content. I drafted maps to reflect back to stakeholders, aligning and adjusting understanding. We diagrammed and picked apart content types. I combed through client configurations so painstakingly that we soon knew the content better than anyone else did, including the stakeholders who owned it.
And of course, we tested our designs. With “alpha” approval secured for the conceptual direction we were headed, I thought this fast-paced project was a perfect fit for Rapid Iterative Testing and Evaluation. By testing with just a couple of users at a time and then immediately making changes for the next round (which we did remotely with UserZoom), we unearthed critical issues and refined our concepts within days.
Insight: An earlier version featured a horizontal progress bar, but we observed that people were effectively able to get the same information from the progress wheels around the badges. The bar wasn’t necessary. We also watched people struggle to understand the hierarchy between certain requirements, and so we sought to make that relationship more clear.
Our RITE research gave us confidence in presenting and recommending design revisions to stakeholders and the engineering team, who we had worked to build trust with every step of the way. And as we presented and critiqued new designs with the Take a Healthy Step owners, we began to hear dialogues we had initially hoped to open up. Senior stakeholders wanted the program to make sense to the people using it, and it was now more apparent than ever that changes to content and account management would also need to take place upstream of the user interface.
Our final designs were delivered on time, in early February, and Kelsey and I spent the subsequent weeks and months supporting development and QA. The “modernized” Take a Healthy Step launched in May 2018 to much organizational praise. Its first big test in production will come in the fall, when its largest client has their program deadline. Until then, we’ll be keeping an eye on key indicators through the summer.