Build me an App: Succeeding when you get the wrong Client brief

A UX case study on the Girls in Tech Hackathon

This weekend I did the Girls in Tech Hack4Health, a virtual hackathon designed to help not for profits in the health space. My team was dedicated to helping a charity called Life’s Little Treasures. They focus on supporting the parents of premature and sick babies. They do amazing work.

A lot happened in 48 hours — including migraines and a massive lack of sleep. But here is a little summary:

  1. They came with an assumed solution, not a problem.
  2. Our research helped us identify the real problem.
  3. We delivered value: Solving the real problem, quickly and cheaply.

This case study will show you how we succeeded despite being given the wrong brief.

They came with an assumed solution, not a problem.

At the briefing the Life’s Little Treasures team asked us to build a medical tracking app crossed with a digital baby book, with a long list of additional features. It was an assumed solution that they thought they needed.

Rather than follow the brief blindly, we did some research, answering the following questions.

  1. What is already on the market?
  2. What are LLT’s goals and constraints, including current resources?
  3. Who are the users, and what are their problems and pain points?

What is already on the market?

Heaps. There are a dozen apps for tracking the medical milestones of premature babies, including one endorsed by the World Health Organisation. And there are heaps of digital baby book ones.

Reinventing the wheel was likely not the best use of our time.

What are LLT’s goals and constraints, including current resources?

LLT has a very limited budget and limited technical skills, but a huge amount of high quality collateral developed (medical guides, checklists, case studies etc).

Reinventing the wheel was likely not the best use of LLT’s limited budget.

Who are the users, and what are their problems and pain points?

From our interviews with users, we found they weren’t seeking medical tracking apps. In fact their real problem came in the form of information overload and lack of clarity about what happens next.

  • They couldn’t take in the medical information they were given day to day at the hospital just from doctor’s briefings, but were too scared to research online. This resulted in…
  • Parents feeling unsure about what their family’s journey might look like and why.
  • Parents not knowing what milestones to celebrate or why, creating a consistently negative experience out of one which should have some joyous moments, if not be completely miraculous.

Building an app would not necessarily solve their user’s problems. So…

We identified the real problem.

By developing the sample user journey, we were able to define the real problem our user was facing:

Tracy doesn’t know what is going to happen to her baby because she is upset and finds the information she is given overwhelming.

Which led to our core how might we statement:

How might we empower Tracy with the right information so she has clarity around her baby’s journey?

When we took our research back to LLT, they were more than enthusiastic. We had reduced a big overwhelming brief into a simple to answer question. And a far more manageable one considering their organisational constraints. So we went about solving it, and in 48hrs…

We delivered value: Solving the real problem, quickly and cheaply.

Using crazy 8s, we brainstormed a raft of solutions and ultimately came up with a mobile responsive website that:

  • Mapped the journey parents are likely to face when they have a premature or sick baby.
  • Showcased the milestones celebrate, to remind parents about the positive things happening.
  • Utilised LLT’s existing (trustworthy) resources and collateral to minimise implementation cost.

1: A clickable, high fidelity prototype for a mobile responsive website.

2: A sitemap.

3: A suggested information architecture which utilised pre existing collateral.

Most importantly, in one fell swoop we were able to address the primary user problem and the organisation’s primary goal. We did this while bearing in mind two key organisational constraints — limited budget and technical skill. This simple mobile responsive website will be cheaper and much easier to develop and maintain than an app with a long list of features. Indeed, what we developed could be handed straight to a contracted front end developer. The only other task LLT would have to do is decide one a content management system and train key staff and volunteers in how to use it.

Basically, a cheaper, simpler solution to the real problem.

What about the original brief?

The original brief (for a medical tracking app, crossed with a digital baby book) was not forgotten. In fact we addressed it in three ways:

  1. The website we designed allows LLT to direct their users towards a pre existing medical tracking apps they can recommend, such as the WHO developed “Preterm Growth Tracker”. So users will still be able to access this service if needed.
  2. The prototype could be easily repurposed into an app should they decide they still want to go down that route.
  3. By identifying leaders in this market segment, LLT now has a list of potential organisations to approach about reskinning/whitelabelling their app for the Australian market.

What the client said…

Team, you totally nailed it. Great strategic solution. Thank you for helping us to clarify our offering, by being able to make the best use of the resources we already have including decluttering our info into a clear, practical solution to best help parents at a time of great stress. Bec.

We love this new direction and the team have nailed what we are about. Karin.

So all in all, a weekend well spent.

Thanks to my amazing team, Angel Nguyen, Morgan Goulding, Sampada Sakpal, Sakthee Ravi Kumar, Annie Jiang and Jeanette Anderson.

And of course, thank you to Bec and Karin and all the team at Life’s Little Treasures. It was a pleasure working with you and for you! And thank you for the amazing work that you do.

Josephine — visit me at www.jmaguirerosier.com

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