Navigate is a mobile application design that leverages empathy and mobile-collected data to help people with diabetes make more informed therapy decisions. This case study was an independent capstone project in my Designlab UX Academy curriculum in March, 2017.
Diabetes effects 29.1 million people around the globe, or approximately 1 out of every 11 people.
The proper management of this disease is, in many cases, a matter of life and death.
This project was sparked by my own experience caring for a 9-year-old boy with Type 1 Diabetes. As his caretaker I used a mobile app to help monitor his blood sugar levels and overall safety, but saw opportunities for improvement that could impact not only my experience of caring for him, but perhaps his overall individual health.
One of the biggest advancements in glucose, or blood sugar, tracking in the past few years has been the introduction of continuous glucose monitors (CGMs):
While there are currently phone apps that sync with CGM devices and send notifcations about blood sugar trends, I hypothesized that there was an opportunity to use a strategic and human-centered design process to improve on current diabetes management applications that are synced with a CGM device. I sought to answer the following question:
How can we better leverage mobile technology to improve the life of someone managing diabetes with a continuous glucose monitor?
My challenge was to design an app that leveraged the technology of a CGM to help users track their glucose data and better understand how to use this data when managing their own, or a loved one’s, diabetes.
Project brief / timeline
UX Strategy Blueprint
Review of technical constraints
In-person interviews & observations
Messaging & tone
UI visual design
I personally do not have Type 1 or Type 2 diabetes, and therefore an in-depth research phase was crucial in order to establish a broad knowledge base of diabetes technology and an empathetic understanding of people with or caring for others with diabetes. This included the discovery of user needs, frustrations, motivations, and daily routines and challenges.
My initial exploration on diabetes and diabetes technology included:
Through this ongoing research phase I gained industry insights, better understood CGM technology and product line potential, and identified key areas of focus for user research.
After my initial discovery I was able to narrow my scope down to two primary user groups: adults with type 1 or type 2 diabetes and parents who care for children with type 1 diabetes.
In-person user interviews and observations were next conducted to identify usage trends of CGM devices and/or health-management applications, priorities from the user’s perspective, knowledge gaps, frustrations, and other opportunities for design enhancement on current diabetes management applications.
Organizing, synthesizing, and analyzing my user research notes.
How does the app fit into our user's daily lives, routines, and mental models?
How does it add value to their lives?
User’s leverage digital diabetes management applications for two main goals; managing BG in
Based on user interviews and research, two personas were created and product features were identified and prioritized.
Leveraging the user personas and synthesized data from the user research phase, I created user flows, an application map, and sketches. Low-fidelity sketches were then transferred into Illustrator for higher fidelity wireframes and eventual prototyping.
I conducted in-person usability testing using a prototype built in InVision with people that have or care for someone with Type 1 diabetes.
Testing provided valuable insight in observing the onboarding process, how user's explored the app's features, and any elements that were observed to be confusing for the user. Feedback from usability testing informed my next round of wireframe iterations and design.
This case study was a capstone project in my Designlab curriculum, and therefore I had a very limited time constraint of two weeks to complete most of the deliverables. A project such as this is complicated and has a direct impact on the health of individuals; it deserves an immense amount of time, team collaboration, and community effort.
However, I was able to experience the all-too-common challenge of having a lack of resources, and learned how to manage my time, adjust my work, and prioritize in order to accomplish specific goals but still produce results that were high-quality within my given constraints.
Another challenge was the consideration of legal and FDA regulations. My research informed me that data in trends from CGM systems technically aren’t supposed to be used for making therapy decisions (because of accuracy,) and blood glucose values are really the only measurement that can be used as an accurate value/reading, which is they the applications “calibrate” feature is necessary. However, interviews and secondary research made it clear that people do use CGM values to take action in therapy adjustment (out of health necessity), and a recent podcast interview with Dexcom CTO Jorge Valdez confirmed that the ability to make a therapy decision based on a CGM reading is in the pipeline of FDA approval. I was able to gain experience (and understand the frustration of) designing in an environment where government and safety regulations are both helpful guidelines and constantly changing constraints.
One challenge I encountered was determining how to present enough data that was accessible for the largest target audience (some people can read graphs easily, others are intimidated or challenged by data-heavy applications and visuals). Everyone’s levels are so varied, but having access to information is extremely important in this setting.
Like all things, this project--and the world of diabetes technology and medical advancement--is complicated and always shifting. But many would argue that advancements in diabetes management technology isn’t changing fast enough. This alone shows a need for collaboration information-sharing, and the creation of digital applications such as the Navigate app. The more one understands the lifestyle of a person who has or is caring for someone with diabetes, the more clear it becomes that advancements in related technologies, whether hardware or software, are critical to the well being of millions of humans around the globe.