Published on March 31st, 2020 | by Emergent Enterprise0
How to Design a User-friendly COVID-19 Test
Designing an effective and good user experience (UX) is always difficult but it is even more of a challenge when you are asking a user to do a task that they don’t want to do. Mark Wilson shares a report at Fast Company about the UX design of a mobile application in development that can guide a user through a self-test for the COVID-19 virus. That means that a user’s emotions are running high with fear, uncertainty and anxiety. How can the UX possibly be, well, good? The featured company, Scanwell Health, is doing just that by making the UX simple, streamlined and not intimidating. There are even efforts to make it as painless as possible. The design of the lancet that pricks the finger, for instance, is shaped with the user in mind. This UX design does not happen without strong empathy for the end user and a complete understanding of not only the end goal but for the best possible user path to get there.
Image: courtesy Scanwell Health
Americans may soon be able to screen themselves for COVID-19 at home. But designing the perfect kit is no simple task.
Existing COVID-19 tests have a terrible user experience. You have to wait in line, sometimes for hours, to get one. If you’re getting tested, you probably already feel quite ill. And then you may have to wait hours, even days, for results.
Several companies are working on improved tests. Abbott Labs developed a five-minute screener for clinics that works on-site without sending samples to a lab. Cue Health is working on a 25-minute nasal swab test. And now, the Los Angeles-based company Scanwell Health is developing an at-home test kit for COVID-19 dubbed the SARS-CoV-2 test.
Pending FDA approval, you would be able to order the $70 kit through the mail, take your own blood, and get results at home in 13 minutes—using technology licensed from the Chinese manufacturer Anivita that can analyze blood while sidestepping a lab. The company hopes the tests can move through governmental approval and be on the market in six to eight weeks. Scanwell Health is one of many companies rushing to build tests for the U.S., but this one stands out for its unique approach for personal use.
Whether or not the company is able to meet that aggressive schedule, Scanwell shows what a test might look like when it prioritizes the needs of the user. That’s because Scanwell Health is as much a UX company as it is a medical one. It currently makes at-home kits for urinary tract infections and has a blood test for chronic kidney disease in clinical trials with Kaiser Permanente. From its earlier products, the team has learned best practices it can duplicate across other products. “I like the term living bible,” says Michelle Kim, UX designer. “Graphic designers like to say they have a brand book. We have our own living product book.”
For instance, the team has learned that its packaging of an at-home test needs to work hand in hand with its app. Each step needs to be very short, with a brief sentence and a GIF or looping video demonstrating the next action. “We try to start with the perspective that the user has never had to prick themselves and extract blood,” Kim says. “We try to think of the most challenging scenario and work backwards from there.”
The Scanwell Health team is currently developing the SARS-CoV-2 test under quarantine, conferencing from their homes via Zoom, pricking their fingers in teleconferenced group meetings, and working to develop the easiest, most foolproof test they can.
It’s no simple feat. Users will have to prick their fingers with a lancet. The blood pools on their finger—it’s not a “flood” Kim says but it’s more than a diabetic would collect for a blood sugar reading. Then the blood needs to be collected into a pipette. That blood is then poured onto a test strip. The person adds a couple drops of a solution to distribute the blood across the strip. The strip then detects antibodies, which signal the virus is or has been present in the person’s body.
So how do you convince someone to break their own skin to take blood?