UX Research. Product Strategy.
Starting with a desire to help acupuncturists using VR, I applied user research, product strategy, and UX evangelism. In 3 months we crafted a user-centric MVP.
TIMELINE: 3 months
TEAM: Engineering and Marketing
PROBLEM: The passion project did not have a clear target audience
- Interviewing Users: Learn about the audience and their needs using discovery research
- Define the Audience: Use personas to examine key user groups and relevant context
- Understand the Industry: I used two competitive analyses to understand an innovative produce space
- Co-Create with the Team: I led journey mapping and UX strategy blueprint workshops for team focus and buy in
- Craft Product Roadmap: I used product and user research to prioritize features that met business and user goals
Who is our audience, what are their needs, and how can we help them?
Mapping the User Journey
Can we make alternative healing more effective with virtual reality? Chi VR is a virtual reality app that provides Traditional Chinese Medicine education and relaxation. In order to guide concept development, I conducted extensive formative research. Using this data, I charted out the user journey, indicating how the product could solve user and customer problems within the current context. I also identified several opportunities to improve the MVP for further usability testing.
RESOLUTION: Although the VR app did not hit product-market fit, I learned how to identify the target audience, discover and implement strong insights. I also gained working industry and platform knowledge for later projects.
Most patients did not understand the diagnosis and felt afraid to ask
“A lot of people feel like it’s a magical type of practice. Patients seem to think I have a sort of sixth sense about their condition. They wouldn’t know that they were Meridians or points. I don’t think they knew what to ask. There just isn’t a lot of time for the acupuncturists to educate patients about their process.”
VR apps that focus on meridian and chi education do not exist in the clinical market space. In order to inform the innovative design, I created and conducted generative research. I conducted 6 in-depth interviews with alternative healing practitioners.
- Patients often lack a faith and understanding in the healing process
- Most patients show a lack of follow through with lifestyle suggestions, such as a meditation practice
- Most practitioners create their own herbal remedies and use other simple solutions
- Most practitioners manage a solo practice and build their own client list
“I love the therapy and counseling that goes into acupuncture treatments. The acupuncturist treated me like I was a whole system.”
“I always felt amazing after treatments. But insurance stopped paying for it, and I wasn’t seeing enough of a benefit.”
“Acupuncture didn’t really yield. They never explained the mechanism. They could explain more of how it works. It’s not clear what is going on.”
In order to design an effective product, I needed to develop a deep understand of both key users’ pain points and goals. I created and conducted in-depth interviews for patients as well. I conducted 5 patient interviews.
- Patients have a wide variety of goals when visiting an acupuncturist
- Most insurance plans do not provide coverage for alternative healing
- While patients report feeling relaxed after sessions, the deeper benefits are not always clear
Synthesize Findings and Insights
In order to clearly display and categorize findings from the user interviews, I created a digital affinity map. Additionally, I included a few categories of market research that will help to inform other product decisions. As a result of this process, I was able to confidently construct user archetypes and create the first iteration of user personas to inform the customer journey map.
- There is a lack of educational technology and credible sources for Traditional Chinese Medicine
- I found that the “Five Element Theory” is typically included in available resources
- Emotional references are often included in Meridian breakdowns
- Being an unfamiliar product in the market space will be important to include in the customer journey map
- We should consider incorporating the Five Element Theory in the app to meet education standards
- We can use the anatomical visuals and meridian descriptions as a starting point for the education information architecture
I identified features that seemed interesting and relevant to the Meridian education and clinical VR space. I decided to rank potential features in terms of feasibility, desirability, and viability.
Create a Shared Vision for UX
As the first UX person on the team, I was responsible for advocating the voice of the user. In order to create a cohesive product vision and to share research insights, I facilitated multiple co-creations such as the UX strategy blueprint, customer journey map, and expert reviews. As a result, the team became more user-focused and said things like, “Let’s ask the users.”
Evaluate the Product Usability
Expert reviews before usability testing catch an average 30% of usability errors. I broke the app down into three main sections and conducted a piece by piece heuristic assessment. I started with Norman Nielson’s 10 heuristics, and then I consulted a VR expert. I was able to pinpoint key issues in the app’s menu and user navigation. As a result, I am working with the lead developer to incorporate VR UI patterns for simplified usage.
Create the Customer Journey Map
Creating value for the users is the current product focus. This customer journey map outlines the practitioner experience after purchasing a Chi VR subscription for her patients. I utilized findings from the in-depth practitioner interviews to inform this map. Additionally, I filled in some of the knowledge gaps with insights from the technical and content competitive analyses. As a result, I was able to identify some immediate opportunities for product improvement.
Given More Time…
- HEURISTIC EVALUATION ROUND 2: After key features had been implemented, I would conduct another round of heuristic evaluations to identify any necessary iterations before usability testing.
- CARD SORTING: Traditional Chinese Medicine is a niche topic, and while many practitioners know the language, most patients are unfamiliar. To better understand patients’ mental models around the topic terminology, I would conduct open card sorting tests. Ideally, an initial round with about five participants (formative), iterate, and then conduct a round with at least 50 participants to solidify the information architecture for the product design.
- MODERATED, FIELD USABILITY TESTING: After research-backed IA has been implemented, I would schedule the first round of usability tests with five users from each target audience group. I would plan two to three days to allow for travel to practitioner offices around San Francisco for a more natural use case testing environment. Primarily, I would be testing to see if tasks make sense: “Create a diagnosis exercise” or “Select Meridian, chakra, or meditation exercise” for example. I would bring a partner for extra notes and video/audio, and I would assess success rates, perceived effort, and subjective satisfaction.
- USABILITY HEURISTICS: During this extended project, I learned how to identify and utilize multiple usability heuristics for a new platform.
- COMPETITIVE ANALYSIS: I learned how to tailor competitive analysis for innovative products (i.e. break down product model) to focus on potential direct competitors.
- INTERVIEW ITERATIONS: I learned to iterate interview discussion guides based on findings, which enabled me to optimize participants’ time.
- CROSS-FUNCTIONAL COMMUNICATION: I learned how to communicate implementation suggestions to a VR developer.