Frontier Health

Frontier Health is a med-tech marketplace, founded by Anika Penn in 2015 and it aims to bring together a disaggregated world of medical device innovators with a network of over 200 health care providers and clinics.

I collaborated with three talented designers and we explored how to help innovators get their products to a larger audience and expand their impact by revisiting the platform’s onboarding experience.

FINAL PROTOTYPE

OVERVIEW

Project time frame: January – February 2017
Status: Complete
My role: Project manager, content strategist and UX research. Documented the process, facilitated team discussions, conducted user interviews, designed wireframes and prepared client presentations.
Collaborators: Ariella Chivil, Krizia Fernando and Ahad Basravi.


CLIENT TESTIMONIAL

“I was incredibly impressed by Riri’s strong work ethic and the commitment she brought to my project. As the team’s project manager and UX designer/writer, she was a critical contributor in redesigning the onboarding experience for the supplier side of Frontier Health and building a landing page that reflects my company’s value propositions.

One of her main gifts lies in taking complicated ideas and turning them into compelling and concise copy. In addition she was the lynch pin of the group, coordinating next steps, communication with me, and deliverables, all amidst a constantly shifting project scope. Riri listened to my needs as well as the needs of my users and translated all of those inputs into a workable plan.

She was great at communicating the status of the project – I don’t have a UX background so she helped me learn about UX principles as we went through the process together. Whenever I needed to make decisions, she walked me through the implications of each option which ultimately helped me to make decisions that align with my vision.

I have full confidence that she will continue to be a leader in whatever project she is assigned to and believe that she will be a major contributor at whatever company is lucky enough to have her on staff.”

– Anika Penn, CEO and Founder of Frontier Health


PROJECT SCOPING & FINAL RESULT

GOAL: This project focused on improving the supply flow of the marketplace business model. Initially, Anika’s goal was to automate the device screening process of through an online form. After sketching ideas and digging deeper into the research, we decided to prioritize showcasing Frontier Health’s value propositions authentically to increase user acquisition and get innovators on board.

PROCESS: The workflow was inspired by the design sprint process, created by the design partners at Google Ventures. In five weeks, we started with foundational research to understand the company’s background and gain contextual knowledge of the industry. From there, we moved into user research and synthesis to understand and map out user pain points. Using that data, we sketched wireframes, built prototypes, tested, iterated and discussed implementation strategy with the client.

RESULT: Our final prototype is the outcome of using data and user feedback on what the highest priorities are to them when working with Frontier Health. Ultimately, they wanted the confidence that Frontier Health could get their product seamlessly from the “benchtop to the field.” If any issues arise, they can rest assured that it will be taken care of swiftly and efficiently.


1 | "What's Frontier Health and how does it work?"

Anika Penn founded Frontier Health in 2015 because she saw a disconnect between medical device innovators who have the tools and brains to create technologies that are needed in the marketplace but not a means of getting it to the right audience. Frontier Health helps innovators expand their reach by connecting with over 200 healthcare providers and clinics around the world.

She works with innovators to assess product and market fit and supports them through the distribution process, down to the last mile. Innovators are able to get the feedback they need on their products from the field to make them better.

CURRENT ONBOARDING FUNNEL:

The onboarding experience is currently done entirely manually. Anika collects information through a form and processes them herself. She will then have a one-on-one phone call to screen them.

What actually happens:

  1. Innovators with products speak with Anika directly on the phone (or exchange email correspondences) to discuss product-market fit.
  2. Anika, or a member of the sales team, manually takes note of relevant product and company information.
  3. They are processed in their internal database. Edits and updates are also done by hand.

What ideal looks like:

  1. Innovators will be asked to submit their product and company information through a detailed, automated form on the homepage.
  2. Anika would screen incoming inquiries and email them if they see a potential fit.
  3. A phone call to discuss product-market fit will take place.

COMPETITIVE & COMPARATIVE ANALYSIS:

Now that we understand the company’s business model, we sought inspiration. The first thing I said to my team was, “Can we name examples of great onboarding experiences?” Two companies came up as obvious: Etsy and Airbnb. Analyzing their flows allowed us to identify traits of great onboarding experiences.

Ahad did a phenomenal job of working through each of these companies’ onboarding flow (making a dummy account and following the step-by-step process) and mapping it out for us in the below visual, as well as the PDF compilations of each screen. From there, we were able to easily analyze the best parts of the flow.

Etsy is a global marketplace for individual and small business owners to sell unique, handmade and vintage items. We really liked the clear status bar on top that indicates where the user is during the process. The categories under each section are spelled out explicitly and there’s no confusion experienced in the flow. (See PDF version of screenshots here.)

Airbnb, a homestay network for people to list and/or rent out short-term accommodations, is known to have one of the best onboarding experience for hosts. Despite the fact that it was a long process, we loved that it felt like they were on our side. They took something extremely complicated and made it digestible. (See PDF version of screenshots here.)

I decided to also check out B2B (business-to-business) services with persuasive and inspiring value propositions on well-designed landing pages to identify how they convince users to become loyal customers. The landing page is the first point of contact for customers, even before they speak to a representative or meet people in the company. I needed to know what these companies did right and apply it to Frontier Health.

Uber for Business, a corporate transportation service, is a great example. Their messaging is clear, concise and convincing. Their call to action (CTA) button stands out. They support the value they bring with real data and testimonials. The visual aspect of the page is on point, keeping colors and fonts balanced out.

Lexis Advance, a legal research tool, is another great example. Legal jargon can be confusing and intimidating but they don’t use any of that here. They clearly understand that their value proposition needs to align more with non-attorneys such as office managers, paralegals and administrative assistants because they are usually the ones performing research for their lawyers.

SUMMARY OF LEARNINGS:

  1. Ask a lot of questions in the beginning! Having those initial conversations with the client about the business model and how it works was crucial to developing a deep understanding of what we were working with. I based my questions from InVision’s “Difficult design questions to ask your new client” and Tomer Sharon’s “Questions I ask every startup founder that wants UX feedback.”
  2. There is no shortage of inspiration out there. There isn’t a product exactly like Frontier Health so finding inspiration required a bit of creativity. In this quest, listing out companies we admire got the ball rolling. As a team, we figured out which companies dealt with the UX of a marketplace well.
  3. B2B businesses are complex. Companies like Uber for Business and Lexis Advance focuses on conveying their value propositions through well-tested copy writing and it works!

2 | "What are users struggling with the most?"

Before going into the UX research phase, we developed assumptions about our users’ pain points to figure out what we wanted to test and validate. This gave us a high-level overview of what users struggle with and a sense of how to prioritize their needs.

  1. Distribution: The process to get their products on the market and then into the hands of purchasers is complicated and inefficient.
  2. Product: They don’t received feedback on their products so they have no idea how to improve them.
  3. Sales: Innovators may feel as though they don’t receive as much customer and technical support from their third-party distributors.

Let’s talk to some amazing innovators!

Prior to this project, Anika and her team of advisors gathered names and contact information of innovators that we could speak to about their product development experience and working with third-party distributors. I reached out to the innovators via email individually, introducing the project and the team and requested a brief window of their time for a user interview.

Ariella facilitated a total of four initial user interviews over the phone. She started out by asking about the innovator’s background and how they got involved in med-tech. The conversation got more specific when they discussed the product development process and challenges involved regarding sales and distribution. Finally, she closed the interviews with debriefing questions. Some questions we asked:

  • As an innovator and a business leader (or owner) what are some of your immediate priorities?
  • What is the competitive landscape for your product and your business right now?
  • What regions have you sold to/do you plan to sell to?
  • What questions do potential buyers typically ask you about the product? What resources do you provide?
  • What information would you like to know when signing up with a third-party distributor?
  • What really keeps you up at night with regard to selling your product in remote markets?

These were based off of our assumptions. As a team, we came up with a list of questions and modified them to focus on specific past behavior and experience. Steve Portigal’s “Interviewing Users: How to Uncover Compelling Insights” was my secret weapon that helped me create questions that lead to insightful feedback. (Along with everything I learned at the Introduction to User Research workshop by Stacey Sarris.)

The interviews were recorded so that we could listen to them and capture feedback accurately. We uncovered more pain points than we knew what to do with them. Naturally, the next logical step was to dump them onto post-it notes and categorize them based on patterns we see. We took all the feedback from our and grouped their pain points.

DISTRIBUTION:

  • There is so much logistical risk in resource-poor environments and the process is expensive.
  • Last mile shipping is a huge challenge.
  • What if the product breaks? What if it gets lost? Too many “what if” questions that cause anxiety.

PRODUCT:

  • They might be confusing to assemble and use. Product UI can come down to life or death.
  • If the product gets used, innovators don’t know what worked and what didn’t. Not helpful when they want to make improvements.

SALES:

  • Innovators utilize their immediate network and do cold reach-outs.
  • Pricing and other information can be unclear.
  • They want to work with trustworthy companies that respect them and their products. Those are hard to come by!

Our user interviews revealed two main categories of users: (1) our early stage med-tech startup CEO and (2) an operations lead for a later stage startup. We created a quick persona for each to humanize their pain points and help us with developing scenarios as we take them through the Frontier Health storyboard.

SUMMARY OF LEARNINGS:

  • Invest in the users’ problems. We spent a lot of time refining our user interview questions so that we could gather insightful feedback. I did a lot of research on how to do user research so I was well-equipped with the tools to make the best use of our time. Some of my favorite articles are listed here.
  • Design the UX of interviewing users. Since we dealt with busy med-tech professionals, we were intentional about not wasting their time and making it as easy as possible for them to share their experiences.
  • Research is magical. Despite the fact that we had our assumptions, interviewing users reveals many pain points we never initially considered. Letting users talk uncovers a plethora of information. User feedback led to a lot of conversations with the client about rethinking the project scope and strategy.

3 | "How do we tell the users' story?"

During research, we gathered a lot of feedback on the users’ pain points. Before sketching a set of wireframes, we storyboarded the end-to-end journey to better understand what onboarding to a third-party distributor looks like and where exactly the pain points are in the process. There are a lot of moving parts between product development and last-mile delivery so it made sense to outline the users’ story.

STORYBOARDING THE JOURNEY:

This storyboard follows the early-stage med-tech CEO persona journey. I sketched out a manga-style (Japanese comic) episode of the ups and downs of being a busy med-tech innovator who has an amazing product that is about to get shipped to the other side of the world. Donna Lichaw’s “The User Journey: Storymapping Products That People Love” was an instrumental book in recognizing how great stories are told.

CARD SORT WITH CATEGORIES:

In the classic film, The Sound of Music, Julie Andrews flawlessly suggests, “Let’s start at the very beginning” (Do-Re-Mi, 1959). So we did – we started by identifying all the information Anika gathers from innovators with products that are ready to ship. Then, we did a card sort to categorize the information together. Following that, we created sub-categorizes to make the onboarding experience less overwhelming and more delightful.

REDESIGNING THE FLOW:

The priority for our initial redesign of the flow was to pull our users in through a compelling value proposition page and then guiding them through an onboarding experience that matches their expectations. We want the easy stuff to come first and leave the cumbersome items for last, with an option to do it later if they can’t be bothered with it.

SKETCHING WIREFRAMES:

At this point, we were all overflowing with ideas so each of us decided to sit down for twenty-five minutes and individually sketch out our first set of wireframes. Silent sketching is an activity used in the design sprint model and is proven to be an effective use of time and effort in ideating. It didn’t matter how pretty the sketches looked – it just needed to communicate an idea. This was not a competition of who was the best artist. Good design should be self-explanatory and have excellent copy.

Once the timer went off, we went around and used sticky tabs to identify aspects of the sketches that we liked. In the design sprint process, this activity is called “dot voting” (even though we were using sticky tabs). Because good design is self-explanatory, we took turns to silently critique each design. After a round of evaluating each other’s designs, we analyzed the heat maps created by the collection of tabs and identified aspects that we’d like to use in our initial prototype.

SKETCHING WITH ANIKA:

As I publicly documented the design process on this page, Anika has been closely monitoring the progress we made since the beginning. She was also involved in every major decision-related conversation and let her give us the best input from the CEO point of view. We’ve presented her with the user findings and recommended different ways to approach the problem by discussing the risks and implications. When we discussed our pre-prototype sketches, our client took a sharpie and a sheet of paper and sketched out some of her own ideas.

I believe that every CEO should feel empowered to look at data and sketch their ideas so this was an important moment for all of us. I love that she embraces the design process as a way to improve her company. I’m convinced that we did an amazing job showing the best of what design thinking has to offer. On the flip side, we’ve admired how passionate Anika is when it comes to solving global health issues. Personally, I didn’t care about it before but now, I can’t stop thinking about it!

SUMMARY OF LEARNINGS:

  • Be intentional about alleviating cognitive load. It’s important to analyze the users’ happy path and only ask for information that is absolutely necessary. Each piece of information that Frontier Health asks for needs a purpose. The onboarding experience should never feel daunting.
  • Some user pain points might not even be fixable (or the cost of “fixing” them is too high). Rather than to dwell on this, the best thing that we can do as designers is to decrease the emotional distress. Giving them assurance when they experience anxiety can be a huge relief, leading to great UX.
  • Silent sketching gave us four great designs, as opposed to one. There were some things that all four of us had in common. There were also unique features that we each came up with that displayed examples of great user experience.

4 | "How might we validate our designs?"

We analyzed our wireframes (particularly focusing on the heat maps) and picked features to be included in our initial prototype. At this point, the client’s goal still was to automate the onboarding process. Ahad and Krizia put together the first set of digital wireframes that incorporated all our ideas into one flow. Ariella and I helped them fill in the boxes with the copy. Since we were involved in the user interviewing process, we were familiar with the language that our innovators felt comfortable using.

TESTING & FEEDBACK:

We put these screens into an InVision project and created our first clickable prototype. I reached back out to some of the innovators for a follow-up interview (as well as new innovators we haven’t spoken to) so that we could test our prototype for usability hiccups and general feedback. Ariella designed the UX of testing the protoype and facilitated a couple interviews. We used GV’s “Five Act Interview” as a guideline for facilitating tests. Here’s what they had to say:

Landing page feedback:

  • The “Get Started” button is the obvious first step. Users felt obligated to click that first because it was on the top of the page.
  • It is unclear that this is a paid service. There’s nothing on the landing page about the business model and cost for innovators.
  • The header image makes the website feel like a charity.
  • Is this a social network to connect with potential buyers?
  • The offerings sound simple and straightforward but I’m afraid that it’s too good to be true.
  • One users thought this service was a scam. The language is too simple and friendly.

Onboarding flow:

  • Optional versus required fields were unclear.
  • Confused by the terminology such as “dimensions” and “availability.”
  • If there is a category or field missing, can it be updated?
  • Users didn’t know what to expect during the flow even though the status bar was on the top.
  • Not enough transparency – there should be screen shots of the dashboard and what the onboarding process looks like.
  • Check marks on the status bar is unclear. None of the users couldn’t tell which section they’re currently in.
  • Why are you asking me for this information?

ITERATING THE PROTOTYPE:

After reviewing the fruitful feedback from users, we realized that communicating Frontier Health’s value propositions is the most important aspect of the flow. Our initial prototype didn’t fully pay attention to the copy writing, which is arguably the most important part of the onboarding process. I learned that when I reviewed the onboarding for Uber for Business and Lexis Advance, yet it slipped my mind.

Krizia and I honed in on the content strategy and started by listing everything that Frontier Health has to offer. As she was piecing together a refined version of the landing page, we played around with various ways to craft the messaging and how it looks visually on the page. This evolution of the landing page shows that after the second iteration, we really got down to business with the copy writing and content strategy:

FINAL ROUNDS OF USABILITY TESTING:

We conducted more usability testing to figure out what worked and what didn’t. In this round of testing, we asked questions that were more specific to the messaging and how each section on the page made them feel. This helped us isolate the copy that really resonated with them and which didn’t.

The beauty of working on a copy-first landing page is the ability to get absolutely nitty gritty with the language we used. By asking users specific questions that goes back to the messaging and copy, we got a solid sense of how they felt about Frontier Health. We wanted the language to reflect Frontier Health’s brand as a trustworthy platform to connect a disaggregated marketplace of medical device innovators with a global network of health care providers and clinics.

WRAPPING IT UP:

Ahad and Krizia worked together to clean up our final prototype before presenting it to the client. Their eyes for pixel-perfect visual designs brought everything together. When I reviewed the final prototype and shared our process with the client, I felt like each of us on the team had significantly contributed to making this happen. The client was blown away by our dedication to creating a page that truly resonates with the innovators she works with.

SUMMARY OF LEARNINGS:

  • Some users felt compelled to directly give us suggestions on how to improve. While implementing their ideas might be useful, it’s more valuable to consider the problem that is stemming from it. It’s one of those “asking for a faster horse and designing a car” situations.
  • Integrating content strategy should have come earlier in the process as to not waste time when testing a prototype. We got better and useful feedback once there was some form of copy on the page as opposed to placeholders with “lorem ipsum.” (Read: “Death of Lorem Ipsum” by Luke Wroblewski) Innovators cared significantly more about the messaging and why this service is relevant to them rather than how it visually looked.
  • Testing a prototype before building the actual thing mitigates risks significantly. If we didn’t realize how scammy the language was or the charity vibe we gave off, we might have lost many potential customers before they even knew how unique Frontier Health is.

5 | "What comes next?"

Our recommendations for the next steps for this project are to keep iterating on the landing page and focus on making it a people-driven service. Users also wanted to know more about the Frontier Health network because this is what makes the company special and unique. We also have the UX of the demand side of this marketplace, which yields a completely different approach.

Landing page improvements:

  • Drive the company’s value propositions through data! Get more numbers that reflect how solid the Frontier Health network is. For example: “We currently work with over 200 clinics in 10 countries, serving 300,000 patients across 8,000 acres.”
  • Add case studies and demos about products being trial tested in Frontier Health’s network of clinics and highlight results.
  • Collect success stories and testimonials from innovators to increase markers of legitimacy.
  • Consider content and screen real estate. Some words are not absolutely necessary.
  • Address the issue of how innovators would communicate with the clinics.

Business & strategy:

  • Build credibility through social media, blogs and other channels. Also, good to increase engagement with the community.
  • Use Google AdWords for better SEO so that the right Frontier Health appears higher on searches. (There are several companies out there with that name.)
  • Get future innovators (such as medical students and people who are interested in contributing to the med-tech industry) to sign up for weekly emails that include updates on Frontier Health’s progress.

FINAL REFLECTIONS

I found this project to be extremely gratifying and useful for my career development for several reasons.

– Anika’s passion to solving global health problems is contagious. We committed to advocating for her business and learning more about the innovators that drive the company.

– “Simple UX” is anything but. So much research and testing goes into creating a seamless experience and I felt like we achieved that with our final prototype. Our earlier prototypes feature a crazy amount of writing and unnecessary information but this process allowed us to trim it down to exactly what is needed to get users excited to join the Frontier Health network.

– Team harmony is essential. I loved every minute of working with them. Each of us brought a major strength to the table and were not afraid to use it. I also loved seeing everyone step outside their comfort zones and challenge themselves. The visual designer conducted user interviews. The research expert learned Sketch overnight and single-handedly prototyped. The developer took messy information and magically created a workable spreadsheet.

– We need to empathize with our team, too. As designers, the first thing we learn about UX is advocating for users and empathizing with their pain points. All of us were on the same page about making the work easier for each other and making sure that loose ends were taken care of throughout the process.

Thanks so much for reading! If you have any questions or feedback, I’d love to know. Send me an email and let’s chat.

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Credit: Header photo by NASA on Unsplash.