The Lounge (Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center)
Visual design, UI, UX
Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center (MSKCC) was building a dedicated space for their Teen and Young Adult (TYA) cancer patients and sought our help to design a social media app creating a private online community for patients and survivors enabling them to access support services even when the new physical space was unavailable. As part of a team of 4 designers, my role was primarily in visual design, explicitly designing the system across iOS and Android platforms, also including brand development. I also participated in the product definition phase which included value proposition workshops, competitive audit and a user definition guide.
Together we created a vibrant, user-friendly app, which is hugely accepted and adopted. An experience for both the observer as well as an active participant. Leaning on emojis to drive communication.
I was especially proud of the app we developed because it encapsulated everything I love about design — solving complex problems, through empathy. And therefore crafting a functional rich experience — and it provided a way for young people to find community in the face of what is inevitably an incredibly isolating experience.
Before we got started, we conducted interviews with the relevant folks at the Teen and Young Adult (TYA) program. We asked doctors about conventional treatments patients go through and the after effects. Chemobrain was a phenomenon that affects patients after chemo, they have a foggy memory and a hard time thinking. Nurses gave us some fascinating insights into patients personalities and got us thinking about the tone used by the patients.
Using the information gathered, we collaborated with the primary stakeholders in a Value Proposition Workshop. This workshop was an opportunity to relay what we had understood about the patient's needs and the value this app would bring them and most importantly align with the success criteria. Once the value prop was agreed, we created several quick personas’ of typical users of the app and conducted an audit of similar and analogous products out in the market.
We then stitched these all up into a user definition guide which included the value prop, user stories from our patient interviews and a service blueprint. The service blueprint was necessary to show the client all the touchpoints a patient will have with the app and the physical lounge.
At this point we had an excellent understanding of the user, what features the user would want to see, and because this is a social media app focused on a sensitive topic, what type of content patients would be willing to share and seek. We knew almost all the patients used Facebook, Snapchat, and other social media apps, but we also knew they needed a unique platform dedicated to the massive situation they were facing.
Our next move was to define the brand for the app. From the start, we knew the look and feel had to be different from that of the hospital, and luckily the stakeholders agreed. We held a brand workshop including the MSKCC marketing team, to come up with a brand that would resonate with our target audience.
I facilitated a simple but effective exercise, covering the walls of a conference room with various photos and allowing participants to put green dots for desirable attributes and red dots for undesirable traits. We then grouped the green dots on one side and the red on the other side. I then went through the photos and had a discussion to generate adjectives describing the images.
The design phase consisted of exploring and validating design concepts against our initial research, wireframing, user-testing and hi-fi screens.
The information architecture of the app was equally important as the type of content and features. We knew that we had to make an effortless and intuitive flow from section to section.
A patient undergoing chemo is continuously tired physically and emotionally and needs to able to navigate and process information seamlessly. We spent time crafting three different design concepts and worked with the client to narrow down to one idea that we felt would serve the needs of the user.
We used Invision to prototype the core flow, which we took to the patients for some guerilla testing. We walked them through the app by asking guiding questions and gathering feedback. Overall testing went well; we did hear that patients wanted a way to communicate with each other more directly, especially when ‘chemo brain’ sets in. The patients validated our hypothesis.
We had an ‘aha’ moment and decided to use the world of emojis more extensively to allow the patients to express their current mood and more of their personality with minimal effort on their part.
This project was one of the most challenging and fulfilling I’ve worked on, in a few years. Creating a social media app for such a unique group in 6 months was no easy task, but we had a great client, who, although new to this kind of process, were flexible, thoughtful, responded quickly to any questions and most importantly trusted us to do the way.
The app launched earlier this year and had is widely adopted within the MSKCC patient community.