CASE STUDY

New England Metabolic Consortium

Creating a new normal in health care resources

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The New England Consortium is a leading resource in the field of inborn errors of metabolism for physicians and families alike. I was the first (and only) designer on the team, helping people navigate the platform faster and finding important resources with ease.

The New England Consortium initially began as a collective of healthcare professionals meeting once a year, but it quickly grew in scope. It evolved into a spearheading platform creating and consolidating resources never before seen in metabolism, helping physicians and families along their journey from Newborn Screening to Transitioning into Adult Care.

I led the overall UX Design and focused on changing their platform to best flow with the changing needs of the people who use the platform.

From the words of a General Physician who uses the website:

"This is a fantastic looking website. It's easy to use and intuitive... You know what you have to do immediately in the moment for someone with a diagnoses."

Robert - General Physician

Impact

By the end of this project with the help of metabolic physicians, general physicians, and family members of those with inborn errors, we had 64% increase in web traffic, 10% increase in time spent on each page, and a 10% decrease in bounce rate.

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Impact

64%

INCREASE IN WEB TRAFFIC

10%

INCREASE IN TIME SPENT PER PAGE

10%

DECREASE IN BOUNCE RATE

Role & Team

My Role:

I was the lead (and only) UX Designer on the team. I advocated for this project because I saw the potential in what this website could be for our audience. This was the perfect role for me to jump on because of my Human Computer Interaction & creative background along with my specific expertise working in genetics and metabolism at Boston Children's Hospital.

The Team:

The team consisted of myself as lead UX Designer along with my amazing colleagues of physicians & board members of the New England Consortium.

The Challenge

The New England Consortium website has grown to be much more than just a website to showcase a conference and now is an informational resource for physicians, families, and educators.

 

While the website has received general positive feedback, some pages were still incredibly difficult for people to find. The large blocks explaining each resource hindered our audience from actually clicking with such an abundance of text. We had to ensure that our website was both friendly and informative while also not overstimulating and daunting.

Initial Website Design

The initial design before I began this project with is shown above. The website includes a wide variety of information that needed a revamp from web flow, concise branding, and visual design as shown below. The website made information more difficult to find due to its text heavy nature which was brought up throughout most user interviews.

Why is this important?
(Quick background for non-metabolic professionals)

Metabolic inborn errors are rare genetic (inherited) disorders in which the body cannot properly turn food into energy. The disorders are usually caused by defects in enzymes and affect the body's ability to break down (metabolize) food into energy and remove waste.

Not all hospitals have a metabolic department. There are even less that may be equipped for more rare metabolic diseases where infants need immediate care after birth. Through the initiative of amazing doctors like Dr. Levy at Boston Children's Hospital, the Acute Illness Protocols were created to help bridge this gap in information for general physicians and help infants in need.

They didn't stop there. There was a gap in knowledge for school educators and even families from initial care, diet, and transitioning into adult care. This website was created to be a friendly way for all audiences to take more initiative in their care and what we can all do for children with metabolic diseases.

Synthesis & Scoping

While conducting usability testing through observational studies and usability tasks, it became apparent: we could add features or consolidate and streamline the current product.

I started by organizing the types of issues found based on usability testing by target audience.

NEC Needs
NEC Pain Points

What Should We Focus On?

Of those pain points, we decided on working on the information architecture and conventionality of the website. Why? There were incredible resources that could be used, but given its placement or the website interface itself - they were lost gems and not receiving the traffic they otherwise could. This was especially apparent for the family usability testing. Working on the overall interface also allows for a more positive experience throughout both the professional and family portions of the website making it a more valuable starting point.

Let's Get Started

Initial Web Flow

We started this by analyzing the current web flow and really understanding what resources were available where. We found that some links were broken, redundant,nestled after 4-5 click, and not easily found from initial navigation. With this understanding, we went back to the drawing board and really questioned what would be the best way for our audience to navigate based on their intended reasons for visiting guided by past usability tasks.

Re-Designed Web flow

From our user tests, we asked our participants to find a certain page. It became apparent that our audience would first look for a way to reach the certain disease by its name first then based on the category the information may be in afterward. Bychanging the pages, each disease showcases all resources available on the website sectioned by intended audience with additional broad resources found in a separate section. For example - adult transitioning for mitochondrial disorders, the participant would first look for a way to get to mitochondrial disorders. If they could not, then they would try to find the category of adult care. With this in mind, we designed our web flow based on the disease itself instead of profession and allowed for our audience to find all resources first based on disease. If they still wanted all nutrition or adult transition resources - those would also be available giving more options but in a more cohesive manner.

Usability Testing and Personas

Focus groups were conducted on 7 people who fell into one of the following three categories.

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Patient/ Family

Someone who wishes to learn more about their disease or the disease of a family member through additional resources including long term care and educational resources.

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The General Physician

someone who relies on this website for up to date metabolic protocols to use in their own clinics as many hospitals do not have a metabolic or genetics department though immediate aid many be needed for these patients.

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The Metabolic Medical Professional someone who relies on this site for up to date information on the New England Consortium and new information and resources for their own patients and hospitals.

Iterated Design

Usability tests revealed a number of problems with the website's navigation and interface. We found users wanted less words per page, a dedicated section for outside resources. General physicians wanted quick access to critical information that may be used in a clinical setting. I focused on creating these changes.  

Feedback was given by a team of five other consortium members, a general pcp, and a family member of an individual with a rare genetic disease. I created boxes with the title which when hovered over would showcase a description of the resource previously written below so web pages were less overwhelming. We chose to add a shorter survey asking for feedback from people and more visuals.

Refined Iterated Design

Usability testing showcased, while the previous hover boxes helped cut down on initial wordiness, it still didn't seem to be quite enough. With almost each page once clicked on including a summary at the beginning, it made less and less sense to add a longer description when the title and button would suffice. The boxes themselves were also more difficult to re-create. In order to ensure that future designers on the website were able to keep coherency and create a website that could be more easily added onto in the future, we decided a sleeker, button approach would suffice. The design also includes more white space in an effort to make the wording and function behind each page clearer. Brand colors were more effectively seen throughout the website through buttons, footer, etc.

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Final Design Additions

After peer feedback and analyzing what pages our audience most fequents through our analytics, we decided to add a section specific to the Acute Illness Protocols. This section is specific towards professionals in the field to implement in their own hospitals and also are the only resource for a number of diseases. By consolidating the Acute Illness Protocol diseases, a quicker search is created for professionals.