In May 2020, I started working on a project to create a new kind of digital contact tracing app that could be successful where others failed. After developing this idea from research to final concept, I knew I had to get started right away if I wanted to be able to execute this in time, so I found a technical partner and started building this startup right away.
Service Design, Business Design
Tech, Consumer Social, Health & Wellness
User Research, Systems Design, Product Management, Business Development
Through my personal experience, public observations, online research, and user interviews, I developed an understanding of the problem area, generated insights from my research, and identified an opportunity space for potential solutions.
After a few months of pandemic lockdowns, it became abundantly clear to me that things would get a lot worse before they got any better. Everywhere around me, I saw people stuck in the same, sick behavioral loop of 1) hanging out with friends, 2) testing positive for COVID-19, and 3) wondering how in the world they could have been infected.
Concurrently, various contact tracing apps were launched in the US with lots of media attention, but they failed to gain any substantial traction.
From this, I identified that people weren't seeing their friends as possible vector points of virus transmission.
I also hypothesized that contact tracing apps failed to take off because users feared that these apps' required location data tracking and universal exposure notifications might take away control over their daily lives.
Empower users to make more informed decisions about their COVID
safety without any location data tracking or public exposure notifications.
I set out to design a system that would add some protection against COVID without invasively exerting control over its users lives. After ideating and iterating on a few different designs, there was clearly one concept with the best combination of desirability, usability, and protection.
Components Applied in Concept
Indication of COVID-19 Status
Submission of COVID-19 Test Results
Tracking Mechanism for Vector Points of Virus Transmission
Test Result Submissions
COVID-19 Risk Rating (w/ Private Notifications)
Scheduled Social Plans
How It Works
Users schedule group social plans in an app to keep Risk Ratings updated for all parties involved.
Users submit negative or positive COVID-19 test results to update Risk Rating to Blue or Red.
Risk Rating used to evaluate COVID-19 safety (before scheduling social plans)
COVID-19 Risk Rating Options
Since we were having less social interactions, by default, it was plausible that users could plan all of their (high-risk) social interactions in the app (i.e. group hangouts - not grocery store visits).
With this requisite behavioral change of digitally planning social interactions, I recognized the
opportunity to pivot this service post-COVID to a platform for fun social planning, integrated social calendar management, and business-to-customer interaction management.
After sharing ideas for this planned service with potential users and gathering feedback, I was satisfied with the functionality of the design, so I started building to make this idea a reality.
With a clear plan for the function of this service, I started designing screens for a mobile app, since this service would have to be accessed quickly, easily, and regularly.
From the system design described above, I developed an initial design for the user interface and created a project roadmap to detail the features that should be included in the MVP and to consider additional features to implement later.
I found a technical partner to build the app, and we worked together to finalize the UI/UX
design and branding of the app. I managed this project in coordination with the development team lead for a few months, until the app was ready to launch.
Unfortunately, when the app was ready to be launched, we found out that Apple was requiring any COVID-19 related apps to be published by established healthcare companies or government organizations.
So, I tried establishing relationships (from Nov 2020 - Jan 2021) with entities that could help to get the app published with no success.
By the end of Feb 2021, the opportunity window for normalizing the digital planning of social interactions (due to COVID desperation) had passed, and I was forced to make the tough decision to shut down the entire operation.
The most impactful thing that I took away from this journey was the importance of connecting the functionality of a research-backed service design with an even more desirable user interface design to create an elevated user experience. After the accomplishment of designing a potentially effective, functional service, I stopped designing and started building. By not focusing on designing a maximally desirable user interface for the delivery of this service, my plans for the app design were adequately functional - but failed to deliver a delightful user experience.
I also learned not to bet against time, that it takes an army to build a startup, and how to interact with potential partners and investors.
Ultimately, this was an incredible opportunity to learn how (and how not) to build a startup, and I'm excited (to take a break and then) to apply my learnings from this experience in my next venture, whatever that may be.