Project type: Speculative
My roles: End-to-end product designer
Duration: March-June 2021
Creating an end-to-end mobile application for social good.
Members of the LGBTQIA+ community often struggle to find mental health providers who have the necessary expertise to assist with their unique needs.
Build an app that makes it fast and easy for LGBTQIA+ users to find experienced mental health providers who understand them and their communities.
Many sub-communities make up the beautifully diverse LGBTQIA+ tapestry, and each has their own unique mental health needs when searching for or considering a new provider.
I began my research by interviewing a diverse group of four people from across the spectrum of the LGBTQIA+ community about their experiences — positive and negative — while searching for knowledgeable and competent mental health providers.
Prior to those interviews, I assumed the primary pain point for users while searching for a competent and experienced provider would be finding one at all but…
After speaking to users and performing a competitive analysis, I identified four main problems users might encounter:
Digging through provider listings and databases to find a relevant provider can often be time consuming and ultimately return no results
Many provider databases and individual provider's websites are outdated or inaccurate, giving users false or misleading information
Many mental health services that cater to the LGBTQIA+ community specifically can be prohibitively expensive
Some providers falsely claim to work with LGBTQIA+ clients or have experience with their unique issues, but quickly reveal in a session how little they know
Based on my research and the insights it provided, I created two personas. Jen, the first, represents a trans woman who's concerned about major family changes as a result of coming out. She's also worried about finding a therapist who understands her unique situation and who can help her.
Kade, a non-binary illustrator, on the other hand, is more concerned with cost. Because they don't have health insurance, they have to pay a provider out-of-pocket, which can get expensive quickly. Kade also doesn't have a lot of time to waste browsing for providers, so they'd like a way to cut through the noise.
Once I felt like I had a grip on who I was designing for and why, I started paper wireframes for the homepage. Those wireframe iterations eventually led me to a combination of three main categories for users to browse providers from the homepage: Featured Providers, Provider Specialty, and a Matching Questionnaire.
Because a majority of users I spoke to reported feeling like they wasted a lot of time while shopping for a provider, I wanted to make both the browsing and appointment request processes as quick and easy as possible.
Though 100% of users successfully completed the main user flow, and they generally reported feeling that the app design was fast and easy to use, my first unmoderated usability studies conducted remotely via Maze.co with five participants from across the LGBTQIA+ spectrum revealed a few key insights.
Though the calendar wasn’t yet built in the prototype, users reported they wished there were a way to see multiple appointment days and times simultaneously to avoid unnecessary taps.
4 out of 5 users browsed providers by specialty. 2 of 5 used the Matching Questionnaire, 1 used the Featured Providers section, and 0 of 5 used the Provider Search.
Users wanted a way to favorite or save providers for later so that they could compare them, their rates, and availability without having to navigate back and forth between profiles.
Using the insights from my usability study, I refined the design in high-fidelity mockups and created ways to address the problems users had with the low-fidelity prototype.
This included re-organizing the homepage, creating a scheduling calendar that allowed users to see more information at once, and giving users a way to save and compare providers later.
With a high-fidelity prototype in hand, I decided to use it to perform a second usability test to see if my solutions met users' needs and expectations.
Though users found the app’s design clean and thought it was easy to navigate the main user flow, my second unmoderated usability studies conducted remotely via Maze.co with nine participants from across the LGBTQIA+ spectrum revealed two more critical insights into my design.
Multiple users expressed confusion when trying to navigate to their calendar to cancel an appointment.
Users reported problems reading the text on the calendar while trying to schedule an appointment, as well as the icons in the main navigation bar.
To make it easier for users to find providers based on their area(s) of expertise, and to make it more visually appealing, I made the interest tags larger and put them into a horizontal scroll pattern.
To address accessibility concerns, I rethought the colors I’d used and checked to make sure that they all passed WCAG AAA contrast levels. I focused most on the calendar function, as it was unreadable for some users.
I also added descriptive text beneath the navigation bar icons, in addition to darkening all icons and changing the calendar icon itself, to make it clearer to users what it was and easier to locate their scheduled appointments.
If you'd like to take Queerly for a test drive, I have a high-fidelity prototype of the main booking flow available.
Because this was my first-ever product design project, I learned a ton and I learned it fast! These are my biggest takeaways:
As a member of the LGBTQIA+ community who's sought mental health care in the past, I assumed the biggest problem for users would be finding a relevant provider at all, but their actual problem turned out to be much more nuanced. That threw my initial idea for the project for a loop (it was originally a matchmaking concept), but it ultimately made the product better.
In my previous work as a graphic designer, accessibility wasn't something that came up often, so I’m ashamed to admit I didn’t pay much attention to it in my original designs for this project. My work on Queerly has proven how impactful the smallest improvements to accessibility can be for everyone using a product, and it’s something I’m going to strive to be better at going forward.
I still have many questions about Queerly and its potential users. For instance, further testing should be done to determine if a Matching Questionnaire is as necessary as users initially indicated, and if so, what kinds of questions users would find most helpful or useful for getting matched to a provider. I also would like to explore the issue of cost in some way to help lower barriers to users when it comes to accessing mental health care.
Providers would need a provider-only version of the app to manage their profiles, correspond with clients, and manage their appointments. I would need to take their unique pain points into consideration to come up with a design and test it to see if it meets their needs.
This app can’t work without an audience of competent and relevant mental health providers using the service too. I’d like to know what it would take to convince them to join an app like this, and if there are any unique problems or issues they might have like privacy or HIPPA-related concerns that I could design ways to address.