Illumina. Reimagining genomics for the general consumer.


UX Designer / 2015

The Project

A major genomics company wanted to transform their genomics app into an engaging, informative tool for the next generation of consumers. This intensive user experience project was conducted over 7 weeks, where we tested a total of 83 concepts over countless hours of user research and design iterations. The result was a vision prototype of the application. I was specifically involved in the ideation process, conceptualizing and wireframing MVPs for user interviews, and applying some visual design to the final prototype at the end.

This work was done while employed at Medullan. I worked as the team’s UX designer alongside very talented colleagues: Rebecca Lord (Director), Rob Gifford (UX Architect), and Sarah Miller (UX Researcher).

The Vision

Originally, the app started out as a way for consumers to understand their genome better after getting sequenced. As genome sequencing becomes more and more commercialized, there is a shift in its consumers from being genomics experts to people with limited genomics background. This opened up an opportunity for us to reimagine the experience of the initial app, as it was designed for a very different demographic. Our vision for this genomics application is to empower the general consumer and enable them to make the most out of their sequencing results.

The Journey

This project was all about understanding what consumers want out of a genomics app. We started out the project with an intensive 2-day workshop with our sponsors to learn more about who the users really are, what has been done before, what worked/didn’t work, as well to ideate on high-level concepts for the app. Through this workshop, we crafted personas that were more representative of our new class of users (which went through further iterations along the project) and we used these to inform our research and design decisions.

Research was key to understanding our users: research informs the design while the design shapes the research. To make efficient design decisions, we worked in a lean, iterative manner through rounds of user research cycles and design sprints. There were a lot of sticky notes, whiteboard sketches, Axure wireframes, before we arrived at our vision prototype.

The Results

It's all about me.

The most important take-away from our research was, when it comes to genome sequencing, it becomes all about the users getting to know themselves better. They want to be more informed about their health and understand any risks regarding themselves and family members.

A key way to drive engagement is to actively invite continuous learning. One way of doing so is to notify users of new discoveries related to their health, as more research is being done over time. Personalization is very meaningful to users, so supporting questions and concerns around a life event (new health condition, family planning etc.) can be very effective.

Speaks to me in a language I can understand.

We made the language easy and simple to understand upfront, but also provided access to more in-depth information and related resources to ensure confidence and to satisfy those want to have a higher understanding in genomics.

Tells me what to do next.

By anticipating natural, emotional reactions to information and pairing that with appropriate actions, we can provide clear and actionable next steps at all times. Examples include: “talk” to a genetic counselor, “share” with family or physician, or in some cases we provide a list of clear and simple actions that can be taken to reduce risks.

Gives me support and confidence.

The experience needs to instill confidence in users that all the information presented is from reputable, trusted sources. This allows them to feel comfortable sharing and/or taking action on their findings. As health data is a very sensitive topic, users also need to consistently feel that their privacy is being protected and that their data is secure.

Users were very pleasantly satisfied with the prototype towards the end of our project. Together, the vision prototype and gathered insights provided a path for our client to move forward and shape the future of the application’s roadmap.

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