Caregiver Personas: Connecting Dedication with Digital

Persona Example Image

Unless an interactive solution meets a human need or desire, it’s just a surge of energy-sucking pixels. To prevent this, you need to start with personas. According to the UX Lady, personas “identify real users’ profiles’, needs, wants and expectations” and help us answer ‘what’ each would do when faced with decisions, both on and offline.

My senior project is to develop a niche, social media network to help informal or unpaid caregivers (i.e., people who are responsible for overseeing the care of family members or other loved ones), specifically those who care for senior citizens.

Many of these caregivers are 45 to 65 years-old and called the ‘sandwich generation’ because they’re raising their own children, while caring for elderly loved ones. According to studies, these caregivers make up a fifth of Canadian professionals and are often “short of sleep, grumpy….and take it out on customers and colleagues at work,” but they are more than this. They are diverse people, living multidimensional lives.

To find answers, I developed personas, based on composites of more than a dozen caregivers I know personally, plus many I’ve read or learned about through recent research and my communications work with Ontario’s Community Care Access Centres.

They included:

  • Gillian,  theTechnopeasant on  a Mission,’ who is single, 61-years-old and responsible for her 92-year-old mom, who recently pulled a tendon.
  • Bruce, the ‘Hipster Tree-Hugger,’  who is a 52-year-old teacher, married with kids, and cares for Mary, his 83-year-old mom, who still lives in her own home…but that is changing as her scenario unfolds.
  • Nadira, the ‘Techno Diva,’ a 45-year-old, software executive, married with one child and caring for her elderly parents, who speak minimal English, including her 82-year-old father, who’s being tested for sleep apnea.

I built these personas using a hybrid mix of templates from the UX Lady, creative agency Fake Crow and our interactive media course last term. I also reviewed other personality models, such as Microsoft’s archetypes for cross-screen engagement, which I thought particularly relevant to tech savvy caregivers juggling home and work tasks; I thought how each type applied to caregivers I’ve met. From these resources, I identified, merged and created categories that touched on characteristics, such as their goals and frustrations, that can inform ‘how’ I build a social network to support their caregiving needs.

When I presented my personas for the class critique, much of the feedback centred on Gillian. I made her proficient at searching for answers online but lacking any kind of mobile phone.  My classmates thought it impossible that someone who was a senior’s lifeline wouldn’t have embraced the convenience of mobile. However, I based this persona on a real, digital immigrant who didn’t user computers until she was 32 and finds the consistent presence of devices, in boardrooms to diningrooms, offensive. Having heard similar objections from other Baby Boomers, I don’t think Gillian is an anomaly but I tweaked her persona to be more ‘open’ to mobile — someday.

Other suggestions were:

  • Including less affluent, non-professional people
  • Including a younger 20 to 30 something demographic as a secondary audience for cases when they are the only family nearby

I think including less affluent/non-professionals was the most important suggestion and adjusted my personas accordingly. I stayed with the ‘sandwich generation’s’ age range based on my research but will consider younger caregivers as a secondary audience for my overall solution.

Drilling Down to Social Strategies

Our fourth Analytics class focused on the first of two parts on analytics for social media. This first part highlighted facebook, twitter and LinkedIn in terms of what users can do on these sites and “how” you can use these platforms to measure online, as well as offline, initiatives.

As with all analytics, you need to identify your SMART goals, KPIs, metrics and measurement methods in advance to ensure you capture all the relevant data and don’t waste time or lose important stats.

I think it’s interesting to note that if you are running a campaign that includes an offline tactic (e.g. a coupon or redeemable voucher), you can measure its impact online — IF you plan in advance.  The reverse also applies. For example, you can measure the offline response of a Facebook ad by using “offer claims.”

For this week’s in class exercise, we had to develop a social media strategy for promoting Parks Canada’s “Unplugged” campaign. For this, we had to identify SMART Goals and tactics for achieving them, as well as KPIs and metrics to measure progress.  I found this exercise a little confusing because we had just learned that traditionally KPIs are metrics that relate directly to your goals and generally impact the business.  Specifically, KPIs traditionally apply to revenue-related metrics (e.g. cost per lead, return on invest) or direct conversions that impact the business (new memberships).  However, I learned that the KPIs for a social media campaign are an exception to this. That is, they are social, as are the SMART Goals that support the campaign (e.g. generating X number of tweets with a specific hashtag).  This is good to note, as ‘when’ I launch my senior project, I will likely do it with a social campaign to drive traffic to the site and ideally generate conversions (member sign-ups).

In the exercise, we had to create a strategy for Twitter, Facebook and LinkedIn. The first two were straightforward, as the campaign was consumer-facing, which both Facebook and Twitter can be.  However, LinkedIn forced us to think ‘outside the box’ as it’s more of a B2B channel.  This was a challenge but good because sometimes clients decide they want to use a specific social media channel and you need to find a way to make it relevant to your marketing needs.

Bracing for the Thorny Challenges of a Healthcare Network

Social Caregivers Network Image

My senior interactive media project is to develop a niche social media network for informal ‘caregivers’ (i.e., people responsible for a senior to elderly family member or other loved one). Its working name is: Social Caregivers Network (SCN).

My vision is to develop: a one-stop resource to help Canadian caregivers share and quickly access trustworthy recommendations that give their loved ones the best care. Unlike the plethora of recommendations from senior care companies with a profit-driven agenda, the SCN will give caregivers access to objective recommendations, tested by other caregivers who share their challenges. It will also save time by giving caregivers access to others’ discoveries/learnings.

Having never produced a social media network, I don’t know all the challenges but here are those that come to mind:

  1. Defining Scope that Meets My Audience’s Top Priorities – Caregivers face a broad range of challenges — from finding a reliable hearing aid to making an end of life decision. While tempting, the SCN can’t cover every scenario. The challenge is to narrow the scope to a feasible mandate that delivers distinct value to the end-users. As with any interactive media project, I need to start with the audience (including key personas) and its priority needs or use case scenarios. To achieve this, I plan to survey a sampling of this audience to collect qualitative data on where the needs are greatest and criteria for success. Only then, can I select the functions/features to address these needs and define the scope.
  2. Making the Interface Accessible, Compelling and Intuitive – There is no point in producing the SCN unless I strive to follow UX best practices and ensure AODA compliance. Beyond this, I plan to incorporate testing, such as a card sort, to keep the solution aligned with the audience’s habits/perceptions as it progresses.
  3. Avoiding Scope Creep – Throughout this project, I’ll be challenged to keep tasks within this scope and ensure that iterations don’t include new mandates. This will be tough as I’m sure I’ll discover many ‘great’ ideas but believe by adhering to proven project management methodologies with effective tools, I can avoid this pitfall.
  4. Proposing a Technically Viable Solution and Finding the Resources to Bring it to Fruition – Although I have some technical understanding, it’s a challenge to not ask for something that’s impossible to build.  More importantly, I need to find the human and financial resources to complete the SCN. For this, I’ll rely on mentors within and outside the college for technical and entrepreneurial guidance
  5. Adhering to Privacy Legislation and Avoiding Liability Issues – Since the SCN deals with personal health details, it must adhere to all applicable privacy legislation in Canada, as well as possibly the US.  Similarly, I need to ensure the SCN is not liable for undesirable outcomes due to community members’ advice.  To avoid both of these issues, I’ll check applicable guidelines and invest in a legal review/opinion before it goes live.
  6. Building, Nurturing and Protecting an Engaged Community – Although a social network’s long-term value is in its community and their interactions, it must be built first and nurtured. I need to develop tactics to attract members and initiate conversations/engagement, particularly in its early days.  I also need to incorporate features to mitigate/block trolls/detractors, who can tarnish the user experience.

This is my initial challenge list but I need to proactively identify and stay ahead of others as I move forward.

‘Healthy’ Social Media and UX Influencers to Follow

Photos of influencers: Luke Wroblewski, Dr. Kevin Pho and Beth Kanter.
Influencers to follow: (left to right) Luke Wroblewski, Dr. Kevin Pho and Beth Kanter.

One of the best ways to hone progressive skills is to learn from leaders and build on their best practices. Interactive media is no exception and reading relevant blogs is an effective way to do this. As my senior project is a niche, social media healthcare solution, I want to hear insights from:

  1. Interactive UX design gurus
  2. Healthcare leaders mastering social media
  3. Social media experts in healthcare/not-for-profit sector

1. Interactive UX Design Gurus –

If it existed, my ″ideal″ influencer would focus on UX design for consumer-focused social media networks that improve overall health.  Short of that, I think these UX experts/blogs will offer great tips as my project evolves:

  • Luke Wroblewski, Product Director, GoogleBefore I even look at Luke’s blog, his biography underscores extensive credibility that makes him follow-worthy.  He held lead design roles at Yahoo and eBay; founded and sold two start-ups (to Twitter and Google); co-founded the Interaction Design Association; wrote books on usability and mobile first; and has 113 k followers on Twitter @lukew (including me). What’s more Luke’s regular blog Ideation + Design (which I now follow) features practical articles with visual examples, such as a recent one that clearly explains ‘why’ we should display passwords on login screens, as well as ‘how-to’ UX videos.  He also regularly attends industry conferences and share his notes and learnings with his readers. I think his articles will help inform some of the design decisions I’ll face in developing my senior project and its prototype.
  • Several UX Experts and the UX Booth blog – This robust blog covers various aspects of interactive design for beginner to intermediate designers, neatly organized into various accessible categories, such as: analytics; content strategy; design strategy; interactive design; and resources — to name a few. It is linked to Twitter handle @UXBooth.  I think subscribing to and reading this weekly blog will help me stay on the right course and enable me to incorporate best practices from various aspects of effective interactive design.

2. Healthcare Leaders Mastering Social Media – As one of the latter disciplines to adopt social media (due in no small part to privacy issues), experts in this area are true pioneers, overcoming numerous opposition to achieve success. In this category, I’m going to follow Kevin Pho MD, who practices primary care at the Nashua Medical Group in New Hampshire. An active blogger, Kevin explores where medicine, health care and social media intersect. CNN named @KevinMD as one of its five recommended health care Twitter feeds. He also has profiles on Facebook, Google+ and LinkedIn.  (I’m following/liking him on all his social profiles at this point, except LinkedIn, as doesn’t know me — yet.)  All these accolades make him a solid bet for my attention. More importantly, Dr. Pho is the founder and editor of KevinMD.com, a blog endorsed by the Wall Street Journal, Forbes and the New York Times.  Although many of this blog’s articles touch on technology/digital, I like the way its social media articles are grouped in one area making them easy to find and check for best practices dealing with this sometimes sensitive topic.

3. Social media experts in healthcare/not-for-profit

Since I need to think ahead on ‘how’ I will bring my senior project solution to market, especially through social media and community-focused strategies.  The best resource for doing this, who I have followed for some time, is Beth Kanter. Beth has written many books, is on the UN’s list of most influential bloggers and both Fast Company and Business Week have endorsed her as a social media expert.

She regularly posts on Beth’s Blog: How Nonprofits Can Use Social Media, one of the longest running blogs for nonprofits. It’s filled with practical examples that I can likely apply to my project.  I follow Beth’s Twitter, Facebook, Pinterest, Google+ and You Tube feeds.

I’m hoping that watching and heeding the advice of these experts will keep me on a track to success with my senior project.

Many Web Analytics Metrics and Ways to Measure

Screen Shot 2015-01-29 at 4.06.21 PMOur third Analytics class focused on the various types of website traffic data points and ways to measure them, both qualitatively and quantitatively.

I learned that you can measure a vast quantity of web data points or metrics. I think it helps to try to remember them by categories, which include: conversions (rate, by source..), traffic ‘referral’ sources, geographic location, visits, visitors (new, return, unique…), time on page, time on site, bounce rate, exit rate, engagement and purchase habits (cart abandonment, days/visits to purchase…).

It was also worthwhile learning that analytics aren’t infallible and that loopholes exist. For example, a visitor may spend five minutes on a page but if they don’t go to a new page, their visit is tracked as a ‘bounce,’ which is inaccurately perceived as negative.

I think a good point to remember from the class is also that the impact or positive/negative attribute of a metric varies according to the type of site and its purpose.  For example, for a service business site, like Sofia’s, you want first time visitors who scan the site, exit on the contact page and follow through to enquire about purchasing a service.  Repeat visitors who never follow through offer negligible value.  In contrast, for a social network (like the like the caregivers one I’m proposing for my senior project), repeat visitors are critical for the site’s longevity; you also want them to come to the site, ‘engage’ (by posting or responding to a post) and leave, most likely without going to the contact page. Ideally, you want repeat visits from those who’ve signed on as members (i.e., converted) but even those who check the site a few times before committing are ok, particularly as the site evolves.

As for ways to measure web analytics, we learned about various methods. It sounds like one of the key ways to quantitatively measure analytics is using JavaScript tags. I’ve used this method to measure another wordpress.com blog by embedding the tag via a CloudFare workaround. Unfortunately, I haven’t blogged much since I set this up in Oct. 2013. However, my page views for Nov. 2013 were 1.47, which doesn’t sound as bad when I consider that page views are not as relevant on a blog because people usually visit the most recent post and bypass the archives. We also learned about various qualitative measurement methods, including heuristic evaluations, site visits, usability testing, surveys, web enabled research, experience testing and collecting competitive intelligence data (e.g. panel based measurement, similar to AC Nielsen for  TV).

The we did an in class exercise to clarify our understanding and from this I learned more about methods.  My takeaways from this assignment, (which I ended up presenting) were:

  • When trying to determine a website’s goal, always search for ‘how’ it is making revenue (unless it’s clearly run by a not-for-profit or clearly funded by another source).
  • Be very specific when citing KPIs or metrics. For example, don’t just say “measure return on investment” but clarify ‘what’ you are measuring (e.g. orders), against what (e.g. operational costs) and how frequently (e.g. weekly).
  • Heuristic Evaluations, such as Site Visits and Remote Testing, do not usually have a sufficient number of participants to be statistically significant, even if you are testing a metric that can be quantified.

KPIs and Metrics: The Signposts and Footsteps to Success

In our second Analytics class, Sofia introduced the value of Key Performance Indicators (KPIs) and Metrics to a project’s success.

My understanding from the class is that KPIs are like signposts. That is, they are: important measures that show how your project is progressing toward achieving its SMART goals with business implications and can inform course corrective actions, where required. We also learned that KPIs are specific to the project and as such, the number of KPIs varies but should be  enough ‘to do the job.’ This is a good way to assess if you have enough KPIs but still challenging, as I think it’s easy to be over zealous when you’re just starting.

An important KPI criteria that stood out to me is that they should deliver useful information in a timely manner, ideally in less than two months, unless you’re in a slower industry. For example, if you have an established, broad appeal, social network that promotes and sells premium services, a KPI might be your cost per order/sale and can be attained within a month.  In contrast, if you have a new social network in a niche market, (e.g. the social network for caregivers of senior citizen family member I’m considering for my senior project), it may take two to three months to attain this KPI.

Depending on the KPIs selected, I thought it noteworthy that part of the task may include defining key components, such as valuable exits or successful events, tailored to your project. For each example, you need to define ‘what’  a user needs to do before they leave the site, to assess whether the visit exit is valuable or the event successful.

Since KPIs have a major impact on the business, such as impacting revenue, costs or conversions, it makes sense to reference them when reporting up to internal executives or clients. To this end, Sofia discussed the importance of segmenting your selected KPIs into custom reports, possibly separate ones, for reporting to executives, as well as project team members.

I also found it interesting to learn about KPI’s various categories, including: Actionable Outcome KPIs; Calculated KPIs; Engagement KPIs; and Business KPIs. There are also Social Media KPIs and Conversion KPIs but many of these measures are ‘Metrics’ and not KPIs. Metrics, Sofia explained, are timely qualitative or quantitative data points that help inform your strategy but don’t directly impact the business. They remind me of footprints.

We discussed social media measures, such as the number of people accessing a site via a social network, and while important, they’re rarely KPIs. The reason is visits via social links just offer more ‘opportunity’ for people to consider a service/product/offer.  This opportunity may prompt some to sign-up or make a purchase. Since the second action directly impacts the business, its associated measures (e.g. orders per social acquisitions) would be the KPI. The exception might be a campaign where a key goal is to have an advertiser’s hashtag mentioned 100 times a week. In this case, hashtag mentions might be a KPI.

If I pursue a social network for seniors’ caregivers as my senior project, one KPI might be: engagements that include a successful event, defined as ‘joining’ the network,’ compared to overall site visits. Metrics could include specific pages visited and abandonments during registration. Sofia also suggested you should move from macro to micro insights to figure out why users are behaving a specific way online. In following this, these metrics for my project could be used to learn which pages are compelling or need improvement and how well the registration process is working.

Inspired by Meaningful Connections

I find the pace and potential of technological innovations exhilarating. I’m inspired by the potential to create digital solutions that are not just viewed, read or heard but those that create meaningful connections that improve people’s offline lives.

When I graduate from my interactive media management program, my dream role is to work as a digital strategist developing interactive solutions, ideally for healthcare education or health 2.0 solutions.

For my senior project, I’m torn between  two ideas that make meaningful connections with the user.  Each idea steams from topics I’m passionate about: healthcare and social responsibility.

 Empowering Patients and Caregivers

Through various roles in my career, I’ve learned how technology can benefit healthcare — from increasing productivity to improving patient outcomes. I’m inspired by technology’s potential to changes lives plus thrilled to have played a tiny role in the process.

More recently, my healthcare work has included contracts with Ontario’s Community Care Access Centres, who provide homecare and other services to seniors.  This experience, combined with caring for my 90-year-old mother, showed me the challenges Canada’s senior citizens face. It also made me acutely aware of shortfalls in our current system.

These shortfalls make it difficult for family members or caregivers to navigate the system and access the best supports for their loved ones. Unfortunately, the average consumer is not well-versed in seniors’ diverse needs but for a growing number of players, it’s a booming business. This scenario makes its hard for caregivers to find clear, unbiased answers about the steady stream of services, medications and other ‘must have’ products sold to seniors.

Much of the information I’ve learned about resources and remedies for seniors’ conditions, comes from my work, research or word-of-mouth. Once uncovered, objective answers about what form to use for a walker rebate, trusted Personal Support Workers (PSWs) for emergency respite care or the ins and outs of sleep apnea, are gold. I’ve shared them with friends caring for aged relatives.

I wonder however how much time we could save others if we shared these insights with a broader network? After all, we use social networks for professional development, news, childcare or how-to ideas. Why not have a social network for caregivers to share insights about senior care options in a specific province or for specific conditions? With our aging population, I think this is a practical interactive solution to pursue.

Maple Syrup with Worldwide Value

I’m  also inspired by Canada’s benefits and our opportunities to make meaningful connections with other cultures. In 2012, I took a ‘voluntourism’ trip to Peru to help promote a socially responsible jewellery factory. I brought a maple syrup gift for my host Peruvian family. They placed it in a back cupboard, where it likely still sits unopened.

The challenge is people in many cultures don’t eat pancakes and don’t know what to do with maple syrup.  So ‘what if’ we could create a website with a database of authentic international recipes that use maple syrup?  Students, tourists or NGO workers could access and print a maple syrup recipe for their destination country (in English or the country’s language) and present it with their maple syrup gift. This solution would enable us to ‘act local but think global’ on a small-scale and make a positive first impression of Canada, as an inclusive country.

Both ideas have merit. The caregivers’ network idea is huge but links with my long-term interest to work on health 2.0 solutions. The second is truly Canadian and timely, given this summer’s Pan Am games.

Maybe I should just flip a coin or a pancake?  What would you choose?

The Heart of Analytic Success: SMART Goals and the Trinity Strategy

BinaryHorizonatal

For our first analytics class, Sofia provided an overview of what analytics is, its value and how every successful project must start with SMART goals. Sofia defined analytics as the use of data to gain insights and make better decisions. I agree with this but would add that analytics helps you report up to decision-makers on how investment in your initiative has impacted behaviour and user experience to advance business goals, as reflected in outcomes. Analytics also helps you gain executive (or client) buy-in for future projects that build on a prior campaign’s analytics or results.

I think analytics is becoming increasingly important as we continuously have more volume and variety of information or ‘big data.’ Sofia defined big data as “a collection of data from traditional and digital sources inside and outside a company,” which companies are increasingly looking at for ongoing discovery and analysis to inform their decisions. This data includes many things we can measure and analyze from digital sources, such as how many people access a website through specific social media platforms and from what countries, as well as traditional sources, such as how much money an event raises or how many people attend it. What I found particularly new was learning the difference between ‘structured’ data, which is quantitative, such as how many visitors access your site via Twitter, and ‘unstructured’ data, which is more qualitative, such as comments posted on your company’s facebook page.

Before you can attain analytics, you need to set goals for a website or digital property. Sofia explained that you summarize each goal in a sentence that includes Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Realistic and Time-bound (SMART) attributes. This is a slight variation from PR campaigns (which I’m familiar with), where goals are broad and objectives have SMART attributes. In PR, I’m also more used to setting goals and objectives for campaigns with a definitive end point.  In this first class, we did an exercise to identify a website’s goals. The feedback from this exercise gave me the impression that SMART goals can be for an overall website or company (such as the Toronto Star) versus a set campaign. If that’s the case: how can you make these goals time-bound?  I think you might set them for an initial period goal, such as six or three months, and then reassess but it would be good to know for certain.

Sofia told us the grandfather of analytics is Avinash Kaushik, who discusses his theories extensively in his blog: Occam’s Razor.  The blog is named after a 14th-century English logician and one of the alternate translations of his principle is: plurality should not be posited without necessity.  I think this suits analytics because it provides a methodology for specifically identifying what big data an organization needs to measure and why (necessity), versus trying to measure all the data it can access (plurality).

We also learned about Kaushik’s Trinity Strategy. This is a strategic approach to extract insights and metrics from a website/other platform, based on the users’ behaviour and experience, as well as the overall outcomes.  It’s imperative that these insights and metrics can be ‘acted on,’ that is used to make decisions that alter the organization’s approach or to design future initiatives.

For example, let’s say you implement a promotional campaign to sell featured books highlighted on a page in your ecommerce site. You also promote it through direct mail flyers and social media. Your goal may be to sell 50 copies of each featured book within one month. The overall process begins with the clickstream data, which is the data collected through the site. I can include: who is accessing the book page, from where, via what devices or user path, etc. From this data, you can measure and assess users’ behaviour in response to the promotion, such as:

  • How many came to the site via each social media platform?
  • How many were driven there by the flyer?
  • Which book image or caption attracted users when they first landed on the page or made no impact for the duration (as measured by a heat map)

You then measure outcomes, such how much revenue was generated through specific online book sales. The third element is the experience, which tells why the users behaved the way they did. My understanding is this data is often accessed through additional steps, such user testing to measure effectiveness of user paths, experimenting  with site changes (e.g. trying book purchasing buttons in different positions) and customer/user surveys to assess how they feel about the site. These three elements, combined with competitive intelligence, help you uncover insights about what is attracting users to the site and getting them to buy the books, as well as what changes might improve outcomes. For example, in assessing this data, you may want to adjust the page layout, if users consistently miss a specific book displayed.