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Helping People with Cancer Help Themselves:
healthVU UX Case Study
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A cancer diagnosis is overwhelming. One day a person is healthy; the next day: "sick". They must immediately deal with complex information, schedule many tests and appointments, and are confronted by great mental stress. 

My rationale for creating this responsive application was a belief that people with cancer need practical assistance during treatment and solutions that simplify their lives.

The Problem

Create a secure, one-stop, responsive web application to help cancer patients with daily challenges.

Project Duration

7 months

The Solution

An easy-to-navigate application with:

  • Calendar

  • Health & Resources information

  • Vault for storing records & contacts

My Role

UX / UI Design

Design Thinking

This project was informed by the Design Thinking method:

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Problem statement

Competitive analysis

Key insights

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User research

Analysis with affinity mapping

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User journeys

Task flows

Card sorting

Site map

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From low-, mid- & high-

fidelity wireframes to clickable prototype

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Usability testing & analysis of results; iteration

Accessibility review; more iteration


Problem Statement

Cancer patients need a trouble-free way to track their situation (e.g. symptoms, treatment, medications, side effects, appointments, etc.). Accessing this information can give them a greater sense of agency as they manage their illness.

Competitive Analysis

To understand the landscape in which healthVU would be competing, I looked at several cancer applications available on the German and US American market. This comparative analysis focuses on two representative programs: 

Mika (Germany)

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"We empower people affected by cancer." (USA)

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“The best cancer care starts with the best cancer information; well-informed patients are their own best advocates and invaluable partners for physicians.”

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Key insights: Business niche for healthVU

healthVU should:

  • Combine user-friendliness & attractive GUI

  • Offer calendar with note-taking functionality

  • Have excellent yet easily understandable information

  • Provide guided relaxation & meditation activities

  • Enable secure storage of contacts & medical records


User Research

To gain insights into potential users, I surveyed respondents with Google Forms and held remote interviews via Skype and telephone. It was challenging finding enough respondents for the survey; I believe the word "cancer" scares people away. 

Fifteen survey participants was a bare minimum, but it did for a start. I was more fortunate in finding personal interview participants who were willing to talk about this difficult and personal topic.

Google Forms Survey

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Participant Demographics

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1. Rhonda, 77, Texas

2. Norm, 70, California

3. David, 39, Mexico

4. Pat, 75, Germany

5. Linda, 50, Germany

Main Questions

1. What functionality would provide the most value?

2. What information is desirable, e.g. medical and/or other?

3. Is meditation/relaxation content relevant?

4. Would secure contact & record storage be useful?

Affinity Mapping to Illustrate Results

Main Goal: Becoming healthy again!


Common Themes

  • Overall interest

  • Want well-written content

  • Want calendar & alarm feature

  • Need to communicate with providers

  • Want note-taking feature

  • Some interest in wellness content


  • App must meet high user expectations

  • Need for first-class content

  • App should be lean & scaled down

  • Users must find what they need with no distractions by other features

03_Point of View

User Personas: Lynn and Anne

The information I gained from surveys and interviews helped me create two user personas. Keeping these personas in mind helped me empathize with all potential users during the development process while simultaneously maintaining an overview of the app goals. 


Developing a Solution

User journeys, task flows, and card sorting gave me a better idea how to structure the application. The goal of healthVU is to simplify the lives of the personas and give them a positive experience.

I created two user journeys each for both Lynn and Anne. Here, we see one of them: how Lynn might complete a guided activity to alleviate stress and boost her mental well-being.

User Journey: Lynn


Task Flow: Lynn

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Completing an activity from start to finish

Site Map

I used a hybrid card sort and an affinity matrix (not shown here) to see how people categorize the themes needed for the site architecture. Even so, it took me at least ten iterations to develop the following site map, which still remains a work in progress. 

The user flows on the right show the specific tasks I developed the first iteration of the app for.

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Low-fi "Activity" wireframe

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Mid-fi "Yoga" wireframe


High-fi "Yoga" wireframe

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Remote Usability Testing

Because I developed this application during the height of the pandemic, it was only possible to conduct usability tests remotely. I interviewed six people via Skype over a period of three days. Three participants were native English speakers, one was bilingual (German/English), and two spoke English fluently.


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  • Add calendar appointment

  • Complete an activity


  • Read content

  • Download record


My evaluation was based on an adapted version of Jakob Nielsen's Scale:

  0 = I don't agree that this is a usability problem at all
  1 = Cosmetic problem only: need not be fixed unless extra time is available on project
  2 = Minor usability problem: fixing this should be given low priority
  3 = Major usability problem: important to fix and should be given high priority
  4 = Usability catastrophe: imperative to fix before product can be released

Summary of Results


Affinity Board


Rainbow Spread Sheet

Good News

Five out of six test participants liked the app concept and the idea of bundling such functions in one app. 

Bad News

The participants had two main problems with the app in this iteration: content is difficult to find & navigation is annoying.

Errors (Nielsen Scale)


  • High-severity errors: Content location; confusing category names

  • Low-/moderate severity errors: Navigation

  • Low-severity errors: UX writing

  • High-severity errors: Rename menu items; reorder content

  • Low-/moderate severity errors: Add redundant navigation; create multiple paths to destinations

  • Low-severity errors: Reduce wordiness 

Accessibility Review

Unfortunately, as first designed, healthVU had several accessibility problems, primarily color contrast and wordiness. After using a color contrast analyzer, I changed the colors to align with WCAG 2 text color contrast requirements. 

Luckily, I could easily edit the texts due to my writing background. The following examples illustrate "befores" and "afters".

Improved Color Contrast

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Improved UX Writing

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Final steps

As shown here, my final steps in preparation for handoff to developers were: 

  • Design documentation

  • Creation of a pattern library

  • Assembly of design deliverables

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This was a project for the Immersion part of the CareerFoundry UX Design Course. I found it fascinating to learn to use the scientific method - in its form as Design Thinking - to serve the requirements of broad sectors of society.

What I Learned

More work would be needed to create an application for people with cancer, including:

  • In-depth research to gain a greater understanding of their needs. As noted in the case study, it was difficult to find enough people willing to respond to surveys about cancer - the net would have to be cast wider to find persons who would discuss their experiences

  • Cooperation with service sectors who work with this group of persons (i.e. oncologists, health insurance providers)

  • Creating content for such an application obviously requires close collaboration with services geared to writing understandable medical articles and subject matter about meditation/relaxation/yoga etc. 

Next Steps

  • Further rounds of usability testing and iterative changes based on findings

  • Creation of tablet and desktop versions (this project was a mobile-first version)

Thank You for Your Time and Attention!

If you'd like to connect, please check out my LinkedIn page or e-mail me at
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