Cognizant ALabsUX, research, UI, branding
Context & ChallengeThis was an Accelerator project. My group had 12 weeks to take this product from idea to a working Minimal Viable Product (MVP) and then to Pitch Day where a group of in-house venture capitalists would decide whether or not to further fund the project.
Arvind, our venture lead and man with the idea, had dreams of creating a digital lab management application enabling scientific labs to centrally collect and analyze data on lab processes. The software would connect directly to equipment and acquire data from Laboratory Information Management Systems (LIMS), Electronic Lab Notebooks (ELNs), and other data sources. Users could observe real-time lab activity too, quickly responding to out-of-range results without halting a process. Today, nothing on the market quite fits that bill.
ProductLab Management Software
RoleLead UX designer, visual design
Lab Management of today: Spreadsheets, powerpoints, legacy software
Understanding The ProblemToday’s Pharma and Biotech lab technicians face significant inefficiencies in how their labs are run and managed. The lack of predictability within lab operations and few automated solutions create a daunting challenge for lab managers and scientists.
These target users are forced to manually track resource utilization which often leads to valuable resources sitting idle and further escalates operation costs. They also do not have risk-based process-monitoring systems and therefore spend valuable amounts of time transforming raw data into consumable formats before being able to make scientific decisions.
For many of today’s scientists and lab workers, spreadsheets, Powerpoint, and legacy software are tools of
Research & Design ProcessIn order to arrive at an MVP in a short period of time, we scoped the project into three phases: discovery, design, and development. The team invested a good amount of time on business and user-research upfront, while the development team got its systems in place. There was an emphasis on keeping the feedback loop running into the second phase and well into development cycle.
After nailing down the design paradigm, we
kicked off the three iterative design sprints. Each sprint was 2 weeks long,
with the first sprint focusing on converting wireframes to higher fidelity. The
2nd was about creating an InVision
Prototype. In the 3rd sprint, along with design tweaks, we conducted in-house "guerilla" usability tests.
User TestingAs mentioned, in-house "guerilla" usability tests were used to determine if, for non-scientists, it was clear which elements were actionable and which were not. Surprisingly, many of our non-scientist users could identify where an experiment process had failed and where they’d need to intervene.
Later on, formal user testing, with real lab technicians was conduct. Below is screen capture of a recorded session.
Success (Mostly)Arvind killed it! The product pitch was well received and further funding was granted. But would there be enough in the budget to hire a true UX researcher? Would there be budget to do comprehensive user testing? Though the design team and its methods demonstrated their value, persuading upper management to only move forward once features were validated would be the design team’s next challenge. More design thinking and UX research evangelism was again on the menu.
ReflectionsHere’s the one thing that is true about every startup project: No one really knows what will happen. No one knows how your solutions will be received. No one knows how well the team dynamic will pan out. Thus every member has to calmly hustle everyday – It’s all about the hustle. With each forthcoming phase you have to pick it back up and diligently empathize, define, ideate, prototype, validate, and iterate.
The implication? For products, the hustle never really ends.
Long-term Design StrategyShortly after receiving VC funding, the product marketing team switched the product name from its startup moniker of ALabs to its now official name – Cognizant Lab Insights.
The video below well demonstrates the evolutoion of this important product.