My Own Voice

Mobile app design and development

Image of an ipad running the M.O.V app.
The My Own Voice (MOV) video-sharing app empowers people to make and record their end-of-life healthcare decisions on a smartphone or other device, providing clear direction to their loved ones and doctors during a highly stressful and emotional time.

Although you can’t plan for the unexpected, such as getting injured in an accident, there’s peace of mind in knowing your wishes regarding medical care will be honoured, even if you’re unable to communicate.

The challenge

The idea for the My Own Voice app and company of the same name was born after one of its founders was in a serious accident. His first-hand experience made him recognize the potential for medical decisions to be made on his behalf by strangers in a hospital, without his family being informed of the circumstances.

The goal of the MOV app is to empower people to tackle these tough decisions ahead of time and facilitate the process through an easy-to-use question-and-answer interface with video that users can share with the people they trust.

The goals

The MOV team had a singular focus, which involved transforming their idea into an app that could be used across various devices. Our project goals were as follows:

  • Translate MOV’s creative brief into a list of business requirements.
  • Design and build an easy-to-use app that enables people to record their medical care wishes and share them with loved ones.
  • Release the app commercially on behalf of our client and help them to build a digital marketing plan to promote their new business venture.

The solution

Since My Own Voice is a startup company that was created to launch its eponymous app, it was important to get a cost-effective product to market quickly. The idea of building an app from scratch and submitting it to Apple can be time-consuming, costly, and daunting. But our expertise in building online business solutions meshed with what the MOV team required for their first foray into the digital marketplace. We were confident in our ability to help them turn their concept into something tangible.

Discovery

The MOV team had done its diligence researching both its potential audience (an older demographic) and the type of content the app should focus on. For example, MOV liaised with medical professionals who specialize in aging, hospice, and palliative care to validate the medical questions users needed to answer in order to provide clear direction about their end-of-life wishes.

We knew the app needed be as seamless and simple as possible so users would have confidence while going through the steps to answer the required questions and capture their personal responses on video. After all, they would potentially be sharing these deeply personal wishes with family and friends (whether at the time of making the video or in the future), often for the first time.

MOV’s team knew what they wanted to achieve, but was unsure what path to take to get there. We helped define the route by taking their initial brief and developing user stories with the supporting functionality required to make the app come to life.

Blackboard with several early sketches of the my own voice app.

Design

Our approach involved working collaboratively with the MOV team using a mind mapping technique to define the flow of the app and determine which elements belonged in each section from start to finish. This form of “visual organization” allowed us to quickly transform intangible concepts into practical hierarchies — what should go where and in what sequence. Additionally, we created a user experience flow that adapted depending on whether the customer was a first-time or returning app user.

Building the app was an iterative project, and we involved MOV throughout the process as the work evolved. We built prototypes and functionality to give them a first-hand look and feel of how the app would work, which we then refined as needed.

Wireframes of the M.O.V app
Wireframe iterations of the home screen view for My Own Voice.

Clear, unambiguous content is important for any app, but given the sensitive nature of MOV’s content, it was a critical component of the product’s success. The words used needed to instill trust and confidence in the user at every step of the process, especially if they were not particularly adept at using technology. The flow needed to be seamless so that users would be able to focus on the sensitive decisions they were making and not fuss with functionality.

Focusing on the audience

The people who would be using the MOV app were likely to be an older demographic. This insight was integral to how we approached the design and user experience. Since MOV’s team had little exposure to creating an app, our challenge was to demonstrate the importance of content and the user experience, and the interdependent relationship between these elements. We focused on keeping the app simple, allowing one key interaction per screen and reducing options that might be confusing to users. Another key element of the app was mapping — providing built-in cues to guide users and give them a clear sense of what questions they’ve answered, where they are in the overall process, and what the next steps are. Large buttons and high-contrast colours in clickable areas all contribute to user ease.

A low-tech complement to the app is a wallet card users can print off and keep on hand so doctors or family members can find this information if they don’t have access to the user’s smartphone or other devices.

Development

We incorporated industry standards for iOS when building interactions between the app pages, using an open-source mobile development framework called Apache Cordova. Cordova provides two huge benefits: speed and control. Not only was our team able to write the app very quickly, we were able to code it in a way that optimizes speed and delivers the user experience people expect from a mobile app. The code is written once, and it’s adaptable for smartphones, tablets and other devices.

Another aspect of building the app involved creating a corresponding back-end. This time we leveraged Django, a web application framework that enabled us to access a design-secure API to create an administration console for MOV. This solution allows the MOV team to make minor updates to the app’s content — such as questions, FAQs — much like they would with a CMS.

Since the nuts-and-bolts of the app’s content is stored securely on Amazon Cloud outside of the app, it can be streamed directly back to users’ smartphones, eliminating the need for the app to be resubmitted through the Apple Store when minor updates are made. Users’ content is saved directly to their devices, unless they choose to share it with people they trust via Amazon Cloud.

Putting the app to the test

Testing any product involves some rigorous go-to steps, which guide our QA team in making sure everything functions according to plan. However, in the case of MOV, we had an extra step: getting approval from Apple. The best way to make sure all potential issues are addressed is to build a test plan. We started this process by going back to the RFP to review the business requirements. This helped us focus on the big picture: Did the app satisfy the business problem MOV’s team wanted to solve? Were the questions appropriate, and easy for users to understand? Were all aspects of the app designed with the target audience — seniors — in mind?

We also went back to the mind map that was created collaboratively with MOV’s team to ensure the features we’d agreed on had been built and were working as intended from start to finish. Finally, we submitted the MOV app to Apple, handing the complexities of Apple’s approval process on behalf of the client.

Screenshot of the M.O.V app on both a smartphone and a tablet.

The results

Together with the My Own Voice team, we shaped an idea into a viable product in just a few months, delivering the app on time and within budget. We achieved the following:

  • Built an interactive app that features an easy-to-use interface that supports video, allowing users to seamlessly record and share their medical wishes with people they trust.
  • Created a back-end dashboard, enabling MOV staff to update content easily, without having to resubmit the app to the Apple.
  • Developed a user-facing online guide that describes the MOV app, how it works, its benefits, and so forth.
  • Submitted the MOV app to the Apple App Store.

What's up next

The My Own Voice app is the company’s first step into the complex and sensitive arena of aging and end-of-life decisions. Its goal is to help people start the conversation and tackle tough issues that often don’t get discussed because of their sensitive nature. We’re glad to have played a part in developing an innovative and important product and we hope we can continue the journey with the MOV team as they expand their offering.

Find out more about My Own Voice

Visit usemyownvoice.com