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The One With the Donut Bribe

How might we help people get up-to-date, credible health news and information?

In the midst of rampant so-called "fake news," Healthcites is a trusted health and science news source that is dedicated to getting you good, reliable information without all the medical jargon. 


Figma, Trello, Zoom, Miro,

Whimsical, Google Suite


Two Product Designers


Product Designer,

UX Researcher,

UX Writer



The open brief was intentionally vague, but strangely relevant to the current times as the first Coronavirus cases had just started cropping up stateside. Everybody was still walking around outside with only a few really paranoid people fully stocked and masked up when we first received the brief topic: 

Addressing health concerns in
public areas.

We had laughed at the irony. What we didn't know was that the joke was really on us.



Influenced by ongoing current events, we decided that public health in the news was too big a topic to avoid and misinformation around health was too big an issue to ignore. 

Employing a human-centered design approach, I started off with a visual and competitive analysis to evaluate the current health and news landscape. I also completed some exploratory research for added context in the market domain.

We quickly discovered that

There is no tool on the market today that combines credible data with easy to consume formatting and navigation.

Knowing this, we sought to understand the following:

Media Portrayals 

How greatly the media has impacted public perception regarding viral and bacterial outbreaks.

Existing Public Health Platforms

Frustrations and gaps in existing platforms around the topic of public health information.

Bearing this in mind, we spoke with two subject matter experts (SME), a doctor and a cancer researcher, to help shape our hypothesis and verify if there was actually a problem in this space.  

We found that both our SMEs

  • Use secondary sources to validate articles 

  • Believes that the media’s purpose is to generate big headlines to stir interest

  • Mentioned that the news creates mass anxiety and public alarm.

We formed our working hypothesis:

Due to the reputation of sensationalist news and a lack of reliable sources, there is a lot of panic and hysteria surrounding “trending” topics regarding outbreaks and health issues.

This gave us a direction to pursue, so we employed guerrilla research tactics to talk to people off the street in order to try and validate our hypothesis.

Now remember, at this time, much was still unknown about the novel Coronavirus. There were only a handful of cases in the US and there was still a stigma around wearing a mask, but even so, people were starting to become wary around strangers - even around two very approachable, well-meaning product designers who diligently wash their hands.

In order to get people to talk to us,
we had to sweeten the deal  -
quite literally.

We made signs: Free pastries in exchange for an interview (~15 mins). 

We set up shop in a typically high-traffic area with our homemade signs, classic pink pastry box, and a bottle of hand sanitizer in prominent view.

Was it a little desperate? Maybe, but in the end, we were able to speak to four user participants with a soft spot for donuts.

Here are some of our key takeaways:

Multiple Sources

All participants use more than one news source to verify information.

Concern for Others

All participants expressed being more worried about family members and older people than for themselves.

Media Doubt

Half of our participants explicitly expressed distrust of the news and mainstream media.

In addition to our user interviews, we created and sent out a survey regarding perceptions of health in the news. Survey submissions were collected from March 8, 2020 until March 14, 2020. We believe that the 45 responses we received accurately reflect the beliefs and feelings of our participants given the information available at that time.

These are some of our findings:


Of respondents without a medical background stated that they were not well-informed on public health issues.


Of respondents look for information about the disease/virus/condition itself when researching on their own.


Responded with 3 or below when asked how much they trusted the news, with 1 being “not at all” and 5 being “I trust it completely.”

I don’t trust it at all

I trust it completely

This concluded our research sprint. Post-its in hand, I was ready to start affinity diagraming to define our personas and problem statement.



...But then the world descended into chaos. 

In addition to having to fight over toilet paper and stocking up on canned goods and instant ramen, all our operations had to go full-remote due to a shelter-in-place order. As we could no longer meet in person, we utilized digital tools like Zoom in order to collaborate and Miro to create our affinity diagram.

From our data synthesis, we were able to craft our persona.

This is Skeptical Sally.

With Sally as our heroine paired with all our user research, we were able to form our problem statement:

People who have loved ones that are at a higher risk for health issues need a way to access credible, snackable information on public health concerns because they want to avoid “fake news” regarding trending diseases.

We were now ready to move into ideation.



We started with individual 6-8-5 sketching and came together to compare and look for overlaps.  

Early candidates from my sketching included:

  • Self-assessment quiz for COVID-19

  • Quick facts and stats for outbreak and symptom information

  • Heat map for affected areas

  • Cross-reference with credible sources, like the CDC & WHO

We created quick low-fi wires in Figma and then turned them into mid-fis in order to thread together a prototype for formative testing.

Here are some findings from our 3 participants:

  • Users were unsure if the site was for COVID only or health in general

  • All participants looked for symptom information

  • No one even looked at the heat map

At this time, we also began to do some visual exploration, creating mood boards and a style tile (which was modeled after an insurance card) to capture the overall brand identity.

The teal and coral colors conveys professionalism and trustworthiness, while still maintaining an approachable and user-friendly presentation.


The serif headers fonts are reminiscent of traditional newspapers, which adheres to the usability heuristic of matching the system and the real world, but kept the body copy in a sans serif font for better legibility. 

Using our new design system, we converted our mid-fi wires into hi-fi and incorporated the feedback we received from formative testing.

Here are a couple before and after screens:

Mid-Fi Homepage

Streamlined header design

Made into a card to show that it is clickable

Wider format for better visibility

Hi-Fi Homepage

Mid-Fi Symptoms

Hi-Fi Symptoms

Changed Verified symbol to make it appear clickable

Made the cards more uniform

Added a button for


Added Share function


Testing & Iteration

Utilizing our hi-fi prototype, we moved into usability testing with five individuals and observed how they would find and share information about an outbreak. We also wanted to evaluate our visual design to see if the format and color choices conveyed trustworthiness.

Users reacted well to our visual design and felt that it lent well to the site credibility. Additional findings lead to the following iterations:

Hi-Fi Homepage

Iterated Homepage

Added mission statement to convey website purpose

Removed carousel due to difficult side scroll

Hi-Fi Symptoms

Iterated Symptoms

Made icons smaller to reduce confusion as they are not clickable

Added related links

Added card tiles to replace the carousal

Users expressed a desire for more detailed information.

(Helpful hint: Take the self-assessment quiz, but don't worry we've already put in all the answers for you!)



  • Be adaptable and resourceful: When COVID hit and I was relegated to remote constraints, I was able to turn to different tools and processes in order to complete my work without impacting the timeline.

  • People Love Donuts: Okay, I already knew this, but the true takeaway is that sometimes you have to think outside the box to come up with creative solutions in order to drive success.

A huge shout out goes to my talented partner, Martha Magsombol,

who created all the Healthcite animations.

Yay, you got to the end!​

Want to read more?

Check out this metrics-driven case study:

Or drop a line, I would love to connect!

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