The CDC upgrades their mobile app

Modernizing early child development tracking

CHALLENGE

The CDC created an early child development app, Milestone Tracker, to help parents track their child’s physical, cognitive, and social growth in order to catch developmental challenges (like autism) early on.

Unfortunately, frustrating UI/UX and lack of engaging content or design kept the CDC’s app from ever really catching on.

INFORMATION ARCHITECTURE

The app’s poor information architecture isolated key information in disparate places without clear ways to navigate back to where you started.

Once we identified the problem areas in the app’s architecture, we proposed several UX and structural solutions which would address the usability issues that plagued the app.

USER EXPERIENCE &INTERFACE

The user experience was riddled with confusing designs which made it difficult to navigate the app or show key information to clinical professionals.

This included:

  • A major part of the app was its evaluation section, where parents were asked if their child were hitting certain milestones. However, when prompted with the milestone questions, users were misled to believe that they could return to that section to find their answers or notes, when in reality these notes were only accessible afterwards in a completely different section of the app.
  • Arrows did not function the way users expected, even though the arrows looked like they would advance users to the next milestone question.
  • The app didn’t consistently keep track of a child’s current and correct milestone.
  • In some cases, if a user’s child met the 5-year age mark, they were required to do an unreasonable amount of navigating — sometimes up to 13 clicks — to access the necessary information about their child.

 

Easy onboarding was essential to the success of the LTSAE app.

To solve for some of the user confusion, we proposed the first screen that users see when they open the app would clearly indicate action: add a child.

There would be no limit to the number of children that could be added, and the process for adding additional children would be exactly the same as the process for adding the first child.

These changes made the onboarding process clear and consistent.

The foundation of the Milestone Tracker app are the child milestones.

The part of the app the user would use most is the Milestone Checklist, so it was imperative that the navigation and user directions were clear and intuitive. From the proposed milestones section, you could navigate to other milestones and appointments on a timeline.

By highlighting the checklist of important child milestones and recommended actions for “when to act early,” the user was always reminded of the most important to-do tasks: learning how to track their child’s development and how to aid that development.

We also updated the app’s Notes section where users could document specific notes about their child’s progress, Appointments prompts which would remind users to schedule appointments with their child’s doctor at key milestones, and the Info section where users could customize their settings.

APP DEVELOPMENT

After we aligned with the CDC on the architecture, user flows, and wireframes, we proceeded to build the app.

It was important for the app to be compliant with Section 508 compliance regulations, including screen reader accessibility, which informed some of the decisions during app development.

 

We began developing the app for the iOS platform in Q3 2016 and launched in Q1 2017.

Once launched, we compiled client and user feedback to inform app optimizations, including improved messages and a more complex notification system. At the same time, we developed an Android version of the LTSAE app which launched in Q4 2017.

Shortly after the Android launch, we started work on the Spanish language version as well as several backend and frontend adjustments. The latest version of the app, which supporting both languages on both operating systems, launched in the respective app stores on November 2018.

 

We continually iterate on the app based on user metrics and updated client goals — resulting in a living, breathing mobile application.

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