Remote usability testing with Partners In Health

We’ve recently successfully completed our first remote usability session, facilitated by Partners In Health (PIH) in Malawi! It was a valuable learning experience for both teams involved and we are so excited to share the process and findings with the greater community.

Part of Medic’s responsibilities as the steward of the Community Health Toolkit (CHT) is to constantly improve and iterate on its user experience to best support our end users. In the coming releases, we are looking to improve the overall learnability and ease of use of the CHT as well as targeting the efficiency of task completion.

Usability testing is an integral part of this process to validate our concepts and ideas with end users before implementing changes to the CHT. With the travel constraints of COVID19, we needed to find a way to collect user feedback without our team members going into the field.

The team at PIH graciously partnered with us, co-designing the test plan to best suit the facilitators and session participants that enabled us to get the meaningful and insightful feedback needed to continue our work.

As part of the usability session, we studied 3 topics

  1. General usage and pain points
  2. Overall navigation
  3. Task management


Two focus groups of ten community health workers (CHWs) each, from Dambe and Neno DHO, were facilitated by PIH staff. Site Supervisors for the facilities were also present for inclusion of their feedback, using a semi-structured questionnaire. The participants were 65% women, 35% men with varying experience using the CHT.

Summary of key findings

General usage and pain points

Overall, users were able to figure out the app on their own but because the application was deemed too visually heavy, it was not as easy as it could be. CHWs generally work with smaller screens and prefer a simpler interface to do their work without distractions. 

Overall navigation

We asked the participants to give their feedback on a proposed update to the action bar.

Current floating action bar

Proposed floating action button

70% of CHWs preferred the new option. A single button for all new actions was considered easier to learn and the visible labels and large icons were clearer and more recognizable than the existing design.

We also asked for feedback on a collapsible menu.

Current navigation

First navigation proposal, labelled and moved to the bottom of the screen for ease of single-hand use
Second navigation proposal, keeping all items consolidated and collapsible

95% of participants preferred the second proposed option of a collapsible menu to maximize real estate on their smaller screens as CHWs have reported only using primarily two tabs during their regular work days and don’t often need to switch between them. The mental model of grouping all pages within a single icon, similar to the proposed FAB, resonated well.

Task management

On previous field visits we heard from CHWs that it is hard to find and complete all the tasks for a household. For example, a CHW may have a task in household A, then be sent to household B which would take them the rest of their day, before seeing the task to return to household A for another follow up. 

We designed two options for feedback, where one solution allows users the ability to group and sort tasks by household names and the other is a prompt after submitting a form that allows CHWs to see other available tasks nearby.

Grouping and sorting tasks by household or due date

See other available tasks nearby after submitting form

Participants unanimously opted for the second option, citing that it would greatly minimize their travel distance and time. Currently, CHWs scroll through the task list looking for nearly tasks and they are eager to limit their time navigating this way.

Conclusion and takeaways

Based on these findings, our next steps are to:

  • Simplify the overall interface by making it possible for app builders to remove unused features
  • Further design mockups with a tray to hold navigation and settings to reduce app clutter
  • Display nearby tasks to CHWs after submitting a form

We are extremely grateful to the team at PIH for their thought partnership and collaboration on this initiative and for facilitating these sessions. We are excited to continue to improve and validate our work and look forward to continuing the conversation with the wider community. 

Please jump on the CHT Forum to join the discussion, or reach out to if you are interested in participating in a similar study or have any additional feedback or questions!

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