How User-Centered Design and Short, Healthy Feedback Loops Produce Great Products

January 21, 2022 Lucais Ho

Mental and physical health has been a long-standing issue for workers employed in the road transport, warehousing, and logistics industries. A few factors truck drivers and shed, or warehouse, workers face on a regular basis include long, isolated hours; risk of injury; overwhelming fatigue; and physical and emotional stress. 

It’s not hard to see why many of these employees in Australia have reported facing mental health challenges, including depression and anxiety. Studies show almost half of road transport workers have experienced or reported having a mental health condition, with more than a third of those saying their workplace caused it or made it worse.

Enter Healthy Heads in Trucks & Sheds (HHTS). This not-for-profit foundation aspires to be the leading industry body for mental health and well-being supporting road transport, warehousing, and logistics industries. Earlier this year, HHTS partnered with VMware Tanzu Act to offer solutions for truck drivers and shed workers to better understand and manage their mental and physical well-being, enabling them to thrive despite facing harsh working conditions. 

HHTS engaged with VMware Tanzu Labs consultants through the Tanzu Act program to design and build a mobile application featuring content and support services specifically tailored for truck drivers, shed workers, and logistics employees (see the Healthy Heads in Trucks & Sheds case study). The app includes handbooks, well-being check-ins, exercises, breathing techniques, and support services, with additional features planned in future releases.

Two of the Tanzu Labs approaches that helped make this project successful were building empathy for the product’s users and optimizing what is known as the built-measure-learn loop.

Build a better product by building empathy for the user

Tanzu Labs encourages product teams to lead with empathy and turn problems into solutions. As a software development team, being able to put our feet in the shoes of end users is vital to building successful products. One of the tools we use to do this is developing user personas. Creating a user persona helps cultivate a rich understanding of user needs, goals, pain points, and behaviors, and they serve as a touchstone for the software team. Read up on how Tanzu Labs develops personas here.

As the engagement with HHTS kicked off, the Tanzu Labs product team dedicated time to conducting interviews with more than 20 truck drivers, and warehouse and logistics workers. These discussions gave the Tanzu Labs product team an opportunity to learn about how specific challenges these groups face at work can affect their mental and physical health.

Worksheets like this allow team members and stakeholders to brainstorm solutions in a collaborative, “design studio” environment.

HHTS and Tanzu Labs determined what resources, services, and communication tools potential users would find most valuable by focusing on their pain points. This ensured that the product delivers what end users need, rather than being based on assumptions of what they need.

An early set of ideas generated to better help Australian truck drivers and shed workers better manage their well-being.

The insights gained from these exploratory conversations enabled the Tanzu Labs product team to employ product and design practices to best serve this unique community. Collaborative workshops were held with the product team and stakeholders to ensure that potential solutions were vetted for desirability (fulfilling the needs of the users) as well as business viability and technical feasibility. Read more about how we ran a design studio here.

Optimize the build-measure-learn loop

Tanzu Labs places a high value on building small, incremental slices of value, raising potential solutions to a subset of users, and measuring their feedback. This process ensures that every small slice of functionality we push to the public has already been validated by representatives of the very same people who will use the final application. You can read more about how we perform lean experimentation here.

Gain insights from users, create a hypothesis, build, and validate. Rinse and repeat. 

Below are some of the comments the Tanzu Labs product team received while testing out solutions that would help empower these individuals to manage their own mental and physical well-being:

  • “I think my coworkers would laugh at me if they saw me doing a breathing exercise.” 

  • “Can I use this now? I’d love to bring this on the road with me.” 

  • “Where has this app been all these years? I really needed this feature this past month!”

As we spoke with truck drivers and shed workers about the app, they provided insights that helped the product team brainstorm next steps for designing an app that would be well-suited for its audience. Next, the team built the app, then moved to the final step of validating its success rate.

This project kicked off in May 2021, and the first build of the app was completed in August. The Tanzu Labs product team will continue to partner with HHTS to develop new features and support services their users want. As of now, the app has more than 1,000 downloads, and HHTS hopes to reach more road transport drivers and shed and logistics workers. For the next release of the app, HHTS and Tanzu Labs will once again complete the build-measure-learn loop to include the best services based on user feedback about what is working well and what is missing.

The teams from HHTS and Tanzu Act continue working together to create an app that serves as a first step toward empowering individuals who struggle with their mental and physical health. By making incremental changes and staying hyper-focused on user feedback, we hope to build technologically sound solutions that transform the way these workers live and work, improving mental health in the long term.

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