User Research Project

Approaching a difficult user group

With a heavy user research focus this project aimed to explore and validate how, and if, product or service design could be used to contribute to reducing the transmission of hepatitis C. This project included challenges such as; understanding a complex user group and mapping the essence of an ambiguous problem. The project was done in collaboration with the Innovation Platform at Sahlgrenska University Hospital and the result will be presented as insights and guidelines below.

This project was done together with Alice Karlsson, Anna Jarebro, Clara Nilsson, Matilda Schulz & Victoria Sundbom in 2019.


Why? Today 45 000 people in Sweden are diagnosed with the liver disease Hepatitis C. Medical treatment is available, however, a vaccine is not and which makes regaining the virus possible. The cost of treatment is about 10 000 eur, so with just a quick calculation we can see that reducing the transmission would have a significant value.

“Due to project limitations we could not contact our users directly and we needed to be creative in the way we built our understanding of them”

Understanding our users.

One of the main challenges was not being able to talk to our users directly, something that’s often the core in my design process. By approaching the user group from several other perspectives, we managed to plan a user study that made it possible to gain a broader understanding of our user group. The focus of the user study was to understand the relationship between our user group, their addiction and public healthcare. My teammates looked into people with expert knowledge about hepatitis C as well as exploring the process and result of similar initiatives. I was responsible for conducting interviews with people within the healthcare system that worked with our users as well as gathering anonymous quantitative data from our actual users.

Did we really do a physical-paper-survey?

Yes, I did conduct my first physical-paper-survey during this project. The reason for it was that many of our users did not have access to a smartphone or computer. By creating a survey that looked a bit more exciting than your regular healthcare forms and placing it in the waiting room of one of the clinics our users regularly visit, we managed to gather more than 100 anonymous replies.

User Perspective

Our research showed that we were working with a user group that has a very broad span of characteristics, all from people with an unstable lifestyle, lacking permanent address, money and routines to the exact opposite. Regardless of this ambiguity, the biggest reason for the transmission of the hepatitis C virus is that materials are shared between users. To summarize our insights this is because:

  • The societies refutation of the user group
  • The limited accessibility of equipment
  • Users´everyday life and risk-taking behavior
  • Users' view of hepatitis C.

  • Feedback through participatory design workshop and evaluation

    After gaining a better understanding, concepts were developed and used as mediating objects in participatory design workshops, facilitated by use. During the workshop my role was to support our participants in the creative process and help them make idéas more tangible. In addition feedback of the concept was gathered by reaching out to people who used to be in our users' situation.

    I would say that this part of the study really was crucial when it came to understanding the user acceptance of solutions as well as possible downfalls.

    What hypothesis did our user research leave for further development and testing.

    A sustainable concept that would reduce reuse of material without being a danger for the user must:

  • Physically prevent the user from reusing material
  • Increase availability of clean material

  • In addition, designing a product and service based on these insights using methods such as nudging or persuasive technology could falsely indicate safety or even end up being harmful to users. We also came to the conclusion that as long as the availability of material does not increase, users are going to find creative ways of reusing material. So designing only a product will probably not be successful, however in combination with a system/service it could be.