Kinsa is a venture-backed startup that offers a smart thermometer and companion app to reduce illness.

The Project

Kinsa had introduced a new feature called Groups for participating school communities. The purpose of the feature is to bring schools and families together in order to track and prevent the spread of illness in their communities. In Groups, users can view overall statistics about student health and discuss illness trends in a group forum.

While evaluating the feature, the Kinsa team discovered that user engagement metrics were very low. They approached our team to explore design strategies that could increase activity within the Groups feature.

Our goal was to identify what content and functionality Groups users find relevant and valuable on an ongoing basis.

We weren’t able to derive insights from the metrics, so we decided to adopt a first principles approach to the project. We did this by conducting generative research and testing research-driven prototypes in order to identify user insights.

My Role


I was one of three lead designers on a team of nine. In particular, I led a smaller team of three designers to prepare and conduct user research on new mothers. I also played a major role developing health card concepts.


We discovered and validated that mothers value functionality and content related to managing care for their sick children. Our best performing prototype provided mothers the ability to easily connect with their school. On a scale of 0 to 5, users gave our best performing prototype a rating of 4.5.

kinsa results graphic

We also wanted to get a pulse reading on how frequently mothers would use the product with the updated design.

Six out of seven users responded they would use the product with the updated design on an ongoing basis.

Our Research Methodology

We formed three groups to research four major stakeholders involved in children’s healthcare — health advocates in the school community, mothers participating in the FLUency program, experienced mothers not participating in the FLUency program, and new mothers that were not participants in the FLUency program.

Profiles of Research Participants
Profiles of Research Participants

For our study, we recruited and selected mothers who had children that had been sick within the past 6 months. We adopted an empathic approach and used ethnographic research methods in order to gain an insider’s perspective of their lives.

This included conducting semi-structured interviews in the mothers’ homes, observing their interactions with their children, and diagramming their floor plans. A couple participants were unable to meet in-person due to scheduling issues, so we made special arrangements to conduct the interviews over video instead. We facilitated discussions about their relationships with their children, health, technology, and social groups.

affinity mapping photo front

Next, we set out to synthesize all of the information we collected. We transcribed audio interviews, organized photographs, and converted written notes into a spreadsheet. Together, we also conducted sorting exercises, such as empathy and affinity mapping, to identify patterns and insights.

Research Discovery

We found that all user groups–with the exception of the “new moms group”–shared similar pain points, behaviors, and goals. Although we discovered important and relevant insights about new moms, we noticed that Kinsa’s vision for the Groups feature did not strongly align with the new moms’ needs.

(Illustration by Chrysan Tung)
(Illustration by Chrysan Tung)

From our synthesis, we ultimately boiled down our research to two key hypotheses and insights that could help improve user engagement in the Groups feature:

Provide opportunities to help moms manage logistics when their children fall sick: 

Experienced moms–especially working moms–struggle with balancing other obligations and coordinating care logistics when their children fall sick. They do not always have clear or fail-safe options to help manage unexpected illness, and they strongly desire increased assistance from their schools, workplaces, and communities.

Emphasize messaging and functionality related to anonymity and privacy to decrease concerns about social stigma: 

All moms want to ensure their children’s privacy online. For the majority of the moms, their typical privacy concerns center around preventing social stigma. While fraud and data security are also important to them, these issues are not usually top-of-mind. At varying levels, the moms take precautions to shield their children from unwanted or negative social attention and protect their identities on social media.

Initial Prototype Concepts

Kinsa workshop photo

We kicked off the second phase of the project by organizing a Google-Ventures-inspired design workshop with the Kinsa team. Together, we unpacked all our shared knowledge and and explored initial prototype concepts through “how might we” statements, Crazy 8’s sketching sessions, and silent dot voting.

Health Card Prototyping

After the workshop, we decided to focus on concepts that would make the existing health card more relevant, valuable, and clear to mothers. Drawing on insights from the user research phase, we came up with four health card ideas that related to school communication, illness prevention, and illness data. We sketched and reviewed more concepts with Kinsa and turned them into hi-fidelity mockups. We then scheduled feedback sessions with 10 mothers to test the original health card and four other health card concepts.

Overall, the best performing health cards provided mothers with opportunities to manage their children’s health and wellness.



“The insights from their user research and design sprint delivered valuable impact by helping us test and prioritize important feature development.”

— Joey Cordes, UX Designer at Kinsa

Our work ultimately helped close the empathy gap between Kinsa and their users. Going forward, the Kinsa product team will be using our research and recommendations to continue improving Groups and other areas of the app.