I believe in starting a conversation with fellow leaders and learning from their experiences. Making their perspectives available to the whole community is one step forward in spreading the message about the importance of UX. That’s why I have started a project of #UXFika – lightweight conversations with inspiring UX leaders, creators, and people who make a change through design.

This week’s special UXFika guest is Katrina Persson-Thomas – senior product designer at Natural Cycles – a femtech application for fertility tracking.

“More than 100 million women monitor their cycles on their phones, and as a result, are creating huge new data sets that can be researched and analyzed”

As the relationship between women’s’ bodies and health tech gets closer and closer everyday, we continue to digitize many pieces of data about our bodies. I was curious to talk to Katrina on what is it like to design a product that puts the power of “tracking your fertility” in the hands of people in a way never before possible.

Let’s get to know Katrina 🙂

What brought you into the world of UX & Design?

My journey began with fine art. It was not a typical program of drawing and painting, but rather a very conceptual and computer-based type of arts education. We did a lot of programming, generative art, robotics.

After that, I started working in the gaming industry – focusing on UI. While working in the field, my interest in UX grew a lot, because user experience reminded me of art – you have to think about the viewer and what they are experiencing. So I started incorporating more and more UX methodologies into my daily work.

There is a moment in each project when you worked on it for a really long time, maybe it’s a user test, maybe a new feature you have released – and you start seeing that it is helping someone. That feeling is the most amazing.

That’s how I formed my profile – a full-stack designer, doing a bit of everything to shape products that I care about.

You are currently a senior product designer at Natural Cycles, a femtech startup focusing on women’s fertility. Why did you become interested in femtech industry?

When I moved to Stockholm, I wanted to work in a product company. My first real job after internships was in a gambling industry – I learned a lot there, but it was not the type of design I wanted to do.

Eventually, I learned about Natural Cycles – a product with a mission to actually improve the lives of people. The company clicked with me and that’s how I got into femtech world.

It was an eye-opening experience since joining the first day – about the human body, the science behind it and creating a femtech product. Plus, before I was working mainly with developers, product managers, etc. Now I get to work with doctors, scientists, physicists – who make me think more broadly about design.

How do you incorporate science into design?

There are many angles to it. Firstly, we do our own scientific research on the subject. We write papers on women’s health, since there hasn’t been a lot of research into women’s health so a lot is still unknown. For example, common knowledge says that most of the cycles are 28 days, other sources say that it is only 13 days – so I can use this type of research in product development as well, and start incorporating proven research into interfaces.

We work very closely with the medical team and scientists, particle physicists doing math and calculations. Customer support has to be talking to them as well – to address key user questions that sometimes are very specific. We also have to include scientists in the early feature building process – because they will be able to say things that we as designers do not necessarily know. For us to make a high-quality medical product, they have to be an integral part of the design process.

What does Designing health tech products with women in mind mean in practice?

Designing for women is the same as designing for the users of any other product. If you want to keep the users central to your process you have to talk to them. We do a lot of passive insight gathering – we get data from the customer support team, but we also actively get in touch with the users and include them in our design process – like doing usability testing, diary studies, focus groups, etc.

Regardless of what you are building if you do not include people in your process – then you kind of leaving everything to luck.

In terms of colors and tone of voice, I am just trying to be aware of why am I using something. I am intentional in using certain design elements and always ask myself “Do I use it because women like it? Or is it because other products are like this?”.

We also think about people that are indirect users of the app – for example, partners, who also download the app. We believe that birth control is a shared responsibility.

What are the biggest gaps in femtech products? Can design help to solve it?

It is not really a gap in femtech industry itself – but more in public knowledge and society itself. Most people don’t really know how the female body works. I personally did not much about it before joining Natural Cycles. I think it is a big problem. We should be more aware of ourselves to be able to make educated decisions, to help other family members. That’s one of the key gaps we try to overcome and design can help a lot.

What do you see as the leading future trends for Femtech?

I think “wearables in tech” is a general trend – not only in femtech, but I believe it will keep growing and growing. It will also become much more personalized and niche than it is now. I personally really like the new Oura ring – it is a wearable that does not look clumsy and big – but it helps you track your body.

Scientific research – I think there are more and more companies doing their own scientific research for their product, which I think is great because you really get good data to back up features and educate your users as well.

What is the most challenging and rewarding part of your job as a product designer?

The most challenging part is building features that are in a way universal – but on the other hand, it has to be personalized to your own body and how your body works. We need to communicate about very complex things in a simple way. Every user is unique and I feel a big responsibility in building a product that impacts people’s personal lives.

Rewarding is when it works. For instance, a year ago we redesigned one section of the app. Two months later I was running a focus group – some of the participants really liked it and that made me quite satisfied! There is a moment in the project when you worked on it for a really long time, maybe it’s a user test, maybe a new feature you have released – and you start seeing that it is helping someone. That feeling is the most amazing.

“The fruit of your own hard work is the sweetest”

What personal skills are the most important to be a good product designer?

Communication is essential – as designers we work with so many different types of people in our jobs and all of them have an impact on the experience users have in the product: developers, scientists, marketers. So you have to be able to communicate with all those different types of people.

We as designers should intentionally think about how we communicate.

Quick bits:

Recommended book
The Murderbot Diaries by Martha Wells – it is a story about a robot that becomes self-conscious and spends most of the time watching TV instead of becoming evil.

If you could take anyone for dinner, who would it be?
My grandma

Favourite “Product Design” Myth
People’s understanding of agile is underestimated. Just because you have a standup and sprint planning – it does not mean agile for me. Agile is a way of thinking about development. It is a philosophy.

One wish for Femtech
More scientific research & more products based on scientific research

About the UX Fika Series

In UX Fika series of blog posts, I talk with people that inspire me and whom I look up to as my role-models. The motivation behind doing this is, you might see some patterns and hopefully you’d be able to learn from the amazing people that I have had a chance of learning from.

For my international friends, FIKA is a Swedish concept, a state of mind, an attitude and an important part of Swedish culture. It means making time for friends and colleagues to share a cup of coffee (or tea). With no rush, full immersion and being present in the moment. That’s why I thought “UXFika” is a perfect name for meaningful conversation with UX leaders I look up to.

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Want to take part in UX Fika and share your story?

I always proactively get in touch with industry leaders and interesting people! If you would like to have a Fika with me, get in touch. Drop me a message here.

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