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When An App Can Only Do So Much


This post concludes our mini-series chronicling the design research phase of Hopelab’s Adolescent and Young Adult (AYA) Cancer project. Over the course of four months, we’ve met with several young cancer patients and survivors to understand what their psychological needs are and how they use technology, such as mobile apps.

Apps can only do so much:

From the beginning of this project, we were interested in imagining products beyond mobile apps. With such a small, diverse, and fragmented target population, we knew that one of our biggest barriers to product adoption and scale would be convincing people to actually download a mobile app (let alone use it). This could spell failure before anyone even tried the product. We decided to explore other platforms, particularly Facebook Messenger, for three main reasons:

  • Choosing an existing but versatile platform that people already regularly use could help us reach as many users as possible with minimal friction and inconvenience for them.
  • Many existing platforms, including FB Messenger, already have supporting ecosystems (e.g. frameworks and plugins) that will allow us to focus our efforts on creating behavioral impact rather reinventing the tech wheel.
  • Some existing platforms lend themselves especially well to modularization of content, which will give our team a sandbox for controlled experimentation. In turn, our team will be better able to test the efficacy of our content on people’s psychological well-being even before undertaking a formal efficacy study.

That’s where we are now. Stay tuned for more updates about our journey.

The Cancer Mindshift blogs are an ongoing series documenting our project work with adolescent and young adult (AYA) cancer patients. This project aims to transform the AYA cancer treatment experience by promoting psychological resilience, empowering young adults to direct their own care, and supporting young people as they leave treatment and begin a new life beyond cancer.

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