The idea

My sister, a psychotherapist, has been running her own private practice for the last six years and throughout this time, she has been repeating how there isn’t an app or a tool that can help her manage her specific psychotherapist private practice needs. More specifically, a tool that can help her not only manage her client meetings and notes but also would allow her to bill clients, see payment status and be able to see and calculate all the expenses and income on a daily, monthly and yearly basis. After taking a closer look, it looks like there are a handful of apps out there that can do some of these things but there isn’t an app that has all these features in one place. I thought it would be worthwhile to dig deeper and investigate the landscape to see if there truly is an opportunity to build this type of platform.

Initial research: 
It was important to start my research without any biases or any affinities towards one solution or another. I didn’t know if what is needed is a native app or a web-based app. Would it be mobile first? I had to start by engaging with psychotherapists in private practice and hear from them what (if any) business tools would be helpful for them. I posted on a nation-wide online Psychotherapists forum that my sister guided me to, asking for willing participants in an online survey and an interview. I explained what I was researching and I was surprised at how many people responded, thanking me for taking the time to research this. Sounds like there is a real need after all! I put together an initial, short online survey (using Survey Monkey). In the survey, I also was able to identify people who were willing to participate in a 15-minute interview. 

I conducted 20-minute interviews with 6 psychotherapists who have private practices in New York City. Half of them have been in private practice for 1-5 years while the other half has had their own practice for over 10 years.

From the 6 psychotherapists I interviewed, 5 of them currently use a single or combination of softwares such as Quicknotes, Theranest, SimplePractice, Google docs, excel sheet, business credit card, etc., to track their business income/expenses and manage their clientele.

One of the common pain points is not having an easy way to track income and invoices and the status of the invoices. A few interviewees explained that when they started their private practice, they were able to manage their business needs via a simple Google doc or even manually but as their business grew, they started feeling the aches and pains of trying to manage things at a bigger scale with more clients and that is proving to be difficult and time consuming. Not a lot of time or research was invested early in their practice to set up some business tools and now the idea of transferring everything to a new platform seems overwhelming and daunting.

Seventy five percent of the interviewees want to be able to integrate their calendar and appointments into an invoicing and billing software. The idea of having one platform that would allow them to connect the billings to the calendar was repeated by multiple interviewees.  

Most of the interviewees are willing to pay a certain monthly price for a software that would adhere to all their business needs.

The psychotherapists interviewed were very excited about the idea of a new software that would be tailored for their specific private practice needs, however two people voiced concern about transitioning to a new product and were wondering how seamleass it would be to import all their clients’ private information. 

Interviewees want video tutorials, customer service and a good onboarding experience if/when transitioning to a new software.

Quick stats:
Secondary research: 

I also spent some time doing secondary research, looking at the competitive landscape, identifying other competitive products and identifying the features for each product and overall user experience, using Nelson’s 10 Heuristics Principles. I looked at 3 existing competitive softwares to compare and score them on the 3 following usability heuristics:
1. Visibility of system status
2. Match between system and the real world
3. Flexibility & efficiency of use  
Empathy Maps & Personas: 

The surveys, interviews and secondary research informed me when putting together empathy maps and personas. I found myself spending a lot of time and consideration putting together 4 personas that represent the targeted users. The empathy maps helped me really understand what the users’ environments are and what their challenges are. I also identified a few tasks and put together workflows 
Card sorting: 
I was able to contact 5 psychotherapists in private practice for the card sorting exercise. The therapists aligned with 3 of the personas. I spent about 40 minutes with each psychotherapist, introducing the app idea to them, explaining the card sorting exercise and how it helps me with the information architecture of the app. There seemed to be overall consensus on the login/sign up/account info features to live under the “Settings” bucket. Most participants seemed to also agree about the grouping of the calendar features and the client features.  The one feature that participants didn’t seem to agree on was the “client billing” feature. Some participants felt like it should be buried under the client information profile while others thought that it should live under the “Billing” bucket. It was interesting to see how some features that I assumed were straight forward and that their location in the app would be agreed upon by everybody were actually questioned. It is great to be able to validate or discredit some of the assumptions that I make during my design process.

I was now ready to start ideating on some initial design solutions. I started with low fidelity sketched wireframes. Once I was happy with some initial core features and layouts, I moved on to Sketch, where I put together the initial digital wireframes. These initial frames allow me to just see at a high-level the overall flow of this app and how the different sections live within this real estate.

For the design of the app, I chose to go with calming, soothing blue hues and a font that is screen-friendly, legible and that allows the content to shine.
User testing 

Verify that design, navigation, functionality, and information architecture meet audience needs and expectations. Confirm whether or not the audiences are successful in using the app.

I was able to interview 5 different users. One user was in person, while the other 4 were on video Skype. I was able to view the Skype users via video and we were able to share screens so that I could see both their facial reactions, hear their feedback and see how they were interacting (via screenshare). I took a few minutes prior to the interview to let them know what a “prototype”is and explain what the process will be like so that they have a better understanding of what to expect. The overall feedback was very positive and enthusiastic. Users were happy to see an app that truly helps them as business owners manage their daily business tasks, from client-specific needs to bills and payments. All users found the bottom navigation very intuitive and knew how to navigate from one section to another without any hesitation. There were some questions relating to tasks and flows that do not exist (yet) in the prototype (such as billing and payments) so I explained that these features are some of the core features of the app but are not representated in this user testing. Two users had a few questions about the Settings and needed some more clarification on what other features will be available in this section. One feature that 2 users asked to have was some customer support (whether phone number or submitting an email or bug-related issues).   

Interview Script
Thanks for joining us today. I’m [Naomi]and I’ll be conducting the usability test on mobile app for psychotherapists in private practice.

Today I will be asking you to complete a set of tasks on the app. The goal of the session is to test out the app and identify major issues or changes we may need to make in order to improve the overall experience. During the session, I won’t be able to offer any suggestions or hints, and will only be able to elaborate on the task if it is unclear what is being asked. 
Don’t be shy about sharing positive and negative feedback. We’re really trying to improve! We’re not testing you, so you can’t do or say anything wrong. 

Please try to think out loud as you look at the site. It’s helpful to hear what you’re thinking. It can feel kind of funny at first, but gets easier as we go through the site.

Do you have any questions before we begin?
General Information
1. Your Name:
2. Practice Name / Title:
3. Which of the following best describes you:
You have been a psychotherapist for a few years and have just recently opened your own private practice.  
You have been a psychotherapist for over five years and have had your private practice for over 3 years.
You have had your private practice for over 10 years.
Other (please specify)

Now we’ll jump into the test. 
Opening: First time usage
Take a moment to review the prototype for the app. This allows you to have a good sense of the design and flow of the app.
Based on your initial engagement with the prototype, what are your expectations of the app?
Scenario 1: Landing experience
Without clicking on anything, take a few seconds to review the landing page. 
What are your initial impressions? 
What three words would you use to describe this page? Why?
Where do you want to go first from this page? 
What task would you want to accomplish on this page?

Scenario 2: Calendar
Now that you have spent a few minutes on this landing page, let’s go ahead and complete a couple of tasks:
[Task related]: Please add a one-time client appointment (time and date) to the calendar. Please specify the name of the client and any important notes associated with this appointment.
Were you able to easily add the appointment?
Was there anything missing in this task for you?
Can you see and access this new appointment at any time?
[Task related]: Please open an existing appointment and edit the time of the appointment.
Were you able to easily edit the appointment?
Where there any missing items within this task?

Scenario 3: Clients 
Remember to think out loud - say what you’re looking at, what you’re trying to do, and what you’re thinking. Knowing your thought process and feelings throughout the quiz will be invaluable, it will help us understand what’s working and what’s not.

Now I have a couple of specific tasks for you. Please remember to talk through your actions, if something is not where you expected it to be that is really important for me to know.

Imagine you’re interested in adding a new client to your client list. Let’s go ahead and select “Clients”and create a new client named “John Doe.

a.  [Task related]  Were you able to quickly find the  “clients”section of the app?
b. .  [Task related]  Were you able to create a new client name?

Scenario 4: Settings 
Please navigate over to settings. 
Are you able to easily find your account information?
What type of information do you expect to find under settings?

Follow Up
What is your overall impression of the app? 
If you had to give the site a grade, from 1 to 5, where 5 was exemplary and 1 was failing, what grade would you give it, and why?
What did you like most about the app?
What did you like least about the app?
How likely are you to recommend this app to a collegue from 1-10, where 0 is not at all likely and 10 is very likely?
Can you give us a quick ranking of some app features you found useful or unnecessary?
Is there information or content you would like to see added to the site?
Do you have any final comments or questions?

Wrap Up
This concludes our session. Thank you again for your time!
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