Cell Therapy Software

for

Cellply

User research, stakeholder co-design, and design system together to deliver a highly complex domain software.

Industry
Healthcare
Services
User Research
User Experience
User Interface
Design System
Technologies
React JS

CellPly has given us the opportunity to partner with them in designing the software suite for their VivaCyte product. In this case study, we share how we designed software within a highly complex domain. From the workshops with stakeholders and user research, we move to design delivery, and finally, we conclude with the handoff to three different development teams.

Challenge

Understand complex domains and articulated processes

VivaCyte is a tool used to study cells within the field of cellular therapy research. The way researchers use VivaCyte is highly customizable, with two software tools at their disposal: one for programming and monitoring experiments and another for analyzing the results.

The suite also includes internal software used by CellPly biologists to create new types of experiments and a monitoring screen mounted on the instrument itself.

This diversity of software and target users creates significant complexity, further exacerbated by the need to interact with a physical instrument, with its limits and processes, within the specific environment of a research laboratory.

The challenge CellPly set for us was to understand all this complexity and translate it into a product that is easy for their clients to use.

Outcome

Addressing complexity

To work on CellPly's software, we first had to immerse ourselves in their domain. We accomplished this by engaging both CellPly and their target users in an extensive research phase, allowing us to map all the processes we needed to cover and the needs of the end users. Next, together with CellPly's stakeholders, we focused on prioritizing the numerous features the suite required. The prioritization led us to define a series of successive releases that enabled us to immediately deliver value to the user and subsequently complete the software, integrating feedback received along the way.

To ensure consistency within the suite, we created a design system for CellPly. As we progressed, this significantly increased our delivery efficiency and, more importantly, facilitated the handoff to the development teams. The handoff was a crucial phase of each release, managed through Figma screens and extensive documentation, but most importantly, through close collaboration with the CellPly team to define each feature's requirements.

Buildo has demonstrated the ability to quickly unravel complex projects, the skills in collecting requirements from various sources and transposing the outcomes into UX specifications, the availability of multiple figures and competences within the company, and excellent inter/intra team collaboration. They have also shown comprehensive mastery of the latest front-end technologies, along with adherence to the schedule and deadlines.
Andrea Faenza
CTO & Head of Microsystem Engineering
Methodology

Buildo’s Design Process

Research is the foundation of every project we undertake. By employing a set of practices aimed at analyzing users' needs, desires, and contexts, research enables us to derive requirements and insights that are crucial for the design process.

Our approach to discovery is based on requirements gathering through a bottom-up approach. To ensure that the final solution is aligned with the needs of those who will use it, we involve key users and stakeholders at every analysis stage through workshops and co-design sessions.

Requirements gathering with stakeholders

When discussing processes, we aim to foster collaboration among different stakeholders through collaborative workshops. These workshops allow all participants to learn and engage in discussions about the entire process under review, understanding its challenges through listening and dialogue.

For CellPly, we organized a User Journey Mapping workshop that brought together the biology team (the product's final users) and the instrument development teams. The workshop allowed everyone to understand each other's perspectives and work together towards a final solution that met everyone's needs. It also enabled us to immerse ourselves quickly in a complex domain and have an immediate, comprehensive view of the process we needed to work on.

Specifically, in the case of CellPly, it was crucial to map all the touch-points with which the user interacts during their work.

User research

Workshops are instrumental in providing an overarching view and facilitating discussions among participants, but to truly understand user needs, conducting user research with the end users is essential. With CellPly, we employed two distinct methodologies tailored to different types of users.

Shadowing

The software we developed for CellPly is used within a very specific context: the research laboratories.

To thoroughly understand this context and its peculiarities, we conducted shadowing sessions with the biologists to see how they move around and perform their experiments. The sessions allowed us to make some fundamental observations that later influenced the design of the software.

For example, we observed the distance between the instrument, which provides instructions for preparing the experiments, and the table where the consumables are prepared. As a result, we implemented a feature that enables the printing of consumables maps so researchers can easily carry these maps to their workstations. This practical insight directly addressed a logistical challenge faced by users, significantly enhancing the usability and efficiency of the laboratory workflow.

User interview

Regarding CellPly's clients and potential clients, we conducted several user interviews to better understand their work, the tools they interact with, the pain points they face, and their experiences with competitors. This allowed us to get a clear picture of the needs already satisfactorily met by the market and identify areas where we could intervene to fulfill an unmet need.

One key insight gathered during the interviews, which later became an important feature, is the value of the materials researchers work with. Incorrect preparation of experiment materials in the initial phase can lead to the loss of these valuable consumables. Therefore, we dedicated significant attention to creating a walkthrough for experiment preparation, guiding the user through this dedicated phase.

This feature directly addresses the researchers' concern about material wastage, offering a solution that saves valuable resources and enhances the overall user experience by providing clear, step-by-step instructions for complex procedures.

Solution design

Based on all the insights gathered during the discovery phase, we began working on the final solution. Initially, we focused on the user journey and then progressed to construct user stories and user flows to describe the proposed final solution.

In every project, we select the right deliverable to best communicate our proposal to the client. This enables us to work on it together and, through co-design sessions, arrive at a shared solution. This approach ensures that the solution not only addresses the needs identified during the discovery phase but also aligns with the client's vision and expectations.

Collaborative prioritization

Once the solution is defined, we always proceed to a phase of prioritization shared with the client. Prioritizing features allows us to deliver the maximum possible value immediately while simultaneously creating a roadmap for the future. Typically, we do this through facilitated workshops, where we consider the target users, the effort required, and urgency and risk criteria.

With CellPly, in particular, we focused on balancing the value for CellPly's internal users (their biology team) and the value for the end clients. This approach ensures that the development efforts are aligned with strategic business goals and user needs, optimizing the solution's impact on both internal operations and market positioning.

Design delivery

The careful production of comprehensive deliverables is crucial for allowing the client to review all project phases and facilitating communication with those outside the team. Given the complexity of the CellPly project, we spent considerable time on the product's UX, creating wireframes and interactive prototypes that allowed us to reflect and iterate on the functionalities within scope.

Subsequently, during the UI phase, the main screens were transformed into high-fidelity screens using a custom design system created for CellPly.

Design system

To ensure consistency within the software suite and to streamline the design delivery and handoff to development teams, we created a custom design system for CellPly, starting from Bento DS. Despite being created in a different context, Bento DS demonstrated its flexibility and scalability in meeting CellPly's specific needs.

The primary focus was creating clear screens that could guide the user in a stimulus-rich environment like a laboratory. We also took the opportunity to leverage the user interface to convey the CellPly brand and more marketing-oriented content.

Instrument monitor

In addition to desktop software, we also developed the display mounted on the physical instrument. Minimizing distractions and maximizing readability becomes even more crucial on a small display that might also be viewed from a distance. Moreover, it must be visible at various distances and angles and under unpredictable lighting conditions.

For these reasons, we opted to develop the display in dark mode, with the added benefit of reducing energy consumption and improving the device's thermal management. To achieve this, we created a theme specific to the instrument display, customizing the existing design system.

Handoff

The development of the VivaCyte suite involved various development teams over time, including CellPly's internal teams, external suppliers, and Buildo's teams.

To ensure a smooth handoff, the following were crucial:

  • Understanding how the instrument operates and how it should interact with the software
  • Detailed discussions about requirements with CellPly before starting the design
  • The use of a design system with a fully overlapping Figma and React library
  • Extensive documentation of the flow specifications

This approach facilitated a virtuous process that led to numerous successive releases while minimizing the need for rework.

Conclusion

The essential role of discovery in enhancing the delivery

The complexity and uniqueness of the VivaCyte project have once again confirmed how crucial user research, domain knowledge, and collaboration with stakeholders are to a project's success.

Understanding the "why" behind what you're doing ensures a quality design that meets real needs and brings value to the end user.

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