Designing a personalised and empathetic app for charity Tommy’s

As the largest charity funding research into the causes of stillbirth, miscarriage and premature birth, Tommy’s provides information for parents-to-be to empower and support them throughout their pregnancy journey. With 60,000 babies born prematurely each year in the UK, it's an important topic that causes extreme trauma, anxiety and uncertainty for many parents.

The opportunity

Tommy’s had an app that, whilst fit for purpose some years ago, was in need of a complete redevelopment. Working with a tight budget in the third sector, this was a unique opportunity for us to design and build an app that could truly make a positive impact on people's lives by providing useful, practical and emotional support. From a commercial perspective, the app would also support a donation user journey that is crucial to making the work Tommy’s does possible.

Empathetic user research

The process began with the UX/UI team conducting user research with the different groups within Tommy’s audience: parents at risk of premature birth, those who had given birth prematurely in the hospital, and those who had sadly become bereaved. Empathy mapping and interviews with all of these groups of parents provided extremely valuable insight for the team to inform their design choices with the user in mind.

Creating and defining a clear product vision

Here at Tangent, we are strong believers in creating a product vision which will guide every decision down the line - especially when things get tough and you might start to consider workarounds.

The new app should be a supportive experience for parents and health professionals. It should provide information, guidance, tools and support that make a traumatic time easier, whilst building affinity with the Tommy’s brand.
Richard Trigg - Product Experience Partner, Tangent
Our vision for Tommy’s acted as an aspirational statement to communicate where we wanted the product to go, and what it could achieve in the long-term.

Testing and validating the concept

Following the prioritisation of requirements, wireframes and prototypes were created for user testing.
A unique element to the app is that it supports parents both before the birth, and after, in different ways. If a user finds out they are at risk of having a premature baby, educational content is delivered week by week to show them what is happening to their baby and their body, and information on the risks. As soon as a user updates the app after the baby is born, the app’s purpose then switches to more of a tracking purpose where measurement logs can be used to track weight, breastfeeding, mood and write diary entries.
Two rounds of in-depth user testing identified areas in the journey which needed to be reworked to ensure an optimal experience around navigation in the app. We also consulted with professionals to validate the app’s functionality with healthcare workers.

Tech strategy focussed on low maintenance and rapid development

Key requirements for the app included being as low maintenance as possible, and rapid development to stay within budget. With this in mind, the team chose a carefully considered tech stack. React Native meant that the creation of one code base got the app on both Apple and Android Stores, whilst Expo and SQLite lend themselves to rapid application development.
Other tech used:
  • Nginx
  • Python
  • GCP
  • Gitlab

Integrations for a truly personalised experience

With Tommy’s having several different platforms in their marketing toolbelt, it was key for the app to integrate these to work seamlessly. These included:
  • Drupal: the team built a custom API suite to support Tommy’s content-driven model of bringing in content from external sources
  • Raiser’s Edge: we ensured all user data is sent to and stored correctly in the CRM
  • Adestra: their platform for marketing emails and user segmentation now works using data directly from the app
The result was a dynamic app that delivered a personalised experience based on where the user is in their pregnancy journey, using tags assigned from engaging with content in the app. Not only does this dynamic element provide the user with content that aligns with their specific needs at that moment in time, but it future-proofs the app to make sure it works long-term.

What’s next?

Designing and building a digital product with such an important benefit to end users has been an incredibly rewarding experience for the entire Tangent team.
We’re now working with Tommy’s on a digital product campaign in partnership with M&S. Stay tuned!

The whole team at Tangent are honoured to have worked with Tommy’s on such an important project. The opportunity to deliver a new app that will support parents during this difficult time has been an incredibly rewarding experience.
Richard Trigg - Product Experience Partner, Tangent