PELVIC FLOOR THERAPIST
Veronika Wiethaler, a very talented pelvic floor therapist and naturopath, developed a new method in treating pelvic floor problems. This is the story of how I crafted a web experience to help her in creating a positive difference in the lives of people suffering with pelvic floor, prolapse, and incontinence issues.
All the information in this case study is my own and does not necessarily reflect the views of the client (Veronika Wiethaler).
I undertook this project as an independent design-to-development solution for this multi-lingual website. I was responsible for the research, strategy, visual design, and development of a responsive web experience. The content in all the three languages (Italian, English, and German) was provided by the client.
This project took place between Jan 2018 and May 2018
The client approached me with four primary objectives for the webdesign :
to present and elaborate her new method effectively
to present her individual, group, and professional courses in a comprehensive and elegant manner
to create a web-experience in 3 languages – Italian, English, and German
to attractively showcase her books published on the subject
1. THE NEW METHOD
With experience of over 15 years, publishing 3 books, and conducting number of courses and workshops on this subject, Veronika had developed a new non-invasive method to ease the pain in the pelvic floor. My challenge was to first understand her method, study its application, and then present in a way that created trust and reliability for the method.
2. ON-TIME FOR THE SUMMER COURSES
Veronika had a number of advanced and professional courses, already planned close at hand in the three months (March 2018 to June 2018). To target her summer audience, Veronika was keen on listing the courses on her new website. That meant I had to move fast and focus on achieving an optimum running website in a very tight timeline.
Since the publication of her books in 2014, Veronika had been receiving an over-whelming response from her American audience. Being of German origin, and having a thriving practice in Italy, having a multi-lingual site was the next smart step for her to connect with a global audience along with the existing Italian clientele.
Designing a multi-lingual site by offering content in several languages can add many new layers of complexity to web designing. As I was creating such a multi-lingual feature for the first time, understanding the translated articles was only the first hurdle. Soon, I realised that structuring a multi-lingual website while adapting to various parameters like varying word length, multi-lingual menus, image classification, etc., was going to be trickier than I thought.
ASKING THE RIGHT QUESTIONS
To offer the right solution to Veronika, I needed to understand the basics of pelvic floor, the related therapy, and her patients. I had to start asking the right questions to scoop out relevant answers, quickly and thoroughly.
As Jonas Salk says,
“What people think of as the moment of discovery is really the discovery of the question“
1. WHAT IS PELVIC FLOOR & WHAT HAPPENS WHEN A DYSFUNCTION ARISES?
I collaborated with the client to dig deep into the literature. Also, being an expert herself, she demonstrated explicitly all the movements that constitute a healthy floor. I further studied the changes that occur when any dysfunction arises in the system. This helped me to understand the problem.
2. How is the health of pelvic muscles related to the pain relief?
Weak or damaged pelvic floor muscles can cause urinary incontinence. Exercising these muscles can be life changing for most patients. Pelvic floor muscle training exercises help strengthen the muscles under the uterus, bladder, and bowel (large intestine). Since these muscles support the bladder and bowel, they give you control when you urinate, thus preventing incontinence.
Trouble with urine control, bladder pain, and recurring urinary tract infections can be traced to a dysfunctional pelvic floor – making lives shameful and unbearable
3. WHY WIETHALER’S METHOD IS THE SOLUTION?
The treatment a patient receives for urinary incontinence will depend on the type of incontinence they have and the severity of the symptoms.
I understood that Wiethaler’s method focuses on individual treatment which varies from person to person, noting that it not only works towards easing and strengthening the floor, but offers a mind-body solution to the treatment. Her method is effective before going into medication or surgery, or may also act as a relief after the surgery, making it relevant to a diverse audience.
Effects on lives of patients suffering from a dysfunctional pelvic floor
Pelvic floor muscles may become weak
Through a lack of exercise
As a result of the menopause
Following pelvic surgery. eg. hysterectomy, or bladder repair
By straining to open your bowels
By being overweight
Having a chronic cough
4. Who are the users?
UNDERSTANDING PAIN POINTS, PERSONAS AND KEY JOURNEYS
I created proto personas for user requirement gathering using the method described by Lene Nielsen. I was inspired by the persona representation done by designer Simon Pan.
KEEPING USER IN THE CENTER
Personas evoke empathy with users and prevent designers from projecting their own needs and desires onto the project.
… guided my discovery phase
Urinary incontinence is a much more common problem than most people realize.
Pelvic dysfunction has a direct effect on human psychology and is a major cause of stress, anxiety, and depression.
Many comprehensive and non-surgical treatments available for rehabilitation with little to no medication supplementation.
A HOLISTIC HEALTH SOLUTION
Not just exercises, but a mind-body connection!
I had observed that Wiethaler’s method has been giving very impressive results, affecting profoundly even in some of the most contracted pelvises.
The key differentiator proved to be:
Instead of focusing on merge exercises or muscle movements, focusing on the inclusion of quality breathing, finding the right synchronization of movements, and using imagery and visualization for an overall mind-body connection.
This was the key insight I needed. I proceeded to weave this into our narrative towards creating a unique and meaningful web experience.
While developing the strategy, I realised that though studying Wiethaler’s therapeutic method was important, keeping the user in focus was crucial for creating a seamless connect between the method and the user.
Understanding the problem, relating with the pain, and giving permission to have slower to no results, created empathy with the audience suffering from chronic pain. So, instead of bombarding the user with claims, I understood that the focus needed to be on creating trust with simple explanations. These explanations would be supported by tangible results through testimonials, book publications, and an author’s video. This would gradually create reliability and eventually draw the audience in to try the Wiethaler method.
To achieve this, a well-planned information hierarchy had to be explored. It was also discovered that highlighting the courses immediately after introducing the client was critical; it would communicate the importance of action, and the need for frequency, effectively.
Where adherence (following through) is a problem, technology can play an important role. Adopting the video format, where Veronika herself explains the problem, and then proposes a solution, creates assurance with the audience, not only drawing the audience in and communicating credibility, but also creating an instant connect with them though voice, body language, and emotions. Putting a face to the name, and making pelvic pain relief a reality, would prove the effectiveness of the method, and make the entire experience more engaging.
The idea was to create a platform that displayed shared experiences. Testimonials provide reassurance to new users on the trustworthiness of a product or service. Studies have shown that nearly 88% of customers trust online reviews as much as personal recommendations.
It was understood that reviews from patients and professionals who have benefited from the courses, books, and workshops would make a huge impact on the potential new user. Since the method has proved beneficial to a range of patients, both male and female and of different age groups, a credible personal story would go a long way.
It was clear that Wiethaler’s method was unique and the solution had to unambiguously set her apart from a plethora of other treatments available on the subject. The key point was to effectively represent the method against the competitors’ approach.
Although the final aim was to make more people register for individual & professional course, and buy the books and DVDs, the focus was on creating a trust-based system. Explaining the system had to be done with clarity, simplicity, and reliance.
THE DESIGN PHASE
SETTING THE DESIGN DIRECTION
Problems and their solutions are often so complex that they have to be made real for people to be able to join in the design process. Engaging Veronika early on made her involved in the process, reduced the anxiety, and helped me get her valuable inputs till the final stage. Armed with the gathered research and envisioned solutions, I ventured into designing the experience.
VISUAL THINKING ON PAPER
I mapped the workflows on paper. Doing so helped me understand the flow of information as well as highlight opportunities where we could optimize user engagement. Information architecture decisions like creating one-scroll home page in order to retain users, or provide sale-focused information like courses and books, ranked high up for user interaction.
Design decisions like placing snippets of testimonials to draw them into clicking for more information and having a quick contact form for users, were sketched out during this phase.
Having a rough idea in mind, I created rapid sketches showing different versions of interfaces. This led me to consider more variations in information layout and decision hierarchy.
BRANDING AND DESIGN (LAYOUT, COLOR, AND TYPOGRAPHY) DECISIONS
Setting the look and color palette
Incontinence being a very personal issue, and a very daunting one at that, for the color palette, I chose soothing blues and greens with powerful imagery of the method in action.
Due to time and budget constraints, I moved directly towards applying ideas while developing the site, instead of creating high-fidelity mock-ups. I chose wordpress to develop the site, which allowed me to show versions at various stages on the site itself. This was both easier and result-oriented for Veronika and me.
The important design decision that took place during this stage was the creation of a separate ‘method page’. As the most important aspect of her website needed to be explained simply and justifiably, this decision proved to be the most critical. I have elaborated further on it below.
Following are various design decisions that were taken during the process:
- Content hooked before the header for quick access to the address, mail and contact number.
- A sticky header for branding an access to menu
- ‘Take and appointment’ and ‘the method page’ call to actions in the header with a background carousel of pelvic floor exercises imagery
- Author’s note in the ‘about me’, along with a profile picture to communicate identification and develop trust with the audience
- Showcasing Published Books
- Excerpts from testimonials, with CTA leading to the method page, followed by videos in Italian, English, and German showcasing Veronika herself, explaining the pelvic floor
- Quick information through simple contact forms, instead of requiring to send an e-mail
As I started the development, important sections like the events calendar and books showcase proved to be challenging. In this phase, a bit of back-n-forth of ideas happened with Veronika. The content came in at different stages from her. I experimented with the structure, sometimes making quick and impromptu decisions to see what worked best at different stages.
E.g., adding snippets of testimonials on the home page to lure in the users to engage and explore the method page.
I first set up the Italian language version of the site. Once that was almost ready, it served as a base for the other two languages (German and English). I used the multi-lingual plug-in (wpml) to edit and create a cohesive structure for the language segregation.
THE METHOD PAGE
Wiethaler’s method was the most important element of the website. It essentially set her apart from her competition and acted as her unique selling point against the pool of information available online. Once I started putting all the information together, I realised that the content about the method was extensive. It had to be coherently presented in order to create the trust and credibility that we were aiming for.
Appropriate images were important for clarity in description. We used available anatomical phantoms where possible and were also lucky to get help from companies who provided us free access to their proprietary images.
E.g., detail diagram showing male and female pelvis
E.g., testimonials for credibility
Since the launch of the website (in March 2018), it has gradually grown in popularity. Analytics show a considerable increase in the user engagement around the dates of professional courses between April 2018 – December 2018.
User types, and engagement from various regions.
Average monthly site visit has increased after the addition of the new feature – ‘Announcement Section’ – before the top hooked content.
A happy user:
“Complimenti per il tuo nuovo sito! Molto bello, chiaro ed esplicativo.”
– Virginia Conti (User of the method for Belly Dancing workshops)