My Two Weeks Using Glooko

“The central premise of user-centred design is that the best-designed products and services result from understanding the needs of the people who will use them”
-UK Design Council

I began working at Glooko this summer as the company’s first user experience researcher. User research focuses on understanding users’ behavior, needs, and motivations by talking to and observing people who use our product. These activities are part of a larger, user-centered design process where the first step is to deeply understand the people who currently use or will use the product, and to build empathy for their experience.

I work at a diabetes management company but I don’t have diabetes. However, I wanted to learn what life is like for people with diabetes, get some first-hand insight into what it’s like to measure blood glucose (BG) every day, and track food and exercise. I also wanted to see what the experience of a new Glooko user is like.

I first sat down with Linda Parks, Glooko’s ‎Director of Clinical Development & Research and a Certified Diabetes Educator (CDE). We planned out how I would follow the journey of someone who was just diagnosed with Type 2 diabetes. Linda went over what a clinician might cover with someone during their initial diagnosis and taught me how to measure my BG using a blood glucose meter.

We decided that I would keep track of my BG, food, and exercise in the Glooko app. I would measure my BG every morning, and then at least one other time during the day. To make things a little more realistic, we decided I would record taking medication as well. I would “take” Metformin, an oral medication, and Lantus, a long acting insulin – and adjust these according to my BG reading that morning. I decided to add a physical representation of taking these medications – by having a gummy bear stand-in for my Metformin and an almond to stand-in for my Lantus injection. 

I sent Linda any questions that came up, but otherwise we decided to meet again in two weeks to review my data.

I needed four test strips to properly test my BG my first time I tried because it was more complicated than I had originally thought.

Things were going well at first. On the third day, I realized that I had mistakenly switched the medications. The next day I got a crazy reading of 27 mg/dl in the morning and immediately emailed Linda about what to do. She responded told me to check to see if my strips were expired. They were!

Over the next couple of weeks, I sent Linda lots of questions about things like what adjustments I’d have to make for my Bombay Jam class, whether I’d need to measure when I went on a hike, how often I should change my lancets, when exactly is “post-meal” and on and on. I entered 188 events in the Glooko app, and had 36 BG readings. I tried measuring BG on a hike on a dusty trail as my dog was kicking up lots of dust and I only had one alcohol prep towelette to clean my finger.

I tried measuring in public – at a restaurant, at the gym, and at work. I took pictures of everything I ate and tried very hard to get accurate carb counts to enter.  Every time I was about to measure my BG I became anxious – like I was about to take a test I hadn’t prepared for and didn’t know how I would do.

After the two weeks, I sat down with Linda again to review my data. I felt vulnerable and possibly judged in exposing the gory details of literally everything I ate, including all my guilty pleasures as part of my permanent record. We had decided that I would try to keep my carbs to less than 60g per meal. I felt sheepish about rarely succeeding.

I had several takeaways from this experience:

  • When someone is newly diagnosed, there is so much to learn! And not just about diabetes, but the nitty gritty details such as checking to see if your test strips are expired.
  • Doing all the things that need to be done such as measuring BG, carb counting, etc. take up a lot of time throughout the day and nearly every activity influences blood glucose.
  • There are a lot of emotions that accompany a new diagnosis such as uncertainty, confusion, dread, panic, vulnerability, etc.
  • Having access to someone who can answer questions is incredibly helpful in learning how best to manage diabetes.

By going through this empathy exercise, I now have some context of my own when we go out to visit our users and they tell me about their experiences. I shared my journey and insights with the Glooko team, and my experience gave us some ideas on how to improve the early experiences for our users that we will be incorporating into the app in the future. We also formalized this “Trying Glooko” program so any interested Glooko employee can try this empathy exercise program for themselves.
If you are interested in participating in user research activities with us, please visit www.glooko.com/usability and fill out the short sign up form.

Marianne Berkovich

Marianne Berkovich is the Head of User Research + Consumer Insights at Glooko, and enjoys hiking with her dog on dusty and not so dusty trails.