The design and build of an academic study and set of cognitive tests, which reveal the effects of age on dementia and mental capabilities.

What we did

  • User research
  • User-experience design
  • Visual design
  • Front-end development

The audience for the PROTECT study is people aged 50 and over. The service consists of over 400 questions which are asked on a yearly basis and a series of cognitive tests and games. At the start of the project, we spent a significant amount of time looking at how this audience uses digital tools.

By running a series of user research sessions, we were able to uncover their main frustrations with tools such as PROTECT, that we needed to overcome. Chief amongst these was the tendency for websites to explain services in a language that makes sense to them, but not the user. Of particular annoyance to users was when academic websites talk down to the participant and make them feel stupid for not understanding. 

Make it easier for humanity, not targeted at people with 2–3 PhDs.

User testing participant

From testing with the study’s users, we created a series of design principles which were followed throughout the process:

  • Simplicity is key and wherever possible screens should only ever include one question at a time
  • Interactions must be included that show when an element has been completed correctly 
  • Error messaging must explain the issue and take a user to the cause of the issue
  • Create a tighter flow to the experience, showing users where they are in the journey, what else is left to complete and when they need to do it by
  • The vast majority of users would be on tablet, so interactions need to be designed ‘touch-first’

Following these design principles, we have been able to build an experience which guides people through a long series of complex data capture screens without overwhelming them.

A selection of the cognitive tests which form an important part of the PROTECT study

In addition to the website experience, we created a series of 12 web games that are used to test users’ cognitive abilities. It was important that these follow the same design principles of the website, whilst allowing for an even more interactive experience. This needed to be achieved whilst not intimidating users who are unfamiliar with games on the web.

The study launched in Hong Kong in the winter of 2017 and will run for ten years, contributing to our understanding of how the brain’s capabilities change as we grow older.

The study can be visited at hk.protect-study.org

William Joseph have really helped us drive forward this project, feeling like true partners throughout. Their desire to get to the heart of our users’ needs really helped us create an experience which meets their needs and that we’re incredibly proud of. 

University of Exeter