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As the states start to reopen, how can we use technology to safeguard communities that will be returning to mass public transit, work, and public spaces?

An idea that stemmed from a virtual meetup hackathon and evolved into a refined contact alert iOS app, COVID Trace holistically limits the spread of the COVID-19 through contact tracing, while also informing the public about the changing environment around them. 


Over the course of 5 weeks, I worked with two designers from the original design challenge team and two mobile developers to revamp our original concept into contact alert app notifying individuals of a contact risk, incorporating a thermal risk map, and a symptom tracking calendar.






Google Slides


1.5 hours

Christopher Sayas, Faezeh Taghva, Ivy Ho, Shreya Gupta, & Me!




5 weeks

Designers: Ivy Ho, Shreya Gupta, & Me!

Developers: Ava Shah, Keya Shah

The Challenge

Neuron and Lance hosted a virtual Beer x UX meetup hackathon where participants were asked to design a solution to a challenge.

Prompt: To help control or limit the spread of the COVID-19 virus while also informing the public about the changing risks around them.


Our goals were to:

1. Acknowledge threat that this virus poses a risk to human life.


2. Short response time to communicate quickly and clearly using the right words at the appropriate time without complicating the message.


3. Issue directions while amplifying the information put out by CDC, WHO, local authorities, and other reputable sources.


4. Promote testing centers. Countries that have high levels of contact tracing and testing have been able to successfully slow down the spread of the virus.

My Role:

What I Did

Throughout the whole process, my team members and I took on an agile approach contributing and offering feedback. 


My roles included assisting the user research, taking lead on developing the app blueprint, executing the UI Design, and building the final clickable prototype.


From the beginning,

as a team, we unanimously agreed on the goal of recovery and the return to normalcy.


Resources &


Our design decisions were based on the following articles which focused on users' pain points, concerns about the technology with COVID, and privacy laws.

Key Insights: 

Three Considerations

There were three key insights to consider in order to create a safe and effective solution that can restore the users faith in returning to their new normal.

Concerns for the Users

  • Lack of Privacy- Big tech companies have not been transparent about whether user data and personal information collected via the application will be misused or erased. Users do not want to share their personal data.

  • Users Are Skeptical of Efficacy- 60% of Americans do not think this tracing application will work to limit the spread.

How might we create trust and help users feel comfortable and compelled to share their test results?

Technical Limitations & Concerns

  • False Positives- Even though the user has not been exposed, they will get the notification on their phone that they were in contact with the virus.

  • False Negatives- Since not everyone will be registered, someone who has tested positive but does not have the application will not prompt an alert even if the user was exposed.

  • Inadequate Technology- Bluetooth signals may not be strong enough to detect proximity.​

How might we work around technological inefficiencies?

Medical Considerations

  • False Sense of Security- Users will not be as careful.

  • Low Participation- 60% of the American population needs to have the app, but only 40% expressed interest.

  • Lack of Testing- Testing has a direct correlation to data; there will not be enough data if there are not enough tests. 

How might we gain the trust of users to participate and share useful data?

The key takeaway was that the Pew Research Study found that 68% of Americans worry restrictions are easing too quickly and do not feel safe resuming their normal activities.





User Case Scenarios

We defined two relatable user case scenarios to help us define and address potential situations in which users may find themselves in their everyday routines to better understand what users may feel, think, and need.

Scenario 1: At the grocery store shopping for my family’s weekly essentials. My app notifies me that I have come within six feet of someone that is confirmed to have the novel coronavirus.

What should I do?

How do I avoid causing panic?

How can I anticipate what people around me will do?

How do I find out protocols in that area?

What should I be aware of?

How can I avoid certain areas?

Scenario 2: Traveling for my daily commute but need gas. I actively follow social distancing protocol, wear a mask, and use hand sanitizer after each fill-up. Today I find myself in a different county in need of gas.

Product Hypothesis

In order to gain the trust of users to use technology to safeguard communities, our product will notify users of contact risk as counties start to reopen. We will know if our product works, when we see an increase in users and lower infection rates.

Features: Resources, Reporting & Thermal MapImpt Effort

A Minimum Viable Product (MVP) matrix helped prioritize app features which included features we felt best fulfilled the success criteria, required the lowest effort given the time constraints, and had the highest impact for the user.


Understanding users would be going out as we return to a sense of normalcy, a thermal map indicating high-risk areas was at the top of our list. But with users getting more comfortable, we wanted to make sure they would be as safe as possible. It was also discussed to include features such as: positive-contact notifications, accessible resources, and next steps after contact.

Covid Trace-MVP.png

Designing with these Assumptions

We began to design with the following assumptions in mind:

  • The user always has their phone with them.

  • At least 60% of the population has downloaded this application, making the data more accurate.

  • The user chooses to run the application in the background so that it can detect the BlueTooth signals of users who have tested positive.


Home Screen

In-App Alert


Heat Map

Hackathon Screens:

First Iteration

During the hour and a half allotted time, we designed a solution within the constraints of the design challenge that accomplished the following:

  • Simplified language and condensed resources to promote inclusivity, amplify the voices of the CDC, WHO, and local governments

  • ‘Going Somewhere?’ feature proactively incorporated features that would be utilized as users begin to return to a “normal” schedule that includes more movement

  • Simple call to actions minimized friction for the users

Home Screen.png
Heat Map.png

User opens app and can access all app features from home screen

User is notified of COVID-19 Contact alert and is given next steps

Various resources and aides are available. Heat map is also accessible

User plugs in address or desired location to view risk in that area

Post-Hackathon Iteration

New Ideas & Goals


easing the overall user experience

First Things First: 

Stay Organized

Following the Hackathon, two other designer teammates and I agreed to push our app idea and create a higher fidelity prototype. We discussed new goals and iterated on feedback recieved from the Hackathon to develop further.

Areas for Development

  • Detail the closest testing facilities since we are encouraging this as a next step. 

  • Thermal Map feature. How exactly will this work?

We set new goals of:


developing stronger branding


incorporating high impact product features

Outlining and setting a basic blueprint of the structure of the app helped keep us organized and visually see how the app would function for users.

The features were established, the challenge was to shuffle them around to make sense.

Covid Trace-Information Architecture

User Flow + Steps

The user flow needed to be as seamless and straight-forward as possible to avoid any unnecessary confusion for the user.


The aim was to have a clear step-by-step journey.

  1. Alert the user that they have been in contact with someone who has tested positive

  2. Lead the user to the next steps 

  3. Record the user's health status 

  4. Report user's symptoms

  5. Check the risk of public areas using the live-time density of population byways of a thermal map, helping users make decisions on their movement.

Covid Trace-User Flow.png

Visual Design

I challenged myself to spearhead the direction of the app's visual identity. Developing a style guide, I chose colors that were calm and cool-toned to reflect a tranquil nature. The graphics which included an array of icons and illustrations needed to be clear and recognizable, with a subtle whim. I used curves, blobs, and gradients to achieve this.


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Over 2 weeks and a round of remote usability tests with 5 users, we created a prototype 2.0. This prototype encompasses all the features we thought would have a high impact for the user while addressing the initial design challenge.

I prototyped the entire app ensuring smooth transitions and a solid end product.

In-App Alert

By anonymously reporting this information to the co-habitants, we are maintaining HIPAA compliance and improving privacy protection measures for the user—the main concern put forth in our initial research. We also wanted to offer a sense of security by offering help and guidance. The co-habitants can be set and changed in the settings.

Next Steps

By clearly outlining the steps after contact, we are promoting best practices to reduce the spread. By creating a clear direction, we hope to help the user avoid panic. We have curated a list of resources, including a live chat and non-emergency phone number, to answer any questions with reliable information.

Home Screen

Our home screen amplifies local and global resources that provide reliable information. This page also highlights two main features: the density heat map and reporting a positive diagnosis. These are features that both users and judges expressed the most interest in and it accomplished the goal of the design challenge.

Report Test Results or Contact

This self-report tool is also available as a call-to-action. By emphasizing that this is anonymous, we hope the user feels trust in reporting their symptoms and diagnosis. We have included the option “No” but feeling symptoms and being “in contact with someone who has tested positive” to offset the testing capacity of the nation, a concern that medical professionals have put forth. The application can then let people know when they have been in close proximity to someone who may have COVID-19 so that they can be aware of their own health and symptoms.

Heat Map

This feature allows the user to make informed decisions by using population density as an indication of risk for exposure. As the country begins to reopen, this map will provide real-time information on how crowded a place is, similar to thermal maps. This is especially useful for our immunocompromised users who need to avoid high-risk situations.


Since COVID-19 testing is key to slowing down the spread, we also added test centers as a filter on the map in an effort to encourage users to visit them.

Calendar of Symptoms

This feature allows the user to track their symptoms and dates for self-isolation. It further promotes best practices and locally stores a history of symptoms in case the user needs to check in with a doctor. 


Product Demo: GitHub

Over the course of three weeks, the developers took our designs and made them tangible. They were able to work on the self-report tool, calendar, and beginnings of the thermal map feature doing numerous validation tests and staying mindful of limiting the number of new page instances. 

Overall we all learned a lot through this collaborative venture such understanding what information they needed to build off of and setting realistic timelines for build.

Lessons Learned + Next Steps

  • Collaboration & Time Management: Due to time limitations, it was a challenge to ensure everyone was in agreement with design decisions. Outlining an agenda would've been helpful to stay on track.

  • Incentives: How might we motivate users to use our app? I would like to look into incentives or potentially gamifing the app to keep users' interests high. 

  • Potential Partnerships: If we continue to develop this app, I would like to look into potential partnerships with WHO, CDC, and even local municipalities. COVID Trace already links to these resources thus through collaboration, the app could be advertised on their platforms reaching a larger audience and continue to build users trust.

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