Encouraging blood donation - User Research, Innovation Workshop & Prototype

Our internal innovation team prototyped Carey, an in-app assistant to make the process of blood donation less of a draining experience.

carey screens


At the start of 2020, Graphite formed a brand new Innovation Squad. The aim was to bring our creative minds together regularly to create exciting innovation pieces that could help make people's lives easier. This squad would have the opportunity to use their digital skills to imagine how we might solve some of the biggest challenges in the health, pharma, finance and utility industries through digital innovation. We also wanted to take the opportunity to test new tools and processes during our innovation projects, which if successful could help us with the work we produce for clients.

As the threat of COVID-19 started to increase in the UK, the team began an ideation session, discovering problems in the health sector and how the Graphite Innovation Squad could help. There were a number of challenges the health sector were facing due to the overwhelming demand for their service. We undertook some research to understand these challenges in more depth.

Desk Research

Each member of the Innovation Squad took some time to research some of the current issues and challenges that were being faced in the healthcare sector and if there were any current solutions to these. Following a review of all of the problems discovered and a team vote, three areas were selected to research further. These were:

  • Encouraging blood donations during the lockdown period and improving the UK donor journey
  • Improving the navigational systems in UK hospitals
  • Easing the experience whilst waiting in a GP or hospital waiting room

A further vote decided we would focus on the challenge of imagining how we might increase blood donation in the UK as we believed this was one of the most pressing issues brought on by COVID-19. In March 2020, the BBC reported that the NHS had received a 15% drop in donations compared to the amount they would usually expect.


Voting whiteboard


Dr Amita Ranger told the BBC that ensuring people continue to give regular blood donations would be crucial to the care of many high-risk patients around the UK during the global pandemic (BBC, March 2020). Although COVID-19 was at the forefront of everyone’s minds, people still needed blood, and the number of donations was rapidly declining. From our research and discussing internally, we identified a number of challenges that the public was facing whilst trying to give blood. We decided to try and understand these issues further by gaining insights through user research.


news articles


User Research

To understand people’s motivations and challenges around donating blood, the team worked with our Lead UX Researcher to create an online guerilla survey on a user research platform called Optimal Workshop. This survey took the user on a different path of questions depending on whether they had or hadn’t given blood before, discovering the reasons behind this answer and the positives and negatives of the process. We received an overwhelming response with over 120 users taking part in just over two hours! 

Some common themes from people that haven’t given blood included: 

  • being medically exempt
  • being too anxious
  • never thought about donating before 
  • no real reason for not donating

Recurring themes from people that have given blood included:

  • the motivation of wanting to help others in need
  • easing of nerves once physically at the location
  • 48% of people who took part in the research and have donated blood before donate once a year or less, despite men being able to donate every 12 weeks, and women every 16 weeks

Common themes amongst both donors and non-donors included; feelings of honour and pride surrounding the act of donating blood and difficulty finding an appropriate appointment due to a shortage of slots.

Using these insights, we created some personas to help the team get a greater understanding of the different types of people that may embark on the process of donating blood.




Innovation Workshop

The next stage was for the team to take the findings from the user research into an Innovation Workshop. An Innovation Workshop is an opportunity for teams to develop innovative ideas into plans for a prototype in a short amount of time. Teams can explore new ideas and innovate through practical exercises and research. At Graphite, we believe that whilst teams can be busy; it is important to carve out time and create opportunities for creativity and future thinking. We have written a detailed blog post on how to run a digital innovation workshop which provides details of what an Innovation Workshop is, the process and how to overcome challenges during the sprint. For this project, our workshop ran across one day.



Prior to the workshop, the team were asked to do a small amount of inspirational research around what other companies were doing to motivate their customers and find ideas or concepts that could help us ideate.

We used a remote collaboration software called Miro alongside Google Hangouts to carry out the workshop remotely, run by our experienced workshop facilitators, our Lead Designer, Sam, and Creative Director, Thomas.


Project Recap

In the first half of the day, our facilitators recapped the learnings from the user research and shared the goals for this workshop. Each person then presented their research findings as a way to get the team thinking and act as inspiration. We also ran through a customer experience journey of the current blood donation process. 


customer journey


‘How Might We’ & Ideation

The team then took part in a ‘How Might We’ exercise which Graphite often use with clients. This approach helps teams to phrase challenges in a way that helps you to solutionise, e.g. ‘How might we make the process of booking an appointment easier for people?’ from the issue identified from user research ‘I can never find an appointment’. Our ‘How Might We’ statements included; ‘How might we reward people for donating more regularly?’, ‘How might we make the booking process more convenient?’ and ‘How might we give people a personal reason to donate?’


how might we


The next stage was for the team to begin ideation around how we could improve the journey for each persona. We used the post-it note feature on Miro to do this, replicating the technique we use in face-to-face workshops. The timer was set as each person added their ideas around how we could innovate to ease the process of donating blood for each of the personas.



Using the voting function on Miro, the team were then able to vote on any of the ideas that stood out to them, and they would like to discuss further with the team. Each person in the workshop had seven votes and were allowed to vote a maximum of twice on a single idea. Once each member of the workshop had voted, we identified the most popular ideas. To qualify as popular, an idea had to have three votes as there were five people in our workshop. The two top ideas were:

  • The blood donation is also a blood check up - donors would receive insights about their blood health as well as helping save lives. This idea received seven votes.
  • Get support from Carey - Carey was a virtual assistant that would help support donors from the booking stage through to the actual donation. This idea received six votes.

Other popular ideas included:

  • Easier booking - optimising the booking journey and making it a simpler experience with reminders
  • Exclusive content - each donation allows donors to unlock rewards such as invitations to exclusive events
  • Tracking data - tracking of donation history that gives donors badges when they have donated a certain number of times
  • Creation of a digital donor community - a place where donors can get support from other donors, people who are unable to donate can volunteer to accompany a donor to their appointment or take part in a network marketing/referral programme to encourage their peers signed up to be donors

It was decided that the team could include a number of these features within the solution through an app.



The above ideas were then assigned to each person in the workshop. The team was given an hour to roughly sketch the idea and user journey as app screens, annotating different features to demonstrate the concept. 




Once everyone had finished their sketches, the team each added a photo of their sketches onto the Miro board and rejoined Google Hangouts. We were given some time to review each of the sketches and put post-it notes on the designs that we liked best or wanted to explore further. As a team, we worked our way through each of the designs and allowed each person the opportunity to explain their ideas and to speak about why they chose to put their post-it notes on certain designs.


Workshop Outcomes

The team left the day sprint with over ten sketched solutions to the identified challenges from our user research. The next stage was for us to hand these sketches over to a designer alongside a creative brief to create a design prototype for us to take into user testing.


User Testing

Once the nineteen screens/feature designs were complete, we needed to test with real users to find out if it would be an effective solution to challenges surrounding blood donation. We tested a new platform for user testing called Dovetail. The platform allows users to test your prototype whilst recording their commentary of what they’re doing and what they’re thinking about specific screens and features. This type of qualitative feedback is really useful in understanding the user experience of the app, what they like, and what they don’t like.


User Testing Insights

  • The majority of users said that the app would make the process of blood donation easier
  • Users really liked the concept of getting a ‘Blood Score’ and saw it as a great added benefit of giving blood
  • Users thought the onboarding process was quick and easy and were happy to provide the information requested by the form
  • Most users like the feature that allows them to chat with Carey
  • As a whole, users had a positive opinion and the app and would use it
  • The booking process was quick and easy


Prototype Design

We wanted to prototype a seamless user experience that would minimise the difficulties that users face during the blood donation process. Within our design, we also wanted to give the overall experience a friendly personality so that it could help guide and comfort users through the donation process, almost acting as a virtual hand-holder that then transitions into the friendly nurses during the physical donation experience.

In addition, we wanted to create an experience that was familiar and already a part of most people's daily lives. Therefore we decided to incorporate a chatbot that integrates with popular messaging services such as Whatsapp and Facebook Messenger, so that the learning curve and sign up was as easy as possible for users. 

Within the app, we decided to design a bot that we gave a name, traits and a tone of voice to. We named the bot ‘Carey’, inspired by the human name (Kerry), but also playing on the personality of the bot to care for its users. We designed Carey to act as a personal assistant to help with the process of donating blood.


carey screens


"This is great. I hope this work gets picked up and turned into a live product one day. Love the gamification aspect with your blood score, how many lives saved etc. I'd sign up! A great piece of work and innovation process, well done to all involved." - Aimee Davies, Business Assistant & Creative Producer on LinkedIn


What’s Next?

We are continuing to optimise our prototype in line with the user feedback we have received. While we aren’t working directly with NHS Blood Donation to solve this problem, and this is a speculative concept, we’ve developed the methods we used in this workshop so that our clients can work with us in an Innovation Workshop style on real work to solve problems in the healthcare sector. 


Are you looking to innovate?

The speed at which innovation is disrupting industries is increasing. Companies need to continuously progress new ideas and create solutions to customer problems in order to meet and exceed their expectations. Are your team looking to innovate? Graphite runs innovation workshops with our clients to help them realise their biggest ideas. Get in touch to learn more.