Why I created a vaccine finder
I recently built findvaccinefor.me which gets data from WA state sources such as vaccinelocator.doh.wa.gov and prepmod.doh.wa.gov and presents it in a more convenient way (IMO). I built this over few weekends as a tool for me to see where I can get vaccine shots and in the process maybe help few other folks like me. It certainly doesn't solve all the problems.
Professionally I work on a full stack product and overtime have gotten some sense of what a good or bad user experience feels like (at least I would like to think that). The thing I generally try to focus on is friction in user flows. Each time we make something slightly harder the funnel of users completing the flow becomes narrower.
I don't have any data but my intuition is that existing vaccine scheduling systems introduce so much problems that it might result in actual harm by people delaying vaccination.
Lets go over some of the gripes I have with existing tools and why user experience is very essential even for a mundane thing as scheduling an appointment.
Problem 1: Finding clinic
In the age where everyone uses some form of maps e.g. Google maps, Apple maps it's hard to parse through information based on zipcode and how many miles away it is. I believe majority of us are habituated to use maps for searching for a location and understanding it's closeness and convenience of getting there.
Why is it showing me dates all the way back to 2016. It should only show the dates in future, I thought that would be obvious. But it should also filter out dates for which there are no appointments available. As a user looking for vaccine, I'm only interested in dates which have an appointment available so I can pick the most convenient one out of them. Currently user has to try out multiple dates and hope there is an appointment available or browse through bunch of listing to find the right date where vaccine is also available.
Hmmm, why show me a place where there is no appointment available. What are they expecting me to do with that info? This just adds to the friction as I parse the list. Though I'm glad prepmod.doh.wa.gov shows the map but its not much useful when I can't see where the location is in relation to me.
Problem 2: Different scheduling websites
Can you spot the problem in above picture? Yep, you guessed right. Each clinic has a different scheduling system, some even points to a Facebook page. As a user everytime you click for scheduling, you are in for a surprise and have to go through the pain of understanding each system.
I believe prepmod.doh.wa.gov tries to solve that problem but it only has few bigger vaccination sties and most of the places around you would likely have their own system. These systems make you fill a form before you can even see the vaccine is available at a time that is convenient for you. This results in a lot of time spent in filling forms unnecessarily to realize they don't have it.
Instead, please show me what's available and when, only when I select they can go through the process of filling all the forms they want.
I understand why we currently have such a disconnected system, likely because each provider wants to do their own thing. I think a world wide pandemic requires a response which is more national or at least at a state level even for digital experiences, otherwise I think we run a risk of a slower vaccination pace and likely more economic hit due to it.
I certianly loved how the vaccinelocator.doh.wa.gov provided a lot of accessibility features.
Its also nice to see that all these websites are dynamic and work well on mobile phone.
This is not to dis the people helping build it as I tend to believe they probably did what they could with the resources they had. But it's just a criticism of the general laissez faire approach to building digital experience for the goverment and not investing much time and money on it.