Effects of Using Child Personas in the Development of a Digital Peer Support Service for Childhood Cancer Survivors

Background: Peer support services have the potential to support children who survive cancer by handling the physical, mental, and social challenges associated with survival and return to everyday life. Involving the children themselves in the design process allows for adapting services to authentic user behaviors and goals. As there are several challenges that put critical requirements on a user-centered design process, we developed a design method based on personas adapted to the particular needs of children that promotes health and handles a sensitive design context. Objective: The purpose of this study was to evaluate the effects of using child personas in the development of a digital peer support service for childhood cancer survivors. Methods: The user group’s needs and behaviors were characterized based on cohort data and literature, focus group interviews with childhood cancer survivors (n=15, 8-12 years), stakeholder interviews with health care professionals and parents (n=13), user interviews, and observations. Data were interpreted and explained together with childhood cancer survivors (n=5) in three explorative design workshops and a validation workshop with children (n=7). Results: We present findings and insights on how to codesign child personas in the context of developing digital peer support services with childhood cancer survivors. The work resulted in three primary personas that model the behaviors, attitudes, and goals of three user archetypes tailored for developing health-promoting services in this particular use context. Additionally, we also report on the effects of using these personas in the design of a digital peer support service called Give Me a Break. Conclusions: By applying our progressive steps of data collection and analysis, we arrive at authentic child-personas that were successfully used to design and develop health-promoting services for children in vulnerable life stages. The child-personas serve as effective collaboration and communication aids for both internal and external purposes.
Journal of Medical Internet Research