WatchOS Fall Detection App
Developing lo-fi wireframes for a fall-detecting emergency response service, validated through first-hand usability studies.

Telus Health‍‍

4 Months (Dec 2020 - Mar 2021)

My Role
Background research, created med-fi wireframes, presented solutions to stakeholders, conducted usability testing.


Project Summary


Create an iOS app, with companion watchOS app, that leads senior users through an onboarding process to set up a fall detection system on their Apple Watch.

  • Background research on accessibility
  • Wireframing with stakeholders
  • Usability testing
  • Hi-Fi designing

An onboarding process that provides accurate images, feedback, and many avenues of support to enable senior users to set up their devices without needing to contact customer support.

Overview of the solution(s)

Our Apple Watch app can detect falls and route calls to Telus Health monitoring center with the touch of one button. The service also features an accompanying iPhone app for onboarding and data processing.

Check out the service at this link.

Extra consideration was given to accessibility best practices:

  • Text labels for buttons
  • Limited gesture control
  • Copious instructions and documentation (to assist with set-up, onboarding, and more)
The home page for Telus' app: a big green call buttonTelus' apple watch app: also a big green call button
A help screen to guide users through activating their apple watch settings correctlyTelus' iphone app home, but with an error banner prodding the user to fix settings.An onboarding screen from telus' iphone app confirming fall detection is enabled



Background Research

Interviewed 5 casual TED fans to learn more about how they use and find videos.



Explored design opportunities based on insights and pain-points uncovered in discovery research.


Usability Testing

Evaluated solutions for an index page redesign by conducting think-alouds with 3 users.

More about the challenge
Fall-response pendants are stigmatized in the Senior community. Older folks don't want to be seen with technology that, while useful, broadcasts their age and a sense of helplessness.

The Apple Watch now features a fall-detection function that senses when its wearer falls. Telus Health, a Canadian telecommunications and health service provider, wanted to merge the chic-ness of the Apple Watch with the functionality of fall-response pendants.

How could we design this service so it is actually usable by the senior community -- an oft neglected user group?
Background Research

Our client provided us with existing research, pointing us to their core demographic of women aged 65 years and older.

Before designing began, and throughout the design process, I investigated relevant accessibility information for this community, including:

The onboarding techniques stood out amongst my research. I learned an onboarding flow is crucial to helping seniors or older users understand and get started with technology.

A side-by-side analysis of Headspace's iPhone app onboarding.

Growth.Design's case study analyzing Headspace's onboarding sequence was especially helpful for learning advantages of a guided set-up flow. Click here to visit Growth.Design's Headspace case study.

Wireframing and Client Feedback

As a result of our background research findings, our prototypes mainly focused on the onboarding and registration flow of application. Other than the basic call functionality, the rest of the features of the app (such as a medication tracker) were out of scope for the time table.

Even the extent of the onboarding was ultimately rejected by our client. Much of the discourse involved how much hand-holding was needed for users to set up the devices.

This waxed and waned while development determined technical feasibility. However, I was busy creating a protocol to get user feedback to guide our decision making.

Ultimately, we arrived at an MVP.

Grayscale lo-fi screenshot of setting up apple watch settingsGrayscale lo-fi screenshot of confirming apple watch settings
A full lo-fi and grayscale wireframe of all screens in the MVP version
User Testing

While our MVP designs moved forward into hi-fi design, our client still wouldn’t budge on officially sponsoring user testing of the application. They were defensive of the IP as they wanted to be the first on the market to utilize Apple Watch’s new fall detection service. Therefore, I felt as though I needed to respect their discretion.

However, given the community we were designing for, and the literal life-or-death scenarios we were attempting to aid, I felt obliged to give an honest effort at validating our designs.

Our Research Objectives:

  • Can users set up and activate devices with pre-designed assistive messages?
  • What support do users need when challenges are encountered / help is needed?
  • What usability issues exist?

Research Strategy:

  • Recruiting participants aged 65+
  • Development of testing protocol
  • Synthesize and convey findings

Users desire more explanation, noting they were "confused and frustrated" when they weren't sure how to proceed.

The study was essentially set up for the initial download to fail to investigate how user would respond. After experiencing challenges, users noted that they would’ve called Telus Customer service -- exactly the situation Telus wants to avoid.

However, when faced with a challenge or felt “confused and frustrated,” both participants said they desired more information so they could solve the problem on their own. One example would be a preview of what to expect when starting the application. Other examples were:

  • directions to install the companion watch app,
  • more info about what data would be shared and who would see it,
  • and an outline of the setup process.

Other insights:

  • Both participants struggled to download the watchOS companion app
  • Both users said they would call customer support when they weren't sure how to proceed.
  • 1 of 2 participants didn't notice help button in top corner of screen.
  • 2 of 2 participants said the length of onboarding was "reasonable."
Reflection + Future Directions

Our research findings validated the investment of a more robust onboarding process. It’s plausible that users would know more about the Telus service than our participants in reality if they are buying the service.

However, our study shows if there were ever a situation where the user has limited information or knowledge of the product, additional guided documentation and help would educate and equip the user to resolve their problems rather than rely on Telus customer support.

Given the user base: seniors, this may be more likely and should be viewed as an opportunity for the future.

Onboarding screen with apple watch not detected.
Onboarding screen with fall detection sensed.
Error screen for setting up fall detection.