Entrepreneurs are often inspired by personal experiences—something happens to them or to a loved one—and they search for ways to right the wrong. This being the digital age, they often end up building a website or mobile app that they hope will help others avoid the problems.
Michael Soenen, founder and CEO of EmergencyLink told me he was motivated to design an easy to share app, after his friend, who was single and lived alone, was seriously injured in a car accident while on a business trip. His friend lay in the hospital for 2.5 days before any friends, relatives or co-workers could find him. They knew he was missing, but they didn’t know his whereabouts.
“I knew there had to be a better way to find a person, so I spent the next year researching how to design an app to find people in case of an emergency,” Soenen explained.
First he gathered a group of 900 users. He broke them into three control groups of 300 each—college students, moms with children, and people 55+. In an online survey he asked them questions about their own emergency preparedness, how they ranked a need for an emergency system, if they wanted the type of app he was thinking about, and if they did, what applications would they want in the app.
He learned the greatest number of users would be from the moms with children and 55+ groups—and tailored the app’s design to meet these users’ needs. Then he hired designers and developers and launched a prototype. They deployed the prototype to the control groups for six more months, revising the design and functions, as needed. Then he officially launched.
“I had three people who had to sign off on the app. It had to be easy to use for my sister who is in her 30s, my mom who is in her 60s and my grandmother who is 87,” Soenen said. “Until they could all use it easily, it wasn’t ready.”
Delightful user interface
As a result of a year of market research, Soenen delivers a first class simple and necessary product. It’s easy to understand, easy to read, and easy to register.
Easy to share
EmergencyLink is a free network that allows anyone to create a secure, comprehensive online emergency plan. It lets members store and share their emergency contact and medical information. The member enters a contact person and his/her phone number and email address. EmergencyLink sends an email to that contact inviting him/her into the network. Even if the contacts don’t become members their information is stored as the member’s emergency contact.
Each member is assigned an account number. The member’s account number and the 24-hour emergency hotline can be posted on the smartphone home page so, in the case of an accident, first responders have easy access to the information, even if a phone is password protected. Members also receive a set of EmergencyLink ID cards for their wallet, keys, running shoes, briefcase or backpack and adhesive stickers for their drivers’ license, health card or cell phones.
Great for Baby Boomers
I joined the network recently and downloaded the home page information to my smartphone. Last week when I was at the Silicon Valley Boomer Venture Summit, in California, people were asking me about my favorite apps. Since I also blog for AARP on “App of the Week,” I’m often asked that question.
I opened my smartphone to my home page and displayed my EmergencyLink first responder information while enthusiastically explaining the app’s features. Within in minutes, everyone around me started downloading the app. They wanted it for themselves, their spouses and their aging parents.
Soenen’s market research was paying off. The 55+ crowd couldn’t move fast enough the get the free app.