Prioritizing Value Propositions: Covid-19 Case Study

Prioritizing value propositions is of importance in designing a laser-focus user-centered product. This Covid-19 case study will illustrate how we can prioritize value propositions based on business and user needs.

One thing that I love about mentoring and teaching is when a mentee or a student asks a good question. Today, during an online UX Training, a participant asked a very good question whether we could straight away translate pain relievers and gain creators to decide the details of a product, such as features, platforms, etc. Even though the answer is an obvious NO, this question somehow fired a neuron in my brain to think more about prioritization of pain relievers and gain creators.

The best commercial products are the ones that serve both business purposes and focus on relieving the highest priority of user pain points, but not the one that relieves all user pain points. One of the pain relievers proposed by Apple products is empowering users with technology that works through its hardware, software and services, in contrast to non-Apple products which are notorious for their complexity.

Yes, Apple users lose some of their freedom to customize or choose hardware, software and services. Yes, Apple product users usually pay a higher price for hardware, software and services than non-Apple product users. Nonetheless, Apple products are still successful because their intended users value technology empowerment more than customization or financial empowerment.

Returning to the value proposition canvas, if you happen to be the one in the position of prioritizing pain relievers and gain creators for your product, what would you do?

Mapping Pain Points and Gains

Mapping Pain Relievers and Gain Creators in a Value Proposition Canvas may seem to be straightforward, while it is not. What most people do in mapping is to use Pain Relievers and Gain Creators Trigger Questions out of the box and tinkering with them to produce Pain Relievers and Gain Creators. This approach is inefficient and ineffective because of a couple of reasons:

  1. The out-of-the-box generic trigger questions are not helpful in eliciting Pain Relievers and Gain Creators.
  2. There are usually tens of pain points and gains to be mapped into.

For the first problem, I usually create domain or industry-specific trigger questions to help eliciting Pain Relievers and Gain Creators more effectively. For the second problem, I help prioritization using techniques and methods suitable for the problems in hand.

In the following paragraphs, you will read an example of a Pain Reliever Prioritization Workshop for a product development with a focus on prevention of getting infected with a novel coronavirus or SARS-CoV-2.

Pain Reliever Prioritization Workshop

Pain: Fear of getting infected with a novel coronavirus.


  1. Prioritization that resulted in the identification that the fear of getting infected with a novel coronavirus is one of the highest priorities for the intended users.
  2. Map the fear with several strategies to overcome or relieve the fear.

Identified Pain Relievers:

  1. Wash hands with soap
  2. Avoid touching face, mouth, and nose
  3. Wear mask
  4. Keep 1.5m physical distancing from others
  5. Use an app with a notification when one is 1.75m from the app user
  6. Use an app that can alert the app user when one or more person infected is within 10m radius

The Pain Reliever Prioritization Workshop:

  1. Invite intended users who have fear of getting infected with a novel coronavirus.
  2. Ask with the following “When was the last time …” interview questions and relevant follow-up questions:
  • When was the last time you bought soap?
  • When was the last time you washed your hand?
  • When was the last time you touched your face, mouth or nose?
  • When was the last time you wore a mask?
  • When was the last time you kept 1.5m physical distancing from others?
  • When was the last time you used an application that notified or alerted you about any danger or threat nearby?

You can then ask the following question: Please kindly tell me all the things you have done to prevent yourself from getting infected with a novel coronavirus for the last one week?

These are some plausible answers for the last question :

  • I wash my hands with soap every one hour, every day.
  • I avoid touching my face, mouth and nose.
  • I wear a mask whenever I go out.
  • I keep 1.5m physical distance when I am outside.

What they say is not always what they do

There is no way of telling whether what they say is what they do, unless we conduct a direct observation. Ideally, we observe and interview the same participants. However, there is also a need to validate the results with another group of participants to ensure what we have observed and listened to are replicated in another group. This is an example of the direct observation results, illustrating what the participants do:

  • Several washed their hands with hand sanitizer.
  • Several washed their hands with liquid soap.
  • A few washed their hands with solid bar soap.
  • Many touched his/her face, mouth, and nose several times within an hour unconsciously.
  • Several forgot to bring masks when going out.
  • A few were unable to keep 1.5m physical distance when crossing paths with a jogger.

It is an advantage if a direct observation can be performed before the interview, so any behaviour can be confirmed and validated in the interviews, and we can gain deeper insights during the interview.

Do we have enough information for making a decision for prioritization? Not yet.

What would you do if you have $25?

When deciding on priorities, we need to view them from two angles. The first one is from the business point-of-view. The second one is from the user point-of-view. Prioritizing only based on one angle is insufficient. We need to balance both. Get your prioritization balanced.

We can do this better, if we have already done some research on the total investment, including price point for our product. At this stage, we will use a hypothesis that the price of the product we were about to launch, which is a digital application, will be $2.99 for a weekly subscription.

We then put forward a scenario to our participants as follows:

If you receive $25 per week to prevent yourself from the novel coronavirus infection, how are you going to spend the money for a week?

Photo by Viktor Forgacs on Unsplash

Here are some options:

  1. Buy 60ml hand sanitizer ($7.7)
  2. Buy 5 pack surgical masks ($24.99)
  3. Buy 250ml liquid hand soap ($3)
  4. Buy 1 solid bar soap ($1)
  5. Get a notification from an application when novel coronavirus vaccination is available in your local area ($2.99 weekly subscription)
  6. Buy a physical distance perimeter that you can wear outside, even though it would look weird on you ($10).
  7. Get a notification from an application when you are within 1.7m radius from others while walking outside ($2.99 weekly subscription).
  8. Get a notification from an application when you are within 10m radius from an infected person ($2.99 weekly subscription).
  9. Other options?

Business + User Needs

From the results, we can start prioritizing the pain relievers based on the answers. The question is: Is it enough?

Depending on resources and data you have collected up to this stage, you may say it’s enough. However, if you want to take this to the next level, and you have the resources, as a part of an experiment, give the participants $25 and document what they spend for a week.

For the app purchase, you can use an electronic payment system that lets them purchase the subscriptions that they are interested in. Once they purchase electronically, you will have your app data purchase for prioritization, and you can explain to them what the experiment is all about. You will probably witness firsthand that what they say is not always what they do.

Would you do the prioritization differently? Tell me through your comments.

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