Thread Learning is a startup that makes software for teachers and therapists working with children on the autism spectrum, as well as their supervisors managing schools or clinics. I started working with Thread in July 2018, primarily on a new, responsive web app. A continual stream of customer feedback drives the design of the product, which makes ABA data-collection features accessible from any device with a browser. It also offers practice-management tools for user management, session notes, insurance authorizations, and so on.
Watching videos of actual ABA therapy sessions informed design choices for lesson planning and execution, which needed to balance clarity with speed; these sessions go fast, and the therapist should be able to focus more on the child in front of them than the product. Other design challenges proved more conventional, but still complex. On the user-management side, I had long collaboration sessions with Thread's cofounders determining the hierarchies and potential interactions between individual Thread users, their superiors, and the actual organizations on the platform. And the session notes feature presented a unique, cross-platform challenge for document versioning, as the iPad app—for which I also designed a session notes feature—offers an offline mode. On whichever platforms folks use it, these session notes literally write themselves, using existing data to automatically generate clear, written documentation.
The Thread team made quick development progress thanks to its agile approach. The engineering team trailed quickly behind my latest batch of designs—which use styles and components from the Ant design system—and shipped those features to a prototype build, on which Thread clients offer immediate feedback. That regular exposure helps Thread Learning make smart, productive iterations, ensuring the product serves as a helpful aid, not a barrier, in the education of kids on the spectrum.