A Product Manager Reviews Online DNA Tests

At-home DNA tests that consumers can order online have exploded in the past few years. I won't lie - I'm *obsessed* with them. I'm really excited about the ways in which this technology can change human quality of life - everything from simply knowing your ancestry, to personalizing your diet plan, to disclosing your risk for breast cancer and Parkinson's Disease. 

A few random things I've learned from my genetic testing:

  • My parents were either lying or delusional about my "great-great grandmother being a full blood Native American." 
  • I am at low risk for unibrow. (Yay? Also,.. Duh?)
  • I metabolize alcohol more slowly than most. I already knew this, since I basically feel drunk after a half glass of wine.
  • I do not have the gene for Coeliac Predisposition. As it runs in my family, I was ecastatic to learn this.
  • The foods I'm most sensitive to are almonds, walnuts, and egg yolks. Who knew?
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A Product Manager's Review of Three At-Home Genetic Tests

I've done three at-home DNA / genetic tests, and I have a lot of opinions about the end-to-end user experience. I'm a product manager so I'm constantly critiquing products that I use in real life. Here's my take on the three tests I've done.

23andMe

Arguably the first real player in personal genomics space, 23andMe started in 2008 by Anne Wojcicki - the then-wife of Google founder Sergey Brin. (Side note: Anne is a total badass and as a woman in technology I completely idolize her.)

:: How it works

Orders an at-home kit at 23andM3.com and receives the kit a few days later. Fill the vial up with saliva, seal it up, send it back into the lab in a pre-paid envelope.
About a week later, you'll get an email to inform that results are ready, and you can view them online.

 I love this sidebar navigation on 23andMe's site.

I love this sidebar navigation on 23andMe's site.

:: What's awesome about the UX

  • Sample collection extremely easy and painless. It doesn't get much easier than spitting in a vial, people.
  • The 'Reports' section of the website. This includes ancestry lies your family has been telling you, carrier status (this used to cost $10,000s at a doctor's office), certain health risks, and relatives.
  • The UI is generally easy navigable, intuitive, and minimalist. I feel like they've made it as easy to navigate as can be expected given the sheer amount of information available on the website.
  • Anne Wojcicki. See above.

:: What's not so awesome about the UX

  • Lack of focus when I'm on 23andMe.com. Simply put, there are too many things a user can do on the 23andMe website. Want to connect with relatives? Or do you want to download your raw data? Find genetic counseling? Look at recent DNA research? Whoa, I'm overwhelmed! Let's face it, 99% of users just want to see reports, and that's it. So put it at the forefront.
  • The entire "traits" section offers little customer value. Telling me that I'm likely to have dimples, and unlikely to have a unibrow, is of little value to me when I have a mirror in my possession.

:: What this product manager would change

  • More genetic health risk reports. So far 23andMe only offers 6 of these reports. I know they know my risk of breast cancer. Why can't they tell me? (I do suspect the FDA has limited 23andMe's ability to expose this information.)
  • Lack of call-to-action for the user. 23andMe tells me a lot of random information, like the fact that I'm at an increased risk of late-onset Alzheimer's. But it doesn't tell me what to do next. A note for 23andMe - I trusted you with my entire DNA sequence. That's a lot of trust. Whatever you advise me to do next, I'm probably going to trust you and do it.
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DNAFit

Looking for specific information on what diet is best for your DNA? DNAFit offers both diet and fitness testing and tells you what you should eat based on your DNA. I only did the diet test, mainly because I'm easily convinced that every new fad diet is the way to optimal health (OMG I should be eating 14 lbs. of coconut oil a day! Yes, David Asprey!), and yet I know that DNA plays into what's healthy for me and what's not.

:: How it works

If you've already done 23andMe test done, connecting to DNAFit takes one minute. I love this integration - the user experience was seamless and filled me with joy. The user authenticates via DNAFit's website (connects to their 23andMe account), and results appear in seconds.

If you haven't had a 23andMe test done yet, I believe DNAFit will send you a saliva collection kit, similar to 23andMe.

:: What's awesome about the UX

  • Data Visualization. Props to DNAFit's data visualization team. Rather than giving me bunches of scientific jargon, DNAFit visualizes my results for me in an easy-to-digest way. Like so:
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  • Seamless integration with 23andMe. I know I mentioned this above, but I'm still in awe of the ease of connectivity with 23andMe. 
  • DNAFit does a great job at up-selling. If you like what you see in your DNAFit results, the website gives you ample opportunity to purchase additional subscriptions and services. Did you just find out a Mediterranean diet is optimal for you? Would you like to sign up for a meal delivery service that fits your personalized recommendation? Why yes... yes I would!
  • Speed. I literally got results in under a minute.

:: What's not so awesome about the UX

  • It's not personalized enough. It seems like DNAFit lumps people into 3 main diet groups - Mediterranean, Low Carb, and Low Fat. Come on now! Certainly there can't be only 3 types of appropriate diets. Also, the diet plan and accompanying shopping list provided are generic to the diet - meaning DNAFit only has 3 different templates. I just don't buy it. I was expecting something much more personalized. 
  • Does not integrate other test results. DNAFit tells me to eat a Mediterranean diet, full of almonds and walnuts. My EverlyWell Test and Allergy tests tell me not to eat almonds and walnuts. As a user, I want to be able to upload or connect to food sensitivity results so I can get a more personalized plan.
  • The website UI sucks. I'm sorry DNAFit, but I have to download your reports as PDFs to view. Do you not have anyone on your dev team that can do responsive design? It's 2017, people.
  • Speed. The fact that I got results in under a minute makes me wonder how accurate - and specific - they are. 

:: What this product manager would change

  • More personalization. Allow users to add food allergies and sensitivities and adjust personal diet plans accordingly. Break down diet plans into more than three freaking groups. 
  • Modern, more intuitive, responsive UI: DNAFit needs to invest in a website where I can see results in a modern UI, rather than having to download a PDF to see my results. This is just way old school. 

 

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EverlyWell

EverlyWell offers a myriad of at-home tests (fertility, cholesterol, heavy metals, etc) but I was interested in the food sensitivity test. This is a blood test, and yes, you can get the same thing as your doctor but it will probably cost you a lot more.

:: How it works

User orders an at-home kit at at EverlyWell.com. This includes three pointy things to prick your finger to get the blood. They're easy to use and you can do it yourself. User drips blood onto a special strip, seals it up according to detailed instructions, sends it in a pre-paid, overnight shipping envelope. User gets an email a few days later directing them to results on EverlyWell's website.

:: What's awesome about the UX

  • Simple, straight-forward collection. Considering this is a blood-test, this is pretty amazing considering they trust humans to prick their fingers, collect a sample, and send it in. I can't believe this works.
  • Focused, intuitive UI. EverlyWell clearly has a UX team that knows what they're doing. Test results are easy to read, navigation is well laid-out, and the data visualization makes it simple for an average human to read and understand.
  • Includes a "What you can do next" call(s)-to-action. I don't necessarily think they are great calls-to-action, but they're there. 
  • Provides info about the science behind the tests, but not too much. The way EverlyWell presents the information about the science behind their tests is in bite-sized pieces, with the option to learn more for users that want to. Again, they must have a UX and product team that knows what they're doing here.
  • At-home testing now affordable for most. Some of the tests EverlyWell offers were only accessible to the very wealthy in previous years. The $100 - $200 price tag now means anyone with an HSA or a few hundred bucks has access to this technology.

:: What's not so awesome about the UX

  • Unsure about the accuracy of the food-sensitivity test. My doctor friend says that testing Immunoglobulin G (IgG) levels - the specific antibody EverlyWell tests to determine food sensitivities - is not accurate. This confuses the hell out of me because EverlyWell has physicians on its staff. I've read articles on both sides - so I don't actually know what to believe. 

:: What this product manager would change

  • Be more specific about the value of the test. I tested as high reactivity to almonds. Yet EverlyWell suggests an elimination diet as a next step. I don't want to do an elimination diet, people. This is why I paid for science.
  • The website is nearly perfect. I give credit where credit is due. I would not change a thing about the UI. It's fantastic. I'm really a fan girl here, if you haven't noticed. 
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Final Product Note (This is a million dollar idea, people)

None of these companies offers a comprehensive solution for what I actually want as a user. I want a product that:

  • Tells me what health conditions I'm at risk for
  • Tells me what action to take to avoid health risks, if any are available
  • Tells me what foods to avoid
  • Gives me a truly personalized diet plan, including which foods are best suited to my DNA (What I should be eating)
  • Gives me a fitness plan that's truly personalized to my DNA.
    • I mean detailed - i.e. How many minutes of spin class per week do I really need to be doing? (Dear God, I hope the answer is 'zero.')
  • Gives me my raw genome data, should I want to use it for anything else.

If and when the above product exists, I'd pay upwards of $500-$600. If anyone knows of such a product on the market, hit me up on Twitter @productpopcorn so I can buy in!