Surge – contraction timing app

Project summary: Surge is an app for timing contractions to give an indication of how a woman's labour is progressing. It aims to be simple to use, reassuring and reliable.

Company/client: Laudesign

Project timeframe: 01/05/2018 - 16/06/2018

Tasks & responsibilities: User research, identifying user needs and validation, creating and testing prototypes, UI design

Design tools / UX methods used: Personas, Wireframes, Sketch, InVision

Key Performance Metrics: Ease and efficiency of making a recording, viewing stats and editing a recording.

The problem

When my partner was pregnant, we tried a number of contraction timing apps and (especially on android), they proved difficult to use / understand and also generally hard to trust that the timings were interpreted accurately by each app. When using our chosen app during real labour, neither my partner nor I felt it was as useful as it could have been. Speaking to peers and friends, it seemed many had experienced the same issues.

The solution

A contraction app called Surge. With Surge, contractions can be timed easily and accurately, reassuring the user in the potentially stressful situation of labour. Warning notifications are provided in a calm and measured tone, which provide a suggested course of action, rather than alarming the user unnecessarily.


User research

I interviewed 5 people between the ages 30 and 38. Three women who had already had a child and experienced labour and one woman who was pregnant at the time. I also spoke to a father who had previously helped his partner through labour.

There was generally a large degree of uncertainty about what potential labour experience might entail, even from existing parents.

Simplicity and ease of use were generally viewed to be more important than breadth of features in choosing an app.

Two existing parents remembered that previously during labour, being distracted by the pain they had sometimes started timing a contraction late or forgotten to record a contraction at all. They felt this was significant, as it has a bearing on the accuracy of calculations.




30 years old
Lives with partner. Part way through first pregnancy and attending anti-natal classes.
Wants to be able to trust the app’s accuracy.
App should look nice but be easy to learn / intuitive.

“It seems like there are so many things to remember during in labour, that it would be good to know that timing contractions was taken care of.”



36 years old
Married, with one child. Would consider using a timing app again, but only if I was confident it worked well.
Want it to do the basics well; accurately timing contractions, without adding extra stress into the situation.

“Last time I was sleep deprived, which made using my chosen app more difficult than when I had practiced using it. I was also in pain, which meant that sometimes I forgot to press record or stop at the right time.”


Based on the research, the red routes / key user needs were identified:

1. Start/stop a recording easily
As a woman in labour, I need to easily and accurately time a contraction, so that I can record how my labour is progressing.

2. View the average time
As a woman in labour, I need to know the average length of my contractions, so that I don’t have to spend time working it out myself

3. Receive notification / alarm when it’s time to go to hospital
As a woman in labour, I need to be notified when my contraction time/rate passes the threshold it’s time to prepare to leave for hospital

4. Ability to edit / delete a mistimed contraction
As a woman in labour, I need to edit or delete a contraction I have incorrectly timed, so that I can be confident the calculations are accurate.


I created basic wireframes in Sketch, using the UIFrames kit.

The aim was to keep the app as simple as possible, with a minimal amount of screens to keep the focus on recording contractions.

Some users talked about contractions in terms of their shape on a graph, from anti-natal classes and literature. I thought that a graphical representation could help the user visualise their contractions over time and help them stay calm throughout early labour.

Usability testing

I performed usability testing with five users aged 30 to 38.

The obvious challenge is that it was hard to attempt to replicate the conditions of real labour. Therefore, it was important to test with women who had experienced labour but also women who didn’t fully know what to expect.

All users liked the recording interface, saying it was simple and intuitive to use. The record button was easy to hit with the thumb, whether left or right handed. One user found the ‘View contractions button’ above this a little distracting.

Around half of users liked the idea of a graph view, where they could scroll along the timeline and edit mistimed contractions if necessary.

One user found the visual graph representation distracting and asked instead for a list view of recorded contractions. Two other users also mentioned that a list view and the option to switch between the two views would be useful/preferable.

Two users took significantly more time reading through the options on each screen and suggested the interface could be simplified, especially in the edit contraction screen.

All users appreciated the tone of the warning notification, seeing it as

User suggestions for extra features included:

Ability to record contractions from any screen
List view of contractions
Touch based editing - “perhaps a dial or bar”
Option to input contractions if they have already started before the recording session


Incorporating the user feedback, I designed the UI and screens in Sketch.

The app name, Surge is based on the name given to contractions in hypnobirthing classes that my partner and I attended. The name is said to help the subject visualise contractions in a less painful way.

Colours - I chose a dark pallette overall, as it is common for women to enter labour at night and users who had experienced labour mentioned dimming the room lighting to help relax. The accent / action colours were shades of pink - a colour often associated with pregnancy and one I saw used in visual representations of contractions.

Main screen - recording and stats
Main screen - recording and stats
Contractions - waveform view
Contractions - waveform view
Contractions - list view
Contractions - list view
Status and notification bars
Status and notification bars

The following features were added as a result of user feedback:

  • Start/stop button on every screen to enable the user to more accurately record contractions
  • A list view to show all recorded contractions together clearly

More gesture control was added to help simplify the screens and navigation:

  • Swipe to navigate between screens
  • Long press on waveform to edit/delete & pull arrows to edit time
  • Long press on list view to edit/delete & drag up/down on figures to edit times

Testing / Measuring usability

I performed testing using an InVision prototype sent to each user’s phone.


Task completion

Start / stop a recording: All users sucessfully started a new session and then started and stopped a recording.

View average contraction time: All users were able to see the average contraction time and other stats easily.

Edit a contraction - waveform view:  Two users tapped on the waveform to edit it straight away. Two eventually tapped on the waveform and realised it could be edited and one did not edit the contraction at all.

Edit a contraction -  list view: All users successfully selected the waveform to edit/delete.


Recording: All users were able to open a new session and start a new recording in under 10 seconds.

View average contraction time: All users read through the time stats straight after making a recording with little to no hesitation.

Edit a contraction - waveform view: Two users tried to tap on the waveform within 5 seconds of arriving on the screen. Two users took longer - between 10 and 20 seconds. One said the screen just confused them and eventually swiped to the next screen.

Edit a contraction -  list view: Three users selected the recording to edit in under 10 seconds. Two users took more time reading through each entry on the list, but selected the recording to edit in under 20 seconds.

User satisfaction

Likelihood to recommend: Three users were likely to recommend and two users were highly likely to recommend the app.

Rating on app store: The users gave the app an average rating of 4/5.

Other comments/suggestions:

Two users thought it could be useful if the app offered extra advice on the stages of labour.

One user mentioned the design was a bit dark for them overall and suggested a lighter design.

Next steps

Design onboarding screens

UI animations

Further user testing