Formulations Search Product Surfacing formulations from agro and pharma patents.

The Problem:

Formulations are mixtures used as end products by agricultural, pharma and cosmetics domains. As soon as an organization discovers a new synergy between existing ingredients or creates a new better ingredient, they try to patent it. Unfortunately, patents are written in a very cryptic manner to hide the exact invention from the competitors. Our client started indexing these formulations and wanted to know if there was a need for a tool that surfaces formulations. Who will be the target audience? What should be the core capabilities?

The Solution:

Based on the stakeholder and user interviews, we identified the core audiences and their corresponding workflows. Among the users we interviewed, there was a general liking for this idea. We then mapped the core capabilities and created wireframes and sketches. Wireframes and sketches fed into the prototype, which we tested with the users. After each test, we iterated on the design. Our initial prototype looks promising and popular among our test users.


Stakeholder and User Interviews, Affinity Notes Mapping, Workflow Model, Capability Map, High-level Competitive Analysis, Structural Design, InVision Prototype, User Testing


Dan (Project Manager), Naomi, Grant, Christy, Dave, Nick

Stakeholder and User Interviews

Conducted 5 of 14 interviews.

Research Questions
  1. What are the key user activities and information needs when it comes to formulation searching?
  2. Is personalization desirable?
  3. How do the different roles involved with Formulations interact over the information they are looking for and finding?
Some of the key insights:
  1. Formulations patents are up 800%
  2. Core users who use formulation patents:
    1. Chemists
    2. Patent Acquisition
    3. Info Pros
    4. Patent Examiners
  3. Although there are slight differences in the types of searches each user role performs, the core activities and the information needs are very similar.
  4. Most requested feature for this tool - A multi-component search, indicating optionality

Affinity Notes Mapping

In the affinity workshop, all of the designers and the stakeholders came together and arranged the user affinity notes based on a pre-created framework. Dan and I developed this framework. In this framework, rows were the different search types and columns were high-level workflow touchpoints.

Workflow Model

Based on the affinity notes mapping, we created individual workflows corresponding to each search type. Closer examination of the individual workflows revealed the underlying bedrock. Using this bedrock, we created the user workflow model.

Capability Map

User workflow model, user notes, and feature list provided by client formed the skeleton of the capability map. Capability map lays out the primary places in the system (capabilities) along with their proportions and emphasis.

High-level Competitive Analysis

We improved upon the initial capability map and added user notes. The capabilities were then divided amongst the team, and each of us individually devoured the web for design inspirations.

Structural Design

This phase included sketches, whiteboarding, google draw images and illustrator mockups. First, we defined the design problems that the design should address and then came up with solutions, which solved those challenges.
One of the hardest challenges to solve was search!

InVision Prototype

User Testing

Conducted 6 of 10 user tests.

We did semi-structured user testing. We walked the users through the prototype and at each step asked them for their thoughts and inputs. Most of the users, who we had for user testing, were same who we interviewed, so they were well aware of the product idea and were able to quickly assess the product utility. All of the users were extremely satisfied with the product direction and offered their help for beta testing. After each interview, we did interpretation session and integrated the feedback in the tool.
Testing different variants of formulation snippet.

Contact: | @SomeshRahul