Undivided Uses In-App Chat to Support Families Raising Children with Disabilities

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Challenge: Undivided needed a way for parents and their Navigators to communicate. They wanted it to feel engaging and natural for the end user while also being a reliable, flexible, performant solution that would be easy to maintain.

Strategy: After testing several options, Undivided’s Principal Product Manager, Colleen Cassidy, integrated Stream Chat’s iOS and Javascript SDKs with the company’s mobile and web app to create a seamless communication experience for the end user.

Result: Chat is Undivided’s most adopted feature. Families can easily connect with Navigators to set goals, receive educational resources, and better support their child through all early life stages without the overwhelm of doing it alone.


About Undivided

Undivided is a support system and app for families raising children with disabilities. CEO and Co-Founder Jason Lehmbeck was inspired to create a platform to support parents after his experience navigating the overwhelming and complex care options available to his son.

Colleen Cassidy, Principal Product Manager for Undivided, says, "We are on a mission to build software, services, and a support system for families raising kids with disabilities."

Undivided's app connects caregivers with Navigators—people who have gone through what these parents are feeling, can guide them through the bureaucratic care systems, and celebrate the joys of raising their kids by educating them on the services, benefits, and resources available to them.

Finding the Right Chat Solution

Connecting parents with Navigators is the core functionality of Undivided's app. They needed to create an intuitive and accessible chat experience. The Undivided team looked into how and where parents communicated off the platform to understand their user base better. Cassidy says, "We did preliminary user research. Facebook was a big one. Many parents, including our employees and contractors, were admins in FB groups for parents raising children with disabilities."

The app started by integrating a Zendesk ticketing system. "The communication was originally through email. But we all know inboxes can be hard to manage," says Cassidy.

She adds, "We needed it to feel like you had your Navigator in your pocket. Things like push notifications make it a lot closer to the design patterns of WhatsApp or Facebook because we want it to feel natural when it comes to 1:1 chat."

That led the Undivided engineers to test out their CRM's messages API. Cassidy says, "We attempted to do a build-your-own system with our integration with our CRM using their messages component. It didn't really work for us; it was a big engineering lift, and the CRM-specific internal portal wasn't meeting our Navigators where they were at. We also couldn't integrate it with our existing tools and system."

After sunsetting their CRM's messages API, Undivided found Stream Chat. Cassidy recalls, "I saw the reviews on Capterra when I was doing product evaluation research. It must have been after Stream had gotten a round of fundraising. I was reading an article about it and saw the number of users being reached, then I did the interactive demo on the website, and I was impressed. Our developers were feeling good about the documentation, and the API was really clean." 

Undivided's Build vs. Buy Decision

To keep the Undivided development team's focus on engineering unique aspects of the platform, Cassidy knew that integrating Stream's chat API was the right choice. She says, "We were never looking to make it home-grown. We wanted a great, flexible API to integrate with our web and mobile apps for parents and our Navigator portal. We wanted it to feel like a part of the experience, not a separate chat app."

The typical argument against purchasing a ready-made solution from a third-party vendor revolves around pricing. But Cassidy took a holistic approach to the decision.

"Anything that is not free when you're a super early stage start-up is a little daunting. But when you think about the cost of building something from the ground up—the amount of development hours, research, and maintenance—I think our price point completely makes sense, and it's (chat) pretty integral to our product." 

Integrating Stream Chat 

Undivided engineers integrated Stream's Javascript and iOS chat SDK with ease. Cassidy says,  "Our developers are very happy with the product—and they are tenured computer science professors, so they can be tough to impress when it comes to 3rd party integrations. But the feelings toward Stream have been good." The team references Stream's documentation often and can report any bugs or reach out to customer support while iterating on their chat solution. 

The Impact of Stream On Undivided

A stable, custom chat solution with a familiar design pattern has been a game changer for Undivided users. As the app's user base grows, it can confidently scale chat functionalities to adapt to future evolutions of the platform.

Cassidy says, "Many of our customer testimonials are about feeling connected to their Navigator and feeling that their Navigator is available to them, which I think is a testament to having an intuitive chat feature that feels accessible and easy to use."

Cassidy tells us, "Chat is our most adopted feature. It is our main means of communication. Everyone that is an active member uses it at least once a month." Despite the impressive adoption rate, Cassidy and the Undivided engineers continue to look for ways to improve key performance metrics for chat, like user engagement and retention. "The general distribution we look for is sending 2-10 messages per month and a response rate of two days. We are building stronger dashboards to understand time to response, the number of messages per month, and correlating those numbers with user retention and satisfaction," Cassidy says.