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The Lowdown is the UK’s first contraceptive review site, which includes reviews of all 16 major contraceptive methods. From progesterone only and combined contraceptives to intrauterine devices and rhythm methods.

The Lowdown website

We’ve assisted The Lowdown by making a complete re-architecture of their current platform. They currently offer various services such as ordering pills online, booking appointments with the doctor, and reviewing contraceptive products. We have already rebuilt current functionalities, adding new tools such as contraception recommendations.

Another new feature on The Lowdown website is the possibility to create your user account. We have added user profiles, enabling users to have all their reviews, orders, and appointments in one place.

Users are now also able to communicate with other users, and even ask them questions about their experience with a certain contraceptive method.

The Lowdown reviews

We’ve used technologies such as React, Next.js, Node.js; and hosted everything on AWS.

Technical details

Our first task was to analyse the existing software and decide on how to proceed with the development. The main goal was to improve the existing features and build new features without affecting the current users. We aim to release the new version of the software as soon as it’s ready and we need the software architecture and tools that enable us to do it. We decided to use microservices and designed the architecture as follows:
The Lowdown architecture

Microservices

Microservices are small autonomous services that work together. Every service is designed around a business domain and has specific responsibilities. We implemented them with Node.js. The goal is to make them do one thing, and do it well. We keep them small so that they’re easy to maintain. All services are mutually independent and autonomous. It enables us to change the service and deploy it without a need for changing any other service or consumer in our system. This architecture allows us to scale the software seamlessly. We can create more instances of all services or just some of them, depending on the needs.
 
Moreover, we can always decrease the number of instances of the same service and potentially reduce the cost of running the software. It’s of the utmost importance to create reliable software. For that reason, we implemented unit tests for all services and decoupled the deployment from release. There are different environments where we deploy our software and test it. It’s released as soon as we’re happy with the changes we made. To simplify the whole process, we defined CI/CD pipelines for each application in our system.
 
We decided to build our frontend using React and Next.js. Our focus was on minimising page load time and improving the user experience. The UI has been created with React components that are all initially rendered on the server-side, enabling users to read the content of the page as soon as HTML has been delivered to the user’s browser. It makes page loading time appear significantly faster to the user. To minimise the load time even more, the application is only loading the JavaScript and CSS that are needed for a given page

Story behind The Lowdown

Founded in 2019, Alice Pelton started The Lowdown because she realised that she couldn’t find useful data on other women’s experiences with contraception.

‘Your options? Speak to friends, doctors, or read intimidating internet forums. These are small sample sizes, and you’re never sure whether one person’s experience is the norm or the exception. I wanted to give women a deeper understanding of their options.’

Through the website, anyone is able to leave a review for a brand or method of contraception they’ve tried. Leaving a review takes only a couple of minutes, and all users have to do is pick the type and brand of contraception they are currently using or have used in the past and answer a few questions about their experiences.

The Lowdown reviews 2

Reviews

Reviews can be published anonymously, or with the users’ name depending on what they choose. Other than that, the information made publicly available is the users’ age, height, weight, and whether they’ve previously given birth; if they decide to give those details. Users can then filter reviews based on satisfaction level, ranging from excellent to terrible.

“For many women, the only way they can find outside effects is by asking their doctor who can only relay his or her patients’ experiences – or by asking their group of friends. Both are useful but they’re small sample sizes.” 
Alice plans to obtain 5,000 reviews for each type of contraception, including pills, implants, coils, condoms, and others. This will provide her and other members of The Lowdown team with enough data to check the side effect “trends” and their impact on menstruation, weight, mood, etc. The site already analyses trends for each method, presenting the data to users in an average star rating and simple graphs.
 
The Lowdown now counts more than 80,000 monthly visitors who have received great information about all types of contraceptives.
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