User-centric design has become the focal point for many companies and developers opting to develop apps that can enable the users to operate the app with ease. With the growing number users of smartphones in the US, usability becomes ever important when your target audience is those who are specially-abled or those not too familiar with technology (especially considering the population over the age of 65). Furthermore, with the increased use of smartphones, a new channel and means of reaching out to the elderly and specially-abled population becomes ever important.

In fact, UI & UX become so increasingly important that every aspect of usability must be considered. Knowing your user when developing an app is important, however, in many cases the UI of an app is rather generic offering little in the way of user experience. For many apps, that is not a big issue considering the emphasis is not on user experience but the outcomes delivered by the app. In some cases (without mentioning any apps ofcourse!), UI is so poorly designed leaving the user confused as to how to use the app and thus leaving the user frustrated. If such poor designs are applied to the population groups mentioned above, the results would be disastrous.

With the ever increasing importance of mobile technology in healthcare, the needs of the end- user become top priority. This begs the question how does UI work in mHealth?

The first step is know the end-user; in the case of mHealth, patient demographics and circumstances need to be determined. Your users are patients (possibly older patients) who need to be consistently engaged (circumstances). Thus a design will have two outcomes:

  • Very Simple Design with contrasting features
  • Automated features for workload reduction

Accomplishing these two things will be a challenge if consistent field testing and feedback is not injected into the development cycle.

The first outcome, Simple Design and contrasting features, is centered around simplified design for all of the app pages with design features (colors, shapes, font size, etc) selected for the ease of use. In this regards, certain level of IT Accessibility becomes pivotal. This phase is more focused on integrating user psychology with app intent.

To accomplish this, know your user, conduct usability tests with your potential users – both in informal and formal settings. Use consistent feedback throughout the development cycle. Design and redesign your app, test your app and continue to redesign over time. Make the app design simple and intuitive using shapes and colors to guide the user. Even button placements and size must be taken into account and there is no other way other than user input and redesign.

The second outcome, Automated features for workload reduction, is aimed to ensuring that the app is easy to navigate and places little demand on the user. Whatever objective your app is trying to achieve, automate as much as possible to ensure that patients aren’t burdened with ‘excess’ input.

For example, if your app enables remote patient monitoring, provide bluetooth integration and easy data input process. Provide the users reminders for tasks which will guide them to complete the task, use visuals and charts to represent progress. The list can go on; the crux meaning simplify as much as possible.

These two general outcomes can significantly impact your app development and must be kept in mind throughout the development cycle. Keep revising your app as you grow as well as when target new user demographic.