User experience (UX) and user interface (UI) design has encountered rapid growth the last few years as more companies take into account the importance of providing positive experiences to keep a user loyal to a product or service. It’s especially important in digital health and wellbeing as usability and accessibility are big components of those products. In this post we give a brief intro on UX/UI design, the importance it holds in digital health and wellbeing and some trends we’ve been noticing. We also give you a sneak peek into our design process and some of our favorite tools.

What is UX/UI design

There isn’t only one commonly accepted definition. It’s a concept that has many dimensions, and it includes various different disciplines such as interaction design, information architecture, visual design, usability, and human-computer interaction.
UX design is basically the process design teams use to build products that provide meaningful and relevant experiences to users. This involves the design of the entire process of acquiring and integrating the product, including aspects of branding, design, usability and function. The goal is to make using these products and services easy, logical, and fun.

User interface (UI) is a subset of UX design, it’s the user-centered procedure of designing the aesthetics of a digital product. The creation of the look and feel of an application. An interface is the graphical layout of the application. The goal is to make the interface functional, easy to use and visually appealing. In UI design designers are focused on the visual elements that let users interact with a product. Examples of this are typography, color palettes, buttons, animation, and other imagery. In shorter terms the goal is to create product interfaces that charm users aesthetically while allowing them to easily use the product.

The importance of UX in digital health and wellbeing

UX is vital for successful products. It aims to fulfill the user’s needs and create a better customer satisfaction conversion retention journey. Well designed UX should blend seamlessly into the background, you likely don’t remember the experience of using an app unless it was a bad one. Methodologies like design thinking are so important that Airbnb credited it for its success in becoming a billion dollar company.

As for companies, a meaningful user experience allows them to define customer journeys on their product that are most conducive to business success. A good UX strategy increases return on investment (ROI) due to small improvements that create major impact. To provide a few examples, good UX leads to improved customer retention, more customer recommendations, additional repeat customers, higher conversion rates, and enhanced credibility.

Regarding the health and wellbeing industry the importance of UX is more apparent and we might even say crucial. Whether the end users are patients or physicians, the goal is to ensure digital tools are easy to use and that they improve people’s lives. The components usability and accessibility are especially important in healthcare UX. Usability is about the ease of use of something. If you cannot perform a task or reach a goal with the product/service, then it is useless. Accessibility is the ability to use a product or service despite a disability, be it real (e.g. blindness) or perceived (e.g. being elderly). Digital products in the health and wellbeing space carry unique and important challenges. The design of the app must be as clear and easy to use as possible. Any room for confusion can have serious consequences when it comes to users’ health (e.g. taking the wrong medication, inputting wrong health data for a provider, etc).

In the case of digital health products UX designers often have to find a balance between aesthetics and functionality.

Our Process

Here we provided an outline and explained the process we follow, even though it largely depends on the client/project.

UX UI design process

Product Definition
This part of the process is actually done before the UX design process even starts. Before you can build a product, you need to understand its reason for existence. Product definition phase sets the stage for the success of a product. During this phase the designers brainstorm the product at the highest level (the concept of the product) with the client. This consists of interviews with the stakeholders of the project, creating value propositions, creating early mockups and lastly a kickoff meeting.

Once we have defined the product we conduct user and market research. This phase varies based on the complexity of the product, timing, available resources and many other factors. It can consist of individual interviews to understand the user’s mentality and/or creating an analysis of competitor products to better understand industry standards and other options users might have.

After collecting data in the research phase we analyze it to draw insights that will be useful to determine not only what users want but why. Here is where we usually create user personas, or fictional characters created to represent the different user types that might use a product in a similar way. Creating experience maps (a visual representation that illustrates user flow within a product) is also helpful to understand the product from the users’ point of view.

After determining user expectations for the product we move on to the design phase and work collaboratively with all team players involved in the development of the product. This involves sketching our ideas and later creating the wireframes, which are the backbone of the product. Afterwards we move on to the prototype to map out the actual interaction experience of the product, it’s essentially a simulation. Lastly we create the design specs describing the processes and graphical assets needed to make the product work.

Last but not least we have the validation or testing phase. We roll out the product and it is validated with stakeholders and end-users through a series of user testing sessions. These sessions can look like usability testing, focus groups, beta testing, A/B testing, and/or surveys. Afterwards we analyze the metrics (clicks, navigation time, etc) and with the feedback data such as support tickets, bug reports, and other analytics we are able to refine and improve the product. The validation of a product isn’t a one time phase, we reiterate it throughout the process. In an ideal situation we validate the product in the early stages. First we roll out the low-fidelity design, validate it, apply feedback, and later roll out the high-fidelity design and test it.

Digital health UX trends

The digital health sector is one the fastest growing in the world today with heavy investments in areas like healthcare AI software, hardware, and service market. There are several new technological trends emerging in healthcare. The UX challenge lies in creating modern technology that provides patients with high quality care but in order for this to work, the technology needs to be user-friendly. Some of the trends we’re seeing are:

Digital Therapeutics
The prescription of an app is imminent. Just as physicians prescribe medicine we’re gonna see them prescribing wellbeing or health apps to treat, manage, and prevent a broad range of diseases and disorders. Digital Therapeutic products work in a variety of  different ways, from calculating insulin doses to delivering cognitive behavioral therapy and can help track and manage symptoms as well as improve medication adherence.

Medical Wearables
Nowadays most people own a smart bracelet, smartwatch, or at least a fitness monitor app on their phone. We’re seeing a rise in self monitoring applications to analyze and improve our habits and to track daily activities, steps, sleeping habits, check our blood pressure, heart rate and many more.

Remote patient monitoring (RPM) systems are slowly gaining weight in the health sector as more physicians and patients develop trust in them. RPM technology can transmit a patient’s vital signs in real-time and allows them to enter symptoms. Wearables can send information about temperature, blood oxygen level and blood pressure that doctors can monitor and analyze.

AI technology
Artificial Intelligence (AI) can take over tasks when medical teams are overwhelmed thus contributing to the healthcare staff shortage. One example is chatbots. They can be made intuitive and provide relevant and well articulated responses. Some examples of simple usage of chatbots include appointment booking, medication reminders, or checking on health conditions.

There are quite a few trends that are on the horizon, and their presence and importance will continue to increase in the healthcare industry given the time we live in and our awareness of the importance of physical and mental health states.

Our favorite tools

Google Forms and Meet
We use these in the research phase to collect user feedback and conduct interviews.

This is our most used tool for wireframing and prototyping. We especially like FigJam for brainstorming and creating user flows and mood boards.

Adobe After Effects
This tool is a digital visual effects, motion graphics, and compositing application. We use this for motion UI (icon animation, loaders, etc).

Adobe Photoshop
Our most used photo editor is also handy for creating mockups.

A crucial piece of any product development process is the place where design meets development. When a design is ready to move into the development phase (the “handoff”), engineers need a way to understand it and translate it into code. Zeplin facilitates the handoff by taking designs from Sketch, Adobe XD, Figma, and Photoshop and exporting them into a format that can easily generate code snippets, style guides, specs, and assets.

The rise of UX/UI is apparent, it has gone from being a plus to being expected in most industries (especially across tech/digital products). Designing digital health products brings great responsibility and they must be have a people centered approach. At Hattrick we keep people and their safety as our focal point.

Do you have a digital product who’s UX design you’d like to improve? Don’t hesitate to reach out to us!

Don Norman UX design quote