Most designers and developers who dedicate countless hours of sweat and hard work toward building quality digital health applications feel as if their creation deserves to dominate its niche; however, whether a product thrives on the market is decided by criteria far from how well its creator thinks it operates. It matters little how well-theorized, or cleanly executed programmers may feel their applications are, because unfortunately, a product’s adoption rate is not solely reflective of the magnitude of its creators’ optimism. Digital health products are made to serve users, and no amount of revolutionary vision or hypothetical potential can save a product that fails to provide a satisfactory user experience.
User experience (UX) is about the overall impression that a service leaves; it involves a fluid blend of every variable, controllable or not, that influences users’ attitudes toward a particular product. Factors like usability and accessibility can contribute to a positive UX, while spotty performance or a lack of adequate privacy protection could sink an otherwise solid application.
A product offering negative UX can wreak highly publicized havoc on its creator’s reputation. Patients rely on digital wellness tools to help manage an invaluable commodity: their health. Most patients would question the sense of any organization that hires a doctor known to botch medical procedures. Companies of products with a weak UX should expect a similar reaction from users; it’s only natural to doubt the commitment of a company who seemingly cannot be bothered to make sure the benefits of using their service outweigh any headaches.
The rollout of Healthcare.gov is an excellent case study in how poor UX design can damage a product’s adoption potential. Upon debut, the site’s interface was glitchy at best and its servers struggled to handle a high volume of visitors. Users reported problems with creating accounts and navigating pages. Site downtime soared, and even tasks a simple as logging in were rendered impossible. Healthcare.gov’s flawed UX resulted in countless people either being temporarily unable to enroll in government healthcare, or in frustration, abandoning the process altogether. The fact that a federally sponsored, out-of-market digital health service could fail so massively due to subpar UX only underscores how essential it is that products facing heavy market competition prioritize providing a pleasurable experience.
To avoid a similarly damaging scenario, smart digital health producers need to keep in mind the key to positive UX, which is frankly also a core principle of marketing. Expert programmers and savvy marketers alike understand that a great product realizes exactly what a customer needs from it. While strong advertising attracts new users by promising to provide a service, a well-crafted UX prompts continued use by fulfilling that promise.
The best digital health UX accomplishes this by facilitating a dynamic conversation between users and producers. The insights gained from evaluating and incorporating patient/caregiver feedback can be as essential in extending a product’s life cycle as building it a navigable interface, mostly because programmers would rely on such feedback to determine if their service’s interface is actually navigable.
To discover which qualities best create a positive UX, digital health companies consider the market environment in which their products compete; they examine the top tier of similar tools, and establish a unique brand of functionality somewhere between the features which grant their competition success. For example, a telemedicine app looking simplify doctor-patient interactions online might gauge how users react to the capabilities of established apps like DoctorOnDemand, and create a platform which emphasizes uninterrupted, high-quality informational exchanges, guaranteed to be accessible 24 hours a day.
UX design may share the same goal as marketing, however the digital medium presents a distinct advantage, as digital health applications can be easily rewritten, user data can quantify aspects of performance for analysis and measurement, and user opinion is easily gathered through online communication portals, such as discussion boards and e-review sites. Harnessing these advantages to cultivate an adequate and active feedback loop between patients, caregivers, and digital health companies helps to ensure that patients truly benefit from using these wellness services now and in the future.