Reports and Data research shows there are about 350,000 medical applications in the Android and iOS markets. And while 66 out of 100 of the largest hospitals in the US have their own apps, only two percent of patients are using them. A poor user experience is a common reason for app rejection. How can you avoid mistakes and create a design that will benefit users? In this article, we share a step-by-step guide on how to design a great medical app.
Step #1 — Conduct market research and decide on the type of medical app you want to develop
Designing a medical app from scratch begins with deep research into the healthcare market. The more you research the market, the more accurately you can determine users’ pain points and the type of applications that are in demand.
For example, according to Allied Market Research, North America accounted for the major share of the mobile health market in 2019 and is expected to remain in the leading position because of the region’s high incidence of diabetes, cardiovascular diseases, and other diseases. For this reason, an application aimed at tracking blood sugar or arterial pressure will likely be in greater demand in North America than in Europe.
By identifying what apps are in demand, you can decide on the type of app to develop and understand what set of features and design components it needs to satisfy patients. If your application design turns out to be complex and users cannot achieve their desired goals, your app won’t do a whole lot of good and will fail.
In a report on mobile health technologies, the World Health Organization (WHO) shows the most popular mhealth services. We list the types of mobile medical apps that correspond to these services. We also show examples of apps to help you better understand the set of features and design elements your medical app may need.
Telemedicine apps allow patients and doctors to conduct online consultations via video or audio communication. Telemedicine applications help users not only identify health problems online but store medical records and test results.
The Plushcare app provides a great user experience and a clear interface that helps patients feel calm. In Plushcare, a patient can choose a doctor from the list and book an appointment. The app shows photos of doctors to let users find someone they can trust. Also, if a doctor prescribes a medication, they’re automatically added to personal records. The app also has a map that shows the nearest pharmacies where users can pick up prescriptions.
Personal health record apps
Using this type of application, patients can store personal medical records. Patients may also use personal health records apps to access laboratory results and view previous diagnostic data where and when they want.
Axilla PHR is an application that stores data received from different hospitals and medical centers in one place. The application is designed so that patients can easily navigate and find records. Also, the application allows patients to save information about all family members. By clicking on another family member’s icon in the app, a user can switch to another family member’s account and view that family member’s records. Because the app has to deal with tons of data (analysis results, medical records, prescriptions, etc.), the interface is minimalistic to let users easily find the information they need.
Remote health monitoring apps
These apps provide real-time heart rate or blood sugar level monitoring. The data collected is used to continuously monitor patients’ health to detect health problems early. For example, doctors can regularly monitor a patient’s blood pressure to prevent heart attacks or strokes.
The Medopad app helps to track the health of patients when they’re out of the hospital. All information that the user enters (pulse, blood sugar level) is stored in the application and transmitted to doctors. The main feature of Medopad is a convenient display of data in the form of a graph, which allows patients to conveniently track metrics.
Apps for reminders
Reminder apps help patients remember to take pills on time. Pills Time is an excellent example of this type of medical app. The Pills Time application sends notifications so users don’t miss their pills. And to avoid mistakes with taking the wrong medication, the application allows users to independently fill out a one or several drug information cards and take a picture of it. A calendar feature is located at the top of the screen and is provided in the form of tabs. This design solution makes it possible to easily track daily medicine intake.
The purpose of wellness apps is broad. They can help users keep to a diet and drink enough water, track pregnancy, or manage a mental condition.
One of the outstanding wellness apps is Headspace. This app helps to track a user’s mood, emotional state, and sleep quality. Illustrations and bright colors make the interface attractive and friendly. Users can easily select the category of wellness practice they want to focus on from the footer menu. And if users want to find a particular practice, the search icon is always available.
Once you know what type of app to create, you can proceed to the next step on how to design a medical app.
Step #2 — Define your target audience
A deep understanding of your target audience will let you align your app design and functionality to your customers’ expectations. Without in-depth research on the target audience, it’s impossible to create a quality user interface for a healthcare application. An effective way to understand your customers is to get to know the following:
- The geolocation of potential users. Geolocation data shows where a product’s target audience is located.
- Platform and device type (iOS/Android smartphone/tablet). By knowing the platforms and device types your audience uses, you’re more likely to develop an intuitive native design for your application and meet the needs of your users.
- Demographic and social criteria: gender, age, occupation, etc. This information makes it possible to understand the habits of users, the environment in which they find themselves, and their motivations for using the application. Based on this knowledge, you can create a practical application design to meet users’ needs.
- Solvency. Is the user willing to pay for the application functionality, and if so, how much will they pay? Knowing this information, you can create a business model for your product and understand how you can make money.
To obtain this information, conduct quantitative and qualitative research:
- Use questionnaires and surveys sent via Google service, social networks, or email
- Conduct personal interviews by phone or via social media
- Study the audience using open sources like Google Trends or reviews of similar applications on marketplaces
- Interview focus groups of 5 to 12 people
After you’ve conducted your research, you need to combine all the collected information and create a persona. A persona is an image of a fictional user created on the basis of all research into your target audience. Creating a persona helps you build a user-centered design, as your persona provides insights into the needs, experiences, and behaviors of your target audience. To get a clear understanding of how to create a persona for your medical app, look at the template below.
To more clearly define users’ problems and create an effective design, you can make not one but several personas. In doing so, you can define groups of people with special needs.
Thorough research and personas may give you a clue as to what special needs your target audience has. For instance, they may need a convenient voice interface if they cannot type text.
Also, personas help you get to know the context in which people will use your application. Will patients sit or walk while using the app? Will users be at home or in a noisy place when they need to make an appointment? Answers to these questions will allow you to fulfill the app’s purpose as best as possible.
Step #3 — Analyze competitors’ apps
Competitor research is part of market research. You can study competitors’ applications by downloading them from the App Store or Google Play. Delve into real users’ reviews, test apps, and find out which design elements you would like to apply to your own medical app. This practice is great for seeing how competitors have implemented new technologies like virtual reality (VR) and artificial intelligence (AI).
After obtaining information about a competitor’s product, you can use SWOT analysis to identify the competitor’s strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, and threats. SWOT analysis makes it possible to assess risks, competitiveness, strengths, and weaknesses of design ideas. It also gives you a deep understanding of your medical app’s prospects and allows you to create a unique user experience that isn’t yet on the market.
Step #4 — Follow a medical app UX design flow
An important step towards quality design is creating a simple user interface. By creating a design step by step, you’ll get to know your users better and will be able to build an application that meets their expectations. Let’s dive into each step of creating a simple user interface and explore it in detail.
Create a user flow
A user flow provides a visual representation of the path the user takes while interacting with your application. The path begins at point A and demonstrates all possible interactions to achieve users’ goal and accomplish their final task.
There can be several paths to create a simple and understandable UX design. It’s essential to think over each step of the user journey and remove all unnecessary ones that can complicate interactions with your application.
A design team uses diagrams to show each step of the user flow. This practice helps you create the foundation on which further development of the entire product is based.
Create a sitemap
After creating a user flow, you understand how users will interact with the application and what screens are needed. For each of these screens to be intuitive, you need to develop smooth navigation. A sitemap will help you with this.
A sitemap is an application hierarchy diagram that shows the structure of pages. If the user flow is a visual representation of the application’s individual parts, then the sitemap shows the big picture.
A sitemap helps you structure navigation, place content where the user expects it, and visualize the structure of and relationships between pages.
Usually, a sitemap is a simple diagram, but it can already give a clear idea of the application’s interface.
Create wireframes and prototypes
The next step is developing wireframes. Wireframes are diagrams that show the app’s hierarchy. But unlike sitemaps, wireframes are developed for each screen separately and describe the hierarchy of elements and contents inside the screen.
Wireframes can be either high-precision or low-precision. The difference is that some demonstrate a detailed design with fonts, photos, and other elements, while others are more schematic and less detailed. To create a user-friendly healthcare application, it’s better to use high-precision wireframes. This will give you a detailed understanding of the application and help you avoid errors and rework in the future.
Based on wireframes, the last stage of creating a simple UX design is prototyping. While all the steps above provided designers with only visual diagrams, a prototype is an interactive demonstration of the application.
Prototypes are created to better understand whether the product is intuitive and how it copes with tasks. A prototype isn’t a finished product, but it demonstrates the critical interactions users will undertake.
Step #5 — Choose the right colors, fonts, and other UI elements
The target audiences for healthcare applications may include elderly people and people with vision or sensory impairments. Therefore, it’s important to consider individual needs and carefully choose colors, fonts, button sizes, and icons to create a convenient user interface design.
The first thing designers start with when working on an app’s UI design is the color palette. Medical apps should provide users with peace of mind, trust, and comfort. Colors have a strong psychological impact. To better understand how colors affect users, we’ve created a color chart with associations based on the research of Angela Wright, a psychologist at Queen Mary’s Hospital.
There’s a great chance that patients with special needs will use your application. When choosing colors, pay special attention to your audience. For instance, for users with color blindness, it’s best to provide a color inversion feature. And if your app is aimed at users with epilepsy, don’t use bright colors, fast animations, and videos. Also, think about the cultures of the audiences for which you’re designing the application. In some cultures, black or red can mean death. To avoid misunderstandings, study cultural traditions.
Font is also part of the UI design that needs special attention. A well-chosen font will have a positive effect on how users perceive information. When choosing a font for your app, you need to consider:
- distance between letters (kerning)
- font size
- placement and alignment
If you’re developing a healthcare app for seniors, make the font large and bold. For audiences in some eastern countries, you should align text to the right instead of the left. It’s better not to use stylized fonts, as they’re harder to read. For healthcare applications, simple sans serif fonts are the best choice.
Step #6 — Test your medical app design
Finally, when you’ve completed all of the above steps, your design team can move on to testing the application. Testing helps to identify bugs and bottlenecks before launching your medical app.
Most often, to conduct usability tests, design teams use the following testing methods:
- Interviews. Interviews can be both remote (conducted by telephone or video) and in-person. During interviews, UX design specialists ask users to complete a task on a device while recording all actions the users take. After testing, moderators in different spheres analyze the recorded interactions and ask test participants why they performed certain interactions.
- Laboratory usability tests. In this case, testing is carried out among the target audience under the supervision of a moderator. Throughout testing, moderators can answer users’ questions but not help them complete the task. Such tests give a better understanding of where users may have difficulties and analyze their behavior.
- Guerrilla testing. Using this method, test takers are randomly selected in a public place (café, shopping center) and asked to perform a quick test on the usability of the application. Guerrilla testing works best at the early stages of development, such as when you have a low-quality prototype.
These tests help determine an application’s level of intuitiveness and reveal where difficulties may arise in order to eliminate them. It’s important to conduct as many usability tests as possible to make a rejection-free product.
Now you know what’s behind the curtain of the medical app design process. By carefully considering each of the above steps, you can create a rejection-free medical app design to satisfy users’ needs and be on the top of the Play Store and App Store.