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The Importance of Mobile UI Design

By Nitin Goyal, MD, Orthopaedic Surgeon, Founder & CEO at Pulse Platform. Originally published on Quora.

Ignoring the impact of user interface design is one of the biggest mistakes you can make.

I’ve seen so many apps that don’t focus on UI the way they should. The designs don’t consider problems from the consumer’s point of view or reflect the purpose of the apps.

They’re static. They aren’t evolving with the user or modifying as users change.

At Pulse, we focus heavily on UI design.

Recently, our mobile app and web dashboard won a Muse Creative Award and a Davey Award for design. We’ve also had positive user feedback, which encourages us to constantly update and improve the experience. That being said, here’s why UI is essential to the success of any digital health platform.

1. It Highlights Value

The interface is your initial pitch to the user. You want to show your app holds value for them. A poor design immediately tells the user it has little value, no matter how useful it may actually be.

Many of the apps we use today are overly complicated. I’m a young guy who runs a tech company (I’d like to consider myself reasonably ‘tech-savvy’), and I occasionally get confused when I open some of them. I wind up looking at the interface wondering, “Wait, what do I do now?”

That can’t be your patient’s reaction. UI is so important because the platform has to present itself to the user and make the next steps very clear. The design has to be intuitive, and the interface has to walk the user through those steps.

Think of it this way: Your interface has to cater to the most difficult person to reach, without alienating everyone else. It has to appeal to the broadest possible level of the population and show a clear value to nearly everyone who opens the app.

2. It’s Your Connection With Users

The interface is how you truly connect with users. Ignoring it means you’re ignoring that connection. Instead, focus on who will use your app — and how they’ll use it. Build the interface with those ideal users in mind.

Here’s an example:

Our application, Pulse, is for people who are having a joint replacement surgery. The average age of that person is about 63 years old. So, to connect with these people, we had to ask some questions about them.

Where are they going to be using the app — in the hospital or at home on a recliner?

Are they using their phone or a tablet? Will they have the device in front of them? Will they have space to do the exercises we’re recommending?

Then, we created a UI design that reflected those answers.

We had to think about all of those questions (and many more) when we were designing the interface, because we wanted users to like interacting with the platform.

A lot of our patients wear reading glasses or have a larger text size on their phone. It’s part of getting older, right? So, we made sure to use larger buttons and text to make the app easier to interact with.

But remember, your users aren’t static — and your design shouldn’t be either. When we started designing the app three years ago, our current patients were a few years younger. We always have to keep that in mind, because as different generations enter our demographic, they’re going to be more entrenched in technology. Someone who’s 50 right now is probably more tech-savvy than someone who’s 63.

Our average patient is going to change over time. Our goal is to change with them and keep that connection in place.

3. It Simplifies Processes

One fault I’ve seen with other digital health apps is that they’re too complex. They require a massive effort on the provider’s part to integrate them into the workflow of the hospital or practice. Processes have to be changed, and complexity actually increases.

One thing that we really focused on with our Pulse platform was designing it for both patients and providers. We knew that to be successful, it wasn’t enough for just the patients to love it. We needed doctors, hospitals, and allied health professionals to understand the value and decide to use it with their patients.

We thought, “Hey, why not make this easier? Let’s fit into the current workflow.”

Truthfully, it’s difficult to get buy-in when you’re trying to tell someone that they’re doing something wrong. That they need to change and do it your way. Why would they change everything just for your platform? Instead, just make it simpler.

The goal is to make your platform so easy and so powerful that every interaction is useful. When I present to any group or hospital system, I always hear the same responses.

“Wow, that looks so cool. I understand it. It makes sense. I want to interact with that.”

That’s what having a great UI design will do for you. It lets people look at your platform and immediately see something they want to work with. It tells them that this app is just as valuable as you’re promising.

By Nitin Goyal, MD, Orthopaedic Surgeon, Founder & CEO at Pulse Platform. Originally published on Quora.
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