Designing a Health App: The UX Process
Nowadays more and more people are taking ownership of their physical and mental well-being. This process can be tricky – people often take on a huge workload, forget to take care of themselves and then lose motivation.
To keep on track many take advantage of digital tools – research suggests that 80% of American millennials have been using a health app for 2 years or less.
As you probably know, UX is vital for designing apps that people like to use, and keep using. But how do you go about achieving a great UX for a health app?
In this article, we unpack the UX process of designing a health app. This will enable you to design a concept application that will help your end users create and maintain healthy habits.
Step 1: Research
When designing a health app, you must begin with research. Research is a key step to designing a great user experience. The research process depends on many factors such as the complexity of the product, timing and available resources.
If you don’t have direct access to users, a good method to use is desk research. This can consist of reviewing reports and trends and conducting competitor analysis. The goal of this phase is to gather information about users, their goals and the environments where their actions occur.
I started with reviewing reports about healthcare in the US and looking for interesting facts about users’ behavior:
- 95% Americans link healthy habits with self-care
- 92% Americans want to have better control of their health
- 88% Americans take responsibility for health decisions
- 64% Americans track health indicators such as blood pressure
The report also indicates how Americans care for their health:
- 59% take a vitamin or supplement (daily)
- 50% get enough sleep (daily)
- 47% eat a balanced diet (daily)
- 38% exercise (daily)
Overall, the research shows that Americans are ready to take control of their health. The rising cost of healthcare in the US has launched a movement to elevate self-care as an essential component of health care. This conclusion indicates that there could be demand for a product that meets these needs.
Trends also play an important role in the UX process when designing a health app. They’re useful for indicating the general direction a product should take.
One of the most important trends in the health industry is self care. It comes in many forms like: eating a balanced diet, exercising, getting enough sleep or taking vitamins. Self-care has increased in popularity according to data from Apple, in 2018 it was the app trend of the year. Moreover, there are more than 27 million posts with #selfcare on Instagram.
The second important trend relevant to this product is data tracking. We have amazing technology that lets us track billions of things about our life, habits, and how we spend our time. Thanks to devices and apps, we don’t need to track everything manually and it’s easier for us to stick to the plan and have control over things.
The other trend I identified is personalisation. By using data about a person’s online habits, we can offer services that look like they’ve been made exclusively for the user. Personalisation is a very powerful tool and can help us gain competitive advantage when used wisely.
Before working on my own solution, I downloaded health apps to see how they currently address health issues. There are a lot of mobile apps available for health and fitness. Most of them are focused on the physical aspect of your body. The biggest problem with the apps I tried is that users have to be motivated and have basic knowledge about dieting and exercise.
My conclusion from the research was that it’s hard to take care of ourselves comprehensively with only one application, especially for users who are really busy or don’t know what to do to improve their health.
Step 2: Ideation
When the research has been done, it’s time to move to ideation. The goal of this phase is to create the vision of the product based on the data, not just our assumptions.
You should look for answers to the following questions:
- Who are our users?
- What problem are we going to solve?
- How are we going to do it?
To put together a product concept, we can take advantage of some helpful tools, such as user personas, a value proposition canvas and sitemap.
A user persona is a fictional description of a target user of a product. This focus on the individual increases empathy for the specific user we are designing for, and helps us avoid the tendency to design for everyone.
Here are the personas I created for the health application:
Value proposition canvas
A value proposition canvas is a tool that helps clarify user understanding and defines the features in a more structured way. There are two elements: the Value Map describes the value that a product is built around and explains how a product alleviates customer pains and creates customer gains.
The Customer Profile describes what customers are trying to get done, any bad outcomes related to these jobs and the ideal outcomes they want to achieve. This tool helped me further defined the vision of the health app:
A sitemap is a tool used in making navigation through a product easier. It contains the structure of the app along with how different sections are linked to one another.
Step 3: Wireframes
The wireframing phase is a bridge between the research phase and the creation of high fidelity visuals. It focuses on structure and content without the distraction of visual elements.
At this stage we should focus not only on look, but also the feel of the product and create clickable prototypes to check functionality. Clickable prototypes allow us to test our product flow and iterate on it quickly. Based on the sitemap I drafted the below clickable wireframes for all sections:
Step 4: Mockups
Once the wireframes are ready, we can move to the visual side of the project. During this stage we focus on colors, typography and other visual assets that support the look and feel of the app. I’ve chosen a quiet, clean and minimalist style which suits the objective of self care.
Although the UX process varies depending on the scope of the project and your available resources, the goal of each project is the same – create a tool that meets visual, user and business objectives.
The process is never over, and you shouldn’t stop once your initial UX process is complete. It’s best to continually test and refine UX as time goes on, especially as you gather data on how people actually use the product.