UX vs. UI for a Medical App

Universal Health CareUI is not UX

UX professionals make a big deal about the difference between UI and UX. There are dozens of articles on the web about how UI is not UX, and apparently I have made the mistake of reading most of them—hoping to learn something insightful. Instead, these articles usually rattle off a pile of platitudes that I find meaningless in practice. I have been disappointed every time. Click here if you need help finding these articles.

The practical importance of this distinction escapes me. For example, is designing good performance UI or UX? The best answer: it doesn’t matter! Everybody should be designing for great performance, so why exclude it?

Of course, there is a difference. My definitions are that the UI is what users see and hear on the device and how they interact with it, whereas UX is that plus everything else the product touches—from the purchasing, out of box, configuration, daily usage patterns, and support experiences, to experiences that don’t even involve interaction (such defaults or automatic behaviors). Fortunately, my definitions match Don Norman’s, who is credited with coining the term UX.

But it doesn’t matter much in practice

Frankly, most “UX” discussions I witness are really UI discussions. They involve sketching what could be on the screen and how users might interact with it. The obvious clue: the process and discussions are centered around sketching features. Technically, that’s UI design, not UX. But since the practical distinction hardly matters, I never bother pointing it out.

I do many onsite workshops to help software development teams learn UX design or improve their design skills. I had one team lead request that I teach UI design to half his team and UX design to the other half. How does that make sense? How do you make the distinction? What is appropriate to exclude from UI design because it is really UX design? This left me baffled. Training wise, UI is UX. The distinction hardly matters.

UX for a Medical App

The reason I’m thinking about this now is that I just had a two-hour design session with a team designing a medical mobile app and it was 100% focused on UX—no features or UI elements discussed or any sketches made. This is unusual—at least for me—as UI design invariable shows up at some point.

So what did we talk about for two hours? Here is an outline of the topics (while keeping the details sufficiently vague):

  • The target users (elderly Canadians), the different user classes/personas, what they want, and what we could expect them to know and do.
  • The value the app needs to deliver to these users to motivate them to use it. (And more importantly, the understanding that if there wasn’t clear value, they wouldn’t bother to use it.)
  • The different medical problems the target users might have, the medications they are taking, their packaging, and the implications for the app. How do users recognize their meds—by shape, color?
  • The type of mobile devices, and how a tablet is used differently than a phone, and how a specialized tablet (just for this app) is used differently than a general device (like an iPad).
  • How the device and app would be initially configured. How it will be reconfigured later, whether it’s realistic to expect users to bring in their device, do the reconfiguration themselves, or do it over the internet. And if over the internet, what will that connectivity look like? Can we safely assume the users have Wi-Fi? (Answer: no.)
  • Where the device and medicine should be in the customer’s house and whether it’s realistic for them to be in different places. (Answer: it isn’t.)
  • How the device will be recharged or if it should be plugged in all the time. Realizing that the burden of recharging alone could be a deal breaker for many users. (I noted that for a specialized device, it’s better to leave the device plugged in because users will quickly get tired of having to recharge it and they won’t need to move it.)
  • What we could do to make the task as simple as possible, eliminating as many steps as possible. Can we completely eliminate any typing? (Answer: yes.)
  • What it would take to encourage people to use this device long term (over a period of years). How could we encourage them to restart after a long break (such as a vacation)?
  • The steps in the happy path, and what normal usage should look like. What happens when users get off the happy path and how to get them back on.
  • How to deal with traveling, going on vacation.
  • The visual, audio, touch requirements for an elderly audience that might have significant visual, hearing, and manual impairments…while still being suitable for someone without those impairments.
  • What needs to be configured by the user, and how to make such configurations simple and contextual. Should we assume English or Metric by default? (Answer: English—Canada converted to the metric system in 1971.)
  • How to make the results trustworthy so that users will actually follow the advice of the app, instead of ignoring any problems found.
  • How to phrase problems and carefully phrase the reasons behind them so that people will be motivated to follow the app’s advice. (Plus, realizing that stating the reason is more motivating.) We shouldn’t expect people to do something medically just because an app says so. Ways in which we could use A/B testing to validate the phrasing.
  • How to give reminders that are encouraging, not intrusive or annoying. How to deal with awkward social situations.
  • How to “authenticate” the user as easily as possible. How to make sure the data is coming from the user, not a spouse or grandchild.

I tried to give these topics a logical flow above, so they aren’t in order of importance. The heart of the session was to make the product as convenient, trustworthy, encouraging and unobtrusive, and realistic as possible. Fail to achieve these critical goals and users will stop using the app or not believe the results.

If we fail these, nothing else matters.

This app addresses a serious medical condition and the consequences of using the app properly are significant. (Failing to follow the current manual process often leads to hospitalization.) One might assume that such target users would be extremely motivated to follow the process properly and stick with it long term. That assumption is wrong. A better assumption is that users won’t do something awkward, annoying, or seemingly pointless—especially over a long period of time. It needs to have a great user experience. Having beautiful, well laid out screens won’t save an otherwise poor user experience. And the screens themselves are only a very small part of that overall experience.

Being a lean advocate (or more precisely, my own interpretation, which I call “lean-er”), I recommended starting with MVPs to minimize risk. The first MVP would determine if an app can replace the current manual paper process, whereas the second MVP would determine if we can make it trustworthy, practical, and motivating over a long period of time.

Speaking of lean, lean advocates talk about GOOB, or “get out of the building.” The lean claim is that there is no knowledge in the building, so you have to get out and talk to users to understand anything. Frankly, I think that is bullshit. If you have a good team there is a great deal of knowledge in the building, but you have to know what to do with it. It’s far more productive to talk to your users once you have done this type of analysis than to go to them with a blank sheet of paper. You could talk to users for years and still miss many key UX issues that we found in two hours.

The bottom line

People often confuse UX design with sketching stuff. While sometimes is makes sense to start by sketching to explore different design directions, often that leads to putting too much emphasis on features, layout, and basic navigation—in other words, the technology. Instead, starting with users, their goals, the value we are providing, and addressing critical details like building trust gives us a much better direction to sketch. In true UX design, user goals, scenarios, and value drive the process.

I never design with a feature list or a set of user stories—they are just tools to figure out how to implement an experience, not to create one in the first place. This leads to what I call Everett’s Ultimate User Story:

As a user, I don’t give a damn about your feature list or product backlog.

Getting the app to perform the task mechanically would accomplish nothing because nobody would be motivated to use such a mechanical app. The key is to work through and design the human experience for the target users and being realistic about what people will actually do. For this project, sketching screens, working on the task flow, or making the screens pretty are secondary concerns at best.


UX Design Edge is sponsoring UX Scotland 2016

IMG_2124
I’m thrilled to be a presenter and sponsor of the fourth UX Scotland conference on June 8 – 10, 2016. I was a presenter last year and gave my Effective Design Reviews talk. It’s an excellent conference and I’m glad to be back.
UX Scot selfie
Selfie from Effective Design Reviews, UX Scotland, Edinburgh 2015.

Delightful user experiences

My talk this year is Delightful user experiences: how to design UIs that are polite and forgiving, and have a great personality. Here is the listing:

The user experience quality bar is rising—people are walking around with great experiences in their pockets, and they are starting to expect the same with their other software. Being good enough—solving problems with mechanical usability—is long past its “best before” date. Today, users want to enjoy using their software and feel good about it emotionally.
This tutorial will explore what it means for software to be delightful and the specific attributes that help achieve this. I will explain how to connect emotionally to users, and cover topics like special experiences, personality, forgiveness, performance and attention to detail. There will be 2 hands-on group activities to give it a try.

Awesome stuff!

Delight is important, but poorly understood

I believe this is an important topic because we talk about delightful user experiences all the time as if delight were meaningful and well understood. It’s not. When I hear people talk about “bells and whistles” and “bright, shiny objects”, I know we are heading down the wrong road. Anything that accurately reflects those descriptions is more likely to annoy or distract than delight.
On a personal note, I strongly believe that UX design is an objective discipline, not a subjective art. One of my top goals in UX training and design is to take as much subjectivity and personal opinion out of the conversation as I can. Ironically, I often describe what I do as “Helping teams create great user experiences that are intuitive, simple, and delightful”, which, at least initially, appears to be about as subjective and personal as one can get. I have put a great deal of effort into nailing these topics down–giving them specific, objective definitions and attributes, and developing tools and techniques to for teams to achieve them.

About UX Design Edge

UX Design Edge helps teams create better user experiences through practical design training and consulting for mobile, web, and desktop applications.

Our specialty is to help software professionals create modern, intuitive, simple, and delightful user experiences, using tools and techniques that are practical with limited time and budgets. We are based in Vermont, but our clientele is global.

Here are testimonials from recent customers:

My company contracted with Everett for the onsite UX Design Essentials Workshop and followup consulting to assist with an application redesign project. The workshop and followup consulting were extremely effective and from a company perspective the ROI was off the charts. Everett provided a key advisory role and worked directly with our project team. His involvement had a huge impact on the success of our project. We are very pleased with the effort and final outcome and we will be using Everett’s design principles and services on all future projects.

Greg Ungemach
Hilltown Systems

Everett McKay was a key player in the redesign of our web application. His expert understanding of UI/UX design was critical to the success of our project. His depth of knowledge saved us from many pitfalls and also guided us to decisions that greatly improve the usability of our application. We are extremely happy with our project outcome and are certain we would not have had the same level of success without Everett’s consultation. Everett is extremely sharp and works very efficiently. Without hesitation I would recommend Everett for UI/UX related design/consultation work.

Randy Vroman, President
Vroman Systems

See more testimonials.

See you at the conference!

Everett McKay
Principal, UX Design Edge
everettm@uxdesignedge.com


UX Design Edge is sponsoring UX Burlington 2016

Burlington 2016
I’m thrilled to be a presenter and sponsor of the second UX Burlington conference on April 29, 2016. I have presented at many UX conferences around the world, but this will be my first UX conference in Vermont!

Everett McKay presenting at ISA14
Why so serious? Everett McKay presenting Designing for Trust and Confidence at Interaction 14, Buenos Aires, Argentina.

Eight Attributes of an Intuitive UI

My talk at UX Burlington will be Eight Attributes of an Intuitive UI. Here is the listing:

Having an intuitive UI is a top goal for every design project, yet surprisingly few people have a strong understanding of what this concept really means. Designers are no different. (A quick test: ask some designers to define it. Most likely you won’t be unimpressed by their answers.)

By attending this talk, you will learn what it means for a UI to be intuitive. You will learn a practical definition, the attributes required to be intuitive, and the levels of intuitiveness. Ultimately, you will learn how to help your team design UIs that are more self-explanatory and require less training and documentation.

You will see these concepts applied to a variety of real design problems. Finally, you will learn that not all UIs need to be intuitive, and when it is a good idea to have unintuitive UI—strategically rather than accidentally.

Awesome stuff!

About UX Design Edge

UX Design Edge helps teams create better user experiences through practical design training and consulting for mobile, web, and desktop applications.

Our specialty is to help software professionals create modern, intuitive, simple, and delightful user experiences, using tools and techniques that are practical with limited time and budgets. We are based in Vermont, but our clientele is global.

Here are testimonials from recent customers:

My company contracted with Everett for the onsite UX Design Essentials Workshop and followup consulting to assist with an application redesign project. The workshop and followup consulting were extremely effective and from a company perspective the ROI was off the charts. Everett provided a key advisory role and worked directly with our project team. His involvement had a huge impact on the success of our project. We are very pleased with the effort and final outcome and we will be using Everett’s design principles and services on all future projects.

Greg Ungemach
Hilltown Systems

Everett McKay was a key player in the redesign of our web application. His expert understanding of UI/UX design was critical to the success of our project. His depth of knowledge saved us from many pitfalls and also guided us to decisions that greatly improve the usability of our application. We are extremely happy with our project outcome and are certain we would not have had the same level of success without Everett’s consultation. Everett is extremely sharp and works very efficiently. Without hesitation I would recommend Everett for UI/UX related design/consultation work.

Randy Vroman, President
Vroman Systems

See more testimonials.

UX Burlington Specials

50% off UX Design Essentials Workshop

UX Design Essentials Workshop is an onsite three-day workshop to train your entire team (up to 20) for a low fixed cost. The workshop exercises are customized to use your projects, so you get to apply the material hands-on directly to the projects you care about.
UX Burlington attendees can host a workshop at their company with a 50% discount. For more information and to register, check http://uxdesignworkshop.com.
Offer expires June 30, 2016.

50% off your first design review, makeover, or consultation

Does your UI need a makeover? Would you like to have an agenda-free, neutral expert drive your next design review? Want to vet your UX plans for your next project? Leverage our expertise to get on the right UX path.
UX Burlington attendees can hire us for a design consultation with a 50% discount. For more information and to get started, check http://ux-experts.com.
Offer expires June 30, 2016.

See you at the conference!

Everett McKay
Principal, UX Design Edge
everettm@uxdesignedge.com


Best Wishes for 2016 from UX Design Edge

Thank you for being a great customer and for an excellent 2015—let’s make this year even better!

2015 in Review

Everett McKay's Keynote at WUD Silesia 2015

After my Learning the Right Lessons Steve Jobs keynote at WUD Silesia 2015, Katowice Poland

Here are the highlights from 2015:

  • UX Design Essentials Had 6 public classes and 9 onsite workshops, including workshops in Katowice Poland, Limerick Ireland, Pune India (2) and Bangalore India (2).
  • Conferences Presented Six UX Insights All Developers and Managers Must Know at AIM Infotec, Beyond Sketching Features at UX South Africa, Effective Design Reviews at UX Scotland, Don’t Design Like a Programmer (2) at Heartland Developer’s Conference, and Leaning the Right Lessons from Steve Jobs and Beyond Sketching Features Workshop at WUD Silesia.
  • Talks Presented UI is Communication in Atlanta, Chicago, Seattle (2), and Pune, Don’t Design Like a Programmer in Montreal, Delightful User Experiences: How to Design UIs that are polite and forgiving, and have a great personality in Raleigh/Durham, Effective Design Reviews in Chicago, plus Intuitive UI, Intuitive and Simple Mobile apps, Effective Design Reviews, and The Emperor’s New Lean here in Vermont.
  • UI is Communication book I’m still getting great feedback on UI is Communication, but sales are still sluggish. If you want to take your UX design thinking to the next level, this is the book to read! Please check it out at http://uiiscommunication.com and for a recent review, check http://uxbookreviews.com/2015/10/21/ui-is-communication
  • Consulting I did a fair amount of consulting this year. My two-hour remote design reviews were especially popular.

I have been keeping track of my activities on Facebook (https://www.facebook.com/UxDesignEdge). Check it out! 2015 was a busy year (and I still have more events to post.) If you are interested in hosting a UX talk, please let me know.

My focus for 2016

Here are my new plans 2016:

More UX Design Essentials Workshops My three-day onsite, team-based, customized workshops remain our flagship training. These workshops are the very best way to raise your team’s design skills. I hope to do many more in 2016—to a global audience. Excited that my first for the year will be in Douala, Cameroon! Contact me if you are interested in hosting a workshop at your company.

New! “Virtual onsite” workshops Many teams are interested in onsite training, but don’t have the time (or training budget) for a full three-day workshop. I will address this need by offering the following “virtual onsite” workshops for teams (up to 20), which are based on successful workshops that I have given at UX and developer conferences:

  • Don’t Design Like a Programmer—Great UX design for developers in a hurry (6 hours, $4,000)
    
Focuses on making good design decisions quickly and confidently, while avoiding the poor design decisions developers tend to make. Targeted primarily at technical teams of developers and managers.
  • Beyond Sketching Features—UI design as natural, intuitive human conversations (6 hours, $4,000)
    
While sketching is a great design tool, the focus tends to be on the physical placement of features and mechanical usability. While necessary and important, we can do better by focusing more on the human experience through conversations. Primarily for experienced designers who want to take their skills to the next level, but new designers will benefit as well.
  • 10 Steps to a Great Mobile UX (6 hours, $4,000)
    
Learn the core principles for designing specifically for mobile devices and how mobile design is different from desktop design—great mobile experiences are far more than just small desktop apps and sites. Specific topics include designing for touch and small form factors, responsive design, what specifically makes a mobile app great, and mobile design guidelines and principles.
  • Effective Design Reviews (3 hours, $2,500)

    Half-lecture, half-workshop on how to conduct more effective design reviews. The lecture portion explains how to perform effective design reviews, common review problems, and their (often simple) solutions. For the workshop portion, we will apply what you have learned immediately by perform a design review of one of your team’s designs.

These workshops are practical, quick, engaging, and cost effective. You can schedule them at your team’s convenience. For more details, please visit virtualuxworkshops.com.

New! On-demand classes I’m in the process of creating on-demand classes for my favorite UX design topics. They are low cost and roughly an hour long. Here are the ones in the works:

  • Intuitive UI—What it is and how to get it
  • Effective Scenarios—The secret to making good design decisions
  • Effective Personas—The simplest way to put users into user-centered design
  • Effective Design Reviews—How to give and receive meaningful, actionable feedback
  • Effective prototyping and sketching
  • Simplicity and focus: What is it and how to get it
  • Visual design for non-designers
  • Persuasive UX: how to get your team on board and talk your boss, stakeholders, and clients out of idiotic design ideas
  • Effective errors, warnings, confirmations, and alerts
  • How to hire a UX professional—if you aren’t one yourself
  • Delightful user experiences: How to design UIs that are polite, forgiving, and have a great personality
  • Creating Well-Designed Products—Learning the right lessons from Steve Jobs (Free)
  • How to ace the UX design interview (free)
  • The Emperor’s New Lean (free)

Intuitive UI will be published this week. The remainder are in various phases of production, but should be published by the end of February. For more info, check http://ux-ondemand.com.

More remote design reviews My Effective design reviews: how to give and receive meaningful, actionable design feedback talk at UX Scotland (http://bit.ly/1PfpBvf) was very well received. I have been aggressively promoting remote design reviews ever since and they have been consistently awesome. I’m pricing a two-hour review at $400. If you want to take your UI to the next level, a remote design review is the simplest, most cost effective thing to do. Contact me if you are interested.

New! Free webinars and office hours I will hold at least on free webinar and immediately following a free “office hour” at least once a month. The free webinar will be on a variety of my favorite topics, with about 45 minutes of presentation and 15 minutes for questions. “Office hours” are an open discussion or Q&A on whatever topics the participants bring. Here are the topics and dates so far:

Starting with the March 18 webinar, I will choose the topics based on popular demand. Please let me know what topics interest you by completing the survey at http://bit.ly/1OOthnm.

Lean UX I want to get into Lean UX in a big way in 2016. Look for an announcement in early April. In the meantime, I would love to get your thoughts on Lean UX by completing the survey at http://bit.ly/1UwCEwl.

Conferences It’s early yet, but I am already confirmed for three conferences:

  • March 21 AIM Infotec, Six Steps to a Great Mobile UX—and Why Responsive Design isn’t Enough
  • July 18 HCI International, Modern Heuristic Design Evaluation,
  • July 27 AHFE, Effective Design Reviews, Modern Heuristic Design Evaluation, and Beyond Sketching Features.

Hope to see you there!

That’s it for now. Please stay in touch during 2016!

Best wishes,

Everett McKay


My first virtual UX classes

By popular demand, I will present my first virtual UX design classes this month. They will be on September 10 and 11, and will cover four of my favorite UX design topics: Effective Scenarios, Effective Personas, Intuitive UI, and Effective Design Reviews. If you are new to these topics or want to revitalize your thinking, these classes are for you. I promise that you will think differently about these skills afterwards.

I say by “popular demand” because it’s true—virtual classes have been a top customer request in my Getting started in UX design training questionnaire. BTW: This is my first blog post in quite awhile—I have been very busy. Check what I have been up to at https://www.facebook.com/UxDesignEdge.

Virtual class schedule

More coming soon! For general information about these and future virtual classes, please check http://virtual-ux.com.

Not your typical webinars

I understand what makes a successful virtual class, and learned how not to do it by attending a variety of free webinars. In a typical webinar, the material is superficial, the insights are few, and the participant interaction is non-existent. Frequently, the speakers blast through the material way too quickly, making them hard to follow. In short, I found them boring, ineffective, and not engaging. Their slides are visually beautiful though—which is little compensation.

I have taken several paid UX design courses on Udemy, and remain equally unimpressed.

Doing virtual training right!

A virtual class on UX should have a great user experience itself, so here is my approach:

  • Know your subject I will be presenting tools and techniques that I have 10+ years of experience using, plus 5+ years experience teaching. I know my stuff!
  • Say something insightful When I take a class, I want to learn something insightful so that I have a better understanding of the subject. The basic mechanics aren’t good enough. For example, with Effective Personas, you will learn what personas are and how to use them, but most importantly, you will learn why most persona efforts fail and how to make them successful.
  • Get to the point Without a doubt, the most common webinar mistake is to go on and on about introductory material that nobody cares about. Instead, I will get right down to business.
  • Keep it practical Practical examples help keep things real. If I know you can’t use it or most likely won’t use it, I won’t mention it. The impractical bores me!
  • Involve the participants I believe your participation is crucial for a successful, engaging class. Each class will have group discussions and at least one exercise. You will have the opportunity to participate in fun, practical ways.
  • Keep it short and engaging In a virtual class, if you are bored, you are done. I value your time, so I will spend just enough time to cover the subject well without feeling rushed.
  • Make it fun! We will have some fun discussions and do some makeovers. I want you to enjoy the experience and leave with a smile.

What people are saying

While the virtual class format is new, I have delivered these classes many times in person. Here is what people have been saying:

  • I couldn’t help but talking about everything I learned the moment I walked into my office this morning with my fellow interaction designers.
  • Amazing class! Drastically changed what I thought I knew about UI.
  • Answered the ambitious question with not only what an intuitive UI is, but how you can create one.
  • Changed the perspective on looking at the UI… very good session.
  • I learned a lot, and your talk has already helped me with a program I am writing.
  • Enjoyed the better codification of determining “intuitive” than what I’ve come up with over the years and the tools to help get buy-in from others.
  • Really enjoyed this class. Gave me a better understanding of UI. Everett was great!
  • Great class from Everett McKay on design reviews. I learnt something new!
  • Gave me a different perspective on UI design and reinforced thoughts I’ve had about the process. Thank you!

These are the first of many

My plan is to do at least one virtual class per month. If you would like updates on future classes, please join our mailing list or contact me directly at everettm@uxdesignedge.com. Feel free to suggest new topics.

India Standard Time

I will do a special presentation of virtual class on Saturdays at 9 am India Standard Time (IST) especially for the Indian market. These will have a much lower price point, and a bit less gyaan. Of course, anyone can attend these, so feel free to register if this class time suits your needs.

For more information and to register, please check http://virtual-ux.com.

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