Introducing a User-Centered Design Approach to an Existing Web Application

Assignment

Introduce a user-centered approach to a 12 year-old health web application and a user experience design process to the team. This application and team had never benefited from a dedicated User Experience designer.

My Role

Led the redesign of this health web application. I partnered with business analysts, product support specialists, and software engineers to discuss and brainstorm for the application redesign. I created wireframes, prototypes, and mockups to demonstrate our vision and principles, while simultaneously balancing users’ goals with business goals.

Challenges

The original application screen design was driven by a database and, as a result, content (e.g., labels, help text, and error messages) was ambiguous and often contained unnatural, confusing language. Users also faced issues when attempting to retrieve or save information due to the outdated technology.  In addition, users had never been involved in interviews or application testing. Finally, the application itself was highly customizable and needed a solution that was flexible.

Goals

Create software driven by users’ tasks, ultimately improving user experience. Other goals also included reducing the amount of training users needed to learn how to use the software and product support calls.

Process

As part of weekly team meetings that included business analysts, product support, quality assurance, and software engineers, we created personas, workflows, user tasks, and wireframes. All aspects of the application were discussed, including labeling language and inputs on screen interactions and menus.

Examples of personas developed by team

Journey map developed by team

Discovery

Through discussions with product support, we discovered that users were keeping the application open (and staying logged in) to avoid losing information that had been entered but could not yet be saved, potentially resulting in a HIPAA violation. For example, in the staff profile section, administrators add new staff members, edit their information, and update their application permissions. To save a new staff member in this legacy system, users had to go through 9 screens.

Trying to save the new profile before completing all 9 screens generated an error message, even if all required fields were completed in the current screen.

The Work

To address this significant issue, we determined it was necessary to make significant software design changes that would allow users to save items to the database in small pieces. Using the information gathered during the research phase, we began the redesign work of the legacy application’s Staff Profile section.

In our redesigned section, a user only needs to complete three required fields in order to add a staff member profile to the database:


Once those fields are saved and the staff member profile is created, the user can log off and add more information at a different time. To add information, the user would go through the following steps:

1) User opens the staff member profile screen

2) User switches to edit mode by using the “Edit” button

3) User selects the item to add

4) User adds and saves the information

5) Information is added to the database

User Feedback

We conducted remote user testing with 6 application end-users for whom we established personas. We were able to identify 2 major issues during this process and received otherwise good feedback.

Reflections

Prior to this experience, this team team had never worked with a user experience designer. Their primary responsibilities had been to apply business goals, not consider how the users interacted with the application. However, when we started to work together as a group, everyone began to realize how the user experience of the application was at times confusing and frustrating. The team became progressively excited at the prospect of collaborating on design changes that would potentially improve users’ experiences. I personally found this to be a very rewarding experience. I not only played a significant role in improving an application’s user experience and getting a team focused on this aspect of design, but I also came away with a better understanding of how users interact with health applications and patient health information. This experience made more clear the importance of good user experience within health applications, as the user experience not only affects the application’s user, but also ultimately the patient.