Avinash Konkani: What Is UX Design?

October 14, 2013

Healthcare IT, Human Factors

A buzzword in the design industry, UX stands for user experience.  A UX designer applies a user-centered design (UCD) process in the development of a product, helping to ensure that it is user friendly. The elements of UX design include usability, accessibility, human-computer interaction, and interaction design.

Traditionally, engineers designed a device or other product and expected that the user would meet the engineer’s expectations–believing that they designed the product for the average person. But do we have an average person in the real world? In actuality, a user does not operate the product as intended unless the design is intuitive. If the product is not user friendly, then the user will face difficulty in operating the device, make errors, or not use the product at all. Such errors are typically called user errors. But what if the errors continue with a different user? That means the problem is not with the users; it is with the design of the product.

Therefore, designers have to involve the actual users of the product during all the stages of development. It is about fitting the devices/jobs/tasks to the users–the fundamental principle of ergonomics or human factors engineering. A video available on YouTube further explains UX design.

Due to advancements in microelectronics and information technology, medical devices have become highly complex. The users of these devices vary, including doctors, nurses, technicians, biomedical engineers, patients, and their relatives, especially as it relates to the use of home healthcare devices. Thus, it is necessary to apply UX design principles to all medical devices to make them safer and friendly to use. Still, it is challenging to conduct usability tests for the many different user groups. In support of UX design, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) released in June 2011 Draft Guidance for Industry and Food and Drug Administration Staff – Applying Human Factors and Usability Engineering to Optimize Medical Device Design.

To learn more about the role of human factors in the design and use of medical devices, you might want to read the just-released fall 2013 issue of AAMI’s Horizons. In the issue, I co-authored an article that provides a review of usability evaluation methods in healthcare.

How do you see UX design fitting into the future of healthcare technology?

Avinash Konkani, BE, MS, is a doctoral candidate at the Department of Industrial and Systems Engineering at Oakland University in Rochester, MI.

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