Why usability and design are critical to mobile medical app building

Trevor Strome was building mobile healthcare software two decades ago, before the popular term "apps" came into play, and long before today's definition of "mobile" arrived. In fact, he remembers how a good knock on a hard disk drive back then could easily lead to not only what today would be a screen crack on a tablet, but the complete loss of the drive.

To say things have come a long way in mobile application development and drive technology is an understatement. Yet there are more than a half dozen aspects relating to app development that haven't changed and remain relevant to app development, notes Strome, a Canadian-based healthcare analytics, business intelligence and quality improvement specialist in a commentary published at SearchHealthIT.

As FierceMobileHealthcare reported a few months back, a new study revealed successful mHealth apps boast great design, strong usability, in-depth functionality and visible marketing elements.

Several of those aspects are cited by Strome in his column on mHealth app development. The first, writes Strome, is understanding what users want and the problem the application will solve.

"By understanding the requirements, developers will have a better chance of including all the necessary functions and information that will make the app a useful asset," he says.

A second critical aspect is ensuring the app's design accommodates the users' workflow, need for fast app access and data entry and expectation of convenience.

"All apps that are intended to be used in the course of a clinical or business workflow must ensure that the application design accommodates that workflow, and not the other way around. Process and workflow considerations can mean the difference between successful development or another add to the slag-pile of apps that didn't meet expectations," he advises.

Another vital aspect, is keeping usability at the forefront of design and realizing a "desktop" design won't be a winner with mobile users.

"A successful app will take advantage of features that users expect in mobile devices and will make it so all data access and entry is efficient and intuitive. If my kids can find their favorite shows on my tablet's movie app faster than I can, users of healthcare apps will demand access to what they need just as quickly," he notes.

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