The Environment

Welcome to the jungle.

I believe that the UX side of medical industry is incredibly undeserved. As a whole, most designers probably don't even consider the space. That especially applies to Medicare. This is why i decided to come aboard a few years back. I just know there is someone struggling with a very important aspect of their life on the other side of what I am doing. With this being said, I should probably have anticipated the environment I would find myself in upon hitting the ground. Although, perhaps not on day one!

I know from history, that most large corporations are far from user-centric. It was going to be up to me to educate all, to the importance of putting the user first. Though that was going to have to wait a bit, until I was able to get up and running with the most basic design tools and environment necessary to effectively do my job. It would takes months before I had (appropriate) corporate issued hardware/software necessary for me to begin utilizing my talents. I don't blame my manager directly for this. He hired me because he was one individual that knew the importance of serving the user. As the first full-time UI/UX professional in our group, he simply didn't know what he didn't know (I needed).

When it comes to the design assets, well to be honest, there weren't any! They did exist, it's just that the outside design firm hired earlier refused to release them upon their termination of their contracted work. I won't get into the details. Let's just say it left me with no graphic sources files whatsoever. There was a basic style guide in place which was a help. So before, no actually during my daily tasks, I had to re-create every layout that only existed in HTML, as a Sketch file. This would include nearly every icon, every component, every page. It was sort of like upgrading the structural components of plane while in flight.

My T-shaped skills clearly came into play here.


No design assets existed. I had to re-create or reverse design every icon, component and page from the existing HTML as working Sketch files.


The site had recently been rebuilt to be responsive. I at least did have some reference points in this regard, as I set off establishing core working graphic files.


We were a dispersed, remote team. I had to coordinate and manage deliverables globally across multiple time zones. My day would now begin at 4:30 AM.

The Challenge

Your compliance is mandatory!

There are many unique challenges that come with this space. Nearly everything I did, or tried to do, fell under various compliance regulations that impacted my designs. Not being aware of these laws and regulations before starting my work sometimes delayed my productivity. Occasionally, these regulations prevented me from realizing certain creative concepts altogether.

There are many specific considerations to take into account when designing medical products, such as: Can it be used discreetly to avoid embarrassment to the user and thus increase compliance? Are there regional variations in care and variations between large cities/small towns that can impact design (even within the same country).

Working in an industry where there is a clear need is something I have always found appealing. It goes deeper with Healthcare. This is one of the few industries where the user is essentially forced to use your application. For a majority of our users, this is the sober reality. For me, this brought in a much higher dose of empathy for my users!

The Goals

Designing with an ACE up my sleeve and a HEART on my shoulder.

The challenge for me to develop appealing interfaces, good user experiences and efficient means of completing tasks was essential. Having the right information in accessible places was a good start for creating a positive UX, but our users were looking for something more personal. These are the three core attributes I utilized to help facilitate this personal feeling in my efforts.

Accessibility. I had to take into account the different situations users most likely would be faced with – including poor or altered vision, cognitive impairment or low dexterity – that would impede their abilities and success.

Caregiving. Families often play a large role in user's healthcare. Designing in a manner to allow caregivers to take on the heavy lifting would help to lower frustrations for all and open up new opportunities.

Emotionality. The potential emotional state of user was taken into account as I forged forward with improvements, especially for particularly stressful health conditions.

Succeeding at designing a positive user experience would clearly require focusing on the improvement of quality interactions between the user and our product. I would use a series of user-centered metrics that allow me to measure my user experiences as a whole. These metrics – defined as HEART – would then be used for my decision making moving forward.

Goal: Create a more visually appealing and functionally relevant home page and plan enrollment flow.
Cue: Users are able to view essential information and navigate more effectively immediately upon log-in that continues on through enrollment.
Metric: Compare appeal (Happiness; Adoption) and success vs. failure rates between company & user's goal completion (Engagement; Retention; Task completion).

How could we increase the value of the home page before authentication?
How could we make the authenticated home page unique to a variety of user types?
How could we increase user's understanding of what we provide to them?
The Approach

Moving the needle.

What's the best way to drive fundamental, transformative change within your organization? Envision your ideal solution: then, work backwards to where you are. It's called Idealized Design and it's the approach I attempted to help move the needle within an organization averse to quick change. Idealized design's four phases:


Absolution: The "it's not my problem" phase.

Solution: A symptomatic, stop-gap measure.

Resolution: Tracing the original problem to its source.

Dissolution: This is eventually eliminating the problem altogether. Think of an example of a completely new way of doing something that was never before imagined.

With improving the visual appeal, my intention from the start was to have the design direction evolve over iterations into something that ideally inspires and delights. I employed the use of clean layouts with ample white space to support accessibility. The color palette was simple, on-brand and professional – yet approachable.

Good interface design is simply not pervasive in the healthcare industry. Neither is good UX. This was one of my key motivators for me to do right by my users!

My Design System Library:

Our Users

Doing it for Mom.

Users have different levels of need. Our users are no exception. This was covered earlier as I discussed accessibility. Furthermore, their needs are complicated by the fact that their age often crashes head-on with their need to use a medium they have limited comprehension of based on their experience. I have attempted to meet their explicit needs by asking (survey and interviews), their tacit needs by observing (testing) and their latent needs by innovating. Latent needs are the hardest to address— these aren't necessarily things that people realize they need, but once they have them, they can't live without them. By understanding their latent needs, I am able to move beyond merely solving the problems that "we" have created along the way. It's all about empathy. Having parents that fell right into our core target audience, it was easy for me to surface empathy. All I had to do was to visualize them using what I was creating!

Examples of cumulative topical survey responses:

Visual Design - Home Page

Taking it home.

From day one, it was apparent to me that many areas of the product were in dire need of my attention. The home page was at the top of my list. However, it would take nearly two years before the corporate stars aligned and the opportunity presented itself. First and foremost, functionality had to be improved. My approach was to create a layout that utilized modular components that were dynamic in nature. Based on a particular type of user, the arrangement and display could vary. Additionally, upon log-in, the components would allow for snapshots of relevant user information potentially removing the need to navigate deeper. Lastly, a virtual assistant was conceived to provide multiple varying paths to research information tied to one of three levels of user sophistication.

It goes without saying that the visual appeal would be greatly enhanced. I produced a calming, modern and clutter-free design that supported quick scanning. Take a look:

Visual Design - Enrollment

Enrolling in change.

Once a user researches plans and settles on one, they begin the enrollment process. This process is rather intensive, comprised of multiple screens and hamstrung by loads of compliance. Although certain things simply could not change, I investigated what could. I focused my efforts on making the pages much less visually intimidating. By replacing standard radio buttons with larger and more user friendly buttons, the weight of the page lightened. Critically, I conceived "progressive reveal & advance" interactions for the pages. This would prove to reduce abandonment enrollments by presenting a tighter zone of attention, line by line, as the user worked down the page. Subtle UX improvements were integrated to assist the user with successful goal completion while bowing to compliance.
Interaction Design

A revealing improvement.

Those aforementioned interactions that improved the success rate of my user's goals were vitally important from the start of this work. Any chance I got to inject cues into the user interface that would help guide the user was embraced. Following is a look at the progressive reveal & advance interactions for the enrollment:

One of my many test interactions.

The Outcome

Taking it to market.

Healthcare interfaces are not exactly praised for their visual appeal or aesthetic qualities. In fact, they’re often terribly clunky, years behind current design trends and rather sad in their antiquity. I saw this as an opportunity to bring beautiful design to an industry where there is a current void. I have to admit, there is a certain level of satisfaction in taking an antiquated design and revolutionizing it as I did with this one.

As of this writing, we are set to go live with this release next month. I very much look forward to continued feedback from our user base as to our successes (and failures). More on that to come...

A before & after view with a slide of the bar: