A good app is hard to find

Jeff Rowe
A good app is hard to find

Apps are in, right?  Therefore it shouldn’t be too big a challenge for smart designers to figure out how to develop and app that will get adopted and used.

Actually, maybe not so much.  Writing recently in NEJM Catalyst, Simone Orlowski, PhD, Scott Covington Newland, MDes, and Joseph C. Kvedar, MD, all of Partners HealthCare and Connected Health, explain just how difficult designing a successful app can be.

“The reality is that everyone loves a select few apps,” they point out, “while millions more die an obscure death. Designing health apps that are truly engaging is even more challenging than creating the next Instagram or Snapchat.”

In their view, making an engaging healthcare app is tricky because healthcare researchers are so used to solving problems via the scientific method.  The reality, however, is that “there is no single method for achieving effective user engagement. Creating successful and engaging experiences involves many variables acting in concert toward a shared goal.”

Nonetheless, there are some “key considerations” that make success more likely.

In particular, at least in their experience, designers should develop apps with “ a thorough understanding of the issue at hand and an appreciation for the context involved, as well as genuine curiosity about the human experience, tolerance for ambiguity, and the exercise of a truly reflective design approach.”

Two key elements they focus on are “designing for context,” meaning, “All the stakeholders who contribute to the issue, as well as those participating in the solution, need to be identified and successfully engaged,” and “designing for trust,” meaning with an eye toward ensuring “stakeholders feel that our process is informed, reliable, and rigorously conducted, and that it will result in a product that addresses users’ needs.”


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