April 3, 2020 10:30 am

UX 111

When we talk about UX, what springs to mind? The joys of websites and apps we visit or use daily, or the pain-points? It might be the ease of browsing through different designs of jackets on a product page or the simplicity of purchasing a pair of shoes with a click of a button. Or maybe it was the frustrations of ordering a takeaway on an app at the weekend.

Perhaps we’ve not thought about how UX can be much bigger than the things we do every day, but by utilising user experience principles we can see how UX can go a long way in improving and in some cases, saving people’s lives. In pressing times like these, we’re wanting to keep the positivity going, so in this article, we’ll look at some of the ways UX can be used for good.

Food Labelling

In recent years, food labelling legislation has tightened for all catering businesses and manufacturers by the government, especially the nutritional and allergens information.

The government demanded that all food labels must be clear and easy to read, easy to understand, easily visible, not misleading and permanent. These guidelines form some of the founding principles for UX design.

What does the red, amber and green mean?

Traffic Light Labelling on a packet of Walker’s Cheese and Onion Crisps

You may have seen the traffic light labelling on the front of food and drink products you have purchased previously. Although this is voluntary, you’ll see the majority of food manufacturers display this on the front of all their products.

Most of us understand the traffic light system, we associate the green colour with being good and the red colour with being bad, or dangerous. The government uses this familiarity and recommended colour coding on labels so we can easily differentiate and understand whether the item contains high (red), medium (amber) or low (green) fat, salt or sugar content.

But why?

Most of us normally overlook the food labels but this element is fundamental for individuals living with health problems. Over 4 million people in the UK are living with diabetes, all of these people need to keep a note of how much of, for example, sugar, they consume each day. Too much of one of the contents could cause damage to their health condition, highlighting just how vital design principles are in every day lives.

Why are certain ingredients highlighted in bold in the ingredients list?

The ingredients list on the back of a packet of Maltesers

We don’t always pay attention to the ingredients list when we are buying food or drink. But the ingredients that are emphasised in the list are the different allergens contained in the product.

Allergen labelling has become stricter with further laws being implemented by the UK government in 2021. If the food or drink product contains any allergens it must be listed and also emphasised in the ingredients list by Law. It must be in a different font, style or background colour.

I don’t have an allergy though

In the UK, around 2 million people are living with a food allergy! Providing prominent allergen information will save one of these people having a serious allergic reaction.

Fire Alarm! Evacuate! EXIT ?!?

The fire alarm is going off, you need to exit the building! There are two Exit signs above two doors… Red and Green! Which door would you pick?

Red Exit or Green Exit?

Let’s think about this… Most of you would associate an emergency with the colour red but would exit the door with the green sign.

But Why?

This all relates to colour psychology. “It is the study of colours in relation to human behaviour. It aims to determine how colour affects our day to day decisions.” (Oberlo, 2019)

The colour red can mean a lot of different emotions from love, passion, excitement and warmth. However, when it is an emergency red provokes danger or hazard therefore people would generally panic, freeze and stop. This is not what we want to indicate in an emergency especially an evacuation. 

Examples of where red has been used:

  • Emergency stop button for factory machinery
  • The stop button for gas if there is a leak in a commercial kitchen
  • Red at the traffic light to Stop!
Examples of Reds
Image credits: Machiney Safety 101, Easygenerator, RAC

The colour green represents reassurance, people see the colour as calming, safety and secure. We want people to remain calm in an emergency.

Examples of where green has been used:

  • All UK Exit Signs
  • Ambulances and Doctor’s cars
  • Paramedic’s uniform
  • Green at the traffic light to Go!
Examples of Greens
Image Credits: sltn.co.uk, wikipedia, BrisDoc, The Independent, LichfieldLive

It is important to understand that colours can provoke different meanings in various situations and could affect what users would do, especially during an emergency. The importance of psychology in the discipline of UX is critical in order to understand basic human instincts and use these to avoid hazardous scenarios.

UX in the Medical and Health Sector

Living in an era where technology is advancing every day, UX has become a very important driver in the medical and healthcare sector. In fact, UX is driving the digital revolution in the health-tech sector, so we’ve decided to take a look at the role of UX in innovating and modernising healthcare and improving it for everyone.

Image Credits: Convenzis, The Independent, Health Europa

When designing, it is important to remember that there are two end-users. Firstly, the health care professionals who would be using the device or platform and secondly the patient who is being informed about their condition or receiving the treatment.

Although the health-sector is complicated it is very important to understand the users’ needs from the medical staff to the patient when designing:

  • Most surgeons, doctors, and nurses would want a medical device that is easy to handle and safe to use with simple set-up
  • Medical consultants would want to easily navigate around on a digital healthcare platform and quickly access accurate health information about a patient to give the correct diagnosis and provide the right treatment
  • Meanwhile, the patient would want everything to work and the process to be as comfortable and painless as possible. 
Image Credits: Personnel Today, Daily Express, Banbury Road MC

UX could avoid and prevent numerous medical errors, both minor and major, which could otherwise cost a patient’s life.

It’s not simply clicking on a wrong button, buying the wrong size of an item and returning it to the retailer. If a doctor uses a medical device incorrectly or a consultant provides the wrong information due to the design of the system, tool or process and the patient receives the wrong treatment – there could be life changing consequences.

A recent study claims ‘more than 250,000 people in the U.S. die every year from medical errors. Other reports claim the numbers to be as high as 440,000.’ Furthermore, deaths are ‘caused by inadequately skilled staff, error in judgment or care, a system defect or a preventable adverse effect. This includes computer breakdowns, mix-ups with the doses or types of medications administered to patients and surgical complications that go undiagnosed.’ (CNBC, 2018)

The impact that UX can have on the health sector is unprecedented, with technology advancing by the day, human errors, miscalculations, and misjudgments may soon be a thing of the past. 

Now to wrap up…

This article has demonstrated that UX is not just about consumer experiences and maximising business profits. By examining the things, we take for granted, we begin to understand how UX design principles play a part in our everyday lives to keep us safe. UX has a direct impact on people’s health and well-being. To a certain extent, it could be life or death.

Special thanks to Lucy Stoneley and Alana Mothershaw for their assistance with this article.