Today Europe’s biggest Healthcare IT fair opens its doors again – the conhIT. Visit our booth in hall 4.2/ E-105 at the mobile health zone. Do not miss our informative presentation about “Big Data meets Data Visualization: How pain medicine benefits from visualization methods” on April 21st, 11:50 a.m. until 12:10 p.m. at the Kongresssaal 1.
One part of medicine that benefits much from increasing possibilities of digital and automatic data collection is the medical care for pain. The aggregation of a huge amount of data – particularly from chronic pains – is vast and mostly extends over long periods.
Due to the use of established consumer technologies like smartphones, tablets or even smartwatches with relevant applications, patients data can be collected and prepared for analyses. Interactive visualization of information provides the opportunity to generate analyses and evaluations across patients. Therefore new perspectives both for medical research and pain therapy and pain diagnosis arise.
In this or future challenges you will get full support by our UI Medical Team. We are looking forward to hearing from you.
The cry for a meaningful app for the Apple Watch has been resounding since the product was released by the community. But it has gone rather quiet now. One of the reasons for this may be that the Apple Watch is not exploiting its full potential as a typical lifestyle product, but rather that it is being used in other areas. The best example of this is the medical sector. In no other area is as much research being done into the meaningful use of smartwatches. Many American hospitals are already using the Apple Watch in pilot projects to record their patients’ vital data.1 Indeed, another article reported on the case of Ken Robson, who noticed that his heartbeat was irregular thanks to his Apple Watch. He took himself and his Apple Watch to the hospital, which confirmed his self-diagnosis. Additionally, he didn’t have to wear a heart monitor for one week, since the watch provided the necessary data. As a result of these circumstances, Mr. Robson could be operated on almost immediately. For us at Ergosign (as UX designers), it is also a matter close to our hearts that the Apple Watch is considered as more than just a nice gadget, but rather that it decisively improves people’s lives as a result of the new opportunities it offers.
The first project we implemented for the Apple Watch is an extension of our medical study Quiri, a pain assessment software for children and young people. 2 The aim of this phase of the project was to tap into adults as a target group too.
Why the Apple Watch?
1. A Hardware Basis Similar to the iPhone, the number of devices for which development has to be carried out is manageable. The watch is only available in two variants (38mm and 42mm) that differ only in terms of their display size. Both versions’ performance is the same.
2. The Hardware Sensors It provides all the project-relevant hardware sensors.
3. The DistributionApple is dominating the market with an estimated more than 50% share. 3 This means that if a patient in pain has a smartwatch, it is highly likely that it is an Apple Watch.
4. Das HealthKit With the HealthKit, the data collected (movement, heart rate, etc.) can be efficiently exchanged within a network of Apple devices.
Adults are Not Children
Even though we may (fortunately) have a different impression, adults are not children and their product requirements are fundamentally different from a child’s. Quiri was designed to assess pain in children and young people, to log these measurements in a chronological relationship and to present them in a prepared manner for the medical professional. While this may also be the goal when it comes to adults, interaction with the application must be tailored to an adult’s life.
Small Display, Big Benefits
While the small display may appear restrictive at first glance, if they have been thought-out smaller display sizes lead to better designs, as was announced by Lukas Mathis in “Mobile First” back in 2011:
Losing that much screen space forces teams to focus. You have to make sure that what stays on the screen is the most important set of features for your customers and your business. There simply isn’t room for any interface debris or content of questionable value. You need to know what matters most.4 ”
That’s why the Apple Watch cannot be considered a miniature iPhone. Indeed, the nature and location of the interaction, as well as the duration of the interaction itself, are very different from the iPhone. We mustn’t make the mistake of trying to completely reproduce an iPhone app on the Apple Watch. Rather, we have to try to extract meaningful functions and prepare them for use with the watch.
But the Apple Watch offers a great deal more in addition to the display which is seemingly too small. Never has a smart device been closer to the body, and never has it been more possible to generate a constant stream of relevant data. And without any assistance from the user whatsoever. Doctors now have access to a wide variety of data which previously was either impossible to obtain, or could only be obtained with a great deal of time and effort. New relationships that were only based on the patient’s statements beforehand can be formed using this data.
The User, Not the Pain, at the Center
The most important aspect of placing the user at the center of the analysis and identifying their needs was also considered when designing Quiri for the Apple Watch. Here, we were very fortunate that we were able to get the Outpatient Pain Clinic of the Saarland University Medical Center on board as a partner. Thanks to Dr. Bialas, Head of the Outpatient Pain Clinic, we were able to gain key insights into the (everyday) life of patients in pain. Additionally, he was able to explain to us what data was important at what level of regularity and at what time to support and improve his pain therapy.
This illustrates yet again just how important proximity to the user is when it comes to designing and developing software.
In the analysis, it quickly became apparent that – in adult pain therapy, unlike child pain therapy – no regular measurements are taken at fixed times. It is far more helpful to set a marker for acute pain, to query various parameters and to automatically record all relevant vital data. Equally important is the querying of positive events, so as to recognize progress made by new medication or measures.
Things Have to Be Done Quickly
Apple specifies an average interaction duration of 5 seconds for the watch. This poses something of a challenge for the design, since the parameters of pain severity, pain quality and trigger (anger, stress, injury, etc.) absolutely must be queried to enable therapy improvement. Input from the user is required for this purpose. Nevertheless, we were keen to enable the patient to assess their pain casually or when suffering from pain too. We tried to take that into account by automatically recording a multitude of environmental variables and vital data, and by having clear direction due to the individual functions.
Unlike the main application, which provides an overview of the measurements taken and extensive pain questionnaires, the range of functions for the watch app was reduced to the absolute essentials. The watch app allows patients in pain to set a marker if they are experiencing acute pain or positive events, to log the intake of medication and the occurrence of side-effects, and to see the type and quantity of medication prescribed by the doctor. The patient is also reminded to take their medication by the app.
This first project has shown us that the Apple Watch, or smartwatches in general, harbor a great deal of potential. Quiri has already been superbly complemented by the watch and we will be sure to think of how we can meaningfully use smartwatches in other projects too. Dr. Bialas was also positive in his assessment:
Die Telemedizin ist aus der Gesellschaft nicht mehr wegzudenken. Wenn die Kinderkrankheiten überwunden sind und Daten sicher übermittelt werden können, wird diese Form des Datenaustausches eine gute Unterstützung bei chronisch kranken Patienten. Gerade im Hinblick auf die Altersstruktur (Die Menschen in Deutschland werden älter) können so Daten schnell an die behandelnden Ärzte übermittelt werden, die dann bei Bedarf eine Therapie beginnen können. Mit Quiri für die Apple Watch ist den Entwicklern ein sehr gutes Tool gelungen. Weiter so. ”
We are looking forward to the next flatter and faster versions of smartwatches with longer battery lives and to other projects with and for smartwatches.
4 Wroblewkis, Luke (2011): Mobile First, A Book Apart, Seite: 19
Senior UX Designer, Lead Mobile Solutions
Part 2: The New S-Class 3D Touch
Despite all the positive iOS 9 novelties and modifications and the new iPhone models, one feature in particular stands out and serves as a unique selling point for the smartphone. Apple is calling the new technology, which allows users to trigger actions when they apply greater pressure to the capacitive sensors beneath the display, “3D Touch”. A very similar functionality known as “Force Touch” is already available on the Apple Watch.
This feature is additionally supported by small vibrating motors (“Taptic Engine”). Haptic feedback is therefore simulated in parallel to 3D Touch.
Apple is making a distinction between two 3D Touch areas of application:
“Quick Actions” are shortcuts that allow the user to call up an app’s particular function straight from the home screen. Using 3D Touch on the app icon calls up a menu with several functions that are meaningful in the context in question, while the rest of the content on-screen becomes blurred. For example, the user can use 3D Touch to directly create a new email, open the latest photos, take a selfie or directly share their Facebook status.
Within apps, Apple is making a distinction between two other variants of 3D Touch. By “Peeking” at – applying slight pressure to – a piece of content, the content in question is shown in a preview. An email preview can thus be displayed in Email, for example. The email can either be deleted or marked as read using the familiar left and right swipe gestures. Swiping upwards gives the user access to other “Quick Actions”. This gesture can be used to forward or move the email directly. The message remains marked as unread if the user lifts their finger up off the display. Applying greater pressure – “Popping” – opens the email.
The same principle works with links or appointments in iMessage too. In this case, a Safari, Calendar or Maps preview is opened.
From a UX perspective, 3D Touch is naturally an extremely exciting topic. It has been the subject of much discussion in the community, and the euphoria about this potential revolution in mobile user experience design was huge. I personally have tested the new interaction method very extensively and came to the following conclusions:
At the beginning of my test, 3D Touch was naturally put through its paces for all app icons and links. It quickly became clear that native iOS apps in particular support this feature. Apps from third-party suppliers do not support 3D Touch across the board (yet). Very popular apps especially have responded to 3D Touch very quickly. These include Twitter, Shazam, Pinterest or Instagram, for example.
After a while, I gave up trying to remember which apps support 3D Touch and which ones don’t.
Another problem that became clear very quickly was the fact that “normal” users have to learn this form of interaction first of all. At the present time, there are no tutorials or tool tips that describe how to use 3D Touch. Also, as mentioned previously, it is not evident whether an app supports 3D Touch. Often, the home screen’s Edit mode is triggered by accident because the finger pressure applied was too weak.
3D Touch is used differently across the various apps. So, for example, Quick Actions are indeed supported by apps from third-party suppliers, but in-app Peek & Pop is not possible.
Due to this experience, it became apparent that I only very rarely used 3D Touch on a daily basis.
Nevertheless, I believe that this new interaction method harbors a great deal of potential. Quick access to key functions and the simple content preview can save a considerable amount of time during operation. Content can be manipulated directly and, due to the haptic feedback provided by the “Taptic Engine”, interaction feels even more natural.
If this potential is to be exploited in full, however, 3D Touch needs to be distributed on a greater scale. The feature must be consistently supported by all apps to make the gesture really transparent to the user. Over the next few years, other manufacturers will probably rely on a similar technology to Apple’s, so the distribution will continue.
3D Touch must become an intuitive standard gesture like “Pinch & Zoom”, for example, so that the full potential can actually be exploited too.
So, while 3D Touch may not be the biggest innovation in mobile UX design since Multitouch, it still harbors a great deal of untapped potential at present that – we believe – will represent real added value for the user as the distribution of technology and apps increases.
From the Outside
Just like iOS 9, the iPhone 6 and 6s Plus are no different from the previous models at first glance. The only two visual differences are the “S” on the rear and the new “Rose Gold” color, which we are already familiar with from the Apple Watch.
The actual improvements only become evident during use.
Improved Touch ID
The use of the “Touch ID” fingerprint sensor to unlock the iPhone has been noticeably optimized. While, with previous models, you had to wait a while after placing your finger on the sensor, during our tests brief contact was generally sufficient to unlock the iPhone. As a result, the Touch ID now offers real added value in terms of time when compared to entering a PIN ID.
Performance as a whole was considerably improved too. With the new A9 chip, according to Apple the computing power and the graphic power should be increased by 70% and 90% respectively when compared to the previous models. Now with a capacity of 2 GB, the working memory is as big as that of the iPad Air 2.
The increase in performance is clearly noticeable on the whole too. Apps and games start up much faster and can be operated much more smoothly, which leads to a positive user experience.
New iPhone models traditionally have modified cameras. In this release, however, the iSight HD camera is taking a very big step. The resolution was increased from 8 megapixels to 12. In addition, the iPhone 6s Plus also features an optical image stabilizer. Highly detailed and razor-sharp pictures can thus be taken with both models.
The front-facing camera has also been optimized from 1.2 to 5 megapixels. One special feature in this regard is that the display is used as a flash replacement when lighting conditions are poor. Apple calls this feature “Retina Flash”. Apple is introducing a completely new feature in the form of the so-called “Live Photos”. This is a three-second sequence of images, accompanied by the original sound. The idea behind it is to give a static image more context. As a nice gimmick, Live Photos can also be placed on the lock screen and played back using 3D Touch.
As well as the photos, video recordings also benefit from the improved hardware with new iPhone models. They are significantly more detailed and sharper too. Videos can be created in 4K quality for the first time ever.
Due to new WLAN and LTE models, data transmission has now become considerably better with the new iPhone models too. Despite all the performance optimizations, the battery life is not noticeably shorter, which is due to the A9 chip’s lower power consumption.
Senior UX Designer, Lead Mobile Solutions
Following the release of iOS 9 and the iPhone 6s and 6s plus in September, I had the opportunity to extensively test the operating system update along with the new smartphone. I have summarized the most important findings in a two-part experience report:
Part 1: The New iOS 9
At first glance, the new operating system is not significantly different from the previous version. But if you take a closer look, you notice that the “Helvetica Neue” system font has been replaced by a new font, “San Francisco”. Opinions on the new font vary in this regard. Some believe that it is too close to “Roboto”, the Android system font, while others reckon that it gives iOS a fresher look.
In my opinion, the new “San Francisco” font is a very welcome development. In introducing it, Apple has responded to one of the biggest criticisms against “Helvetica Neue”: namely that people find it difficult to read at smaller font sizes. SF is available in two variants: “Text” (for small text) and “Display” (for large text). In the case of “Text”, the spacing between the letters is greater than as with “Display”, making it far easier to read.
San Francisco is already being used on the Apple Watch in a modified variant known as “Compact”. I think that Apple is taking a step in the right direction here. It is responding to the ever growing number of different devices and screen resolutions. With SF, it can thus be ensured that text is optimally recorded regardless of the size or the device, thereby guaranteeing a positive user experience. At the same time, how the virtual keyboard behaves has been modified with the introduction of the new system font. It is no longer just uppercase letters that are displayed. The layout changes automatically and switches between uppercase and lowercase letters. Android keyboards have been behaving in this way for a long time already.
Even if the change in layout may rock the boat slightly at first glance, in my opinion this behavior increases conformity with user expectations. For prolific writers, the “QuickType” iPad keyboard has been amended to include additional functions such as Copy, Cut and Paste. Text selection has been significantly improved too. With a two-finger gesture, your keyboard area turns into a trackpad, and the cursor can be positioned very precisely in the desired location. In the case of the iPhone 6s, this mode can also be triggered using 3D Touch on the keyboard. This improvement was urgently needed too, as the previous text selection feature using a digital magnifying glass was very imprecise and frustrating. So, it can be concluded the new text editing functions are very welcome developments from a UX perspective, since they have a positive influence on both effectiveness and the user experience.
With iOS 9, Apple is once again introducing the independent search home screen, which was previously removed when iOS 7 was introduced. But “Siri” has become “more intelligent” in the new version. If the user opens their weather app every morning, for example, it is automatically proposed as a top app depending on the time of day. Nearby “restaurants” and “nightlife” are listed at lunchtime and in the evening respectively. If the user has an appointment, their travel time is proactively predicted depending on both the weather and the traffic conditions. Recent contacts and participants of an upcoming meeting are listed automatically; this replaces the Contacts display used previously in the app switcher screen. In everyday use, however, it quickly became clear that the proposed contacts or apps were not really applicable in most cases. Opening frequently used apps using the search screen felt more like an indirect route. Even the contacts proposed were often random. In my opinion, it would be more suitable to use the Favorites list instead. I think that this development is a welcome one in principle, however. But additional and better sensors and services would probably be needed if the AI were really to offer the user significant added value. One not-so-unrealistic use case would be, for example, proactive information on when I have to leave for an appointment to arrive on time. The time needed depends on time of day, on the weather and on the traffic conditions, as well as on the user’s preferred routes and driving habits. All of this information would mean that, if the user has upcoming appointments in their calendar, they could be proactively informed that they have to leave in 15 minutes if they are to arrive at the appointment on time.
Navigation between apps was modified in iOS 9. If, for example, Safari is opened from an email by means of tapping on a link, a “Back to Email” switch – which the user can use to navigate back to where they started – appears in the top left-hand corner as part of the status bar. The indirect route using the home screen or the app switcher is therefore no longer necessary.
This feature was long overdue, also because Android has had a fixed Back button for a long time already. But the difference between this and the iOS solution is that the user can also, therefore, navigate back historically within apps and across several applications, and that the button always remains visible.
In my tests, I have perceived the new feature in a very positive light and often used the functionality too. But I have concerns from a UX perspective when it comes to the function’s position. In many apps, the application’s Back button can appear directly beneath the Back to App button. This may confuse the user and the functionality of the two Back buttons is not evident straight away.
Split-Screen for iPads
For the iPad Air 2, the iPad mini 4 and the iPad Pro, iOS 9 has brought a very special novelty along with it. It is now possible to run two apps in parallel in Split-Screen mode. In this respect, the screen can either be split 50:50 or an app is shown in compact form next to the other one in a “Slide Over window”.
With regard to the different possible arrangements, Apple makes a distinction between the user interfaces’ “Regular” and “Compact” views. As a result, apps no longer have a static layout, but rather the content has to adaptively adjust to the size and alignment in question.
This new feature offers the option of productive working with the iPad in future. Examples of this include:
Opening Safari and simultaneous route planning, writing emails and copying text from the browser, gathering information and transferring it to Notes directly.
In my tests, both the Split-Screen mode and the “Slide Over window” felt very good and offered genuine added value. Apple is thereby responding on the one hand to the MS Surface (Pro), which has had this functionality for a long time now, and, on the other, to the growing number of devices and screen resolutions. If existing apps are to support this feature, they must be adapted first of all.
Apple has extended some of its apps with iOS 9. The Notes app now has greater functionality as a result. Content can be added from all apps, checklists can be created, sketches can be drawn and photos can be integrated. With OS X El Capitan, Notes can also be synchronized via iCloud using the corresponding Mac app.
In introducing this development, Apple is responding to the large number of apps from third-party suppliers in that it is offering far greater functionality compared to the previous version of the Notes app.
It remains to be seen whether “Evernote” users, for example, will switch to the native app in future. The basic features are all available in the Notes app too. One disadvantage of the iOS app is the inability to discuss Notes with other users, as well as the inability to connect to a platform. For task management apps such as “Wunderlist”, for example, Notes should not constitute a real rival, because – in the case of this application – the focus very much lies on a limited set of features, whereas Notes offers a multitude of additional tools in addition to pure checklists.
Other Improvements and Useful Minor Details
Other native apps have been optimized in addition to Notes. The Maps app, therefore, now features information on public transport too (but not for Germany yet). Both Search and Read mode have been improved for Safari and websites can be stored as PDFs in iBooks.
Photos now has the automatic “Screenshots” folder and “Selfies” album, which contains all the photos taken using the front-facing camera. It has been made considerably easier to select several photos by means of selection using a swiping gesture. Both the Calendar and the Address Book automatically gather information from emails. A new “Events Found in Mail” calendar has been integrated for this very purpose. The system’s new level of intelligence that Apple is attempting to emphasize with iOS 9 again becomes apparent at this point.
In addition, iOS 9 still has a multitude of other practical novelties, such as Power Save mode when the battery drops below 20%, smaller update sizes, a longer battery life and the long overdue settings browser. Also, Apple is now authorizing the writing of ad-blocking instructions for Safari, which will help make for a better mobile browsing experience.
Apple has done its homework. While I wouldn’t say that the innovation is a groundbreaking one, iOS 9 does cut a convincing figure with a multitude of minor adaptations that make the user’s life slightly easier and thus enhance the system’s UX further. In practice, navigation between apps, browsing through the settings and Split mode have primarily turned out to be real time savers.
With the adaptive layout of its applications, Apple is responding to the ever growing family of devices and the different screen sizes associated with that. For UX designers, this means that dynamic layouts and content also have to be taken into consideration for iOS designs – just as is the case with Android or Windows 10 Mobile. Apple’s operating system has become more intelligent with iOS 9. An attempt is being made to provide the user with context-sensitive information in advance with a view to proactively offering assistance. In my opinion, this development is a welcome one, because relevant information generated directly by the system in the user’s context is surprising and thus leads to a positive user experience.
In the second part of my experience report, I will describe my experience with the iPhone 6s and deal with the new 3D Touch technology in particular.
Experience once again the Ergosign highlights of the last year!
We have summarized our highlights from 2015: from Antetype via Ergosphere to a glimpse into our project box ... let´s go!