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How to design and develop a healthcare app – detailed step-by-step guide

Updated on 25 April 2024

The global health app industry was valued at over $38B in 2021 and is expected to grow by almost 12% annually for the next decade. This shows a significant market for healthcare applications—an incidence further exacerbated by the COVID-19 pandemic. And as you’ve probably guessed, the best apps are always well-designed. But what about healthcare app design?

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Design is an integral factor for the success of any healthcare app — or any app in general. But for healthcare, the impact of design is magnified by the stakes typically involved in the process. Unlike other applications, healthcare apps have to be accurate, timely, and accessible to a wide range of individuals. 

And while designing a healthcare app that makes users happier is somewhat of a tall order, you can still do plenty of things to vastly improve user experience

Moorepay logo Cutting edge payroll software
  • Powerful and easy to use
  • HMRC & RTI compliant
  • Used by payroll pros
Pipedrive logo The CRM platform to grow your business
  • Great for entrepreneurs
  • Powerful data analytics
  • Manage sales and data
Wix logo Powerful web builder and advanced business tools
  • Great for startups
  • Powerful web page builder
  • E-commerce available
Planable logo Supercharged content planning
  • Great for marketing
  • Better than lists or sheets
  • Manage social media
Webador logo Create a new website in 10 minutes. Easy.
  • Launch your website fast
  • Powerful data intuitive
  • No coding skills needed

Types of healthcare apps

Before we get into the design aspect, it’s worth noting that the healthcare app industry is incredibly varied and encompasses numerous types of applications. They include but are not limited to apps for the following:

  • Calorie tracking
  • Teleconsultation
  • Medication reminders
  • Fitness
  • Sleep management
  • Medical information

While certain apps do have a target demographic, a significant portion of healthcare applications must cater to a wide variety of individuals, bringing us to the next point. 

Know your target audience for good healthcare app design

Most applications have specific target users, but the same often isn’t true for many health-related applications because everyone needs healthcare services.

Whether it’s someone in their mid-20s searching for a telehealth consultation to a senior tracking medication, all demographics need healthcare apps one way or another. 

The challenging part is making the application appealing to your broad audience. 

1. Narrow it down

While you might not be able to narrow it down to just a single demographic, you most definitely can specify your audience in more specific categories. For example, although your telehealth app is built for everyone, you may find that tech-savvy individuals in their 30s and senior citizens are your primary users. 

While you should still keep in mind to make your design universal, use the data you have to adapt to the needs of your most frequent users. 

2. Don’t put yourself in a box

When analysing your target demographics, it can be easy to lose yourself in making the app solely for them. And while making your product for your audience is certainly the way to succeed, you also have to acknowledge that situations can change! The results of your initial research may not add up to what’s actually happening post-launch, so always be prepared to adapt. 

3. Accept that you can’t please everyone

As much as you want your app to cater to the needs of everybody, it just isn’t possible. Any application you make will not appeal to 100% of your users. There will inevitably be some who do not enjoy the experience or aren’t the right match for what your app is offering. 

The moment you accept that it’s virtually impossible to attend to everyone’s needs, your design efforts can focus more on the things that truly matter. 

Think about the Pareto Principle, which is the idea that 80% of your results come from 20% of your efforts. Knowing what your 20% is by acknowledging that you can’t serve all demographics is an excellent way to generate promising results. 

Make it accessible

Accessibility is one of the most important things to consider when designing and developing a healthcare app. Making the mistake of assuming people can use your app without any accessibility considerations will make you lose customers fast. 

Fortunately, there are plenty of APIs you can integrate into your app to make them more accessible to people with disabilities. 

Consider the following when designing your healthcare app for accessibility:

  • Text-to-speech
  • Motion accessibility
  • Captioning
  • Proper contrast
  • Increased text visibility
  • Simple UI

Note that this list is by no means exhaustive. You can include many more features or accessibility options in your app to make it more helpful to people with disabilities or impairments. 

And accessibility doesn’t have to be an afterthought, either! You can design and build your app to be accessible from the get-go. 

Excellent UI/UX is a must for the best healthcare app design

User interface and experience are the core elements of good app design. Without these two, you’d be left with an app that isn’t aesthetically pleasing and terrible to navigate. Although UI and UX are often used together, and sometimes even interchangeably, the two are actually very different things

Where UI refers to the visual elements on the screen and how the user interacts with them, UX is more tied to the overall experience and ease of use. To design the best healthcare app, you must ensure the app’s overall look and experience are top-notch. 

User Interface (UI)User Experience (UX)
Screen size optimizationEfficiency
Overall visual aestheticsNavigation
Elements of effective healthcare app design

Each element is important

No element or feature is too small when it comes to user experience: every button and every word matters. Paying attention to the little things is one of the best ways to ensure your design is seamless from open to exit. 

Let’s say you’re opening a new app and want to sign up to be a member. You look all over the screen, but the button isn’t there. After much prodding, you find out it was actually buried in the log-in function—not a good start. You don’t want users to spend precious moments looking for a function when it could be right in front of them. 

Simple things like making buttons accessible to your users are a massive step towards a good user experience. Your users are more likely to love your app and remain loyal to your services if they enjoy your app’s UX.

The fewer clicks, the better

The best apps are straightforward to navigate. No fuss and no buts. Making sure your users take the least number of steps possible to do what they need is a tenet of good user experience. If it takes you more than a couple of clicks to view your settings or add profile information on the app, it will be much more of a hassle for users. 

By contrast, if you have an app where functions can be done in one or two clicks (or three, as the three-click rule indicates), you’re golden. 

Of course, this doesn’t mean every function has to be within one click—that would be nearly impossible. Focus on the essential buttons or the most commonly used functions and try to work from there. As a start, think about the following features: 

  • Logging in/Signing up
  • Adding medical information
  • Changing profile details
  • Viewing a dashboard
  • Generating insights

The design doesn’t stop when you launch an app, so listen to your audience and adjust where necessary. When your app is live, pay attention to where users click the most often and what features are the most used, this information will provide great insight into what actually works for your users. 

Alignment and balance

Users can easily tell when there is something “off” about a particular interface. Although they may be unable to locate where the design is a bit wonky, they will notice that things aren’t well-balanced and aligned. 

Making sure your app’s elements are aligned and work well with each other is great for the overall user interface. 

Easy navigation

Navigation can be considered an aspect of user experience, but it is so vital to the overall application that it warrants a separate section on its own. 

Your app needs a consistent navigational structure to satisfy users. If your app is not easy to navigate, no user will stay for long. Remember, healthcare apps aren’t just for patients; they can be for medical professionals as well. And if you’re in the medical field, time is integral to positive medical outcomes. Professionals would want an app where they can pull up information as fast as possible to reduce time spent on electronic health records (ERH). 

Studies suggest that physicians spend around four and a half hours each day completing ERHs. Making your app easy to navigate will cut that time, ultimately allowing physicians to spend more time caring for patients. 

Choose the right colours for the best healthcare app design

Colour theory is vital in any aspect of design. Colors significantly impact how users view and navigate your app, and choosing colors that soothe and calm your users is generally the way to go. 

While there are no hard rules for picking out your app’s colour scheme, it’s best to stick to some guidelines to help you out. 

Calming colours

If you’re using a healthcare app, you probably don’t want to see too many exciting colours pop on the screen (perhaps unless it’s specifically made for kids). Health-related matters typically take on a serious tone, and your app’s colours should reflect that. 

Go for colours like blue or green to soothe and calm users. Needless to say, please refrain from using the neon iterations of these colours as they are not only distracting but may also impact those with visual impairments. 

Anxiety-reducing colours

In many (but not all) cases, a healthcare app’s user may be experiencing a lot of anxiety around their health—they could be worried about their medication not working or about not meeting their health-related goals. 

Regardless, it’s imperative to choose colours that reduce anxiety and boost relaxation. Choose colors like white, blue, green, and maybe even purple! Just make sure the colours align with your app’s overall purpose. 

Stress-reducing colours

In the same way many app users may be experiencing health-related anxiety, they may also be under a lot of stress. Navigating your health is by no means easy. You have countless factors to consider, and it isn’t always easy to manage them successfully. 

The goal is that when your users open your app, they are hit with a sense of serenity and safety. You don’t want your users to have negative associations with your healthcare app. 

To summarise, here are some colours you may want to incorporate into your application:

  • Blue
  • Green
  • White
  • Gray
  • Tan
  • Purple

Keep It simple

Simplicity is crucial in designing a good healthcare app. Most of the time, people open health and fitness apps not out of sheer boredom but for a clear, specific purpose. Avoid designing your app with too much fuss, as it could just distract your user, which is the last thing you want. 

Keep your interface clean and simple. By doing so, you’ll also make it more accessible and easier to navigate. 

Make It accurate

Accuracy is necessary when dealing with any medical information. Whether you want to make a fitness app measuring heartbeats per minute or a reliable EHR system, the one thing you need the most is accurate data. 

For instance, if you’re designing an app that allows users to track medication, your design must be actively in pursuit of that goal. Focus on making predictions accurate and always provide quality information to your users. 

Because you are dealing with a healthcare application, the impact of inaccurate data is vastly magnified. If you make an incorrect calculation, it could seriously impact a user’s health and well-being, which is a lawsuit waiting to happen. 

In addition to this, make sure you take care of your users’ data. Medical information is sensitive information that must be protected from individuals with malicious intent. Ensuring you design your app and systems to protect user data is integral to creating a happy customer base, especially since you are dealing with medical information. 

It may be necessary to implement technologies such as FHIR Server. Anyway, it is a great solution to protect your users’ data. 

Leave room for personalisation

One way to help your app cater to a broader range of people is to use personalisation. We have established that one of the reasons designing a healthcare app can be challenging is the sheer variety of individuals you have to consider. You can ease that difficulty with personalization. 

You could give users the option to

  1. Change the app theme (colours, graphics, etc.)
  2. Change the font size
  3. Make buttons larger
  4. Switch to a beginner dashboard
  5. Use widgets

And so on! There’s a long list of changes you can implement that will allow the user to tailor the app to their taste and needs. 

Focus on solving a problem

The one thing that consistently makes anybody happy is when someone provides a solution to their problems. Framing your app in the context of your users’ pain points is a fantastic way to design it in a way that actually solves their problems. 

You can do this by paying attention to what users do in the app. What features do they reach for, and what help do they need? You can then use the information to offer predictive suggestions, personalised actions, and more. 

Solving a user’s problem, even if they don’t know what that is yet, is one way to create an intuitive application that will actually add value to the user’s life. When you centre an application’s design and structure around the needs of your users, you are sure to make them satisfied with your product. 

Design for the user, not for yourself

This may seem like the most obvious statement, but it is one many people need to learn when designing applications. As human beings, it’s easy to project our needs onto what we create. Even though it might not be our intention to do so, we may be making an app for ourselves rather than for the user. 

To design a healthcare app that truly makes its users happier, it’s crucial to take a step back and try to view your design from the vantage point of the user. By doing so, you create value for the user and let them know their needs are acknowledged and met. 

Don’t forget about function

With all this talk about design, we don’t want you to think functionality should take the backseat! Before anything else, healthcare applications exist to provide certain functions or supplement services—they should be able to deliver as promised

Function and design go hand-in-hand in delivering an excellent experience to your users. Without function, an app is useless, and without good design, an app will never sell. These two characteristics have a symbiotic relationship, and you cannot have one while forgoing the other. 

Automate and optimise

One of the most important aspects when it comes to creating a healthcare application is DevOps. This practice involves continuous integration and delivery—it allows you to identify, build, test, and deploy changes quickly. 

DevOps will help you deliver new features faster while still upholding quality standards. This way, you can minimise downtime and keep your users happy no matter what. DevOps also helps you maintain reliability and security, which are both key components of a successful healthcare application. 

There are Devops as a service (DaaS) providers available that help healthcare organisations develop, deploy and maintain their applications in an efficient and secure manner. It is an advanced solution that integrates the most suitable DevOps practices, tools and technologies to enable organisations to build better healthcare software products with faster speed and fewer risks.

Keep testing your healthcare app design

Every good app you’ve ever downloaded is a product of many rounds of testing. It doesn’t matter how good of a team you have—no product is ever perfect the first time around, or the second, or the tenth, and basically forever. 

Testing and creating continuous iterations of your application is an excellent way to keep up with your customers’ needs. After all, trends come and go—what people prefer to do on their devices is also bound to change with time. 

The more prepared you are for this, the easier it will be for you to create an app that always puts users first. 

Conclusion – healthcare app design

People need good healthcare apps now more than ever. And in our ever-growing digital world, truly excellent apps that solve problems can make a huge difference. 

It might be intimidating to launch an app when there are tens of thousands of apps already on the market. But if you’re confident in your delivery and design for a complete user experience, you can successfully set yourself apart from others in the industry.

Reviewed by , Managing Director

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