Developing for user needs

Digital Health Tools are rapidly increasing in both popularity and demand, with over 318,000 health apps available on app stores, and over 50% of smartphone users downloading at least one onto their mobile device.

Digital Health is the future of health and care – and people are starting to believe it.

In light of this, it is becoming increasingly important for developers to understand user needs and make decisions with users in mind. For pioneers of Digital Health, there is no better user-centred approach to developing software than Agile.

The Agile methodology is centred around putting the users first. Starting by defining the solution, the team work alongside you to create what is known as a ‘User Persona’ - a ‘target audience’, if you like – the type of person who will be using the solution.  User Persona’s define who users could potentially be and what they may want to get out of the solution.

Once multiple user personas are created, the team then work on creating features based on the user personas needs and how they will interact with the tool. The user personas form the basis of why and how the final solution is created - the teams will then work on breaking these needs down into user stories.

User stories are formatted in such a way that it captures each action the user wants to take and most importantly why. An example of this would be: ‘As [user X], I would like to [perform action], so that [reason].’ By creating many user stories, the team can be assured that all cases are covered and with the user personas influencing the creation of these stories, all teams can be assured the real users of the solution have been thought about and considered, as opposed to randomly generated ideas.

In comparison, Waterfall, another popular software development methodology, takes a much more step-by-step approach, often following a process of gathering requirements, designing and then implementing -there is little room for change or new ideas to be presented. With waterfall, it is hard to move to each step of the process. The waterfall model maintains that you can only move to the next phase once the current phase is completed, reviewed and verified.

This is of stark contrast to Agile, which is seen as much more free-flowing, providing more interaction at all stages of the development life cycle, allowing for constant reflection and growth of ideas through communication between the developer and stakeholders. There is also room for idea creation. As a client, you may not have a full idea of what the solution should be, and that’s fine. With Agile, there is room for change, discussion and updates in the middle of the development process. Waterfall looks at this negatively, as the process would go to re-design, re-development and retesting. There is little to no room for feedback or change.

Through constant collaborative discussions and using the user personas as the foundation in which the solution is made, users are always top priority when developing a Digital Health product and should be considered at every step of the process.

If Digital Health is to change the landscape, we need to listen to our users in the right way.

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Written by Prince Mannix

Prince is a Junior Product Owner at Evolyst.

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