How to design enterprise-grade solutions for the senior living industry
Every day, senior living communities face the same challenges: marketing and corporate brand consistency, family and resident engagement, a uniform look and feel across properties, corporate oversight, corporate menus, calendar management, staff shortages, and recruitment difficulties. It is very important to make these tools usable so that staff can get their jobs done, minimize errors and reduce repetitive behavior, as well as ensure that residents and families can enjoy a smooth experience on the platform.
The job of UX designers is to understand not only the user, their environment, goals, and restrictions, then build the enterprise system and watch them use it and improve, but also the business goals of the clients. In this article, we asked our lead UX/UI designer, Bart Vandebeek, about the importance of design in senior living.
Bart Vandebeek is a father in his early 40's, married to an incredible wife, and son of the best parents you can imagine. A family man on a quest to provide the best possible life for his family. After work, he will mostly only talk to you about good food, if he is not outdoors enjoying nature on a hike. He is also a lousy, but an enthusiastic singer.
“Curious by nature, I love the process of understanding human behavior, discovering people’s wants, needs, and expectations, and designing solutions that work for them. Good design is not only making software look good, it's the natural outcome of effectively solving a problem. I've always been focused on creating meaningful experiences that deliver benefits to users and businesses.”
What is the job of a UX designer working for a senior living software company?
In short, a UX designer's role is directly involved in the process of making the product useful, usable, and enjoyable for its users: the residents, their families, and team members.
A UX designer gathers insights by conducting user research through observations, direct user feedback, tracking and metrics, and other research methods. Based on this research, we can analyze and identify the pain points from our user base. The part I like most in working on senior living software is the broad user base we've got, ranging from staff to family to seniors themselves. This makes it very diverse and brings interesting insights to work with.
Through ideation techniques like brainstorming, co-creating, prototyping, ... a UX designer, together with the product team, generates and selects ideas based on feasibility, desirability, and viability to solve users’ needs and provide value for the company, the clients, and their users.
After prototyping our ideas, being simple sketches or high-fidelity interactive prototypes, and validating our ideas through user tests, we provide our development team with design solutions that will benefit the company, the clients, and foremost their users.
What should be taken into consideration when designing an enterprise system for senior living?
Enterprise UX is mainly 'designed for people at work' and therefore the enterprise software is usually highly complex and specialized. They can become massive products, used by experts (on different levels) for several hours a day to do critical work. We need to meet all their business goals and demands, but with the best user experience possible which makes it more challenging. Enterprises nowadays demand the simplicity of consumer applications, but senior living software also has 1 other, very important user base: the seniors. Therefore we need to take into consideration a lot more challenges than most software companies.
These are my top 3 challenges to take into consideration:
1. Accessibility and inclusive design
When designing for senior living, the first thing that usually comes to mind - or should come to mind - is accessibility for the aging population. But for us, here at Cubigo, that's half the truth. We design for a very broad spectrum of users and accessibility should be a basic right for everybody.
The National Center on Deaf-Blindness sums it up like this: "Accessibility means that all people can perceive, understand, navigate, and interact with electronic information and be active, contributing members in the digital world." In our case, this means the full platform should be accessible for the residents, their family but also the team members at the senior living communities. It's all based upon measurable facts and concerned only with technical or logistical truths: font sizes, contrasts, alternative text, ...
Where accessibility is about creating products that are usable for everybody, inclusive design starts with the same proposition, but with a key difference: its concern is not only with the logistics that it's usable for everybody, but whether everybody actually wants to use it and feels self-confident using it. It requires much greater levels of understanding and empathy. It's a mindset that asks you to put yourself in somebody else's shoes.
Enterprise products are complex. They have many parts entangled together. That's not really a problem unless the complex becomes complicated. Complicated architectures become hard to scale. It becomes hard to build upon these foundations, which results in overhead in development, non-anticipated costs, and always causes frustrations for the team, clients, and users.
UX designers start their career mostly working for a consumer user base and learn to keep it simple. But keeping it simple isn't always the right way to go in enterprise UX. This principle can quickly harm the complexity that is fundamental in enterprise software. This doesn't mean we shouldn't thrive for a 'don't make me think' mindset, but it rather pushes us to think about making our framework flexible.
The most common mistake in enterprise software is the assumption that everybody uses the product the same way, but those power users are actually just a small percentage. The occasional users mostly have different goals and needs. Therefore different people with different levels of expertise should be able to operate without hindrance. That's why we should not force users into fixed user journeys, but rather enable them to customize their workspace to their needs instead.
3. Align UX strategy and business goals
Design and user experience are essential to business success, however, to transform business outcomes with good design, a good UX strategy needs to play an essential and supporting role. A good UX strategy is a detailed plan to keep user experience in line with a brand and the overall goals and objectives of the company.
The goal of a UX strategy is not to prescribe what to do, it drives decisions. It outlines the project objectives and focuses on goals over actions and ideas over to-do lists. It's a good method to validate if our solutions are actually going to solve a real problem on the market. It ensures product and market fit. It helps the team and stakeholders to reach a shared vision towards a sustaining product.
How does design drive the adoption of new technology amongst older adults?
Studies show that frustration appears to be a significant barrier, which leads to a lack of self-confidence and motivation to pursue using new technology. We need to take away that barrier and make sure the benefits of the software massively outweigh the hassle of using it.
By designing for all, not just for 'old'. The senior user base is still often overlooked when designing new technologies, apps, or devices. Needing to use software that's designed for 'old', will actually make a user feel old the first time they need it. We need to make them feel confident by designing and building tech that makes seniors feel self-confident, useful in society and in their community. We can do this by making our designs inclusive. Seniors are as engaged with new technology as the rest of us. When we use that simple mindset, we can design technology that will be used by them.
If your Senior Living organization wants to stay ahead of the curve and implement a best-in-class technology, please get in touch with us at firstname.lastname@example.org. Cubigo is a fully integrated cloud-based platform, digitizing the non-clinical services in Senior Living to add life to people's years instead of just adding years to their lives.