The App development process and the user interface: from the requirements analysis to the design concept and the product

Mobile phones, tablets, smart watches, smart glasses: there are indefinite examples of new generation IT systems.

They are such “personal” devices that we can’t live without them, because they facilitate our daily activities, at home or at work. Then they are simple and intuitive in their use, since they respond to our most diverse needs.

Surely almost 50 years ago no one would have ever imagined to shop online, book a table in your favorite restaurant using an app, or work from the comfort of your own home.

Today the digital revolution allows us to carry out unimaginable activities, it has created new jobs and it facilitates our lives. But how and when did this process start?

The origins of the Personal Computer

This revolution began in the early 1980s, when the IT world radically changed thanks to the Personal Computer.

It wasn’t only an instrument for specialists and professionals, but for the first time this device could be used by an audience of users who do not have specific IT skills.

Until then, computers were calculating machines, able to receive data, processing them on the basis of instructions (for example, mathematical calculations), and then returning a result.

A famous example of this type of instrument is the Colossus that, thanks to the brilliant mind of Alan Turing, allowed during the Second World War to decode the messages of the German enemies.

Surely only an expert programmer would have been able to understand how to use that machine, but over the years the dynamics have changed.

New users needed easy-to-use tools to interact with the devices, so it became necessary to find a solution to get the user closer to the machine.

Since then the devices improved, becoming smaller and increasingly efficient. Also they have unlimited application possibilities and they have become affordable and easy-to-use.

Personal Computer users

But when did Personal Computers come in our homes?

Certainly the programming language used and the architecture of a program are mostly unknown for not professionals, who don’t know the process behind an intuitive app or an interactive website. Certainly what attracts them is the graphic settings.

Example of the first graphic interface

The interaction was facilitated by the evolution of a new discipline called Human Computer Interaction (HCI), which provides useful strategies to create interaction between the user and the computer, thanks to the use of a Graphic User Interface which simplifies the interaction mechanism.

First Windows’ graphic interface

In order to do so, it was necessary to completely modify the development of the systems, placing the user needs at the center of the process, without considering the system development as ultimate purpose.

From the traditional design to Human-Centered Design

The traditional design approach starts from the functions that the software system should have, assigning to the user a marginal role.

If the goal is to design a usable system, this approach doesn’t work.

Here the user interface comes in, the tool that allows to graphically bring the man-user closer to the machine-computer, making the device usable because tailored to user’s needs.

At this point, the programmer designs the interaction between the system and its user with a approach known as Human-Centered Design.

How to build an effective graphic interface?

First of all it’s necessary to follow some steps, which are essential for defining the functioning of the system.

The first step is the preliminary collection of information through individual or group interviews and questionnaires, useful for bringing out relevant aspects such as the category of users, their characteristics, their needs and contexts of use.

Once the data has been collected, the designer begins to imagine an interface model with a partial prototype of the system.

When the design concept is defined, the actual realization of the system begins.

The testing as evaluation of system’s usability

In Human-Centered design, after every interaction cycle some evaluation tests are required.

In this phase, compliance with the usability principles and guidelines is assessed and tests are conducted with users, who will carry out typical system-use tasks.

The person who conducts the test observes and analyzes the user’s behavior to understand if, where and why difficulties occur. The test involves the user who tries the system, a facilitator who will have the task of managing the “direction” of the test, and one or more observers who will attend the test, noting the behavior of the users and situations in which the user manifests uncertainty or makes mistakes. The list of problems that emerged in the assessment tests will be accurately reported in an assessment report that will allow to provide a list of solutions for the product’s improvement.

Adam’s Hand® calibration App

Stating with the idea of putting the user at the center of the app design process, we have prepared the graphic interface dedicated to our orthopedic technicians, useful for the configuration and the calibration of Adam’s Hand®.

Before the actual graphic interface design, we carried out a series of brainstorming sessions that gave us back some useful elements for the development of the first prototype of the app.

The next step was to start the real prototyping.

Thanks to the use of some software we have created some graphic mockups linked to each other through clickable areas, so that the user during the tests could switch from one snapshot to another by clicking on these areas, simulating the interaction with the product.

This type of prototype is useful for validating the overall setting of the product, and to obtain rapid feedback from users for the correction of any design errors.

When the design solutions became more complex and complete, and the product design concept is defined, we started the actual realization of the system by developing the prototypes in the final technologies, which we subsequently tested.

We focused our study on the Interaction Design to ensure the best user experience in terms of usability, which from our point of view is not an optional. Obviously if the product isn’t usable, or it doesn’t work as it should, users will not use it.

Also for this reason, in the development of the Adam’s Hand® graphic interface, we have worked to make the app efficient, responsive and user-friendly at the same time. Although this is the result of complex work phases, the goal is to guarantee a system that is as simple as possible in its use.

We will tell you more about the evolution of our app in another article of our blog!

We can’t wait to let you discover more, but we can anticipate that we are making the latest improvements on the Adam’s Hand® calibration app in view of the launch on the market of the next months.

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