Macadamian Blog

World Usability Day 2014: Engage Now!

Lorraine Chapman

What are you doing to engage users in the right way – to foster a deeper connection with your application?

If you haven’t already heard, today is World Usability Day. This year’s theme is engagement and because I am a user experience professional and work for a software development company – I immediately preface engagement with user.

One definition of user engagement that caught my interest recently defines user engagement as

“A quality of the user experience that emphasizes the positive aspects of interaction – in particular the fact of being captivated by the technology” (Attfield et al, 2011).

It’s the last part of that definition that made me pause…’captivated by the technology’.  What does that mean?

From a healthcare perspective, this has a specific meaning for those of us trying to create better clinical and patient-facing apps and solutions. Some of the key issues we are grappling with are patient and clinician frustration and lack of adoption of certain apps or products such as patient portals.

Unfortunately, patients and clinicians are often NOT captivated by technology. Rather technology gets in their way, doesn’t add value or simply just doesn’t do what they need it to do when they need it to do it.

It seems so simple on the surface – so why is user engagement, or rather lack of it, still such a problem?

I reached out to colleague to ask what “engagement” means to him and here was his response:

“I’m engaged with software (or people, more people really) when it’s a two way dialogue, it’s interesting, of mutual benefit, respectful, and shows sincere compassion.”

His comment suggests that there needs to be an emotional, cognitive, and behavioural connection to the technology in order to bring about engagement. And I think that making those connections is the hard part.

Many behavioural science studies have indicated that people can become highly engaged in activities just for pure joy/reward of the activity and experience. Monetary reward actually lowers engagement for this type of task. It’s not because money is truly captivating. Not in a sustainable sense. Just like interesting screen transitions or “fun” features are not, on their own & in the long term, captivating. They may be necessary, helpful, or initially compelling – but they are not captivating in the long term. In the healthcare industry, there is a tendency to sometimes focus on experience “rewards” (monetary or otherwise) to help create initial engagement in software. But it is sustained engagement that eventually matters.

So on World Usability Day, I ask you:

  • Are you engaging your user with something of intrinsic value (long term and compelling/fulfilling) or just ‘bribing’ your users with “fun” features?
  • What are you doing to engage users in the right way – to foster a deeper connection with your application?
  • Are you seeing increased long term adoption as a result?



Author Overview

Lorraine Chapman

Lorraine is Macadamian’s Senior Director of Healthcare and plays a pivotal role in harmonizing end user needs, client expectations, and current technology. She leads clients in identifying product opportunities, conducting research, and planning UX strategy and growth. Her ability to grasp the subtle dynamics of business context and product requirements enables her to help define UX design strategy in support of fundamental business direction. She does this for medical information tool providers, EMR, as well as companies outside health care. Lorraine is recognized as an expert in UX research and Chair of the HIMSS Health IT User Experience Committee. Her expertise delivering human-centric solutions to health care providers makes her a sought after speaker and presenter to overflow audiences. As accomplished as she is, Lorraine is also a bit scary to some of us. She regularly gets up at 5:30 am, does a workout that most of us would associate with Navy Seals or Spartan warriors, and runs half-marathons when she doesn't find this tiring enough. No wonder Lorraine has earned the nickname "Xena, Warrior Princess" at Macadamian. When she not living her Linda Hamilton/Terminator workout lifestyle she loves spending time with her daughters and taking them to places ranging from Pembroke to Tuscany.