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  • Writer's pictureTingbin Tang

Design to combat human inertia

When I look into the dictionary, the definition for "inertia" is a tendency to do nothing or to remain unchanged. As a designer, though our goal is to design a product/system which is user-friendly, that user will fall in love or easy to use. However, actually, many times, our job is to fight with human's inertia.

When I was designing the app for diabetics, in order to help them to manage their glucose readings, I studied about target users' behavior. For those who have type I diabetes, unfortunately, all their life they may have to live with it, and conduct blood testing everyday. For people who got Type II diabetes or gestational diabetes, they have a possibility to recover if they manage well. No matter which type of Diabetes, the patients all need to do blood sugar testing, maybe take medication or insulin, and manage their diet, weight and exercises. Some people may use paper to log/track their each readings. (#diabetes, #diabetics, #glucose)


Even though taking blood sugar testing is so important to diabetes patients, sometimes forgot to do so may even result in passing out and put themselves in danger. Still, some patients will "forget" to take measurements, not even to mention logging their readings. Some patient when they first diagnosed diabetes, they may feel worried, then they will take measurement regularly, control their diet, exercise everyday... But after a while, they become bored, become lazy, their inertia start to take charge. They start to miss taking measurement, exercise less and less, and start to eat unhealthy again...

"The psychological meaning of the word “inertia” implies an indisposition to change – a certain “stuckness” due to human programming. -- James Kowalick

So how to fight with human's inertia? So that we can achieve our product vision, and to help diabetics to manage their health.


1. Set up short term goals


Instead of setting up long term goals, I am helping target users to set up short term goals. A long term goal may make users lose their patient, and get dragged back by their inertia. (#inertia #habits #patient)


For example, some people have difficulty to control weight, which is the same reason. On the long way to achieve a big goal, normally is quite boring and even "hopeless". So in order to help users to achieve their big goal of control their glucose level, I am breaking it into weekly goals. The homepage of this app is a summary page, which provides a weekly progress summary, give them a short brief of how they are doing compare to last week. If it is good, then a happy face will be displayed. Meanwhile, this page also shows a weekly chart, which visually tells users how many readings are in green zone, how many are not.


By providing progresses, and showing the trend, it will really gives people confident to continue their repeatedly work, which seems boring at the right moment.


2. Be Automate


Paper log is a hard and boring job, users have to take out their pen and book to write down the readings, put note, and even draw chart to show diagram, not to mention if they want a statistic, which will be somehow complicated. Such tasks will make users refuse to do so, and find all kind of excuses for themselves.


Now our app will automatically log each reading after user take a measurement, and generate charts, statistics for them as well.

Every log has been designed as a piece of testing strip, which give users a metaphor and make them easy to understand. After testing, the readings will be automatically stored and displayed, and users can also easily mark if it is before or after snack, exercise, or injection of insulin, or medicine, etc. They almost no need to write/type anything but just mark them, except input the dosage of insulin. (#health, #ehealth)


Every reading also use color code to give them immediate message of how are they doing, if its too high or too low or at normal level.

The 7 days/14 days/30 days/90 days statistics are also what the doctors like to see. This feature not just make doctor's job easier, but also make the users easily to stay in the same page with their doctors, hence knows how to best manage their glucose levels.

Same for the trends chart. It is automatically generated, and users/doctors can also see different trends of pre or post meal; and trends at different time of the day.


3. Guide users instead of forcing them to learn


Most users are not tech savvy, and we do want to lose users or receive customer service calls just because users do not know how to pair their phone with the device via bluetooth, or how to use the device/app, so I also designed a three step easy guide with animations to make sure users use the product easily and correctly.

It is not like the old time that when we purchase a new product for the home, and we have to read a heavy user manual, which is just like taking a new subject of class. We want users to use the product like they are in kindergarten. Every step has simple animation, and after done with each step, the icon will be light up.


During the processing time, we also have a animation with the strip, which give users patience to wait for the result.


4. Stay connected with caregivers


Users can always share their single readings or statistics, log histories, trend charts to their doctors, caregivers. The caregivers are also helping to combat with users' inertia with their care, love and pressure as well.


The doctors can also help patient to set target reading ranges, and so on.


5. Make users feel belonged to


One last thing to add is that, people can get energy and strength from the group they belong to. So even though this app's official name is "Gluco Smart", I named it "iSweet". I'd like the diabetes to get strength from each other from such a group of people, and finally be able to manage well of their health. (#Diabetics app)


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