A colleague recently pointed me to an article about good design. The article argues that design means many things and takes different forms (all of which are important), but one quote about design struck me: “It’s a state of mind. It’s an approach to a problem.” For many of us (myself included), the word “design” conjures up images of colors, styles, and lines…the “look-and-feel” stuff – the fun stuff. But good design – especially for web-based experiences – starts much deeper than that and is really about how you craft the overall consumer experience.
At ConnectedHealth, we believe in helping consumers make better decisions…about really important and sometimes really complex things, like their health and financial security. These are decisions that have traditionally been driven by personal advisors: a doctor or insurance agent, for example. But in this day and age of increasing personal responsibility and accountability, these are decisions that many of us will be settling into the driver’s seat to make. And we are fully capable of taking on that responsibility…especially with some guidance and better framing of the decisions.
So how do we at ConnectedHealth approach decision-making and design? We focus on both the process of decision-making (how hard is it to make a decision) and the outcome (how good is our choice), and we find ways to improve both.
On the process side, there are many factors that affect how easy or hard it is to make a decision – things like how complex a decision is, how many options or choices we have and how easy it is to compare options. A person’s disposition toward being either a maximizer (someone who analyzes all options to pick the very best one) or a satisficer (someone who looks for the option that best meets a certain set of criteria) can also impact their experience of decision-making.
On the outcomes side, there are many influences on what we actually choose, ranging from our risk assessment (in)abilities, to personal and situational factors, to our biases and expectations. For example, we are notoriously bad at understanding our true risks, even in light of relevant statistics and information. And, there is a dizzying array of biases and expectations that get in the way of our ability to evaluate objectively and choose effectively.
It’s one thing to understand all of the forces at work on the decision-making process and outcomes, and another to influence them. We continually evaluate and redesign our consumer decision-making experience, looking for ways to improve decisions around health and financial security. For example, we help consumers choose health insurance by refocusing their decision on the overall financial picture (what might this cost me overall), rather than the more traditional approach of helping them compare specific plan characteristics (e.g., copays and coinsurance, etc.). Reframing the decision in this way helps lift consumers out of their old modes (their biases and expectations), and recasts their risks in a way that they can better understand.
This type of design is not easy – nor is it as glamorous as the look-and-feel type of design work – but it’s essential to creating a positive and effective consumer experience.