Engage Now with World Usability Day

A Guest Post from Lorraine Chapman, Chair, HIMSS User Experience Committee on World Usability Day

The theme of this year’s World Usability Day is engagement. Because I am a user experience professional and I work for a software consulting 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 him what “engagement” means to him and here was his response:

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

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

Many behavioral 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, are you engaging your user with something of intrinsic value (long term and compelling/fulfilling) or just ‘bribing’ your users with “fun” features?

Engage with this blog post on World Usability Day.  Here are some more questions we want to hear your perspective on in the comments section.  Share your story!

  • 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?

See what the rest of the HIMSS HIT User Experience Committee is doing for World Usability Day

About Adam Bazer

Adam Bazer is Sr. Manager, Health Information System for HIMSS. In this role, his main focus is on the HIMSS HIT Usability community and committee. Prior to this role, Adam worked as Manager, Digital Events for HIMSS Media. His areas of responsibility included the HIMSS Virtual Events and HIMSS Webinars. Adam has served HIMSS in other capacities as well, including as Manager, Annual Conference Education, responsible for the call for proposal process and speaker management of education sessions at the HIMSS Annual Conference. You can reach Adam directly at abazer@himss.org
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