Good design thinking in unexpected places

Posted By on 20 May 2019


While we were demonstrating our rostering software to the Australian and New Zealand psychiatrists at the RANZCP conference in Cairns last week we discovered a short but excellent book about design. Unusually, it was about toilets.

One of our fellow exhibitors was advocating for dementia patients, and they had a short, 35-page booklet all about designing toilet facilities for the elderly and people with dementia*.

It crisply advocated for appropriate design of all aspects of toilet facilities for elderly people, including location, access, features, colours, lighting, signposting and noise, illustrated with some helpful examples and photographs of good and bad practice.

We liked how it reinforced what we try to do at HosPortal when we are designing our software:

1. Design with a specific user clearly in mind.

For us, there are two distinct users:

  • doctors and physicians who must access and use a very limited set of functions quickly, intuitively, and without reference to an instruction manual.
  • administrative users, who must have a passing ability to run the full breadth of our features, some of those features extremely repetitively and every day, but some other extremely rarely.

2. Focus on function…

Fancy design, colours and animation might make software look modern and cool. But it is not going to necessarily make our users’ lives easier.

3. …without unnecessarily sacrificing beauty

More attractive software makes people want to engage with it, buys goodwill when there is a learning process, and can mask some other frustrations, when compared with the identical features presented in a less attractive way.

4. Think about the details

Good design involves thinking through dozens of small decisions that need to balance function, aesthetics and the different user types.

It also needs to think about the cost and effort to build, the cost to maintain, and the risk of building something that might be at the leading edge now, but requires specialist skills to maintain or expose the developer and its customers to unnecessary risks over time.

*”Toilet talk – Accessible design for people with dementia” by Mary Marshall (published by HammondCare Media, 2018)

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