The colours you need (but maybe not the colours you want)

Posted By on 4 May 2021

Despite years of experience with our leading healthcare and medical rostering software, getting the design of our soon-to-be launched upgrade is not easy. Partly because our new software will be considerably more powerful than the current version (so a core question is how to introduce new features without making them too confusing for users). And partly because we really want to make each screen as appealing and as useful as possible.

One of the regular discussions at HosPortal design HQ is how to best use colours. We all agree that wise use of colours should make rosters easier to build, maintain and view, and navigation clearer and less intimidating. But we know that each person’s idea of how to do that – across over 40 sites where we are used – is quite different.

HosPortal already uses some reliable colours, such as our ‘draft’ shifts and allocations in light yellow (or Parmesan according to some colour-picking guides), our ‘template’ shifts in Sugar Chic, ‘events’ and meetings in Hashita Purple, warning icons in Vintage Orange and ‘leave’ in Christina Brown (which is actually a green). This makes similar features easy to identify from page to page.

Customers, however, want to do additional things with colour such as colour-code roles (so senior Consultant doctors are blue and look different from trainee Registrars in brown) and colour code rosters (all the Emergency rosters are in shades of red). Sometimes these colours need to work all at the same time (maybe a Consultant in a draft shift on the Emergency roster). Some of our most heated design debates are how to get this maximum amount of flexibility and clarity, and make it so that our users do not end up inadvertently making rosters that hurt their eyes or are impossible to read.

To avoid this problem we have restricted some of the options: fonts are always black on very pale colours, colours should be in reliable locations to represent common things, and sometimes colours are replaced with icons…or we change the screen layout altogether so colours are not necessary.

We have shown our latest design to a customer who is a ‘power user’ of colours. Her feedback was encouraging. We look forward to showing it off more broadly.

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