Intuitive products will be the key to success in the “wearables” market, especially if manufacturers want to persuade an aging population to use advanced health care devices, an expert told attendees at the recent Advanced Design & Manufacturing conference in Cleveland.
Mike Maczuzak, CEO and founder of SmartShape Design (photo, below), said that wearables will need to be more approachable in the future because older users are less familiar with the world of apps and mobile technology. “The challenge is that the people who need remote health care the most are the least able to participate it in,” Maczuzak said. “So the key to success will be making it as intuitive and seamless an experience as possible.”
Mike Maczuzak, CEO of SmartShape, says that interfaces for wearables are often designed by young people who’ve “never seen a world without apps.” (Source: Design News)
Maczuzak, who will speak again at the upcoming BIOMEDevice in Boston, cited statistics showing that only 20% of the over-65 population has smart phones, and only 15% of that small group has ever downloaded a software app. He added that most of those senior users don’t understand what it means to “sync to the cloud.”
Still, some companies that make wearable consumer devices are pivoting toward the clinical health market by developing products to monitor maladies such as diabetes and cardiovascular disease, he said. Product manufacturers going in that direction will need to know how to create devices that are usable for older consumers, he said.
Maczuzak recommended that product developers assign “user experience designers” to their projects to ensure that older users won’t be confounded by the new breed of wearable health products. “You need to focus on the user’s needs and make your products really intuitive,” he told Design News. “It’s not only about designing what you think will be intuitive, it’s about confirming it by testing with users.”
A common problem today is that many product developers are in their 20’s and 30’s, and have been using smartphones and mobile apps for most of their adult lives, Maczuzak said. Based on their own experiences, the devices they design are easy to understand, he added.
“These devices are intuitive to the young people who’ve never seen a world without apps,” Maczuzak said. “And they’re the ones designing the new apps and products. They’re building on the foundational knowledge that they have, but the elderly population doesn’t have that knowledge.”
Maczuzak, who has worked as an industrial designer for 30 years, reinforced his belief in “user experience design” by recounting his own 3,000-plus-mile cross-country walk, from Coney Island in New York to Santa Monica Beach in California. During the 2016 journey, he tested a thermometer patch that communicates with a smartphone. He also wore a heart rate monitor, solar panel charger, external battery, and multiple step counters, while carrying a Galaxy Note 4 smartphone and LG hands-free talking headset.
Maczuzak said the 3,000-mile trek gave him time to consider the real value of the data he was gathering. During his talk, he cited the fact that studies have