How to design a successful health app

We examine some of the key design considerations that go into making an effective health app – from making the UX as seamless as possible to taking inspiration from out-of-category

Apps have gone from digital curiosities to big business in recent years, with people now relying on them for everything from organising their daily lives to entertaining them when they’re bored. In the health and wellbeing sector in particular, our dependance on apps has exploded in the wake of the pandemic. In the absence of in-person GP appointments, for example, people turned to online services such as Babylon, whose annual revenue jumped by 400% in 2020. A greater recognition of the need to look after our mental wellbeing also led to a big spike in people embracing mental health apps; two of the category’s biggest players, Calm and Headspace, generated $205 million in 2021.

“In the last two years, there has been tremendous funding towards AI, mental health, women’s health and telehealth especially,” experience design director Ivana Preiss tells CR. “Covid has been a catalyst for these things, especially as all of a sudden everybody was having medical consultations with their doctors via WhatsApp and video. These things were unprecedented before the pandemic.” Preiss has witnessed the health app boom first hand in recent years, having worked on everything from a platform that provides carers to people who need medical help at home to her current role at design consultancy Method, where she is in the midst of a project for period and ovulation tracker Flo.

Babylon app
Image courtesy Babylon

London-based product designer Steven O’Neil has also worked on an array of health apps over the course of his career, going from developing a health and wellbeing platform for over-50s company Saga in his previous role at agency Bow & Arrow, to joining healthtech startup Reset Health last year. While the startup’s focus is on helping people reverse type 2 diabetes based on guidance from clinicians and mentors, its app is simultaneously attempting to innovate the tried-and-tested format of doctor’s appointments.