Most of my experience with graphic design has come to me through the “jump in head-first” approach. Therefore, when my team in Medical Media Arts Lab was tasked with designing a prototype of our proposed design, I immediately began researching design methods and protocols for personal devices and interfaces.

The terms UX and UI get thrown around a lot in the design and tech industries. UX refers to user experience design, while UI refers to user interface design. While UX might deal with the technical aspects of an app or a website, UI handles the look or the feel of the interface. Since our team’s prototypes would have to be designed to display the desired information from our hospital stakeholders as well as face a non-medical audience, we approached our design by focuses the UX on the hospital staff’s medical expertise while basing the UI on the needs and desires of the desired audience.

Roughly speaking, our concept is a parent-facing portal to be displayed on large television monitors in each room of the pediatric cardiac intensive care unit in Texas Children’s Hospital. In this clinic, the infant patients are often facing a number of high-risk health factors, which can often distract hospital staff members from attending to proper nutrition for the patient. For example, if a patient’s caloric intake isn’t steadily increased daily, their discharge might be delayed due to a below-goal growth percentile. Our interface intends to incorporate the patients’ parents into the nutritional plan and follow-up, creating a more cohesive effort toward bringing nutrition to the forefront.

To determine what information would be beneficial and necessary to incorporate into our prototype, we spoke with the attending physician and dietitian assigned to the pediatric cardiac ICU. Both the physician and the dietitian stressed the importance of a growth chart that can track the patient’s weight gain over time and compare it to “normal” trends. Other important information, such as caloric intake, notes from the physician, and potentially even labs and x-rays were also on their “UX wish list.”

Because of the variety of information that must be hosted on the portal, we chose a UI known as the “dashboard.” When designing the prototype, I focused on making an obvious visual hierarchy. The dominant visuals are the growth chart and the caloric goal tracker. These are the primary ways parents and physicians will be able to see if the nutrition plan is effective. Notes and notifications are displayed in familiar ways — similar to a smartphone. The nutrition goals, which are displayed in large print with checkboxes in the bottom right-hand corner, are visual cues for the parent to bring up goals and plans during rounds or whenever they get the chance to interact with hospital staff. This dashboard display is effectively an “analytical dashboard,” as it displays not only historical data, but also projections of future goals and progress toward goal achievement.

We plan to introduce a mock interface prototype with multiple working tabs to parents of patients within the next two weeks and improve upon our design.