Designing for Health: First Impressions Can Make Or Break Your Product



We're excited to have a guest post by Shannon Clark, founder and CEO of UserWise, a consultancy that helps medical device manufacturers and startups design safe and easy-to-use medical devices. The consultants at UserWise conduct usability testing for a variety of medical devices ranging from surgical robots to home-use injection platforms. UserWise consultants also perform safety assessments to comply with US and international regulations related to Human Factors. This is why we're excited for the privilege of having Shannon guest blog for Zansors!

An “out-of-the-box experience” is the experience a consumer first has when preparing to use a product. The term describes the user's experience from the moment they first remove the product from its packaging through completion of its setup. This experience is important, as it not only impacts the user’s first impression of the product, but it can also have critical safety implications.

First Impressions Define the User Experience

First impressions matter. A first impression can define the customer’s overall long-term satisfaction with a device, their willingness to buy similar devices in the future, and their likelihood of recommending the device to others.

In a usability study comparing the Jawbone Up and the Fitbit Flex, two wearable fitness trackers, participants found the initial unwrapping and setup of the Fitbit Flex to be significantly more intuitive. While both devices needed improvements in their smartphone apps, the users’ “ultimate trust in the data, willingness to continue using the wearable, and general satisfaction with each wearable was heavily influenced by their initial experiences.”

Users are Impatient

Imagine the excitement of receiving a brand new iPhone––you just can’t wait to start using it! Instead of waiting until you get home, you eagerly pull off the tightly sealed lid seconds after you walk away from the cash register. Then, before you know it, your phone drops to the floor.

This scenario isn’t as uncommon as you may think (remember Jack?). In fact, I had the same experience with the iPhone 6. The lid of the box clung to the bottom, and the package’s center of gravity was top-heavy. My iPhone was perched precariously on an insert at the very top surface of the carton, just ready to jump out of the box and onto the floor when I opened it.

These flaws could be addressed through good tolerancing in the carton design specifications, mechanical testing with an adequate sample size of commercial cartons, reliable manufacturing processes, and usability testing with intended users.

With a wearable medical device, not only could this scenario lead to a device malfunction, but it could also present a potential safety concern. For example, a home-use diagnostic device might break, and then present a patient with incorrect diagnostic results. In the case of a wearable glucose monitor, the patient could administer the wrong amount of insulin, which could lead to extremely severe consequences.

Users Skip Reading Instructions

Once a consumer receives a product, they want to use it as quickly as possible. If the instructions are too long and contain unnecessary information, users will skip reading them. Typically, makers of wearable devices make their devices as intuitive as possible so reading the instructions is not required. However, there are certain wearable medical devices in which reading the instructions is a crucial task to safe and effective use of the device.

Ultrasound devices can be used to treat certain pains related to musculoskeletal conditions. Recently, a long duration, low intensity therapeutic ultrasound device was developed for patients to use as a wearable device. In this case, the device is not quite as intuitive as a fitness tracker and requires the user to read the instructions before “wearing” the device.

Here are some ways to create an out-of-the-box experience that will encourage the consumer to read the instructions:

  1. Place the instructions on top of the device
  2. Use paper with a texture that has a more substantial feel
  3. Incorporate visual, attention-grabbing designs
  4. Avoid large blocks of text
  5. Keep the instructions separate from other, less-critical information for safety.


The next time you purchase a wearable device, think about the first impression you’re getting as you remove it from the box. Do you trust the device to offer accurate results? Does the device make you feel comfortable, or even excited to use it? In the case that the medical device treats or monitors a medical condition, does the device packaging invite you to read the instructions?

If the out of box experience fails in one of the ways described, the manufacturer may want to spend more time on the out-of-box experience design, and run a usability study with actual customers in order to find ways to improve it!

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