Framing Design Principles for Practo

Strategy / Design Framework and Process / Healthcare

Aligning on a shared definition of design excellence in solving some of healthcare's most significant problems

Practo, Bangalore

About Practo

Health is a profoundly personal matter, and we at Practo are humbled that millions of people trust us for their health choices. It is the place that connects them to everything they need to take good care of themselves and their loved ones. Whether it is about getting an opinion on a health issue or finding the right doctor for them, Practo helps millions of people live longer, healthier lives every day.

Practo has grown tremendously in functionality and scale. Our vision has matured, and we felt the need to be more fundamental and first principled in our design decisions. We are a fast-paced organization, and in a few instances, we lost track of the bigger goal. Moreover, as an organization tackling the most significant problems in healthcare, it is probably no surprise that we wanted to be user-first and accurate in our design decisions.

During my time at Practo, I have seen the design team grow and evolve from a four-member one to an entire workforce of product designers, visual designers and researchers. With so much growth, it became critical for us to have a shared vision to guide the execution and output of our work. We had to understand better what design excellence and user-first thinking meant to Practo. Moreover, how would we know if we had achieved it or not?

To help answer these questions, I created a working group with the goal of creating a set of design principles.

What are design principles?

Design principles describe the experience core values of a product or a service. They are the guiding light for any software application. They define and communicate the key characteristics of the product to a wide variety of stakeholders including clients, colleagues, and team members.

Design principles articulate the fundamental goals that all decisions can be measured against and thereby keep the pieces of a project moving toward an integrated whole.

To be most effective, design principles need to provide teams with a way to gauge design decisions. That is, they should be specific enough to help groups of people choose between different design options and help to give the entire product an integrated and wholesome experience.

In short, good design principles:

  • Force clarity and reduce ambiguity by being specific
  • Align people around what matters
  • Helps everyone understand what is important to us and what is true for us
  • Define and communicate the key characteristics of the product
  • Are short, memorable and non-conflicting
  • Help in creating consistency and better collaboration

The process?

I set up a design team meeting and asked everyone to provide their thoughts and principles. Team members were required to be framed along with their explanations and reasoning behind their importance. I also included a few product managers and developers into this ideation phase to get insights from respective functions as well. To help the team in framing such principles, I provided them with a few examples from other organizations in different ecosystems. They were, in particular, asked to think of this keeping in mind Practo’s brand position, “your home for health.”

Next step was to collate and unify all of these ideas. The common ones were consolidated. I went through all of these, re-touched them to make them more colloquial and understandable. For the obscure ones, I set up another round of discussions with the design team members and tried to achieve more clarity around them.

At this stage, we were able to get around 23 unique possible principle sets. With more discussions amongst the design team and by the use of Maslow's hierarchy pyramid we finally agreed on a set of principles outlining the experience we want to create for our users.

Practo's Design Principles

Clear and simple

Clarity is the absence of ambiguity. It enables users to see, understand, and act with confidence. Set the expectation right for the users and let them know what is the purpose of every experience we create.

“It seems that perfection is attained, not when there is nothing more to add, but when there is nothing more to take away.”
Antoine de Saint-Exupéri

Consistency and interplay

While for us, there are many products within Practo, for the user it is their single connected home for health. We should remove all complexity, and present only clean functionality across all our experiences.

“It is the consistency of the information that matters for a good story, not its completeness.”
Daniel Kahneman

Be elegant, not ornamental

Practo should be slick, polished to be simple and beautiful at one time. Our designs are powerful and provide a superior experience. Design has a purpose beyond just looking good and pretty.

“How well we communicate is determined not by how well we say things, but how well we are understood.”
Andrew Grove

Happy to help

Just like a good friend, our work should always help our users achieve their goals. We know our users, so we know their concerns without them voicing it. Our experiences should complement their needs.

“Design everything on the assumption that people are not heartless or stupid but marvelously capable, given the chance.”
John Chris Jones

Trust is vital

Trust is one of the hardest things to earn from our users. We should strive to achieve this when we build our products. Trust is fragile, so once earned we must nurture it. We must keep these principles in mind to be deserving of our users’ trust. Hence it needs constant attention on our part.

“We are what we repeatedly do. Excellence, then, is not an act, but a habit.”

Internal posters made by me and Abhishek Bora

This process helped us rethink the way we approached any design task. We have created artifacts such as posters and stickers which can be seen in our design bay. This will, for sure, be a long journey before we implement every principle to its fullest. However, we know that we have taken a huge step towards making our team be focused on what's important for our users.

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