From experimental work for the U.S. Department of Defense to highly advanced ultrasound systems used around the globe, SonoSite is defining next-generation point-of-care ultrasound. The company has earned worldwide recognition for its progressive product line, educational programs, and advocacy for a broader understanding of ultrasound’s multiple benefits.
When SonoSite began work on a new flagship product, X-Porte, it approached Artefact to help create a highly configurable, intuitive and approachable user interface that replaces traditional button arrays with a large touch screen.
Moving from buttons to touch brings several advantages. More and more, patterns that have become popular in consumer devices are moving into professional environments due to their power and familiarity. Well-designed touchscreen UIs have the potential to make previously complex medical devices more accessible to a wider range of medical professionals, while simplifying the experience for the specialists.
Our work helped inform SonoSite’s direction for X-Porte and while the product evolved significantly from our initial design, we are proud of our contribution to SonoSite’s ongoing success.
Can we eliminate unnecessary complexity from the UI of the medical ultrasound while meeting the needs of sonographers and non-specialists?
While there are important advantages to a full touch screen, the design of a purely digital UI also introduced some significant challenges. The UI had to accommodate the expectations and demands of the highly trained sonographers.
At the same time, the design had to offer a highly versatile, intuitive UI that would make it easy for the novice or non-traditional user to adopt this powerful imaging technology into their daily routine.
Using a touch screen user interface for ultrasound presents serious challenges. Users experienced with ultrasound are so familiar with their devices that they can quickly locate a control by touch. This loss of tactile familiarity must be offset by improved usability elsewhere.
In our design, the most important and frequently used controls are located towards the bottom of the UI. This enables clinicians to use the corners and bottom edge of the touch panel as a tactile reference. The interface uses standard locations throughout the system for consistent controls, but unlike traditional ultrasound, it can make other controls contextual. Only those controls and options that are appropriate for the current mode are shown, avoiding dozens of physical buttons competing for the user’s attention.
While the product must satisfy the needs (and endorsement) of the experienced sonographer, X-Porte’s target audience within the medical profession is much broader. The UI design had to meet the needs of both the professional sonographer and a non-specialist, who may use the equipment only occasionally for a particular diagnostic or procedure. The new user may give up if the device doesn’t start giving them value instantly or seems too unfamiliar.
On the other hand, the expert user would be frustrated without the efficiency of quickly accessible advanced controls and powerful shortcuts. To complicate matters, several counterintuitive names and functions that trained specialists have come to accept as standard, could stymie the novice user.
While touch UI is intuitive and easier to use, onscreen keyboards are still less efficient for labeling images and inputting patient data. We were able to offset this through smart use of word lists. Depending on mode, procedure, or what part of the anatomy a physician is examining, the system offers a list of common labels that will help complete forms or annotate an image. In seconds, the user can form a long, coherent label by directly selecting several words from categories that are relevant to the current situation. The list is editable, allowing users and administrators to add words and phrases common to their practice.
A clinic or department can make customizations and establish standards to make work more efficient. The interface can also be updated as new features or capabilities become available.
We’re proud to have contributed initial design work and appreciated the opportunity to collaborate with SonoSite while learning from their expertise.
Confidence at First Sight
Clinicians feel confident about using X-Porte from the first time. Clear visual design emphasizing the relevant controls, easily reversible actions and one-touch navigation to the home screen allow them to feel in control and focus on the patient.
Walk Up and Use
One of the goals of our design was to empower clinicians to use X-Porte without any UI training. Each step has clear, goal-oriented instructions and only task-relevant controls are displayed. The user can turn on descriptions and videos to understand certain modes or functionality.
All About the Magic Image
The hero of the ultrasound experience is the image and we built the UI around it. The image and its related calculations are represented as an almost physical image card that can be directly manipulated, following the workflow of the exam itself.
Immersion and Partnership
We built clarity on program objectives, did detailed walkthroughs and procedure observations with experienced sonographers and non-traditional users. Working in close collaboration with SonoSite’s experts, we gained a deep understanding of design standards across the industry and the possible implications of new ideas.
Based on our findings and understanding from the immersion phase we established UI priorities and fundamental design principles. We delivered concepts against those principles, validating, iterating and refining our ideas.
Refine and Adjust
As we delved deeper and learned more, we refined our thinking and evolved our concepts. We worked towards a final direction and comprehensive design solution. We used a rapid iterative test and evaluation (RITE) process to evolve and validate the design.
Spec and Overview
At the completion of our engagement, we delivered a comprehensive document to capture the design solution. It included design principles, rationale, priorities as well as a detailed specification of our design, including grids, detailed graphics and behaviors.