About the UX Guide

The mission of the UX Guide is to support the design, development, and implementation of highly usable health information technology (HIT) systems in Veterans Health Administration (VHA). The UX Guide is expected to achieve this mission by focusing on three primary objectives.

Objective 1: Provide guidance and tools for HIT project teams to adopt Human-Centered Design (HCD) practices. 

Although reputable HCD resources can be found online, in books, or through training, much of this information is not specific to, or suited for, HIT system design. Resources in the UX Guide are tailored to the design and assessment of systems intended for use in complex, safety-critical environments. VHA teams will be given practical guidance for applying human-centered strategies and methods to their HIT projects.

Objective 2: Promote the sharing and re-use of human-centered artifacts.

Project teams following an HCD approach use various artifacts to describe the user’s perspective, interacting with a proposed HIT system. These artifacts help define, design goals and assessment objectives. User Personas and Scenarios of Use are two artifacts that, together, can describe the intended users, their goals, and

the contexts in which HIT systems will be used. The UX Guide’s libraries provide evidence-based artifacts that are ready for use or can be easily modified to meet specific project needs.

Objective 3: Support the use of human factors and informatics research in HIT system design, assessment, and implementation.

Applying a human-centered focus to HIT projects is more effective and efficient if the project team is able to utilize techniques and knowledge of a growing body of informatics and human factors research. The UX Guide aims to aggregate research related to HIT user experience, and to distill this knowledge for operational use by HIT project teams. Efforts are underway to identify and organize ‘principles’ of human-HIT system interactions that project teams could use to enhance requirements gathering, usability assessment, and implementation.

The UX Guide team works collaboratively with informaticists and human factors engineers to publish VHA institutional knowledge related to improving the HIT user experience. We encourage feedback from our users and welcome recommendations to improve this site, improve its content, and identify ways to expand the contributions to VA health IT project teams.

Strength of Evidence

To promote the use of evidence-based materials, the UX Guide provides a “strength of evidence’ rating for all human-centered design artifacts. This scale enables HIT project teams to consider the relative weight of the evidence when choosing artifacts. This scale also facilitates the contribution of artifacts by HIT project teams, even if the artifacts were based on the opinions of only a few representative users.

This rating scale was based on the scale used in the Research-Based Web Design and Usability Guidelines developed by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) and the U.S. General Services Administration (GSA). (U.S. Dept. of Health and Human Services, 2006)

The UX Guide Strength of Evidence scale is based on the following criteria.

Level 1: Weak Opinion SupportStrength of Evidence Rating 1 out of 5
  • No research-based evidence
  • Limited or conflicting expert opinion
  • Agreement from one or more representative users
Level 2: Strong Opinion SupportStrength of Evidence Rating 1 out of 5
  • No research-based evidence
  • Experts tend to agree (although there may not be a consensus)
  • General agreement from a representative set of users
Level 3: Weak Research SupportStrength of Evidence Rating 1 out of 5
  • Limited research-based evidence
  • -AND-
  • General agreement from a representative set of users
Level 4: Moderate Research SupportStrength of Evidence Rating 1 out of 5
  • Cumulative research-based evidence from multiple studies (variation may exist but no absolute conflict)
  • Supporting evidence from a study of representative users (survey, ethnography, focus groups, usability test)
Level 5: Strong Research SupportStrength of Evidence Rating 1 out of 5
  • Cumulative and compelling research-based evidence with agreement by national experts
  • Supporting evidence from multiple studies of representative users (survey, ethnography, focus groups, interview)
  • -OR-
  • A directive, policy, or standard from a VA National Program Office