Flexibility and Efficiency

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Users always learn and users are always different. Give users the flexibility of creating customization and shortcuts to accelerate their performance.

Display order and format. Place items and information consistently to manage users’ expectations and improve their efficiency.  For example, the primary menu should be placed in the left to maximize users’ performance. Order elements to maximize user performance. For example, prioritizing the prescription of commonly prescribed medications over  less commonly prescribed medications  could increase the efficiency.

A good example of placing primary menu on the left

This is a good example.  Primary navigation menus is placed on the left as shown in the picture. Users preferred having the primary menu in the left panel.  By placing the menu on the left the efficiency of use can be improved.

Flexible functions. System designs should support the ability to customize certain functions based on  the differing needs of specific users. For example, the system should provide a selection of units during the prescribing process to increase flexibility and efficiency. If the unit is fixed, the user is limited in how far they can modify the dose according to the drug selected or  the patients’ needs. The user would also have a problem in entering the amount and thus affect the efficiency of user performance.

A bad example of providing unit for prescribing medications

In this bad example, the system fixes the medicine units in “mg”, which limits the flexibility when the user wants to enter in other units. 

Shortcuts for frequently used operations. The system should offer users the direct access to high-priority tasks on the home page to increase efficiency. For example, a single-click navigation to access growth chart display would be helpful in pediatrics to evaluate the developmental changes. Other assistive functions should be provided to facilitate user performance. For example, accurate conversion from pounds to kilograms can increase efficiency in calculating the weight and future medication prescribing process.

Search function. Give users simple or advanced search functions according to the context. First, simple searches  should be provided on the homepage with an input box. Advanced search should be shown as a link on the homepage with search templates and  search tips provided, unless advanced searches are the norm on the page.

A good example of providing search functions

This is a good example.  Input box is given at the page for search function.

A bad example of providing search functions

This is a bad example. A link to search page is given instead of an input box at the page for search function.

Guidelines Summary:

Display order and format

Flexible functions

Shortcuts for frequently used operations

Search function

  • Allow Simple Searches [2] Usability.gov 17:6
  • Provide Search Templates [2] Usability.gov 17:9
  • Give users an input box on the homepage to enter search queries, instead of just giving them a link to a search page [1] Nielsen’s 47
  • Unless advanced searches are the norm on your site, provide simple search on the homepage, with a link to advanced search or search tips if you have them [1] Nielsen’s 50
Please note:The content provided here are intended as guidelines (recommended, but not mandatory) for design and implementation, not as standards (mandatory, minimum requirements). 


[1] Nielsen J. 113 design guidelines for homepage usability. 2001; Available from:www.nngroup.com/articles/113-design-guidelines-homepage-usability.

[2] U.S. Dept. of Health and Human Services. The Research-Based Web Design & Usability Guidelines, Enlarged/Expanded edition. Washington: U.S. Government Printing Office, 2006. Available from: https://www.usability.gov/.

[3] Microsoft. Microsoft Health Common User Interface design guidance. 2012; Available to download from:  https://archive.codeplex.com/?p=mscui. (Design Guidance - Find a Patient PDF).

[4] Lowry SZ, Quinn MT, Ramaiah M, Brick D, Patterson ES, Zhang J, et al. A human factors guide to enhance EHR usability of critical user interactions when supporting pediatric patient care. The National Institute of Standards and Technology; 2012.