How do you improve the UX of a surgical navigation system in order to get an intuitive interface?

I was looking to work on a big and complex project that would help me define what I wanted to do in the future. While I had contact with multiple companies there was one project that just pulled me towards itself. I saw this project pass by in a directory and took my chance by reacting to their request.

During this project I had 2 supervisors, those were Matteo (developer) and Ruben (researcher). Jasper (technical physician) helped by getting directly involved with the feedback sessions I had during this project.

Medical UX

Before I came to help with the UX, the NCI (Netherlands Cancer Institute) had already built a surgical navigation system. They used this system to research how they could implement a navigation system to help with finding their way within the human body during surgeries. They needed me to focus on the look, feel and user experience of the system.

A new world

To help get a grip on what the current landscape of navigations looked like, I started researching the UX of different types of navigations. I also got the chance to see multiple navigations in action during surgery observations. I did this to see the context of the navigations and to understand what was important for the interface to work.

After researching interfaces & diving into the medical world it was time to talk to the people that were going to use the interface. I had multiple user interviews with surgeons and surgical technicians to determine what requirements were necessary of the navigation to work well for them.


After the user interviews I started sketching out ideas and discussing these sketches with my supervisors on a weekly basis. Through this I started fine-tuning the designs.


After creating multiple versions of the interface through group feedback sessions, I decided to take the time to validate the design with a few surgeons and surgical technicians. With their feedback I created new versions of the interface.


After all the work done together with everyone at the NCI, I wanted to make sure that the design could be handover to future designers/developers working on this project. I created a component library where I explained the ideas and workings of all the interfaces and it's components. You can find that here, you can find the prototype here.

I've learned a lot during this project and I enjoyed working with the team at the NCI. I hope to see the Discovery system in action one day!

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