An automated pill dispenser system joins a digital reminder application with a tangible medication dispenser. Intended to alleviate the cognitive load of elderly patients and those with complicated medicine regimens without a loss of user agency.


  • Lightweight Ethnography
  • Universal Design
  • Observation Research
  • Rapid Prototyping


  • Balsamiq
  • Axure
  • Photoshop

Design Process

Over a period of 5 months, I conducted research for, designed, and prototyped a mobile application, tangible dispenser system, and embedded interface. An iterative approach was used to identify areas in which technology was lacking and propose low-cost, asccessible solutions.







Smartphone Application

With the inital paper prototype, design requirements and features identified as desirable through use interviews were implemented in a basic, smartphone application and interface.

The mockups were printed and tested in a lab setting, asking users to walk through basic interactions and updating screens as they “selected” buttons and icons. Spoken feedback was then documented and used to inform a second iteration – a more robust, interactive prototype.

Basic Features:

  • Virtual medicine cabinet
  • Ability to add notes and photos of bottles
  • Reminder of medication refills
  • Calendar of scheduled dosages
  • Missed and late medication alerts
  • Contact list: family, doctors, pharmacy

With the interactive prototype, additional features were built to provide greater agency to both caregiver and patient. A larger view of a history of missed dosages provided a cue to caregivers that the medication regimen might need to be addressed with the doctor. Refill notifications directed action to the pharmacy included in contacts. Most visibly, motion design principle were leverages to clarify interactions for those who may be less familiar with mobile interfaces. Colors were defined to maximize readability and prove interaction cues.

Added Features:

  • Interaction animations to provide subtle cues
  • Ability to see a broad view of missed medications
  • Agency to specify more detailed alerts
  • Interactive alerts prompting action
  • Automatic reminders to caregivers

Embedded Interface

Developed in tangent with a prototype of the tangible dispenser system, this interface was subject to a set of considerations and restraints due to both its projected users and physical manufacturing limitations.

• The top surface of the device sits .5 cm above the screen to prevent undue wear. This means that a good bit of the screen’s perimeter is inaccessible by fingertip.

• The average user of the MedMinder device is elderly or physically handicapped, which means that selectable items must be easy to press and spaced far enough apart to prevent accidental selection.

• The average user has limited experience with digital technology, which means the user interface must be self-explanatory through animation, color emphasis, and prompts.

© 2019 Beth Godfrey