Creating better health sector websites
Like any online experience NHS health websites must be built around it’s users’ needs- in this case patients.
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Historically the NHS and the web have not mixed well. From the diaster surrounding Bliar’s initial attempts to introduce e-patient records, to problems with setting up a national application system for junior doctors online, attempts to enhance online offerings have often backfired.
Understanding users’ needs, and how they are being met- or not must be at the heart of online transformation.
Research has shown that “patients care about their experience of care as much as clinical effectiveness and safety”.
Simply bolting an online booking system onto a website that doesn’t deliver against user needs will not deliver any benefit to the sector or patients. Indeed it is just another waste of tax payers’ funds.
Most NHS trust sites tend to focus on how the site will look and how much information can be fitted into the visual design already in place, rather than the experience.
This approach may offer all the right information, but it is often less accessible for patients and users.
Gov.uk – the beta site intended to replace directgov.uk – is a fantastic example of how user experience will always win over appearance. It doesn’t contain lots of imagery or shiny, new features, but is completely task focused- making it really easy to navigate.
From showing popular topics, by time, to encouraging users to provide feedback at every point of interaction with the site, Gov.uk delivers a high quality user experience that will keep visitors coming back to find the information they need.
As Gov.uk shows, the best sites are those built around the needs and goals of all stakeholders. They are useful, accessible, desirable and easy to use.
Most importantly, they continually evolve according to user feedback and visitors’ changing needs. Unlike a printed brochure a website is never finished.
Starting with user needs and planning your site around them will ensure you end up with a product (not just a website) that is appealing to users on more than just a visual level.
It will also ensure your website continues to work in an increasingly multi screen world- where people will contact you by smartphone as well as tablet format.
It was once more of an aesthetic task- but not any more. Build a site to be beautiful and you might as well throw your money away.
Equally build a website that makes a snail look fast- like the HMRC website, and you turn a bad experience into a disaster- and you will lose lots of money. Oh the Governement is anyway- there’s a surprise.
Build a site to meet and exceed your users’ needs and your investment will deliver significant returns for you- whether it’s for profit or public service.