One of the challenges faced by all communications specialists is building a compelling case for investment in a new website or a website refresh.
For the NHS, investment decisions need to be framed in terms of discernible improvements to patients’ lives or experiences in their interactions with the NHS as well as other typical stakeholders. Building a case based around this for a website needs to consider how this patient-centricity can be achieved and requires specific approach.
We’ve considered several themes that should be considered and are particularly pertinent at the moment. Let’s take each one in turn…
How personas drive the business case
This stage is often overlooked but will strengthen the case for investment as well as ensuring that the website is fit for purpose. These are simple research based representations or archetypes of your website stakeholders and will enable you to assess how well your existing website measures up to their needs. More importantly, it is a good route to involving your patient groups in the process and demonstrate inclusiveness. The personas will then enable the construction of user journeys that will work effectively in practice. For more detail read our personas article on building personas but also take a look at this useful blog about the role of patient personas.
Online transactions and channel shift add value for visitors
As well as finding out basic information around services, users now expect to be able to undertake tasks online and avoid having to make calls or visits. So, for example, enabling patients to self-refer online helps increase satisfaction and also reduce the administrative burden. Another example is showing emergency waiting times to reduce unnecessary visits. Channel shift is already a successful theme for other public sector organisations such as the government and local councils.
Your persona research will reveal more detail, but it’s important that whatever you put in place is useful to your patients and not just fulfilling organisational objectives so you can take channel shift to the next level.
Make it easy to locate and manage services
Patients locating services they need is one of the most used functions within a Trust website. Providing useful functionality that serves this such as predictive search (as you type the most common search options are displayed to users so they can select more quickly) will increase the value of your website. Also, keeping this information accurate usually requires administration from the web team to make sure service area owners are regularly reviewing and updating details. This task can be eased by setting up automated reminders that will prompt area owners to undertake this work which will deliver time savings.
User based design improves engagement
An approach to design that makes it easier for stakeholders to use the website and improve engagement will reduce bounce rates and result in more time spent using the website productively. Looking at your existing engagement levels and identifying improvements will further support your case. Addressing usability issues with clear calls to action, positioning important content within easy reach and having clearly signposted user journeys all contribute and require design expertise.
There is also a need to bring a greater degree of brand consistency into play, both on and off-line with the new guidelines already issued. These guidelines need to be interpreted correctly for online assets, ensuring you are able deliver an engaging visual experience.
Improve your online reach
Don’t assume users will find you just because you have a website. You should consider how well your website appears in terms of its public visibility, so SEO, PPC and social media all need to be factored in to ensure you can demonstrate how you intend to reach your audience. This is often overlooked but showing that you have a planned approach to reach your audience and increase its usage, particularly for priority areas will strengthen the case for investment.
It has obviously been discussed for the NHS in terms of personas driving user centric SEO but it would be interesting to see how this has been adopted.
Adopt a wider interpretation of accessibility
Accessibility is not just about WAI standards when users are engaged, it should also cater for how easily users can access it in the first instance. A common issue with NHS website design is that page load speeds are well below industry standards and also not having a fully mobile responsive solution will deter users from exploring your website.
The approach to on-site accessibility has now moved on from just providing the ability to enlarge fonts or change colours and is more holistic in its outlook with tools such as Browsealoud and compatibility with screen readers and video transcripts becoming more commonplace.
Move from just a website to a valued online resource
All of these elements combine together to help build a business case that isn’t just about how the website looks or its age, but is more focused on your stakeholders needs, particularly patients. It will also include supporting statistics and ideas as to how the user experience can be improved and the internal efficiencies that can be delivered. This will have greater meaning to the different internal stakeholders and be more likely to hold sway.