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As User Experience consultants, we spend a lot of time on extraordinary websites. There are two things we’ve noticed about these websites, first is that they belong to the most successful organizations in their industry, and second is their ability to deliver an engaging and valuable online experience across many diverse audiences. What’s clear is that they’ve taken the critical step of identifying their distinct audiences and immediately providing them with the pathways and specific calls to action that help them quickly locate the content they desire.
For Hospitals and Healthcare organizations, this “best practice” has special application. These organizations in particular serve a unique and diverse set of audiences. Understanding those groups, their needs, perceptions, and how they look for information, is essential to architecting a site that will serve each of them while maintaining brand integrity.
Architecting your website to serve distinct audiences results in tangible organizational ROI, such as:
Every organization should evaluate their audiences and users independently through user research and requirements gathering. Most organizations have assumptions about their audiences, but user research often reveals surprising contradictions.
Our experience with a wide variety of healthcare organizations has revealed some common users and user needs that seem to span many organizations. This audience analysis is meant to serve as an example of the type of information you should gather on your users. Depending on your organization, it could also be a tool against which to validate your own audience groups and needs.
The first step is to determine who your users are, grouped by common goals and functions. Then you must rank how important these groups are to your organization – helping you prioritize what groups receive prime website real estate. Cataloging the unique needs of each group allows you to evaluate if each need is being logically addressed on your website. It is important to verify this with usability testing and analysis of website analytics as well.
Assigning importance to the function of each group:
|Tier One: Critical||Tier Two: Essential||Tier Three: Operational|
|Audiences that have a critical or time sensitive need for information, who are also critical to the organization in terms of acquisition and patient care. For them, the web is likely to be the front door to the organization and must prioritize content and tasks that meet their needs.||Groups who are essential to the organization in terms of awareness and access. For them, the website represents information and functionality they need to better understand and interact with the organization. The website must provide intuitive pathways for these audiences while not confusing critical audiences.||The organization has a working relationship with these audiences and wants to provide targeted content for them. These groups may visit the site less frequently or have an indirect need for information and services.|
Creating a matrix of where users fall in their importance to your organization and your website:
Common Healthcare audiences and user needs:
|Audience Type||Patients/ Family Members (Including: potential, new, and current patients, primary care givers and concerned family and friends)|
|Function||Critical for new patient acquisition and patient care|
|Audience Type||Referring Professionals (Including: physicians, agencies and other institutions charged with patient referral)|
|Function||Critical for new patient acquisition|
|Audience Type||Health Professionals (Including: external health professionals, researchers, scientists, students)|
|Function||Essential to research and educational institutions|
|Audience Type||Job Seekers (Including: clinical and non-clinical candidates)|
|Function||Essential to the acquisition of quality employees|
|Audience Type||Community Members (Including: volunteers, donors, survivors, extended family and friends, general public)|
|Audience Type||Operational Community Members (Including: employees and dependents, alumni, suppliers and vendors, partners and affiliates, community educators)|
|Function||Operational to the dissemination of important information and news|
Identifying user groups and user needs unique to your organization is only a step in the process to creating an optimized healthcare website. It is important to organize your content and calls to action with these user groups in mind, prioritizing those that are most critical to your organization. Creating visual and contextual clues helps your user self identify and access pathways to information particularly targeted to their needs. Your website is increasingly the first and most accessed gateway to your organization, making its impact on your organization’s bottom line ever more significant.