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By Leigh Mortimer, 16 August 2018
I’m a Product Manager at NHS Digital and my role is to look at how we can improve the design of the NHS website (www.nhs.uk). I work with a small team of skilled designers, developers and researchers. Together, we have recently made some important improvements to the site and this blog explains what they are and why we have made them.
There are over 40 million visits to the NHS website (nhs.uk) per month. It has thousands of articles, videos and tools, all made to help people and there are links to lots of local and online services that make it easy for people to use the NHS.
It is a good website but it could be better
But how do we know how to make things better? The simple answer is that we don’t unless we test them with people!
That is what we have been doing since we started this work. We have spoken to lots of people who use the website. We have asked them to have a look at the changes we have made and see how they feel about them. Sometimes we get it right and sometimes we don’t. But that’s ok, because it helps us to know what really works for people.
So what have we done so far?
We have made the NHS website work better on phones
Because most people use a phone to look at the NHS website, we have taken a 'mobile first’ approach.
We have changed the size of the text and how images appear on phones to make them clearer and quicker to load.
We’ve tested our new designs with lots of people on phones to know what works better.
We have made it easier to read.
The website has lots of pages and often these pages are very long. So we have made changes to the way words look on a page and the colours we use, to make it easier to read.
We have also improved the way things look on our conditions and treatments pages. This is so that people can quickly find the really important things.
We have tested these with lots of people and everyone has been able to clearly read all the words. Some people have even said that they could read it without needing their reading glasses!
We have made it easier for people to find what they need
People found it hard to use the Health A-Z. They got confused when they tried to use it.
We have now made it simpler and clearer to use. People can find what they need much quicker.
We have changed the top of the page to make it more accessible and help make it clear this is the NHS website.
There is no longer the ‘NHS Choices’ logo on the website. This is because people told us they didn’t know what NHS Choices meant or simply didn’t know about it. People call this website the NHS website. So we will too. You will continue to see the trusted NHS brand.
There is a new homepage, too
There is also a new homepage for the website www.nhs.uk which we are releasing gradually. From this page people will be able to find the health information they need. This will include links to local services.
We have more to do, but we are getting it right
One user we spoke to has a condition called dysgraphia. She finds it hard to write and finds remembering information difficult.
She told us “My brain does not take in text. I retain things better with colours and pictures. There is a logical order to how you have organised the information. That has really helped me. The dysgraphia affects how I process colours, different fonts and backgrounds. What stands out to a lot of people does not to me.
The background is very clear. It is nice and plain and does not feel too bright. The way the font is on the page is nice and easy to see. I have not seen anything and thought - I can’t make that out.”
The NHS is for everyone. So the NHS website should be for everyone, too
We want the NHS website to be accessible for everyone. What this means is that people with a disability can use the website as easily as someone that does not have a disability.
We want the site to be accessible to everyone. And to achieve that we have been fortunate to work with some amazing people and teams, such as the NHS Digital Ability Network Group, the NHS England Learning Disability and Autism Advisory Group, the Voluntary, Community and Social Enterprise (VCSE) Health and Wellbeing Alliance and BID Leeds Hearing & Sight Loss service.
With their help, we have been testing our changes with people who are dyslexic, people who are blind or partially sighted, people who are deaf or hard of hearing and people with a learning disability, autism or both.
We have much to learn and will continue to make it better.
And if we can get this right then the NHS website will work better for everyone
This feels like a good ambition to have, especially as we celebrate the 70th birthday of the NHS.
We will be writing more about the changes to the website soon so please look out for these.