As we wrap up another busy year, our web team reflects on highlights and takeaways from 2017 in building engaging digital experiences this last year.
1. Personalization helps hospitals better reach patients.
Karen, user experience and digital strategist: For several of our clients, we incorporated explicit personalization in their hospital website redesigns this year. We gave website visitors the option to identify their preferred health care location to see related content as they browse the website, including available services and hours, and events and classes.
We also created ways to let visitors identify their purpose for visiting the website by allowing them to self-select whether they are a student, patient, visitor, staff, etc. This personalization presents users with customized navigation, content and calls to action.
Glen, strategy and business development: Healthcare providers know a lot about their patients. Now, organizations are beginning to leverage this information to provide highly targeted, relevant and personalized web experiences.
2. Agile makes for smoother website launches.
Caroline, project manager: Breaking a redesign into sprints and at the end of each sprint being able to show our clients a fully functioning section of the site has made for smoother roll outs. With a fully transparent agile methodology, client partners know what is going on throughout the process, instead of after three months we’re saying, okay, here’s your site!
Agile also helps us manage redesign projects more smoothly internally because we are holding frequent sprint-planning and scrum meetings that keep the requirements top-of-mind. That means a more efficient process overall with fewer elements missed and less re-work.
3. We love Drupal 8.
Chris, back-end developer: 2017 was the year we decided to fully embrace Drupal 8 as our default platform, and to use Drupal 8’s improved framework architecture.
Caroline: Drupal 8 is much cleaner and easier to use in the administrative end. It’s also a lot simpler in terms of adding custom blocks and cool features — so easy a project manager can do it!
Lynn, front-end developer: Working with Drupal 8 and Paragraphs, specifically, has really helped us to create better, more flexible content management systems for our clients. Paragraphs is a Drupal 8 module for handling content that gives end-users more flexibility with adding content. We were able to create a highly customizable landing page for one of our clients that allowed them to create beautiful, specialized ad-hoc landing pages for ad campaigns quickly and all on their own!
4. Stakeholder involvement and engagement is crucial.
Cara, project manager: In projects with short turnarounds, it’s important to have daily communication with your internal teams and with the client to set priorities and expectations.
In addition, having an up-to-date task list that is shared internally and externally allows all parties to see what items are still outstanding. We use a number of project management and collaboration tools, including Jira and Confluence, to provide clear documentation, tightly control overall progress, and increase transparency.
5. Component-based design helps teams be more efficient.
RuSean, designer: In designing large health system websites, the sum of the parts is greater than the whole. Over the last year, we’ve been placing greater influence on the modular components that collectively comprise a completed page or template. Employing this kind of component-based strategy helps manage the inherent complexities of health system web design efforts.
6. Motion-based assets are cool.
Audrey, designer: We incorporated video within the home page hero image spot for a couple clients this year as part of a broader effort towards using motion-based assets. They help engage the website’s user immediately and quickly draw them into the site.
7. Actual content is extremely important for QA.
Cara: During your QA pre-launch period, you always want to ensure you have a significant amount of real content implemented for efficient QA.
For all elements of the site, content is important: Does pagination work correctly? Do we have content for each field on a staff directory to efficiently test filtering? Is search working properly?
I’ve also begun creating training folders for our clients that house specific instructions for content entry to make the migration process smoother.
8. How to incorporate ADA compliance on a website.
Sarah, front-end developer: This year, accessibility was a hot topic for us and our clients. Healthcare providers have grown increasingly aware of the evolving online accessibility requirements they should meet, and some of the associated legal concerns.
This year we built and tested client websites for people who use screen readers. This required that the website was navigable with keyboard short cuts and keys with a screen reader. It also meant pushing content forward that aids in navigating when spoken, as well as hiding and rearranging content that doesn’t.
9. KUTSS: Keep user-testing simple, stupid.
Karen: Remember to keep user-testing simple so users can complete the task. Our goal is to get as much good data as possible because sometimes qualitative testing videos can be costly. Good doesn’t mean the data is supporting our theory, it means valid data for us to assess and analyze.
Here are a few tips we have to keep it simple:
- Focus on one task at a time: For qualitative research, get the baseline results first (e.g., can the user complete this task?). Then build upon it by asking related questions that are emotion-based, such as, “Was it easy?”, “Was it helpful?” and “What do you think about it?”
- Set up one question per screen: That way the user won’t be distracted by other questions and potentially skip questions unnecessarily.
- Allow room for error and variables: For qualitative research, set up the test environment to allow for the user getting stuck on a particular task, and provide a way for them to move forward to the next task. If you don’t, the user may quit out of frustration or spend all of the time figuring out that one thing when there are other items to test.
10. Test! And build in website remediation time afterward.
Cara: Test, test and TEST! And always anticipate an additional two weeks of remediation after all sprints are completed. We’ve learned to build in specific QA and remediation time after each sprint completion to allow the appropriate amount of time for QA.
Even after bugs are remediated, it’s important to do a full scan of the site as other bugs may have popped up.