Working together with Healthcare professionals to deliver positive online experiences for vulnerable audiences

Posted on Posted in Web Design

Vulnerable audiences could include an array of different people or groups.

From the elderly to the very young, to those seeking advice on health conditions or those newly diagnosed who are simply trying to find a way to manage their condition, or those living with long-term illness or disability.


Whoever the audience be, Healthcare providers and their WordPress Web Design Agencies have a duty of care to ensure the online experiences they offer is one that supports the user. It should be careful to be honest and reassuring, without over promotion, and with a razor-sharp focus on delivering the information the website visitor needs.


Google has undoubtedly become a popular tool for people searching for help and, in some cases, self-diagnosis. In the UK alone Google shows an average of 135,000 monthly searches on the word Anxiety. Add in a few other key words related to similar health conditions and the monthly search volume starts to look alarmingly high in this category.  


Undoubtedly, many in this audience alone will be experiencing challenges that could be negatively affecting their lives and their families and some may well be feeling desperate and isolated. This one audience alone highlights the need to consider your online approach carefully.

So, how do we ensure we execute our duty of care to some of the most vulnerable audiences when designing web experiences?


Understanding each segment of your audience, not simply their age and gender, is the first hurdle. Try to understand their challenges; their pain points; their emotional state; what are they looking for online; how technical are they; do they have any vision or any other health conditions that will hinder their online experience. You may well end up with several customer profiles if your website has multiple service offerings. Yet, each segment could well have very different needs online and it’s important to understand these.


Once we have more understanding of each audience it’s then possible to build customer journeys and content to ensure that we provide everything they need online. Crucially, in some areas of healthcare, it’s important to establish quickly if the website content cannot and should not help them. If this is the case we need to get them to where they can get help as soon as possible.


Psychological Therapy based websites are an example of this, as they cannot deal with crisis situations and these web users need to be advised to contact a crisis centre or the emergency services. This is an obvious scenario but there will be far less obvious ones that need to be tackled – it is often a fine line and this is where experienced website content management is required. The user experience should be seamless, engaging and useful to the user, with little friction points and clear sign posting to take the relevant action.


Language, tone and imagery all play a vital role in the web experience in every website but perhaps more so in healthcare. Having worked with many healthcare professionals we’ve seen how consultants can be very excited by new pictures of diagnostic machines such as new MRI scanners or the latest X-ray equipment, however, for most potential patients, machines can be scary, off putting and reminiscent of a diagnosis of some unwanted illness. Positive reinforcement through imagery of successful outcomes, patient stories, as well as simple language, is far more reassuring for someone feeling vulnerable.


Website accessibility is also crucial to consider with website audiences that could be more vulnerable. More specifically, web accessibility means that people with disabilities can perceive, understand, navigate, and interact with your website, and that they can contribute online. Web accessibility can benefit those with visual, auditory, physical, speech, cognitive and neurological disabilities.


The Web Content Accessibility Guidelines 2.0 (WCAG) have many online resources if you need guidance on a current website or if you are building a new site.  Simply, WCAG 2.0 is divided into three conformance levels (A, AA and AAA). The higher the level, the more restraining it becomes on design (and you will see your Web Design agency take a deep breath when discussing the triple A option!).


As a rule of thumb, success criteria from level A should be invisible or barely noticeable to the interface. On the other hand, level AAA will have such a high impact on design. The impact will be so much that even the WCAG claims that most organisations will not be able to achieve that level – as the compromises on design will be too important. However, it is still worth familiarising yourself with the components of each level of the requirements.


In summary, the healthcare sector continues to face growing and complex challenges but the use of a collaborative, technology enabled approach is likely to play a huge part in helping vulnerable people access information and the help they need to positively improve their lives. We hope that by starting with the online experience we can go some way towards taking a step in the right direction to improve patient outcomes.


If you’d like help or advice in developing your website with different audiences in mind get in touch.

Find out what we can do for you