In the world of the web, content is king, but people are the purpose. For healthcare websites, this is especially true. As a technologist and programmer, it’s easy to think of the web in terms of code, features and widgets, but solutions that don’t meet the needs of our users aren’t really solutions at all. As Meredith, our Director of Content Services, often reminds me, we need to put ourselves in the shoes of our users to make sure that the technologies, content and graphics we create are meeting the constantly evolving needs of our client partners and their audiences. It’s something our team keeps globally front and center in every project, but how do you know specifically who is actually wearing these shoes? Audience definition and the use of personas can help make sure your website is meeting the core needs of your various audiences, while catering to each different user types.
Hitting the mark with your website can be challenging and confusing. In addition to patients, potential patients and family members, information and functionality on your website must also support job seekers, referring physicians, researchers, caregivers, potential donors and many more.
The Multiple Personalities of the Web
“You can please some of the people all of the time, you can please all of the people some of the time, but you can’t please all of the people all of the time.” ~ John Lydgate
One of the most common mistakes made in web strategy and information architecture is to cast such a wide net that you encompass all your potential users. From the mother of three trying to research health information for her family to the potential employee looking for information on employment, the users coming to your site will be a diverse mix. Creating a web site that serves them all equally is a challenge that all healthcare web professionals face.
So, how do we make sure we are pleasing and serving our users in a way that makes sense to the individual and makes them feel that content has been created for their specific needs? Personalization based on audience segmenting and personas creates a web user experience that is more engaging and encourages loyalty to your site.
Finding the “Person” in Personal
Audience segmentation creates focused content and navigation strategies based on defined audiences. These definitions can be broad and may not typically account for the demographics of your users. Potentials patients, referring physicians and job seekers are good examples of audience definitions that may share certain content needs, but have a unique perspective and purpose for what is needed from your site. Clearly defining these audiences and using them to guide your information architecture is a critical step in the planning and discovery phase of any project.
The creation and use of personas is a more personal approach that can be utilized within any audience segment. Creating a hypothetical person, can help clarify your mobile and desktop strategy. A key demographic in healthcare marketing, women between the ages of 30 and 60, represents a range of people in different stages of life and it is easy to start thinking of them in terms of their statistics and not their needs. Jenny, a 42 year old mother of three with a working husband and live-in retired father in-law, is a person we can serve and measure our potential strategies against. Likewise, Margaret, a 58 year old woman with a husband nearing retirement and a child about to graduate college, is a totally different person, but one with overlapping and unique needs.
So, after defining three to five personas…then what?
Personalization is a concept that has been around forever. From a monogramed cuff on a standard dress shirt to your custom smart phone settings, personalization is a way to make a common item feel special.
With Technology, We Can Personalize the Web
There are creative solutions that can provide your web users with personalization and the technologies that support them.
A little help from big brother. Predictive marketing is a common practice on the web that collects, anonymously, web usage information and presents custom content based on key strategic metrics. Anyone who has ever researched vacation destinations and suddenly notices Disney discounts within content, has been a part of predictive marketing. This method can be applied to your web site through the use of tracking cookies, which collect anonymous metrics and provide content specific to user behaviors. Did a user visit several maternity pages before searching for a Baby Boot Camp class? The next time they arrive on your site, the main rotation banner, graphic ads and related links can be set to target information for a potential mother-to-be.
The advantage of this method is that it is relatively cost effective to create, yet, flexible as the applications are driven by the data and not the site functionality. A disadvantage of this method is that it is specific to a particular computer and will not transfer if the user moves to a different device. Also, users who realize they are being targeted for marketing efforts may have negative feelings about the practice. This can be especially sensitive when health information is involved.
Empower the user. Identity management is another option for personalization that can be used in conjunction with predictive marketing or as a standalone strategy. Encouraging your users to create a profile and setting their interests gives you the same of information as cookie tracking, but allows your users to determine the types of information they receive. This is especially useful with direct marketing, such as eNewsletters.
The advantage of identity management includes a more proactive sense of user participation with a higher level of certainty that the user actually wants to receive information on specific topics or interests. The challenges of this method is that it also requires a higher level of commitment on the part of the user and it is less likely that the user will update his or her profile as interests shift. With the cookie tracking method, you can capture changes in behaviors as they occur.
Make it truly personal. A patient portal, custom homepage/my page and health trackers are great ways to offer your users a truly unique and personal experience. These features combine many of the positives of the two other methods and are not mutually exclusive to either.
Incorporating other technologies and content into these portals is another way to increase personalization. Connecting to a health tracker app, such as Duet Health’s Branded Health System app, or allowing your users to filter content from your licensed health library content can encourage users to return to the site on a regular basis and add to both the exposure and reputation of your hospital or health system.
The benefits and advantages of this method are numerous and range from increased loyalty and participation to a better ability to track the ROI metrics of you site. The only real challenge of this method is that it requires the highest investment of time and resources to initiate and maintain. With the added value of incorporating your custom blog and health content, the upside of full personalization is worth the investment.
Custom User Experiences
Finding the right solution that fits your organization or department budget, strategy and culture can be the most difficult and important step. Regardless of which method or methods you decide to employ, with personalization we may not be able to please all of the people, all of the time, but we create a website that provides our visitors with a user experience that feels like it was custom tailored for them.
AVID Design offers full-scale written and visual communication services for hospitals and healthcare systems, including Content Management Systems, SharePoint, Web Design, SEO and PPC, Content Development and Assessment, Online Video, Analytics and Measurement, and more.
Keir Bradshaw | Director of Web Development | AVID Design
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