Just because you know your audience does not mean you know how to build a website for them. In this article we explore what persona research does and how it can make your next healthcare website great.
What are personas?
Personas are developed as part of the UX design research process. They are used to identify different types of web users and to understand how to help them achieve their goals on a website. Developing accurate personas can be the difference between building a website that is engaging and one that is frustrating. This is especially important for healthcare websites because users are seeking out information to better care for themselves or a loved one. Presenting information that is not relevant or making the process of finding what they are looking for is a key factor in their satisfaction with your website.
What is involved in building personas for healthcare websites?
Ideally persona research would be done at the beginning of a healthcare website project but it can be done at any point and can be used to test out new features and pages as well as a website in its entirety. It is really up to you how you use them, but at their core they are a series of self-assessments, surveys or interviews with a mixture of quantitative and qualitative questions. These questions take form of a mix of demographic, technological and behavioural questions aimed at painting a picture of who your users are and what they are trying to achieve on your website. Once all of this information is collected it is time to make meaning of the data by analysing it and consolidating it into different users that will represent your healthcare website audience.
Does your healthcare web design project really need to develop personas?
The short answer is yes. If you don’t need any convincing feel free to skip this paragraph.
Long gone are the days of healthcare websites simply presenting their services and information. This approach pre-dates user experience design and goes against best practice web design standards in 2021. The focus is now on the user and positioning content in a way that allows the user to self-identify a follow a logical flow of information to get what they are looking for. Rather than using a bloated menu system that forces them to contextualize your healthcare organization and understand industry specific terms.
The average user will spend less than 15 seconds on your site and they take on average 0.05 seconds to form and impression. https://www.sweor.com/firstimpressions
Further to that, trends have shown a decline in attention span as the demands on our attention have increased through excessive advertisement and digital distraction. We have learned to tune out to irrelevant information so if you are designing your next healthcare website for your users and your goal is to make them use your website then you need to understand them as best you can. You may think you already know them (I’m sure you do) but persona research paints the bigger picture and removes assumption and guess work. It is also low risk high reward because you don’t need to break the bank to do it. You can do this yourself by sending out a persona questionnaire unique to your healthcare website.
How do I build a Persona Questionnaire for my healthcare web project?
A persona questionnaire comprises of the following types of information:
Demographic information is used to provide context to the respondent. The respondent is to identify the following pieces of information about themselves: age, gender, language, location, occupation/role or any other specific piece of identifying information relevant to your healthcare web project. It should be noted that privacy is always extremely important when designing for healthcare and respondents are all anonymous despite providing their information.
Technological information is used to help understand how a respondent is using your healthcare website. It is important to establish this because it can highlight the need for developing a better interface on mobile devices or if a large proportion of your audience is rural with slow internet connections you could identify the need to remove that high-definition video you have playing every time the home page is loaded. Typical technological questions asked include: device, operating system, browser, other technical details
Behavioural information is asked in the form of ratings certain features of a website as well as open ended statements designed to get to the bottom of how a user feels about a website. Behaviour questions should cover how frequently someone uses the website and what they are doing when they are on the healthcare website. It may be found that a certain user type is rarely consuming the website and can be linked to what they are trying to do. These pieces of information provide insight into how to better design for what is being used on the website and what needs to be more prominent for a user type.
Understanding a user's goals is at the heart of a persona research document. To get the best results we find that it is important to make goal questions open ended and to ask the same question in different ways to account for different perspectives and attitudes towards a website. To accomplish this, ask the respondent to identify their current goals, pain points and to dream up a perfect use case scenario. This information in combination of behavioural information will provide valuable context when analysing responses. How differently do you value someone’s response if they never visit the website and are looking to do something on it that you have no intention of fulfilling verses someone who is active on your site that is recommending something easily attainable? Also, understanding this information in the greater context of other responses will reveal trends and the more repetition your find in responses the more likely something needs attention.
The quote is an interesting way to ask someone to summarize everything they think into one or two sentences. It gives the respondent one last chance to say what they need to say about your healthcare website and often can provide a context to the responses that offers insight into how they view their own assessments of the website. At worst the quote is redundant and at best it elaborates and provides further insight.
Analysis of Persona research
The analysis of the persona research is done by looking for trends in responses and should be combined with a statistical analysis to provide context. Take for example a situation where users are reporting that they have trouble finding healthcare clinic locations yet the find a clinic feature is displayed prominently on the homepage but it is not getting much traffic. Perhaps, there is something else going on here? Maybe how the piece is named is confusing or the fact that 90% of traffic is coming from a mobile device and the find a clinic piece is only available on desktop? Whatever the case may be a statistical analysis will provide a better understanding of the information gathered.
We suggest you conduct persona research before your start your next healthcare project. It is relatively inexpensive to run and can really impact how successful your website is and how well it serves its audience. If you don’t have the time to do this, we would be more than happy to run it or analyse your persona research as part of our digital strategy services.
Alex has over 10 years of experience managing digital projects with a background in Psychology and Web Design.