Cage your ego

The problem with most health centric websites today is that they cater to the institution’s ego more than to the people who actually visit the sites.

Sites are usually a toxic cocktail of professional slurs, diplomas, testimonials, and other elements that simply cater to the institution’s reputation. This excuse is seemingly hidden under the veil of “we’re trying to build trust with the consumer.” In turn, this is ofcourse utter nonsense, and represents a foul misinterpretation of the guiding principle.

Most medical or health sites are designed for a literate, white, middle-class, college educated audience. This is, sadly, a small subset of people.

The truth is that millions of people still have a hard time reading. Most seeking medical guidance have limited literacy skills. Worse yet, of those even fewer have health literacy skills. They have difficulties in understanding complicated health information. It’s like trying to explain advanced gene editing techniques to kindergarteners. It’s possible, but you have to approach the problem from their viewpoint and explain it layman’s terms, touching on and introducing new ideas, phrases, and expressions carefully and purposefully.

There’s a steady expanse of health information and health services online. More web developers and professionals need to introduce better ways of communicating about health related issues with regular people. Not the best case scenario.

As people age, they experience vision, hearing, and cognition disabilities in any and all measures. This means that even the most tech savvy millennial will have trouble reading about health info in their 80s. But this will definitely be the case soon, as more tech savvy people grow older – more of them will seek health guidance online first.

Take this as a challenge to build better health websites and themes. Crystal clear content, svelte and minimal sites, with simple, straightforward navigation have a paramount impact on improving the way people experience your site and get vital info. Including people with limited literacy skills.

The key is to reduce fluff and force content. The key is to limit choices and options in order to lessen confusion and doubt.

There needs to be a sweeping redesign of current websites. They should also be infused with innovation that focuses on the user experience, including:

  1. How simple is the info?
  2. Who will be able to read and understand it entirely?
  3. How can one access this site? Do they need to have experience in using websites/browsing the web?

Websites that have been boiled down, simplified to their core, greatly improve the experience of all people, not just those who have trouble using the web. Familiar language in content, and crisp layouts are more usable for everyone.

When we talk about literacy, we mean a person’s ability to read, write, speak and solve problems so they are able to function in our society.

Health literacy, on the other hand, is a person’s ability to find, understand, and use health information, so they can make informed decisions regarding their health.

Both of these are pretty closely related. You can’t have an illiterate person understand complicated health terms; however you CAN have a an extremely literate person who struggles in interpreting and understanding health info. This means they also have trouble with making decision based on what they did – and didn’t – understand.

The entire point of making easy-to-digest health themes and sites is to make them as accessible to as many people as possible. Especially to folks who have trouble with basic literacy. That’s why is better to assume that you’re dealing ONLY with people with limited literacy scopes. Because in a way you are. The results you achieve with this will trickle down to people who are fairly literate, and to those who are even health literate, thus improving the experience for everyone.