Usability Standards for Health Websites

Usability Health Websites

When people have health-related questions, increasingly they seek answers online. It's critical that health websites have reliable information in a usable format, and that's why the Healthy People 2020 initiative is studying the quality of health websites.

website-photo.jpgHealthy People 2020 is an initiative of the US Department of Health and Human Services' Office of Disease Prevention and Health Promotion (ODPHP). Every 10 years they develop a set of measureable objectives for health improvement. One of the current objectives:  increase the number of health websites that follow their list of 19 best practices. 

You can read more about the initiative in this article in the Journal of Medical Internet Research, but here are some of the important takeaways for your health website. 

19 principles of a quality, usable health website according to Healthy People 2020:

  1. Use conventional interaction elements
  2. Make it obvious what is clickable and what is not
  3. Minimize vertical scrolling
  4. Ensure that the Back button behaves predictably
  5. Provide clear feedback signals for actions
  6. Ensure site is accessible for users with disabilities and uses elements of 508 compliance
  7. Provide a simplified user experience
  8. Incorporate multimedia
  9. Offer a functional home page
  10. Present a clear visual hierarchy
  11. Provide easy search functionality
  12. Clearly label content categories
  13. Make pages easy to skim or scan
  14. Make elements on the page easy to read
  15. Visually group related topics
  16. Make sure text and background colors contrast
  17. Focus the writing on audience and purpose
  18. Use the users' language; minimize jargon and technical terms
  19. Allow for interaction with the content

The ODPHP reviewed 100 top-ranked health-related websites, to develop a baseline so they can measure improvements over time. Of the 100 websites reviewed, only 42 followed 10 or more of these 19 usability principles.

How does your health website stack up? At Heideldesign, we have a background in health communications and web design, and we can transform your health website into a useful, reliable communication tool. Let's talk.