The key to creating good Web content is to understand your
intended users and to design information based on their specific wants and
needs. The goals are to:
- Write health content your users need in words they
- Organize the content so that it's easy to find.
Before you design your site, think about the content you
will provide and how it will be used.
Research shows that targeted health information gets
users attention and promotes learning.32 For example, information can be targeted to
users age, sex, culture, health status, motivation, or readiness to
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1.1. Identify your users. Who are
Are they looking for health information for themselves or
Many users with limited literacy skills are searching for
health information for a family member or friend. As a result, they often
prefer to print or e-mail the information they find online.16,33,34
- Consider including health content
targeted to caregivers and family members.
What are the social and cultural characteristics of your
intended users that might influence how they perform on the site?13 (Consider age, education, economic status,
and experience with the Internet.)
What are the technological characteristics that influence
how users perform on the site? (Do they have broadband access? Do they have a
- If Web users don't have broadband access, graphics and
other features will take a long time to load.
- Many users with limited literacy skills access the
Internet at the house of a friend or family member. Some go online at a public
library or community center. This may affect the type of health information
they search for, the length of time they spend searching, and the degree of
personal health information they provide.5,34
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1.2. Understand their motivations. Why
are they here?
Motivation drives the search for health information and
influences users' performance on a Web site.32,33
Understanding users' motivations will help you target health promotion content
to meet their information needs and expectations.
Studies found that users' motivations tend to shift, often
frequently.7 In response, target content
to multiple motivations for seeking health information.
The formula below was developed based on the motivations
identified in the previous example. It's designed to move users from "I want
some information about a topic" to "I want to do something about it."
Follow this proven formula for presenting health
- Describe the health behavior.
- Describe the benefits of taking action.
- Provide specific action steps.
(For more information, see
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1.3. Understand their goals. What are
they trying to do?
Most Web users have a specific goal in mind. Typically,
they are trying to answer a question.4,7,12 Ask your users what they want to know. Then
decide how to give them that information.
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Iterative Design Methods and
- Individual interviews
- Focus groups
- A task analysis
- Personas and scenarios
Tips for designing and testing your Web site with
- In this early phase of iterative
design, use focus groups and interviews to talk to people who might use your
Web site. Consider interviewing intermediaries who work with Web users with
limited literacy skills. These could include public librarians, health care
providers, and adult educators. Find out how your Web site could help them
serve their clients better.
- Once you've observed and interviewed
potential users, create user personas and scenarios. Use these to guide you
through the next phase of content development.
- If you are revising an existing Web
site, start with a usability test. Collect benchmark data on how long it takes
people to find the information they need. After you revise the site, repeat the
test to see whether you have successfully improved usability.