5. Engage Users


Section 2 introduced the idea of user engagement. Engagement is the process of involving users in health content in a way that motivates them to take action.31

Using multimedia like video, audio, graphics, and interactivity32,82,83 is an effective way to engage users. For example, you might offer users the opportunity to:

  • Watch video testimonials of people like them
  • Customize graphics to reflect variables they care about
  • Enter personal data such as age or weight to get tailored information

Remember, formatting and layout can dramatically improve the user experience. Make interacting with multimedia content easy for users by designing user-friendly forms, quizzes, buttons, links, and mobile apps.

It’s also important to make it convenient for users to access and share web content from anywhere. You can enable users to share content with their online networks by adding social media buttons to your website.

5.1 Share information through multimedia.

Whenever possible, provide health information in multiple formats—for example, audio, video, interactive graphics, quizzes, or slideshows. Multimedia can improve both learning and engagement, particularly for users with limited literacy skills.82,83

Choose media that support your content.

Before you decide on which formats to use, think about the information you’re trying to communicate. Each type of media fosters learning in its own way.

For example, consider:

  • Visuals to show spatial information (like maps)
  • Text to communicate information you want users to remember in the long term
  • Sound to convey information you want users to remember in the short term82

Make sure each piece of media you use supports the text—using media only as decoration will distract your users.83

Make media accessible.

When using audio or video, be sure to include a text alternative or transcript, so the content is accessible to all users.84,85,86

Figure 5.1

NIH SeniorHealth offers short video clips on popular health topics. Each video includes a transcript and a help tool.

Screenshot of nihseniorhealth.gov video list

Source: http://nihseniorhealth.gov/videolist.html#balanceproblems

If you’re posting videos on a dedicated YouTube channel, use the closed captioning options available. You can find details in these instructions from YouTube.

Consider quizzes.

Use quizzes to encourage active learning. Limited-literacy users like quizzes and tend to complete them. After each question, give users helpful feedback.82

Figure 5.2

In healthfinder.gov usability testing, many participants with limited literacy skills completed a parenting quiz on the website and reported liking it. After answering each question, users get information explaining why their response was right or wrong.

Screenshot of healthfinder.gov parenting quiz about the first year of life

Source: http://healthfinder.gov/Quiz/Question/parenting-quiz-first-year-of-life/

Try this

Look through your website’s content and ask yourself if any of it can be repurposed as a quiz. Quizzes are especially popular with limited-literacy users.

5.2 Design intuitive interactive graphics and tools.

Interactive graphics and tools allow users to make choices and see results that reflect their choices.87 Many types of graphics and tools—including decision aids, infographics, images, charts, and maps—can be interactive.

Present choices one at a time.

Avoid asking users to make more than 1 choice at a time. This will help keep users from getting overwhelmed.87

Figure 5.3

Healthcare.gov asks users questions 1 at a time before they can see information about health care costs in their area.

Screenshot of healthcare.gov screener form

Source: https://www.healthcare.gov/see-plans-2015/

Show that the graphic or tool has changed with visual cues.88

If users can’t see changes, they’ll assume the graphic or tool isn’t working.87 Use visual cues to indicate change—the more obvious, the better.88

Include intuitive controls.

Users interact with a graphic or tool using controls. Include commonly used controls that will be familiar to users—for example, radio buttons, drop-down selections, and autocomplete fields.87

Make it easy to start over.

Allow users to easily clear their choices and start from the beginning.87 You may want to include a “Start Over” button for forms or tools that have multiple pages.

5.3 Provide tailored information.

Invite your users to customize content to their personal interests or characteristics. This will help encourage them to interact with your content.

Figure 5.4

The myhealthfinder tool on healthfinder.gov prompts users to enter their age, sex, and pregnancy status to get personalized recommendations.

Screenshot of myhealthfinder tool

Source: http://healthfinder.gov/myhealthfinder/

Avoid asking for too much information.

We know that users want personalized health information, but they don’t want to enter a lot of personal details.27,39,49 Consider interactive content that only requires users to enter a few pieces of information about themselves.

Figure 5.5

To use the myhealthfinder tool, users only need to enter their sex and age.

Screenshot of myhealthfinder tool

Source: http://healthfinder.gov/myhealthfinder/

Create a link between the information you asked for and users’ personalized results.49

In other words, make sure users understand why you asked them to enter a particular piece of information. This will help compensate for users’ limited working memory.


“I’m very comfortable [entering my age]. That way, I get exact information for me, not different age groups.”

Figure 5.6

The myhealthfinder results page from healthfinder.gov includes a summary of the user’s personal information entered on the previous screen.

Screenshot of myhealthfinder results page

Source: http://healthfinder.gov/myhealthfinder/Result.aspx?age=29&gender=female&pregnant=0#

5.4 Create user-friendly forms and quizzes.

It’s important that forms and quizzes are intuitive and easy to use.

Make instructions clearly visible on the page.

Avoid asking users to click on a button or link to see the instructions they need to fill in a form or complete a quiz.13

To follow limited-literacy users’ typical reading path, display fields in a vertical list23,89,90 and put instructions above each field. If instructions appear at the beginning of a section or to the right of a field, users may skip over them.13

Figure 5.7

Users can easily follow instructions on the myhealthfinder form.

Screenshot of myhealthfinder tool

Source: http://healthfinder.gov/myhealthfinder/


The best-case scenario is that your quiz or form is so intuitive that it doesn’t require many instructions in the first place.

Chunk information on forms into meaningful categories.

Grouping information in ways that make sense to users will help them easily follow along.91

Figure 5.8

When applying for Medicare benefits, the form is chunked into manageable pages like “Information About Applicant.”

Screenshot of medicare.gov Apply for Benefits page

Source: Medicare.gov Apply for Benefits

When designing a long form or quiz, use 1 of 2 layout options:13

  • Show users 1 field at a time
  • Allow users to scroll down to see all fields
Figure 5.9

This healthfinder.gov parenting quiz displays each question on a new page.

Screenshot of healthfinder.gov parenting quiz

Source: http://healthfinder.gov/Quiz/Question/parenting-quiz-first-year-of-life/

Figure 5.10

This initial page in the Social Security application asks users for details about who they’re filling out the form for.

Screenshot of medicare.gov Apply for Benefits page

Source: https://secure.ssa.gov/iClaim/rib

Keep required information on forms to a minimum.

The less information your users have to enter, the better. Also try to avoid asking users to register. If you need to have a registration page, ask for as little information as possible. Be sure to:

  • Distinguish between logging in and registering
  • Make the username an email address
  • Keep registration to no more than 3 screens and provide cues (for example, “Page 1 of 3”)
  • Include a final results page with questions and responses
  • Display fields that need corrections on a new page and include instructions for correcting information23,89,90
Figure 5.11

If a user is already logged in to Healthcare.gov, forms auto-populate with his or her name.

Screenshot of the healthcare.gov Individuals and Families Form

Source: http://healthcare.gov

Design forms for mobile.

Online forms can be especially challenging for mobile users when important information or elements of the form run off-screen. Make sure users can see the information they need to complete the form and the related fields in the same view. When they can’t, we rely on users to remember and interpret content—and low literacy users may already be struggling to read and understand what they’re supposed to do.4,10,93

5.5 Consider social media sharing options.

In today’s digital era, people aren’t just online and on mobile—they’re also on social media. In fact, 3 out of 4 online adults use social media92 platforms like Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Pinterest, and LinkedIn. That’s why it can be important to give users the opportunity to share your content on social media.

Keep in mind that many people access social media on their phones.92

Make it fast and easy to share.

Embed social media buttons on your website. You can also add fixed social media buttons to your site header or footer so that users can easily follow or “like” your social media pages.

Put social media buttons below written content—that way users can read the information before they decide whether or not to share it.93 To avoid cluttering your site, beware of overusing social media buttons—only include them on pages you expect users will want to share.93

Figure 5.12

healthfinder.gov features fixed social media buttons in the bottom-left hand corner of the site.

screenshot of healthfinder.gov homepage

Source: http://healthfinder.gov

Figure 5.13

Users can click on the video’s sharing icon and choose how they’ll share it on social media.

screenshot of healthfinder.gov social media sharing options

Source: http://healthfinder.gov/StayConnected/


Interactive and multimedia elements—like video, audio, graphics, and tailored information based on personal data—can help users actively engage with your content.

Design an easy and intuitive interface for forms, quizzes, graphics, and other multimedia content, and make it convenient for users to print your content or share it on social media. When your users feel connected to your content, they’re more likely to take action and change their behavior.

Always test interactive features with users to make sure they’re intuitive. In the next section, we’ll discuss best practices for including users with limited literacy skills in research and testing activities.