Improving Governmental Communication of COVID-19 Through User Experience
User Experience (UX) can make a huge difference and bring more value to the world. During the COVID-19 pandemic, the governing bodies need to realize that UX is also an essential tool for communicating precisely to their citizens.
We at UXTesting have reviewed several global health and disease authority’s websites and provided feedback below based on their advice. However, before going through the feedback, what is User Experience?
According to Wikipedia, User Experience (UX) is a person's emotions and attitudes about using a particular product, system or service. User experience varies dynamically, constantly modifying over time due to changing usage circumstances.
There are 3 main important factors of UX, these are “Useful”, “Easy” and “Efficient” accordingly.
“Useful” means the users/customers can find the useful information from your website and services.
“Easy” means your website and service are easy to use even if the users or customers don’t need to be guided.
“Efficient” means your website provide very good flow for users and customers to find the information they want
Let’s review the website below as a “Citizen” prospect and look for right, useful, healthy information for self-protection.
Generally speaking, this is a good website that obviously shows 3 steps to protect yourself with an “Attention” icon and red wording to attract the visitor's attention. The two clickable charts below demonstrate the global infection map and the confirmed cases and on the right, a bar graph with local cases. But with limited space, this does not provide “Useful” information visitors can understand on first glance. Users won’t know what the X-axis and Y-axis represents until clicking the charts to show full-screen.
Visualization is the popular way to show the comprehensive story from data, but you also need to take care of “readability” to provide a better experience for online users.
The United States’ CDC makes it easy for citizens to access information about the Coronavirus by putting a large banner at the top of the page with a clear action for the users to take, and 3 subtopics to provide extra information.
After clicking the button “Learn more about COVID-19”, you will see a flow of simple questions to guide you to the information. The design and UX of this website is very pleasant, especially the calm color and usage of daily live pictures to reduce the panic for online users.
Color and fronts are part of design and user experience originated from the cultures and regions. When visiting the Public Health England website, we will see a big block of “black” to highlight the information online users must read.
“Stay at home” with 3 details listed provides good information delivery but is not a good “reading experience”. We would like to tell people that they have to stay at home but the reason is protection from getting infected and even if you do not have symptoms, you can still spread the virus to someone else.
To find out more about how one should protect themselves and their loved ones against the virus, visitors can click on the “Coronavirus (COVID-19) guidance” header. However, the guide is written like a thesis or a book. In order to convey information in a more efficient manner, images or simple infographics should be used instead, making it easier for the reader to understand the messages conveyed.
When looking for COVID-19 information, the health authority is one of the best sources to rely on. The department of health of the Philippines shows a huge banner at the top of the page that recommends you to follow the official website, facebook and other social media channels. Since the banner is rotating, the COVID-19 banner only appears for 10 seconds. The banner is not clickable and you have to click the “Visit Page” button below.
After clicking it, we would like to find the guideline or any useful information to help us understand how to protect ourselves and others. However, it is typical of government websites to show “Fact” and “Number” to tell us the current situation. It is not easy and efficient for me to find the information I want.
This is a typical problem, we need to switch from “Providing all the information” to “User-centric Design” to help users find the information they look for. Better experience can lead to a greater successful rate of policy delivery.
The website has a useful tool, namely a COVID-19 case tracker. It looks very fancy like Dashboard, but unfortunately it lacks the “User-centric” mindset as mentioned above. Even on a large screen you cannot understand all the parts of this dashboard.
Heatmap is one of the popular ways to show the big data. However, for the purpose of crisis communication, leaders need to carefully consider what kind of data is the most suitable to convey their intended message so as to minimise panic while maintaining transparency.
As the authority deals with health, this website shows the priority about coronavirus and forward users to other pages.
When you click the button, it shows information about the coronavirus 2019 including a press conference, coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) situation within and outside the country, hospitalization and discharge and so on. This is also a typical government website, demonstrating all the data and information to you. If you were a citizen looking for guidelines to protect yourselves and others, this seems not very user friendly.
There is also a map called “The situation of occurrence of patients with COVID-19” showing the current situation. It is simple and easy to understand where the cases are. Visualization does not mean putting everything in a chart, it is also about what you want to deliver to the users. Hence, this is a good sample.
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After reviewing five government websites, the difference between government-centric and user-centric mindset becomes more apparent. This does not necessarily mean one is better than the other. It depends on the purpose and self-recognition of the government. However, it does provide an opportunity to further discuss how we can help users get useful information efficiently, and designing an easy to use website.
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