We advised the South Tees Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust that they needed to completely re-design their website from the ground up. The primary objective was to move to a responsive design that would open the service to rising numbers of mobile and tablet users – which would make South Tees the first NHS Trust to embrace this bold move.
The project began with a series of design workshops to establish objectives, success criteria and target audiences. The primary goal was to reach consensus on what we were trying to achieve and then generate ideas on how this could be done. Initial ideas were quickly visualised so that the team could assess their potential and likely development cost. The website also needed to reflect the existing brand identity so our design team worked with an existing design agency to evolve the brand collateral to make it work effectively online.
The project included a comprehensive user research stage where we undertook a series of in-depth telephone interviews and informal user testing. To ensure relevance, participants had to have used both a South Tees hospital and the existing website. We believe that quality of research is better than quantity; if you pick the right people, user research/testing doesn’t have to be a long and drawn out process. Qualitative user research is the basis of user-centred design: giving our team access to real users from target audiences before the design process begins provides them with the information and ideas they need to develop their thinking and avoid designing-in problems. We focused on users’ experiences of the existing site, their effectiveness in finding information/completing tasks and their expectations as a whole. Alongside this research we also created a number of user personas which we continually referenced could reference throughout the project.
Following the research, our user experience (UX) team began work on the new information architecture for the site, creating desktop wireframes that led into design visuals. Direction was informed by the UX research and the usability testing that we carried out throughout the project; the more we understand about users, the better we are able to meet their needs and design something that appeals to them beyond mere aesthetic appearance.
The initial build stage involved taking each designed page and turning it into a static HTML/CSS template which was then integrated into the site’s CMS. The site is built around WordPress, our content management system of choice. We knew it was more than capable and the Trust were very keen to work with an open source platform — there was little reason to look any further.
Owning the site
Rather than handing over a completed site, we focused on delivering a suite of adaptable components and templates that, together with a Style Guide, would allow the client’s in-house marketing team to upload content directly. We believed our time was best used elsewhere in the development process, and that by working closely with the client in this way we could help to ensure that the marketing team had full ownership of the project by the time we went live.
In addition, we supplied a structured training programme that began early in the project with hands-on workshop sessions and remote screen-share conference calls. We also provided a set of video screencasts covering the key content management system tasks so the client always had something to refer back to.
At completion, a highly-researched and thoroughly-tested project was completed to a tight schedule and delivered on budget.
We received some very positive feedback from a site user which demonstrates precisely why we believe so strongly in responsive design. It echoes perfectly all the recommendations we made to the client at the beginning of the project.
‘I just wanted to say what a fantastic website you have! My mother has AMD and was able to navigate pages without having to magnify everything. Your headings are so clear, the paragraphs are short and succinct but they tell you everything you need to know, there are pictures of things like phones so you can click straight onto what you want – so well thought out. Although it all looks very simple, I’m sure it was difficult to make that real – it’s tempting to add bits here and there – but thank you for thinking about your older audience and those with disabilities. Not everyone’s computer literate and your site makes it a pleasure to learn. And thanks also for the practical tips on e.g. what to bring into hospital – not just great IT but well thought out content.