User-centred NHS website redesign supports a patient first approach

A collaborative website redesign for University Hospitals Sussex NHS Foundation Trust following the merger of Western Sussex Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust and Brighton and Sussex University Hospitals.

University Hospitals Sussex NHS Foundation Trust
nurses in masks smiling

The challenge

In April 2021 University Hospitals Sussex NHS Foundation Trust (UHSussex) was formed from a merger of Western Sussex Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust and Brighton and Sussex University Hospitals NHS Trust. A new brand identity was developed that builds on the strengths and commonalities of the previous trusts and supported the vision and values of the new. We won a tender to design a new flagship public facing website using the latest version of WordPress.

As one of the UK’s largest acute Trusts, UHSussex provides care to the people of West Sussex, Brighton and Hove and parts of East Sussex. They employ nearly 20,000 people across seven hospitals and handle more than 1.5 million outpatient appointments, A&E visits, and surgery cases every year. UHSussex’s main goal was to redesign the website to provide an improved user experience, replacing all legacy websites into one scalable and manageable platform. In particular, they wanted to promote their focus on continuous improvement by putting the patient first. The second goal was to overcome difficulties in the structure of information (as a result of two independent Trust websites being merged), navigation and search as well as ensuring compliance with the 2018 accessibility regulations.

Expertise used:

We collaborated closely with internal departments using a range of user-centred design techniques.

  • User research

    User research helped us take the guesswork out of creating a great user experience.

  • UX design

    We identified opportunities for improvement and validated designs with users.

  • Frontend development

    We focused on providing accessible, responsive frontend code that adheres to WCAG standards.

  • Web accessibility

    We provided an accessibility audit, training and consultancy to meet accessibility regulations.

  • WordPress CMS

    The new website is built on WordPress with a set of flexible components and templates.

  • Managed hosting

    We provide hosting, maintenance and support on our secure managed WordPress platform.

We are extremely grateful for Mixd’s support in designing the new website, combining exceptional technical expertise with creative ingenuity.

Laura Donaldson Head of Digital Communications – University Hospitals Sussex NHS Foundation Trust

Our approach:

Working closely with the communications team, an in-depth discovery phase was undertaken that included reviewing analytics, interviews, surveys and focus groups with a wide range of staff and external audiences. This helped define all the different audiences who visit the site and what their user journeys would be. We invested time in understanding these needs and documented the key user journeys that needed to be considered. We then used these “personas” to create a custom website design that made each of these journeys much more intuitive, so whether people arrive at the site looking for parking information or for details on what to bring when coming into hospital, they can quickly find the information they need.

This initial user research enabled us to initiate the creation of prototypes for user pathways and subsequently, we conducted tests with real users to confirm the validity of our design choices. The insights gathered from our usability testing played a significant role in shaping our strategy for refining the design and provided valuable guidance for the development of the final pattern library of components. Using a qualitative research approach, we focused on a series of usability tests alongside in-depth interviews to understand the wider context of use. Other tests included card sorting and ranking exercises, preference tests and benchmarking.

The results:

We collaborated with UHSussex to design and build a new, accessible website featuring enhanced search functionality and an improved user experience. We also implemented the WordPress content management system, ensuring that staff can easily edit content with confidence.

The project was about more than simply merging the two existing websites. User experience and performance were key factors in this redesign. UHSussex wanted to modernise the look and feel of their website and create one joined-up experience for their users, regardless of where they went on the site. A lot of attention has gone into the different ways that people search for content: by title, abbreviation, service or search by the condition itself. Through a well thought out design system, we have introduced a comprehensive set of layouts, components and patterns that help users complete common tasks like finding service information.

To deliver an effective solution, we embraced the power of WordPress. Utilising the groundbreaking WordPress block editor, we have completely transformed the content publishing experience by incorporating a set of reusable components from the NHS digital service manual. The result is a user-friendly WordPress theme that enables UHSussex’s communications team to use predefined content blocks within their enterprise CMS, which they can populate with text, links and images to easily create and publish web pages with a unified brand identity.

Our task was to create and structure a new design system library encompassing styles, components and guidelines, with the primary goal of simplifying the user experience. During discovery, we examined the existing sites and discovered there was much overlap with content often duplicated. We provided support and guidance with content design – prioritising the information people need from the site, defining the vocabulary and mental models people use to try and find it.

Mixd’s role in this project was not only to focus users’ needs but also ensure the system was fit for purpose and set up to meet UHSussex’s organisational requirements. To this end, we facilitated a comprehensive training programme for their internal teams that focussed on WordPress, content design, search engine optimisation and web accessibility. Our work helped ensure UHSussex’s website is accessible and compliant with the Public Sector Bodies (Websites and Mobile Applications) (No. 2) Accessibility Regulations 2018.

The work continues:

We have gone on to develop a strong ongoing relationship with UHSussex and have since worked together on several projects where we have continued to support them with both new functionality, accessibility training and refinements to the user experience.

If you want to find out more about how we build fast, accessible websites for the NHS, please get in touch.