Considering emotional state as well as functional needs.

In order to create a website that meets the needs of the organization, we have to first understand the needs and mindset of the user, and how those things impact their willingness to engage with the site.

Consider a user who is visiting the website for a hospital. There are a million different reasons for visiting a hospital website, and many of them involve some measure of stress. Maybe you’ve received a diagnosis and are looking for the best possible care. Maybe you’ve been referred to this hospital, but you don’t know where to physically go. Maybe a loved one has been admitted and you trying to sort out finances. Maybe you just need a number to call in a hurry.

In any of these situations, a website user could very well feel anxious, worried, overwhelmed, or even scared. Websites dealing with healthcare play an increasingly important role in today's digitally oriented world, and website visitors are expecting empathy to play a role as well. If a user's emotional state is not being considered above all else, healthcare websites will fail to create those connections and build trust.

Answering un-asked questions.

Fastspot recently worked with Loma Linda University Health, a medical center with six hospital locations and multiple clinics, practices, and affiliates. User experience exploration and design is always important to our team, but for this project in particular we wanted to lean into understanding users, anticipating their needs or concerns, and prioritizing their experience above internal hierarchies.

As you’ll see on the completed site (www.lluh.org), we placed a comprehensive search tool front and center on the homepage. Many users are going to come to this site not knowing what to look for or where to go. Our goal is to ease the discovery process for them by giving them straightforward choices in language that they’ll understand, and providing clear, well-organized results.

After a user completes an initial search, the LLUH website anticipates that this first question probably won't be the last. (That's true most everywhere, but in healthcare doubly so.) A search for “breast cancer,” shows immediately that LLUH has deep expertise and comprehensive care available for breast cancer patients. A logical next step for the searcher would be to find information about who the providers are for breast cancer, and where they can be found. So, that information is presented (clearly and accessibly) in the search results as well.

Storytelling to enhance, not impede.

As important as the search function is for a hospital website, search results don't tell the whole story. Loma Linda University Health is a Seventh-day Adventist institution with a focus on bringing the history and beliefs of this tradition to bear in service of world-class medical care. LLUH is actively engaged in community health, with more than 600,000 patients served through community health programs. This is a teaching hospital, educating a new generation of physicians, and Loma Linda is actively engaged bringing its unique perspective to important public conversations. The website has to surface all of this depth and breadth in order to be successful.

Every Fastspot website incorporates elements of storytelling. Clients who seek us out are frequently trying to differentiate themselves from their peers in some way, or to give site users a sense of the values and personality of a place or an organization. Our job is to understand that core sensibility, and deliver a toolset that allows the internal team to take the reins in actively and creatively revealing its character.

On the LLUH website, searches and calls to action are interspersed with moments and vignettes that speak to the heart of the organization, whether that means a statement of faith or a patient’s story. These touches don’t get in the way of the transactions that the website provides; they enhance it. Remember: a website is about human connection. The stories that are told on the LLUH website give users concepts that they can relate to, and feel reassured by. They're being told through these stories that this is an organization that values its patients and their families in a way that is unique and personal.

Design connects and facilitates.

Design choices underscore the user experience focus as well. Each interaction was designed to focus on simplicity and efficiency. Understanding that users may be in anxious or stressed states, we felt that it was the obligation of design not just to get out of the way, but to hold the door open, and even clear a path for smooth interactions. Design choices outside of facilitating action were made to intentionally humanize the hospital experience.

This website doesn’t try to give users every possible interaction in one small window. Instead, the use of space and pacing create a calm and reassuring experience. Fonts are easy to read, and the use of images confirms the warmth and compassion of the organization. Mobile design meets every one of these standards as well, ensuring that no matter where or how a user is coming to this site, the experience will be a positive one.

The design for the LLUH website is also thematically connected to the website that we created for Loma Linda University. The affiliation between the medical center and the university is a strength for both, and part of our job was to link them visually and organizationally. Key audiences and audience needs between the two are not identical so the design systems in use aren't either. But a visitor who spends time on the .edu site and the .org site will clearly understand the synergy between the two.

Websites are never going to completely replace our personal interactions at work, or at home, or in our communities. But the reality is that in many cases, the website does offer an introduction, or a first step. The website for Loma Linda University Health rightly reflects the care, expertise, and spirit that the organization is grounded in. This could only be accomplished by genuinely caring about (empathizing with!) your site visitors, just the way you would about the human standing right in front of you.

If you'd like to read more about designing for healthcare - you can check out our recent post on Medium, Designing the Best Healthcare and Hospital Websites.