Four Tips for Designing Web-Based Health Care Quality Reports
Tip 1. Make Conservative Assumptions About the Web Skills of Report Users
Assume that some people who want to use your quality report will have limited skills and experience in visiting websites. Do your best to anticipate and address common navigational challenges. For example, people who are less-experienced web users may:
- Rely exclusively on the back button for navigation.
- Be unaware of or inattentive to cues that experienced users rely upon, such as using the scroll bar on the far right of their screen to see whether there's more content on that page.
- Not know how to use the scroll wheel on the mouse.
Start with the most important information and keep web pages relatively short. If scrolling is necessary, such as for a lengthy table of quality comparisons, make sure that the need to scroll will be clear to less experienced users so they will not miss important information.
Tip 2. Keep Navigation Simple, Quick, and Intuitive
Make it easy for people to know what's in the report and how to find their way through it. Use design features to help show them where they are in the web report, how to get back to where they were, what's coming next on the page, how to find related information, and what other topics they could choose to view next.
Navigational strategies include the following:
- Persistent navigation, such as showing links for different parts of the quality report at the far left or top of each web page.
- Links at the beginning of a web page that serve as a "mini" table of contents for that page (sometimes called "anchor links").
- Links to related information as applicable throughout the text on the page.
- Differences between links that are within the same website and those that take the user to a different website (for example, by using a brief message to alert people when they click on a link that takes them to a different website).
- "Breadcrumb trails" that show where the current page fits within a hierarchy of pages on the site. These links can work well to orient users who come to the page through the established path.
- A clear display of the request and the results when a user has made a selection or done a search. An example would be: "You chose Sonoma County. This site has quality information on 11 nursing homes in this county."
Tip 3. Make Links Obvious and Self Explanatory
Follow the usual conventions for links so that people don't wonder whether or where they should click. Standard practice is a blue link that changes color—usually to purple—after it has been clicked. Particularly for less experienced users, this convention works better than other approaches, such as creating fancy icons to serve as links or expecting people to click on an image.
- Make the label for the link informative enough for users to accurately infer what they will see if they click. Ambiguous or misleading links can be frustrating and discouraging. They can also lead people to unintentionally skip something of interest.
- Try not to repeat the same link label on a given page (e.g., multiple references to "Learn more"). Redundant links can be confusing and may be challenging for readers using accessibility devices. One way to overcome this challenge is to create alt-tags for each link that reveal the differences in the content. For example, if the links say "Learn more," the tags could say "Learn more about X" and "Learn more about Y."
Tip 4. Make Sure Your Design Works Well for All of Your Users
Your intended readers will be using different hardware and software to access your report. Some of your users may have disabilities. Here are tips to help make sure the design will work well for all of them:
- Design a site to function smoothly on different platforms, with different browsers, and with mobile devices. Test it thoroughly at different stages of development to be sure that it does.
- Create a design that considers the special needs of certain users, such as:
- Those who enlarge the size of the type.
- Those who use accessibility devices such as screen readers.
- Choose colors carefully, taking into account that colors look different on different screens. Also consider that some people have limitations in color perception. Review tips on using color effectively in your report.
Learn more about making your report accessible for all users:
- Create Accessible Software and Websites. The Section508.gov website offers guidance and training on how to make your site "508 compliant" so that it will meet the needs of people with disabilities.
- Making Your Website Senior-Friendly. This guide provides guidelines for creating websites that are easily accessible for older adults.
Learn More About Designing Reports for the Web
- Usability.gov. This website is the primary government resource on usability and accessibility, including the latest usability research and training opportunities.
- Don't Make Me Think: A Common Sense Approach to Web Usability. Second Edition, by Steve Krug, Berkeley, CA: New Riders Press, 2006. This book explains how to make web design conform to how people actually read web pages. Full of examples, it shows how to make websites attractive and easy to navigate.
- Five Guidelines for Developing Customer-Friendly Websites. This publication by MAXIMUS was produced for Covering Kids & Families™, a national program supported by the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation with direction provided by the Southern Institute on Children and Families. [The Health Literacy Style Manual (PDF, 3.80 MB)]
Also in "Tips on Designing a Quality Report"
- First Design Decision: Web, Paper, or Both
- Six Tips for Making a Quality Report Appealing and Easy To Skim
- Four Tips for Designing Web-Based Health Care Quality Reports
- Advice on Using Design Professionals for a Quality Report
- Testing the Design of a Quality Report By Getting User Feedback