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CEO/chief creative officer of (add)ventures and Emmy-winning writer/producer.
Hearing how difficult it has been for many older adults, their caregivers, people with disabilities and non-English speakers to register for Covid-19 vaccinations hasn’t surprised me, but the extent of the poor user experience is a concern with potentially huge public health consequences.
When the head of digital at my firm, Lisa Curtis, expressed frustration over the difficulty of registering her 75-plus-year-old parents online to receive their Covid-19 vaccines, my concern shifted to fear and then anger. Given health officials’ emphasis on Covid-19 vaccination, we cannot afford to lose wide swaths of the population because they abandon a burdensome registration process.
Lisa has decades of user experience working at top design firms, solving problems for industry, healthcare and education leaders. A human factors engineer by training, Lisa has empathic digital design and information architecture expertise that helps her see patterns and processes where others see chaos. So when Lisa tells me a site is too difficult for her to navigate successfully, I have no doubt that at least 80% of the population will find it virtually impossible. Now imagine how such poorly designed sites are frustrating, if not futile, for older adults and people with disabilities or language differences.
Consideration must be given to serving everyone in the vaccination registration process. While it’s impossible to make everyone happy in a segmented society, we can make it as easy as possible for those eligible to register. That begins with, and is sustained by, empathy.
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So I asked Lisa and our incredible digital team to evaluate a range of mission-critical Covid-19 vaccination registration sites for intuitiveness and accessibility. It is not just healthcare and government that can learn from what they found; every business and organization serving the public can and should too. Here’s my advice based on my team’s findings.
1. Empathy meets eligibility. Know your audience.
Eligibility criteria are most important for the organization dispensing the vaccine, but finding a vaccination date that works is most important to the user. The user wants to confirm that the vaccine is available to them before they go through the eligibility process.
Before you start building your site, know your audience, what’s important to them and what challenges they face, and then write the story of how your service is a part of their solution.
2. Leave them to their own devices. Know their tech.
You cannot motivate people to take better care of themselves with design that makes them feel worse about themselves. From what we’ve seen, older adults often blame themselves when struggling with a website, believing they cannot meet the needs of technology versus the other way around.
It is not older adults’ ignorance or fault but a failure of accessibility responsibility by the developer. The registration site has likely never been optimized for various browsers and devices, which excludes entire cross-sections of users.
Empower users to use the devices with which they are most comfortable. First, consider whether access to technology will be a barrier at all.
Next, assess what technology your audience will be using — fast new smartphones or outdated desktop computers? For an older audience, many of whom enlarge their mobile screens, having pinned alerts can be troublesome.
Healthcare needs to be hopeful now more than ever. Accessing it should never feel like defeat.
3. Give to get. Know what they want.
Ensure that the step-by-step process and data shared help the user achieve their end goal. Always communicate why you are collecting data and how you plan to use it. If you don’t plan to use it or it’s not going to help the user, consider leaving it out.
Empathize with the people you are designing for. Will they find, understand and act on the information you provide them? You’re building a relationship based on trust. Start by giving to get what you need.
4. Simplify. Simplify. Simplify. Then simplify again.
Vaccination registration technology is unique because its early adopters will largely be older newcomers to the platform. If your registration site is less than intuitive for older adults who aren’t digital natives, it will not be intuitive for many people on the planet.
Know that “Covid-19” is not an effective page title. That could mean information about vaccines, testing, school closures, indoor dining guidelines or a host of other pandemic topics.
Lead with the information that is most important to the user. Use action words like, “Sign up for testing.”
With content, aim for no higher than an eighth-grade reading level. Make content easy to read and comprehend.
5. Design for users of all abilities.
Consider how to make your site accessible to those with:
• Vision impairments: Design so that users can easily focus or zoom in to see without missing any important information. Don’t use color as the only indication of important information — for example, write out the word “required” instead of relying on red text.
• Physical disabilities: While some may think of physical disabilities in terms of mobility, those with limited dexterity may also need alternative ways to interact with digital tools. For example, make sure that the target a user needs to touch (text fields, submit buttons, etc.) can be touched easily without the risk of hitting a different button.
• Cognitive disabilities: Navigation and task completion should be clear. For example, instead of using arrows, buttons could say “back to contact information” and “forward to insurance information.”
• Hearing impairments: Are there instructional videos or audio commercials users need to watch to complete the task? Users with hearing issues will need that information in written language. This means using subtitles or providing transcripts that are easily available or searchable online.
6. Connect with the user as a brand, not a bureaucracy.
It’s not just your audience who will see your information site. Consider all the sources where people get information: physicians’ offices, nursing facilities, community centers, group homes and more. Anyone who sees your site, including noneligible users, should come away with a positive impression of your brand.
Organizations process data and forms. People process problems and overcome barriers to solving them.
Great usability design is where human empathy meets technology and simplicity. So strive to keep vaccination registration programs simple for people, and any associated technology as humane as possible. It’s always a best practice to simplify complexity for humanity.
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Author: Stephen Rosa, Forbes Councils Member