Improving Governmental Communication of COVID 19 Through User Experience

I am a strong believer that User Experience can make a big and positive impact on the world. That is why I am running the #UXcanHelp campaign since last week, to get UXers from all around the world to commit their support amidst this COVID-19 pandemic.

In this situation, it is time to come together as humans regardless of race, religion, geographic, and social-economic differences. As a CEO of UXTesting.io and User Experience (UX) contributor, I strongly think that the governments need to understand that UX is the key to deliver right and accurate information to people.

Therefore, I have reviewed several global health and disease authority’s websites, and there is some feedback below based on their advice. Before we go through the feedback, what is the easiest explanation for User Experience?

According to Wikipedia, User Experience (UX) is a person’s emotions and attitudes about using a particular product, system or service. User experience varies dynamically, constantly modifying over time due to changing usage circumstances.

There are 3 main important factors of UX, these are “Useful”, “Easy” and “Efficient” accordingly.

  • “Useful” means the users/customers can find the useful information from your website and services.
  • “Easy” means your website and service are easy to use even if the users or customers don’t need to be guided.
  • “Efficient” means your website provide very good flow for users and customers to find the information they want

I wrote this article in easy to understand words because I believe that good UX is about delivering the message in the right way for the right audience and not about using difficult academic terms.

Let’s review the website below as a “Citizen” prospect and look for right, useful, healthy information for self-protection.

1. Taiwan Center of Disease Control

Generally speaking, this is a good website that obviously shows 3 steps to protect yourself with an “Attention” icon and red wording to attract the visitor’s attention. The two clickable charts below demonstrate the global infection map and the confirmed cases and on the right, a bar graph with local cases. But with limited space, this does not provide “Useful” information visitors can understand on first glance. Users won’t know what the X-axis and Y-axis represents until clicking the charts to show full-screen.

Visualization is the popular way to show the comprehensive story from data, but we also need to take care of “readability” to provide a better experience for online users.

2. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (United States)

The United States’ CDC makes it easy for citizens to access information about the Coronavirus by putting a large banner at the top of the page with a clear action for the users to take, and 3 subtopics to provide extra information.

After clicking the button “Learn more about COVID-19”, you will see a flow of simple questions to guide you to the information.

I personally enjoy the design and UX of this website, especially the calm color and usage of daily live pictures to reduce the panic for online users.

3. Public Health England at GOV.UK

Color and fronts are part of design and user experience originated from the cultures and regions. When visiting the Public Health England website, we will see a big block of “black” to highlight the information online users must read.

“Stay at home” with 3 details listed provides good information delivery but is not a good “reading experience”. We would like to tell people that they have to stay at home but the reason is protection from getting infected and even if you do not have symptoms, you can still spread the virus to someone else.

To find out more about how one should protect themselves and their loved ones against the virus, they can click on the “Coronavirus (COVID-19) guidance” header. However, the guide is written like a thesis or a book. In order to convey information in a more efficient manner, images or simple infographics should be used instead, making it easier for the reader to understand the messages conveyed.

4. Department of Health (Republic of the Philippines)

When looking for COVID-19 information, the health authority is one of the best sources to rely on. The department of health of the Philippines shows a huge banner at the top of the page that recommends you to follow the official website, facebook and other social media channels. Since the banner is rotating, the COVID-19 banner only appears for 10 seconds. The banner is not clickable and you have to click the “Visit Page” button below.

After clicking it, we would like to find the guideline or any useful information to help us understand how to protect ourselves and others. However, it is typical of government websites to show “Fact” and “Number” to tell us the current situation. It is not easy and efficient for me to find the information I want.

This is a typical problem, we need to switch from “Providing all the information” to “User-centric Design” to help users find the information they look for. Better experience can lead to a greater successful rate of policy delivery.

I found a useful tool from this website, a COVID-19 case tracker. Unfortunately, it looks very fancy like Dashboard, but it lacks the “User-centric” mindset as I mentioned above. Even on a large screen you cannot understand all the parts of this dashboard.

Heat-map is one of the popular ways to show the big data. However, for the purpose of crisis communication, leaders need to carefully consider what kind of data is the most suitable to convey their intended message so as to minimize panic while maintaining transparency.

5. 厚生労働省 Ministry of Health, Labour and Welfare of Japan

As the authority deals with health, this website shows the priority about coronavirus and forward users to other pages.

When you click the button, it shows information about the coronavirus 2019 including a press conference, coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) situation within and outside the country, hospitalization and discharge and so on. This is also a typical government website, demonstrating all the data and information to you. If I were a citizen looking for guidelines to protect myself and others, this seems not user friendly to me.

I also found the map called “The situation of occurrence of patients with COVID-19” showing the current situation. It is simple and easy to understand where the cases are. Visualization does not mean putting everything in a chart, it is also about what you want to deliver to the users. Hence, this is a good sample.

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After reviewing the 5 government websites, I would like to share the differences between government-centric and user-centric mindset. It does not mean one is better than the other. It depends on the purpose and self-recognition of the government. This provides an opportunity to discuss how we can help users get Useful information Efficiently, and designing an Easy to use website.

Which website you prefer? Let me know in the comment section below.

CEO at @uxtestingio | International Board Member at UXQCC | Professional Committee Member at UXACN | Mentor at @UXPA_Int | Main Organizer at @SavvyUXSummit