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4 Ways to Share Calm and Consistent Messaging on Your Hospital’s Website

by Sara Foster | Apr 10, 2020

This article was written by Jessica Levco, a freelance healthcare writer. photo of a young woman in a meditative pose

By now, you probably have some COVID-19 messaging up on your website.

With so much information (and misinformation) out there about the virus, your hospital is providing a public service of letting people know what they need to know about the virus.

But are you doing it in a way that instills confidence and comfort — instead of adding on to their anxiety?

We talked to a few UX design experts and uncovered some great examples of hospital websites that are calmly and creatively sharing COVID-19 information. Let’s take a look.

Stop using so much red

A big red banner at the top of your homepage does what it’s intended to do: It captures attention.

But capturing a reader’s attention could come at an emotional cost.

“The color red has a pandemic feel to it,” says Veronica Jean, creative director at Three Summers Creative. “Now might be a time to use a more soothing color or a pastel to increase the feeling of calm. There’s a psychology behind the color wheel: reds, yellows and oranges tend to increase anxiety; blue and green tend to be psychologically calming.”

Example: The blue banner on Rush University Medical Center’s homepage.

Language matters

Carry a tone of compassion and empathy when writing your COVID-19 messaging. Phrases like these will help reassure your readers:

  • We can sympathize with…
  • We understand the seriousness of the situation…
  • We are doing everything we can to…

“This is your hospital’s opportunity to provide information that can provide comfort and correct misinformation that’s out here,” says Dan Zola, managing partner and research director at Sway UX. “Hospitals can prove to be a reputable, trusted source of information for their local or national audience.”

When it comes to messaging, focus on the key information you want people to have: testing information, visitor guidelines and service changes.

“The knee-jerk reaction is to throw up everything you have,” says Bob Prohaska, director of digital experience at Core Creative. “But now is the time to prioritize your key messages and get those across first. You can organize the information on the site so the user can drill down to learn more if they want, without overwhelming everyone with a giant information dump upfront.”

Example: Vanderbilt Health directs people to key information for Nashville, state resources and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention website.

Location, location, location

We’ve seen a lot of hospitals use banner ads to display COVID-19 information, but you might want to think about other ways to incorporate messaging, such as your image carousel or chatbot.

“If you’ve built your hospital website through a flexible content management system, you can incorporate COVID-19 information in your site layout,” Zola says. “After a while, we might start to tune out pop-up banners. A more contextual placement might be a better bet.”

Also, remember: COVID-19 information needs to be easy to read and easy to find for all your users. Double-check to make sure the information you’re publishing fits Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG).

Example: Dignity Health’s chatbot pops up and immediately asks, “Questions about Coronavirus?” 

Limit virus photos

Even though the virus is invisible, we can all picture what it looks like in our heads: A circular orange and red blob that looks like it’s going to jump out of our computer screen and attack us.

“Instead of virus photos, it may be more inspiring to see the people who are supporting your community,” says Alesha Peluso, CEO of Three Summers Creative.

Prohaska offers a note of caution about using photographs of nurses and doctors who are decked-out in COVID-19 gear.

“When you see physicians and nurses all masked up in a hazmat suite-style, it conveys the gravity of the situation, but to some degree, you don’t want to freak people out even more than they already are,” Prohaska says. “Ask yourself what images you can use to instill a sense of confidence and control. Now might be the time for some comfort-inducing imagery.”

Pet therapy, anyone?

Example: Johns Hopkins Medicine’s homepage starts with a video carousel of a physician washing their hands.

Mike Schneider, Executive Vice President and Co-Founder at Greystone.Net says, “Your patients and the rest of the community look to their trusted hospital or health system as a front-line source of non-biased COVID-19 information. They want confidence and security about their health and the health of the community and it is our job as healthcare communicators to accurately and calmly relay the truths.”
  • COVID-19
  • HealthCare Digital Marketing
  • website experience

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