In the era of digital healthcare, the accessibility of hospital and health system websites has become a critical factor in delivering exceptional patient experiences. Accessible platforms help ensure that all patients—regardless of physical, cognitive, or technological limitations—can access vital health information and services seamlessly. 

For healthcare organizations, a commitment to inclusivity isn’t just a legal obligation under laws like the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). It’s also a cornerstone of patient-centered care, reflecting a health system’s commitment to serving every member of its community. 

According to the CDC, nearly 3 in 5 U.S. adults use the Internet to search for health information, demonstrating widespread demand for easy-to-access resources. Yet, recent studies have shown people experience various degrees of frustration as they seek that information—frustration that fluctuates based on age, race, primary language, socioeconomic status, and disability. Creating a digital presence that welcomes users across all abilities sets the tone and pace with which patients can connect with their providers. 

Key Drivers of Digital Accessibility in Healthcare

Traditional Accessibility: Readability and WCAG Compliance

The foundation of an accessible website lies in both its readability and conformance to the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG). 

Readability refers generally to using inclusive language, organizing content clearly,  ensuring that medical information is easy to understand, and avoiding complex jargon that can alienate patients. 

WCAG conformance, on the other hand, provides a structured approach to make content and functions accessible to people with various disabilities, including visual, auditory, physical, speech, cognitive, language, learning, and neurological disabilities. 

While there’s a lot to know about accessibility, the good news is we’ve written about most of it at Oomph. Check out our articles on WCAG 2.2, writing for the web, the power of accessible web navigation, and building an accessible color palette to learn more.  

Serving an Evolving Demographic 

The aging baby boomer generation is on the cusp of massive healthcare utilization, with 80% of adults 65 and older experiencing at least one chronic condition. Despite their less-than-tech-savvy reputation, boomers do utilize digital platforms to access healthcare information. 

When you create an accessible healthcare website, you make your hospital or health system available to an older population with age-related impairments like vision loss, hearing loss, or mobility challenges that can make using a mouse or keyboard difficult. Thoughtfully integrating accessible elements like high-contrast colors and larger fonts can help your organization win the loyalty of older adults, supporting long-term success in a crowded marketplace.  

Website Uptime: Ensuring Constant Access

In critical situations, the availability of a healthcare website can be as vital as the accuracy of the information it provides. High website uptime means your information and services are always accessible, especially during emergencies. This reliability builds trust and can be crucial in time-sensitive situations where access to healthcare information or services can significantly impact patient outcomes.

Language and Translation Services: Bridging Communication Gaps

As racial and ethnic diversity grows across the U.S., offering translation services and multilingual content on healthcare websites is crucial. Your content will reach a wider audience and ensure non-native speakers have equal access to health information, reducing health disparities and improving patient outcomes.

Interactive Features: Scheduling and Wait Times

Integrating features like appointment scheduling and displaying emergency department wait times can also enhance the patient experience. For example, online scheduling allows patients to book appointments without needing to call during business hours, while real-time emergency department updates can help patients anticipate and plan around wait times. 

These functionalities should be designed with all users in mind, ensuring they are accessible to people with disabilities and facilitating a smoother healthcare journey for every patient.

6 Strategies for Improving Website Accessibility

Institutions across the landscape, like the Mayo Clinic, have structured their online presence to offer a wide array of patient-centered services, including appointment requests, doctor searches, and access to health libraries directly from their home page. Embracing this type of comprehensive digital engagement strategy underscores that hospital websites aren’t just supplementary channels, but also pivotal access points for patient care and information​.

If your health system or hospital is ready to enhance accessibility, here’s where to start:

  1. Conduct a Comprehensive Accessibility Audit: Use tools like SortSite to identify areas where your website may not meet accessibility standards.
  2. Focus on High-Impact Webpages: Prioritize pages such as the homepage, contact information, service descriptions, patient portals, and emergency services. These pages are often the first point of contact for patients seeking information or services.
  3. Engage Diverse User Groups in Testing: Include people with various disabilities and age ranges in your testing process to gain insights into your website’s real-world usability.
  4. Educate the Digital Team: Ensure that everyone involved in web design and content creation is familiar with accessibility principles, tools, and best practices for maintaining an accessible website.
  5. Embrace Continuous Improvement: Digital accessibility should be an ongoing commitment. Regularly update your content and features to meet evolving standards and user needs. Working with an agency partner who understands the essential and evolving requirements and best practices of accessibility and UX can keep your digital environments current and compliant.
  6. Leverage Generative AI: Generative AI remains a hot-button issue across many industries, including healthcare. There is even a risk of discrimination or bias if AI algorithms are not accurately trained, potentially compounding access to care for vulnerable and underrepresented communities. Yet, there are several options to adopt AI that can help increase patient access and decrease frustration with administrative tasks for team members while not involving AI in clinical domains. Examples include utilizing generative AI tools to improve content accessibility and delivery, such as helping to ensure medical content aligns with health literacy levels. AI can also create alt text for images or generate patient appointment reminders to ensure timely preventive care. Additionally, AI-powered chatbots that are appropriately trained and maintained have the potential to provide real-time assistance to users, guiding them through the website and answering their queries in multiple languages.

Turn Web Accessibility Into A Tool for Patient Well-Being

Information is power in the digital age, so making your website accessible isn’t just good practice—it’s essential. By prioritizing accessibility, healthcare systems and hospitals can ensure that their digital platforms serve all patients equitably, enhancing patient experience, health outcomes, and business performance.

Are you wondering whether your healthcare website is truly accessible or if you need help getting there? Let’s talk

Change is the only constant in life, and the same goes for accessibility. Our understanding of how to create truly accessible websites is always evolving, and so are the standards for measuring if we’ve succeeded. 

The most recent update to the Website Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG) — released on October 5, 2023 — is the latest attempt to help brands make their digital experiences more accessible for all users.

Don’t panic, WCAG 2.2 isn’t an overhaul. But it does shift the previous standards, delivering more specific and, in some cases, more realistic guidelines that make compliance easier (good news, website managers!). While WCAG 2.2 isn’t cause for alarm, it is something to get out in front of. Here’s what to know about WCAG, the ins and outs of the latest updates, and what it all means for your website.

What Is WCAG, Anyway? 

The Web Content Accessibility Guidelines set the standard for accessible website design. WCAG first issued design guidance in 1999, but the 2008 WCAG 2.0 laid the groundwork for accessibility today. Those standards created a framework for designing websites that are perceivable, operable, understandable, and robust for people of varying abilities. 

2018’s WCAG 2.1 wasn’t a radical departure from its predecessor, but it did add criteria related to mobile devices and users with vision and cognitive impairments. By 2023, accessibility had become widely understood and embraced as essential for inclusive design. That shift helped usher in WCAG 2.2, an update based on multiple years of research and review.

WCAG 2.2 adds nine new success criteria split across three different levels, A, AA, and AAA:

The WCAG 2.2 update didn’t just add criteria; it made some criteria obsolete, others weaker, and still others more essential than ever. Specifically, WCAG 2.2 promoted 2.4.7 Focus Visible from Level AA to Level A, which means all websites will need visual indicators that show which page feature is in focus. It also changed the recommended size of touch targets, making it easier for designers everywhere to comply.

What WCAG Standard Am I Required to Meet? 

The standard you’re required to meet depends on your industry: 

Though there is no official standard in courts, the DOJ has referenced WCAG 2.1 Level AA in past filings. We expect the courts to slowly start referencing 2.2 as cases catch up, but it might take another year for version 2.2 to become the standard. 

While wanting to stay out of court is understandable, legal requirements are only one reason to adopt WCAG. Millions of users around the world use screen readers and other assistive devices. Those users have buying power and they want to engage with your organization, whether that’s registering to vote, signing up for a class, or making an appointment with their healthcare provider. When your website is accessible, you’re able to connect with the broadest audience possible — likely earning more loyal users in the process.

WCAG 2.2 Checklist

While achieving inclusive website design is an exciting prospect, the nuts and bolts of getting there can feel anything but. Here, we help you visualize what the new guidelines mean in practice. You might be surprised by how accessible your website already is. 

Guideline 2.4: Navigable

The standards under guideline 2.4 address anything that will make it easier for users to move through your website.

2.4.11 Focus Not Obscured (Minimum) (AA)

2.4.12 Focus Not Obscured (Enhanced) (AAA)

2.4.13 Focus Appearance (AAA)

Guideline 2.5: Input Modalities

An “input” is an action a user takes to elicit a response from your website — think clicking a button or dragging and dropping a feature. These standards govern the design of those inputs. 

2.5.7 Dragging Movements (AA)

2.5.8 Target Size (Minimum) (AA)

Guideline 3.2: Predictable

This guideline covers repeating features that may appear across your web pages, such as email sign-up forms or support widgets. 

3.2.6 Consistent Help (A)

Guideline 3.3: Input Assistance

Many websites include elements that help users take certain actions. This could include directing a user to re-enter information or to make sure two fields match. Guideline 3.3 addresses this type of assistance, increasing WCAG’s support of those with cognitive disabilities. This puts the onus on developers to provide simple and secure methods for all users.

3.3.7 Redundant Entry (A)

3.3.8 Accessible Authentication (Minimum) (AA)

3.3.9 Accessible Authentication (Enhanced) (AAA)

Walking the Walk of WCAG

A commitment to accessibility is two-fold. It requires understanding what the most recent guidelines are (the talk) and putting those guidelines into practice (the walk). 

While it might seem like Level AAA accessibility is the way to go, the reality is that accessible websites are nuanced. Some level of accessibility is non-negotiable, but the ideal level for your site very much depends on your industry, your users, and how mature your website is — all factors we can better assess with an accessibility audit. 

If you’re building a new website, embedding WCAG principles is smart. But if you’re WCAG 2.1 compliant and a refresh is a year or two off, WCAG 2.2 may be able to wait. Curious about where your website stands? Let’s talk about it.

The world of digital accessibility can be daunting. There are many regulations and ways in which a website can be accessible or inaccessible. Many of us don’t understand what a good or bad experience looks like, and we think we can’t possibly understand people who rely solely on assistive technology to use the web. 

It doesn’t have to be daunting, though. And with anything, the key is to start small. To those who create websites or own/manage one, the first step to understanding accessibility is empathy. If more people used assistive technology, more people would understand the difference between a terrible experience and a great one. Don’t be scared of learning about accessibility tools, because you might already be more familiar with them than you realize.

Have you ever broken your dominant hand and been forced to use a keyboard instead of a mouse or trackpad? Have you tried to complete a payment form really quickly to snag concert tickets, and figured out that using the keyboard can be much faster? 

Have you been in loud surroundings and tried to watch a video? How great are captions? Have you realized that captions are assistive technology? There are alternate modes of consuming content and using a digital product that are beneficial to a much wider audience than the audience it was created for. 

With some instruction, we hope more people feel comfortable using a keyboard to navigate a website. We also hope that more of you are brave enough to try a screen reader as well, or at least watch our video to experience what that experience can be like. 

Video Tutorial

Our video is 37 minutes and we provide a break-down of the different minute-marks below if you’d like to jump to a certain area. (All cookies must be accepted for the video to play. You may also view on YouTube directly.)

Table of Contents

  1. 00:00 — Using a Keyboard
    1. 02:00 — The tab key
    2. 02:20 — A “Skip to Content” link and why that is so useful
    3. 03:40 — “Focus ring” style
    4. 04:20 — An example of an inaccessible drop-down menu
    5. 05:40 — An example of an inaccessible link (no focus ring)
    6. 07:40 — Common article card patterns and how they work with a keyboard
  2. 10:45 — The Screen Reader Experience
    1. 11:10 — Invoking VoiceOver with Command F5
    2. 12:35 — Tabbing through interactive elements
    3. 12:54 — Skip to Content link
    4. 13:07 — Company logo
    5. 13:55 — Projects link
    6. 14:31 — Topics
    7. 15:55 — About Us link, inaccessible to keyboard users
    8. 16:16 — Reading of non-interactive elements with Control Option arrows
    9. 16:50 — Reading content, Headings, links
    10. 18:50 — Visually hidden heading but screen reader accessible
    11. 19:55 — Alt text image examples
    12. 20:06 — Kittens, no alt tag present
    13. 21:06 — Doggos, empty alt tag
    14. 23:00 — Squirrels, descriptive alt text
    15. 23:48 — Article content examples
    16. 23:53 — Article 1 example, too many links
    17. 25:37 — Article 2 example, too much content
    18. 26:32 — Article 3 example, hidden content
    19. 27:44 — Article 4 example, alternate pattern
    20. 30:02 — Voiceover’s Rotor Feature, control option U
    21. 30:15 — Headings menu
    22. 30:55 — Empty heading element
    23. 31:50 — Other Rotor menus
    24. 32:18 — Non-visited Links menu
    25. 33:01 — All Links menu
    26. 33:40 — “Click here” and “Read more” link text
    27. 35:09 — Landmarks menu
    28. 35:25 — Form Controls menu
  3. 36:06 VoiceOver off and wrap up

For those who want to learn a little more, below we collect a few keyboard command cheatsheets for navigating a webpage or using VoiceOver on a Mac. Links to additional resources for setting up and getting started with VoiceOver are also included.

More Resources

Keyboard User Cheatsheet

VoiceOver Cheatsheet

These key commands reflect the default set-up for Mac OSX — I have not made any modifications. Of course, power users will modify these commands to fit their needs. 

The default VoiceOver key command combination is ^Control ⌥Option. This combination is used to ensure key combinations do not conflict with other quick key commands through the OS and Apps.

Many key commands for navigating a webpage are the same as a Keyboard user. Return, Spacebar, and Arrow keys all work the same.

Additional Resources to Start Using VoiceOver

Conclusion

With some practice, we hope you might find that using a keyboard to navigate can be your superpower. When filling out forms, for example, I use the keyboard almost exclusively to quickly move from one field to another and to find my state in a long drop-down list. Unless, of course, I run into another poorly coded form that is not accessible. Lucky for me, I can go back to using a mouse. But some do not have that option, and for them, our empathy should turn into empowerment and we shall demand better from our design and development practices.

For questions or to discuss how to make your next project more accessible, please contact us anytime.


More in Our Accessibility Series

Notable articles from the Accessibility category:

You may call your site audience your “users,” but ultimately, they’re just people. Imperfect people with imperfect lives — sometimes to an extreme degree.

During the COVID-19 pandemic, there was a massive rise in domestic violence. This type of violence can take many forms, including technical abuse, where technology is used to control, harass, or intimidate someone. It can look different in various situations, from an abuser constantly sending phone or text messages to controlling the sites or devices their partner can access. Even sharing a store rewards phone number can have unintended consequences. The range of opportunities for abuse is endless.

In the book Design for Safety,” author Eva PenzeyMoog cites an NPR survey that found “85 percent of shelters they surveyed were helping survivors whose abusers were monitoring their activity and location through technology.” This is an alarming statistic. Domestic violence prevention isn’t something that is taught in schools — how would people know how to protect themselves before it’s too late?

As professionals creating digital products, it’s our responsibility to create “for good.” How can we be advocates for safety in design? According to Design for Safety, as an advocate, you must “support vulnerable users to reclaim power and control.” A website could have an easy-to-use interface but still provide pathways for users to experience abuse from domestic perpetrators. Ultimately, this leaves victims vulnerable while giving them a false sense that they have more control than they genuinely do.

During the website creation process, you should aim to design for safety. A key step is to identify “ways your product can be abused, then ways to prevent that abuse.” For example, to help address any abuse or harassment captured while on a call, Google Meet has the function to “report abuse.” You can attach a video clip when you report, and they will investigate and then take action on their end. By proactively planning around safety, your organization can deepen trust with users while doing your part to prevent domestic violence.

Case Study

This past year, Oomph worked with a nonprofit website, which helps the general public understand their legal issues, to perform a user experience discovery and redesign. The site provides individuals with low incomes and limited English with local laws written in plain English. Users visit the site for legal information on various topics, including evictions, government benefits, domestic violence restraining orders and family law. A subsection of the audience uses the website to look for resources dealing with domestic violence.

When designing for this audience, we needed a way to support users who may need to exit a page quickly if they are interrupted by a potential abuser while scrolling through sensitive information, such as divorce or domestic violence resources. The site had previously utilized an “Escape” button on pages that dealt with those sorts of topics. When approaching the redesign, we wanted to ensure this button would always appear but wouldn’t interfere with other audiences, such as someone looking for information about traffic tickets. It had to walk a fine line between in-your-face and too subtle to be helpful to ensure users could see and interact with it.

When dealing with “trauma-informed” design, designers must “prioritize comfort over technological trends” (Design for Safety). Our challenge was amplified by a lack of standards for a quick exit button’s function, especially for a site with multiple audiences. Since these buttons are a relatively new best practice and little research on them exists, we were careful in our strategic approach. A quick exit button is not ingrained in a user’s mental model, making its intended action new to most people. Those who feel they might need it have to recognize its function as soon as possible.

Approach to the Quick Exit Button

While designing the quick exit button, we considered its placement, colors, and typographic style to ensure that:

Our first wireframe called the button “Quick Exit.” When we tested the prototype, all five participants did not understand what the exit button meant. This emphasized how important the language on the button is. For those who have dealt with domestic violence, even the word “escape” could be harmful to hear. Additionally, since audiences view the website in different languages, we wanted to ensure that the button’s translation would not adversely affect the layout.

The top of the first mobile wireframe depicts our first attempt at the quick exit button.

On our next iteration, we tried using the term “Exit” with the icon globally known for “external link.” But this still wasn’t clear enough for our users: Where would the exit bring you? To a page called “Exit”?

The second version of the quick exit button.

We needed to explain exactly what the button did, so we opted to use the universal external link icon with “Exit Site” as a label to best communicate what the button would do. Although it does not describe where you will end up, it clearly explains that you will leave the website.

The third version of the button language based on user testing.

To further help users understand what the button was for, we then created a pop-up at the start of the user’s journey that educates people on the button’s purpose:

An example of a pop-up message upon entry to the site.

Overall, there was a delicate balance we had to achieve in managing all audiences that typically view the site. We wanted to ensure that we were educating all users but not preventing users from getting help for other topics, such as information about the right to an education or disability. The pop-up, however, had additional considerations we needed to weigh as well: What if their abuser sees it upon landing? What if the user who needs it ignores it?

An alternate approach focused more on domestic violence victims is the California Victims Resource Center’s (CVRC) website, 1800victims.org. When landing on the site, visitors are first educated with a pop-up, which includes reading the website’s Terms of Use and agreeing to the terms before they can enter.

Entryway pop-up on 1800victims.org.

Additionally, when the user clicks the escape button (or uses the keyboard short-cut “Delete”), they are brought to a new tab that displays ABC News. The 1800victims site is changed to Netflix — with all traces of the CVRC gone. According to Columbia Health, this follows best practice because “a blank history can raise suspicion from your abuser.” This would be the safest approach for users.

Designing for Safety

We must consider how users dealing with domestic violence may feel when they are visiting a site with sensitive content. By including information to educate users upon landing, we can help more people understand how to use a quick exit button if they find themselves in a situation where they need to swiftly leave a website. As an advocate for user safety and domestic violence prevention, you can proactively create a safety net for others by starting to review your work through the lens of how it may be abused prior to releasing it into the world.

This article is just one look at how organizations can design for safety using a quick exit button. By talking about these issues and advocating to protect users in your own design process, we can all take a step toward helping prevent domestic violence. Even if one person is helped or informed by Oomph’s quick exit button design on the website, it will be a success in our eyes.

Need help incorporating safety-focused design into your website or mobile apps? Let’s chat about your needs.

In good times and bad, healthcare is deeply ingrained in our lives. From the beginning to the end, our providers monitor our growth, treat our illnesses and injuries, and keep us as healthy as possible.

But healthcare organizations can no longer take that provider-patient dynamic for granted. In the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic, more patients than ever distrust the healthcare system. The healthcare industry is also working to recover from the $206.2 billion hit it took in 2020, driven largely by forced delays in preventative care and elective surgeries.

As the healthcare sector finds its footing post-COVID, providers have a tremendous opportunity to build stronger patient relationships than ever before. In 2022, 83% of healthcare consumers said they wanted to make their health and wellness a priority again, while another 37% said they wanted to be more engaged with their healthcare. So where should providers start? With a laser focus on user experience (UX).

As telehealth and retail disrupters like CVS and Amazon gain momentum, it’s easier than ever for patients to get a flu shot or a test for strep throat – a convenience that patients love. These healthcare disruptors also have a leg up in the virtual world, since they’re powered by the modern digital platforms that patients have come to expect.

To find a way forward, traditional healthcare organizations need to focus on creating a strong UX and digital presence that can both compete with disruptors and satisfy the regulatory requirements unique to healthcare (we’re looking at you, HIPAA).

Why Your Patients Expect Better UX

Once upon a time, patients believed that doctors knew best. They went to the healthcare provider down the street and trusted that the provider had the expertise to resolve their health woes.

In 2023, patients are informed consumers. 60% of patients research online before choosing a provider, many of whom consult the healthcare organization’s website. If this isn’t reason enough to revamp your digital footprint, 40% of patients also say they prefer to book appointments online.

Together, these statistics illustrate a growing demand among patients for more robust, patient-friendly digital experiences. The issue is that this is exactly what healthcare organizations have struggled to do for years. At Oomph, some of the most common challenges we see among healthcare brands include:

Yet there are exciting examples of innovation across the industry, too. Forward-thinkers like the Cleveland Clinic are proof that healthcare UX can and should be innovative — largely because better digital capabilities enhance the patient experience, fueling stronger relationships that benefit providers and the patients they serve.

Our healthcare team at Oomph works with providers of all sizes to uncover digital solutions that make sense for their size and structure, budget, and patient needs. Here, Oomph UI Designer Alyssa Varsanyi shares best practices they’ve developed in partnership with our healthcare clients.

Our 4 Healthcare UX Best Practices

1. Be Accessible and Inclusive

Accessibility is non-negotiable for any digital experience. It’s even more important for provider sites, which are likely serving people with a wide range of conditions — all of whom need and deserve complete and immediate access to healthcare.

To create a healthcare UX accessible to all, healthcare organizations should:

2. Create a Safe Space

In healthcare, protecting patient data is table stakes. To create a safe space, you have to think not just about patient confidentiality but also about building trust. A thoughtful digital environment with inclusive language can go a long way to helping patients feel seen, heard, and cared for.

Websites like Cedars-Sinai are a great example of how websites can be built around trust. Their platform exemplifies how language can be the foundation for a credible site, especially when paired with supportive modules like sources and testimonials.

To take the same approach to your site:

3. Make Navigation Easy

Many patients come to healthcare systems with an immediate need — a parent needs to find an open appointment NOW for their child’s pre-season sports physical, or a cooking enthusiast needs to locate an urgent care on a Sunday to patch up the new chopping-related cut on their hand.

In either scenario — and countless others that people face daily — it’s critical that patients can easily find the right information at the right time and in the right way.

To make this a reality, healthcare organizations should strive to:

As technical as these tactics are, don’t forget to show empathy, too. It is possible to show compassion online, like how Stanford Health poses the question, “What can we help you find?” Emotional asks like this can illustrate an organization’s genuine desire to be helpful to their patients.

4. Build Responsive Experiences

Healthcare needs don’t wait until patients are sitting in front of their computers. Think about an adult child peeking over their senior parent’s shoulder while they search for a specialist, or a new parent scrolling through their phone at midnight while cradling their sick baby.

Now imagine those people frantically pinching at the screen so they can read the entire text block or find the right button. Stressful, right?

Patients should be able to seamlessly access healthcare anytime anywhere, which means designs must be responsive. Keep in mind:

What does that look like in practice? Consider the Summit Health website. Its simple navigation makes it easy for patients to find what they’re looking for, while the responsive design enables patients to engage on the go.

Healthcare UX Is a Journey, Not a Destination

At Oomph, we’ve seen firsthand how these healthcare UX best practices transformed the patient experience of our many healthcare clients. Even still, it’s important to note that UX isn’t one-size-fits-all. A national network of hospitals may need a very different digital patient experience than an owner-operated group of general practice clinics.

So how do you start building a UX that works for you and your patients? Research and testing.

UX audits, user research, and usability testing are all keys to the lock that is an effective UX strategy. By identifying what’s working and what’s not, what your patients want and what they don’t, you can put your organization on an evidence-based path to world-class UX.

Interested in exploring ways to improve UX for your own patients? We’re here to help.

Humans encounter thousands of words every day. As a website owner, that means your site content is vying for your user’s attention alongside emails from their colleagues, the novel on their nightstand, and even the permission slip scrunched at the bottom of their kid’s backpack.

How do you cut through the clutter to create site content that people actually want to read?

While you may already be choosing topics that are the most interesting and relevant for your audience, the structure of your writing may not be optimized for how people read. By understanding your audience’s reading behaviors following best practices for readability and accessibility, you can make sure your content works with people’s natural tendencies – not against them – to create a more engaging digital experience. An added bonus: Google shares many of those same tendencies, so content that’s designed well for humans is also more likely to perform well for organic SEO.

As a digital platform partner to many clients with content-rich sites, Oomph often works with brands to redesign their content for digital success. Here’s a look at the basic principles we apply to any site design – and how you can use them to your advantage.

How People Read Online

When we dive into a book, we typically settle in for a long haul, ready to soak up each chapter one by one. But when we open up a website, it’s more like scanning a newspaper or the entire bookshelf – we’re looking for something specific to catch our eye. We quickly scan, looking for anything that jumps out at us. If we see something interesting, then we’ll slow down and start reading in more detail.

Think of it like an animal following an information “scent,” identifying a mixture of clues that are likely to lead to the content you’re looking for. Most people will decide which pages to visit based on how likely the page will have the answer they’re looking for and how long it’s going to take to get the answer.

Users need to be hooked within a few moments of looking at a website or they’ll move on. They need to be able to identify and understand key factors like:

  1. The point of the information and why they should keep reading
  2. Whether they can trust the information and the source
  3. The type of content provided and any action expected from them, like signing up for an event
  4. How visually engaging and readable the content is

The takeaway for brands? Writing with your readers’ needs in mind is a way to show them you care and want to help them solve their problem. It’s also the key to achieving your site goals.

Your site content does more than just convey information – it’s about building trust, establishing rapport, and creating a connection that goes beyond the page. Whether you’re trying to sell a product or promote a cause, crafting content around your audience’s needs, desires, and preferences is the most effective way to compel them to take action. Here are four ways to set your website content up for success.

1. Put your data to work.

If you’re looking to refresh your current site, data can help you make informed choices about everything from your content strategy to your layout and design. Use digital reporting tools to answer questions like:

Google Analytics is a go-to tool for understanding the basics of who is visiting your site and how they’re engaging with your content. You can track metrics like session duration, traffic sources, and top-performing pages, all of which can help you better understand what your audience is looking for and what you want to tell them. (If you haven’t made the switch to Google Analytics’ latest platform, GA4, jump-start the process with our 12-step migration guide.)

Additional tools like Screaming Frog and Hotjar can give you even deeper insights, helping you track content structure and real-time user interactions.

2. Create a simple and consistent content structure.

When it comes to site content, consistency is like the foundation of a house (minus the power tools and hard hats).

A well-structured site not only helps users navigate and understand your content more easily, but also enhances the visual appeal and flow of the site. Think of it like a dance floor – you want your users to be able to move smoothly from one section to the next, without any awkward missteps.

That means focusing on shorter sentences, bullet points, and clear subheadings, all backed up by engaging visuals that serve as resting points for the eye. And while you’re at it, don’t forget to declutter your content — users don’t want to wade through a sea of unnecessary words just to find the nuggets of gold.

Ask yourself: Does this content flow smoothly, is it easy to scan, and does it make my key messages stand out? If the answer is yes, then you’re on your way to successful content.

3. Make sure visuals and content play nicely together.

When it comes to enhancing your content with visuals, the key is to strike a balance between style and substance. Your design should complement your content, not compete or distract from it.

Beyond their aesthetic appeal, well-designed visuals are important for creating a sense of credibility with users. Think back to the concept of information scent: If your design looks sloppy or inconsistent, users are less likely to trust the information you’re presenting. So make sure you’re using design elements wisely, creating ample white space, and avoiding anything that makes your content feel like a sales pitch.

4. Focus on accessibility.

When it comes to site content, accessibility can’t be ignored. Content should be engaging and informative and also conform to the , Website Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG). Tools like SortSite can help identify these issues and guide you toward accessibility success.

There are a number of things all sites need to consider:

Designing Engaging Content Doesn’t Need To Be a Full-Time Job

If you already have a library of content, auditing the content that already exists can be daunting. And sometimes, you need a little help from your friends. That’s where third-party experts (like us!) come in.

During our website discovery process, we use strategies like content and analytics audits, UX heuristics, and user journey mapping to help position client sites for success. We’ll help you identify areas for improvement, highlight opportunities for growth, and guide you toward achieving content greatness.

Ready for a fresh perspective on your content? We’d love to talk about it.

“Inclusive design” may sound like vague, trendy, technical jargon. But inclusive design isn’t a trend — it’s the world catching up on the kind of digital experiences that should have been part of the web from the beginning.

Inclusive design is a crucial part of nearly every digital platform, be it website, app, or intranet.

Inclusive design as a concept and practice is broad and deep — this article barely scratches the surface, but will help you understand the mindset required. We’ll cover what it is, why it matters for your business, and some ways to assess whether your digital platform could be more inclusive.

  1. What does “inclusive design” mean?
  2. What are the benefits of inclusive design?
  3. How are inclusive design and accessibility different?
  4. How can you make your platform more inclusive?

What does “inclusive design” mean?

The Inclusive Design Research Center defines inclusive design as “design that considers the full range of human diversity with respect to ability, language, culture, gender, age and other forms of human difference.” Adding to that, Nielsen Norman calls it creating products that “understand and enable people of all backgrounds and abilities,” including economic situation, geography, race, and more.

Essentially, you’re aspiring to create interfaces that reflect how people from all walks of life interact with the world.

Inclusive design allows people to use a digital platform with ease, whatever their needs or point of view. Looking at characteristics like race, abilities, or geography helps us identify key areas where friction can occur between humans and the web.

In the end, it’s about designing for everyone.

What are the benefits of inclusive design?

Inclusive design isn’t just about recognizing and accommodating diversity; it also creates business advantages for organizations that are willing to invest in an inclusive approach. Here are a few key areas where inclusive design can give your digital platform an edge:

Grow your customer base. By understanding the best way to connect with a wider target audience, your team can create digital experiences that attract the most possible users.

Increase user engagement. Engagement goes up when platforms are welcoming and easy to use. Inclusive web design removes barriers and creates motivation for people to engage with your brand.

Spark innovation. Inclusive solutions have a history of spawning innovation that goes beyond the initial intended audience (think closed-captioning-turned-subtitles on Netflix). Sometimes, when you aim to solve a specific usability issue, you end up creating an entirely new market solution.

Motivate your team. The way a digital platform is designed affects all audiences, even employees. Designing with inclusivity in mind can also have a positive influence on your own team. Engaging employees in your efforts to build an inclusive digital platform can help create a sense of shared purpose — one many people are likely to rally around.

How are inclusive design and accessibility different?

You may have heard these terms used in similar contexts. While they overlap in meaning, they’re not the same thing.

By definition, accessibility focuses on accommodating people with varying physical and mental abilities. Accessible websites are measured by their conformance with Web Content Accessibility Guidelines, which pertain to things like auditory, cognitive, physical, and visual disabilities. Accessibility tests typically cover code-level issues that can be fixed in the source code of a site.

Inclusive design is about accommodating the entire spectrum of human diversity. It involves a variety of viewpoints, including those of people with disabilities. Inclusive solutions can involve anything from back-end coding to the way headlines are worded.

In a nutshell: An accessible site is one of the outcomes of an inclusive design, whereas inclusive design is the overall approach to creating accessibility.

Consider these examples:

Sample non-inclusive form presents the statement I identify my ethnicity as, with three choices of Black or African, Caucasian or White, and Hispanic or Latino
Note: This is a terrible example of inclusion. People who identify as biracial, Asian, Middle Eastern, or Native American (just to name a few) need to choose from experiences that do not match their own. Simple user research can uncover a variety of choices that would make this form more inclusive.

While both issues are addressed by inclusive design, the first issue relates to ability and can be fixed within the code, while the second relates to diversity and will take additional measures to address.

How Can You Make Your Platform More Inclusive?

The ethnicity example raises some interesting questions, such as:

Mainly, this raises a bigger question: how do you maintain an inclusive site when there are so many important and broad variables (ability, language, culture, gender, age, etc.) — especially when that list of variables continues to grow and change?

The best way to get started is to arm yourself with knowledge and create a plan.

1. Identify the problems to solve.

Start by identifying opportunities for improvement in your current user experience (UX) by collecting quantitative and qualitative research with tools like UX audits, user interviews, user recordings, and heatmaps. Keep an eye out for areas where users seem confused, backpedal, or struggle to complete tasks. The more information you gather, the better!

2. Determine the best solutions.

Your user research will likely uncover many possible paths to change. This may include adding more categories to a list, creating an “Other” field users can type any answer into, or adding options to gather additional information.

Note: It’s common for areas that need improvement to hit on sensitive topics, things you may not fully figure out through data and research. Remember that the goal is understanding. Don’t be afraid to reach out to others for their thoughts and opinions.

3. Measure the results.

Some measures of success are easy to determine from user data in Google Analytics or changes in heatmaps and user recordings. Further data can come from users via surveys asking how your audience feels about the changes. The key is to stay continuously informed and aware of what your users are experiencing.

Note: One helpful tool for checking whether your design is, in fact, inclusive is Cards for Humanity. It offers a fun way to make sure you’re not missing anyone or anything in the spectrum of inclusivity.

Remember that the process of creating an inclusive design doesn’t end with implementation. Inclusive design is a work in progress. As a field, inclusive design is always evolving and requires continuous research to develop best practices.


We can’t predict what kind of mismatched interactions users will face in the years to come. But, with an open mind and a desire to learn and grow, we can continually adapt to meet them.

We’ve only scratched the surface of inclusive design! If you have any questions about inclusive design, we’d love to chat. Contact us anytime.

Second chances are expensive. Why? Because it takes five positive experiences to counterbalance the effects of a negative one. If someone’s first experience with your platform is disappointing, you have a long way to go to win back their confidence — if they even complete your sign-up form.

More than 67% of site visitors will completely abandon a sign-up process if they encounter any complications. If you’re lucky, maybe 20% of them will follow up with your company in some way. Whether you’re trying to get people to sign up for your mobile app, e-commerce platform, or company intranet, you must make the process as seamless as possible.

Here are six tips to reduce sign-up friction for your platform.

1. Use a Single Sign On Service

This is crucial for larger platforms that are part of a vast ecosystem with multiple logins, like a complex hospital platform providing access to multiple systems. On the other hand, for a basic paywall, you may want to manage user info yourself. The key is to think strategically about what your systems may look like down the road and how unwieldy your sign-up process may become.

Here are a few things to consider:

Pros

Cons

In the end, the advantages of SSO significantly outweigh the downsides. But you’ll likely need expert guidance when planning and implementing SSO to ensure you reap the benefits while minimizing the risks.

2. Keep It Short

More than a quarter of users who abandon online forms do so because they’re too long. To maximize the number of sign-ups, minimize the steps involved.

How do you decide which fields to keep? Try asking, “If I didn’t have this piece of information, would I still be able to provide a good customer experience?” If it’s something you don’t really need to know, then don’t ask.

Here are two more ways to shorten form length:

3. Use a Single Column Layout

In general, your form should adhere to this core UX principle:

Make the user experience smoother, faster, and better; not messier, slower, and worse.

The simpler the flow of your form, the faster and easier it feels to fill out. Here are a few tips:

4. Play Nice with Autofill

Nothing makes our sanguine CEO spout expletives faster than a platform that doesn’t allow browser-suggested passwords. While many of those suggested passwords are long strings of characters saved securely to the browser, the letter/number/special character combination may not meet your platform’s arbitrary standards.

In addition, some accessibility checkers will flag fields where autofill is turned off, indicating a possible issue for people with disabilities.

Here are a few more ways to make the experience smoother:

And, don’t forget to test the autofill function on both a desktop and phone — the experience can be very different between the two.

5. Allow Guest Checkout for eCommerce

To put it bluntly, don’t get in the way of someone spending money on your site. Instead, make it easy to open an account just by creating a password. Or, create a new user account automatically with the info you have, then send users an email with instructions on how to finalize the sign-up process.

What we’ve seen work well: after a successful shopping experience, follow up with an email to the customer that sells the benefits of having an account and asks if they would like to activate theirs.

6. Don’t Use a CAPTCHA

That’s right, we said it. It’s time to get rid of CAPTCHA on your sign-up form. Here are three good reasons why:

Instead, confirm any new account the tried-and-true way: with an email to the registered address. And consider if there are ways to clean up your security features on the back end, instead of presenting barriers to customers upon sign-up.

Don’t put the onus on the people who are trying to give you money. Put it on your systems instead.

You Only Get a First Impression Once

As the gateway to onboarding users, the sign-up process is the most crucial piece of your user experience to get right. Whether your goal is to acquire and retain customers, or to engage and inform employees, your success depends on getting your target audience past the initial sign-up hurdle. If their first task is difficult, it doesn’t bode well for the rest of the experience.

Don’t let your sales and marketing be better than your user onboarding. Once someone has decided your platform offers what they need, you’re more than halfway to converting them into a user. Just make sure your sign-up process lives up to your marketing promises.

Not long ago, company intranets were little more than a repository for shared files, general announcements, and the all-important list of holiday office closures. Today, the humble intranet has evolved as a way to enhance internal communication and employee engagement and to help workers do their jobs.

While organizations tend to have more content- and feature-rich intranets these days, many are missing one crucial element: a mobile-optimized version. As a result, they can exclude a large proportion of workers—including the 80% of people who make up today’s Deskless Workforce.

Top “deskless” industries include education, healthcare, retail, hospitality, and transportation, employing many of the frontline workers we all depend on.

One of our own clients, a large hospital system, told us that 70% of their workforce doesn’t sit at a desk, nor do they use a computer every day. And if 70% of their employees can’t easily access the company intranet, they’re not provided equitable access to the same resources as everyone else.

Why Mobile Matters Today

In addition to the challenges of communicating with deskless workers, the rise of remote work and the growing number of Millennials in the workforce are helping to drive an increased demand for mobile-optimized or employee-app versions of intranets.

Consider this: the average American spends more than 5 hours a day on their phone (and it’s almost always within reach). In addition, nearly half of smartphone users access the internet primarily on their phones versus a desktop computer, laptop, or tablet. Those numbers are even higher for Millennials, who currently make up 35% of the US workforce.

Mobile communication plays an essential role in our personal lives. To serve employees, company intranets must offer the same ease-of-use, convenience, and capability to our work lives. The intranet must go beyond the desktop box to where workers are.

The Benefits of an Inclusive Intranet

In addition to facilitating access, mobile technology offers a number of unique benefits that can significantly improve employee engagement and productivity and help reduce frustration.

Here are some of the key benefits of a mobile-optimized intranet:

Real-Time Push Notifications

Imagine there’s an emergency situation in your facility, or an important update that staff need to receive immediately. You can push the information straight to their phone, enabling real-time communication across your workforce. Unlike emails, most push notifications get read within the first 3 minutes after they’re received.

Broader Access for BYOD

As more and more organizations support remote work and flexible schedules—while fewer and fewer provide company smartphones—the “Bring Your Own Device” trend has become more prevalent. Many of today’s employees are using personal devices to access work-related resources and systems. And, as we noted earlier, most of the time that means they’re using a smartphone.

Freedom from Workstations

In some organizations, employees are still sharing desktop workstations that we might charitably describe as “clunky.” It’s inefficient and inconvenient, especially when multiple people have to go out of their way to get to a workspace. A mobile-optimized intranet gives everyone fast and easy access to the same resources, wherever they are.

Two-Way Communication

Intranets have traditionally been top-down communication platforms, focusing primarily on the needs of employers, not employees. Today, companies looking to increase engagement have shifted to a new mindset: communication tools are no longer for talking to employees, but talking with them.

Mobile-optimized platforms and mobile apps help facilitate two-way conversations, especially with features like built-in chatting or social forums where employees can like and comment on posts. This allows companies to have more personalized conversations with employees in addition to collecting valuable, on-the-spot feedback from the front lines.

Remote Doesn’t Feel So Remote

Without regular in-person interaction, remote workers often feel isolated and less engaged. By offering more of an app-like experience with ongoing communication, an intranet can help recreate an environment that fosters idea sharing and boosts morale. It also means that employees who work at home, or don’t have access to a computer, won’t feel uninformed and isolated from the rest of the team.

Better User Experience

If you’re looking to use your intranet as a tool for engagement, you’ll get the best results from an employee app. An app lets you take advantage of mobile-native tools, like location detection and offline access, which let you both customize content and make it more readily available. The improved user experience, speed, and features are the reasons why most people prefer apps to websites.

An Intranet for Everyone

Like many organizations, the purpose of your intranet might be to create a more engaged workforce or improve employee productivity. But if most of your workers either can’t or don’t access the content, you’re not going to achieve your goals.

As cultures, companies, and industries move towards creating more inclusiveness and equity, organizations across the world are looking for ways to meet the needs of their employees. One way to address your team’s needs and expectations is to start by ensuring your internal resources are truly benefiting everyone who relies on them.