The UK Government has brought forward the launch of the National Pandemic Flu Service after new Swine Flu infections have almost doubled to over 100,000 in the past week.
I thought it might be a good idea to check out the website to see how well they’re doing. I was a bit surprised to find such obvious problems:
1) Despite the media hype awaiting the launch of this site and the preparation the site’s fallen over under the strain of visitors in the first few hours:
2) Feedback is made a little difficult. How about a comment box? The use of a PO Box postal address is also a poor choice and reflection of a lack of appreciation of the issues of this pandemic (do you really want to encourage Swine Flu patients to be unnecessarily sending feedback letters through the national post service? What occupational health assessment has been made for the postal workers or the healthcare staff who will be receiving this mail? Why not use a comment box to make it possible for people who don’t have an email account/want to stay anonymous or just to facilitate quicker management and response to the feedback being submitted?)
3) Why not drop the “www.”? It’s been quite a while since online brands used the “www.” when referring to their websites but this campaign not only uses the defunct “www.” in its press release/broadcast statement but it also fails to work if the user doesn’t type this unnecessary and outdated text.
The managers of this project would benefit from learning about the “No-www” initiative to make all websites accessible from both the http://www.example.com and example.com forms of their names. The importance of this is particularly important for providers of public Healthcare services.
4) Not only is the “W W W Dot PANDEMIC FLU Dot DIRECT Dot GOV”
a rather complicated sounding URL but finding the site via google is complicated because of the competitive SEO and paid advertising of the Direct.gov.uk generic website. The BBC also seem to be promoting another spelling of the URL: www.direct.gov.uk/pandemicflu which is a confusing redirected URL where the service is duplicated and patients are given a variety of other links to content.
Solutions to this would be the use of a better URL or to just put a link within a new landing page to overlay the NHS Direct website.
It’s worth noting that the US Government has shown good practice with the use of the pandemicflu.gov URL. Why not use flu.gov.uk?
Unlike the direct link the advertised direct.gov link takes patients to the general website which features a useful looking Search tool bar. Unfortunately the use of this gives links to over 400 results of duplicated content with varying quality rather than prominent direction to a single updated portal.
5) In a rather unusual and probably ill considered step NHS England has NOT been joined by their colleagues in Scotland, Wales or Northern Ireland. The website could have used simple technology to detect the vicinity of the visitor via their IP address for this purpose. Even without this technology a landing page overlaying the NHS Direct Website could have enabled patients or “flu friends” to manually select their location.
6) I found it really confusing to read the text on the homepage…
While I can appreciate that the Scottish/Welsh/NI Patients are being directed to their own service providers (even if this is a bad idea) why are the links to these regional NHS services just the generic homepages and not specific to the Swine Flu subject?
And what use is it to tell UK patients the following:
“Swine Flu Information.
BEFORE asking them to Start the Flu Assessment tool? Doesn’t that undermine it’s usefulness in managing unnecessary calls to the inundated call centres and taking strain off NHS services?
7) Last but not least… why isn’t the webpage mobile optimised? Particularly relevant in this campaign as targets include mobile connected younger patients.