This week, resident content experts Maggie and Jill joined me at the Confab Minnesota conference. We were among more than six hundred content strategists whose projects run the gamut from global enterprises to two-person Web teams, manufacturing to healthcare, retail to non-profit.
Much time was spent as you’d expect: talking about words. Creating the appropriate voice for your organization, dealing with content overload, and, in general, creating better content experiences.
If you’ve worked in the Web industry for any length of time, you’re painfully aware of how challenging it is to plan for, create, and maintain great content. In healthcare, as in many other industries, there is an enormous amount of informational content. It can easily become overwhelming. However, nothing is more central than content to the success of your online strategy and the overall experience of your audience.
Talk with content strategy experts and you will hear war stories about hours spent manipulating spreadsheets. Dozens of articles and blog posts describe in tedious detail how to combine numerous data files into a single view. All of this cutting, pasting, manipulation, and frustration doesn’t leave much time – or energy – for actually understanding the content or developing a solid strategy, let alone writing anything.
It wouldn’t be January without a few predictions, so here are my top three areas to keep an eye on in 2013.
Browsers, Browsers Everywhere
As predicted, 2012 saw continued proliferation of Web-browsing devices and platforms – the iPad mini, Microsoft Surface, Windows Phone 8 – the list goes on. If you’re thinking of creating a mobile site we highly recommend you consider responsive design. Responsive design is the new table-less Web design – a watershed moment in how websites are constructed to adapt to any screen size.
From a design perspective, addressing the needs of smaller screens has created a trend toward leaner websites with minimal, but sophisticated, designs.
Extranets offer a great way for hospitals and health systems to communicate securely with some of their most important audiences. They also provide the opportunity to make a good impression with those audiences.
Think of an extranet like an invitation-only microsite. Like a microsite, an extranet is a self-contained destination focused on a single audience and a relatively small set of goals. For example, extranets can be used to communicate with physician groups and board of directors.
It’s important to remember that extranets are secure and targeted. When implementing an extranet, treat it as a new website. Create an architecture, design, and tone that speaks to your audience. Make sure the content is relevant to them.
Events are a huge component of many of your marketing, health promotion, community outreach, professional training, and fundraising efforts. But would you know it from looking at your website? Too often healthcare websites include brief event descriptions copied from print materials, challenging navigation, and few calls to action that frustrate registrants on many healthcare websites.
Here are twelve tips for ensuring potential attendees can find your listing, have the information they need, and can figure out how to sign up for the event.
We work hard to ensure our VitalSite content management system is the best on the market. And we’re lucky enough to work with experts in many disciplines – not just software development. We routinely reach out to our internal experts to get advice and recommendations to ensure our software meets evolving needs.
For one of our recent development sprints we invited Casey Hansen, Geonetric’s expert on all things Google, to join the VitalSite team as a guest product owner. Casey brought a backlog of ideas for enhancing the search engine optimization features of VitalSite. I sat down with him to find out how it went.
DS: Thanks for being part of the development team this sprint. Could you explain which part of the development process you were included in?
CH: I was involved in the planning process and the daily standups to see how the product team works through a sprint and overcomes obstacles. It was eye-opening to see how all the different pieces affect each other.
DS: It’s a constant process of prioritization. Were there other surprising aspects of the development process?
CH: The biggest surprise was to see how something that seems simple can actually be quite complex. What will that change affect here? There? Across the product? What do we do if this happens? What do we do if that happens? When you’re the one with the idea, you don’t think about all of the details. The simplest little feature can have waterfall effects. It’s really enlightening to understand the process.
DS: One of the features that you worked on was an enhancement to encourage authors to provide good metadata for the content they create. How do you think the feature will boost search engine optimization?
CH: It’s going to help make sure that some of the basics are on the pages, that they don’t get left out, and that they conform to standards. In my experience, clients have multiple people putting content in and it’s easy for pages to get published with no metadata, or inconsistent metadata. This feature is going to help guide that process.
Last week Jonah Peretti, co-founder of BuzzFeed and Huffington Post, shared his advice for Marissa Mayer, the former Google executive who was recently appointed president and CEO of Yahoo!:
“It is amazing how having a huge home page can be a curse. People start fighting over existing traffic instead of trying to make awesome new things that are exciting enough to attract their own audience. Marissa Mayer should exclude home page traffic from all metrics used to evaluate performance…”
It’s a great thought experiment. If the product you’re promoting – whether that’s a service line, facility, care provider, event, or simply information – isn’t enough to draw visits on its own, then putting a link on the home page isn’t the solution.
In short: if you’re still focused on driving traffic to your home page, you’re missing the point.
What does your sleep have to do with VitalSite’s quality? More than you know… It all has to do with our implementation of Behavior Driven Development (BDD).
As you may know from the Lean management philosophy, finding and fixing issues as early as possible is the key to increasing quality. On a Toyota assembly line, any worker can stop the line when a problem occurs. We wanted to apply the same attention to detail and rapid feedback to our software development process.
That’s why we recently introduced BDD to Geonetric. Behavior Driven Development focuses on defining the behavior of a feature and writing automated tests to ensure the software behaves as expected. Writing the actual code to add the feature to VitalSite comes after the test is developed. Sound backwards? It’s not – in fact, this process ensures every line of code not only adds value, but is automatically tested at the push of a button.
You know the value health libraries can provide your organization and your site visitors. The content supports service line marketing efforts, gives care providers a resource for reliable patient education information and enhances your online brand.
However, too often health content solutions tend to seem isolated and out-of-sync with the rest of the hospital’s website.
That’s why we’ve been working closely with Healthwise® to create a solution that aligns with our holistic approach to online strategy. The Healthwise Knowledgebase features a vast array (more than 40,000 pages!) of top-quality, evidence-based health content along with images, illustrations and interactive tools. Most important is their emphasis on shared decision making. Healthwise created content that facilitates conversations between patients and care providers aimed at addressing the difficult decisions patients face.
Together with Healthwise, we’ve made it possible to truly integrate accurate and current health content into your website’s user experience. Visitors who are learning about service lines, checking out symptoms, or receiving a secure message from your staff can now have high-quality health content at their fingertips.
Ever wish you had more of a voice with your current content management system vendor? When you work with Geonetric, your input shapes future versions of our VitalSite content management system.
We release a new version of our product every quarter and many of the enhancements we make are based on the client feedback we receive. In fact, we’ve decided to take that process to the next level and make it even easier for users to share their ideas with our product team.
It’s always good to know where you stand, and very few things help us with this as much as a third party, independent comparative analysis of how our work ranks against the rest of the industry. A peer-reviewed research article published in the February 2012 issue of the Journal of Healthcare Management attempts to do this very thing…
The researchers reviewed 636 hospital and health system websites and ranked each on Accessibility, Content, Marketing, and Technology metrics. An overall score was then computed for each site.
The results are simply outstanding.
The latest version of Meaningful Use Stage 2 was recently released (see Ben Dillon’s blog post ), and there are two items related to how patients access health information and providers online that I found fascinating. The proposed rule requires that online access to health information and secure messaging be available to 50 percent of patients and – more importantly – 10 percent of patients must use them.
We Can Do Better!
Meaningful Use Stage 1 rules required hospitals and eligible providers to make information available to patients in an electronic format. What sounded like a promising step forward for patients has turned out to be nothing more than files delivered on CD-ROMs or via a “secret,” un-promoted patient portal. In short, it was only marginally better than the current medical records request process.
We can do better, right? Allowing patients to digitally access health information isn’t easy, but we’re committed to solving this in a way that puts consumers at the center of the experience.
To help health consumers understand the benefits of actually using your patient portal, you’ll have to focus on more than just the clinical and I.T. aspects. You’ll need to focus on the patient experience too. It’s essential that you create a value proposition that convinces patients to adopt your technology. This means implementing software that makes it easy for consumers to interact with your organization and retrieve their health information.
I bought a FitBit last weekend. I’m telling myself it’s for professional research purposes, and entirely unrelated to any delicious overindulgences from December.
If you’re unfamiliar, FitBit is a tiny device that clips to your belt and tracks your movements 24/7, reporting on your activity level and sleep quality. It’s basically a souped-up, Kinect-era pedometer.
The FitBit wirelessly posts data to a website, updating regularly when you’re in range of its base station. From there, your data can be forwarded onto Twitter, Facebook, WordPress, or – more interestingly – Microsoft’s HealthVault.
The effect is something we are striving for with our patient portal – increasing patients’ access to data about their body, health and activities. Lab test results buried in a chart don’t help patients to see the patterns in how their body is responding to their daily choices – medication adherence, lifestyle changes, continuing treatment – that are necessary to improve their health.
As the director of product strategy, part of my job is to keep a watchful eye on industry trends and ensure our VitalSite content management system stays a step ahead of market needs. That doesn’t mean I have a crystal ball, but it does mean I am in a unique position to evaluate what’s a trend – and what’s just a temporary buzz. Here are four areas I think will get a lot of attention this year.
There was enormous buzz about mobile in 2011, and not without good reason. Geonetric clients saw steady growth in mobile visits throughout the year. Headed into 2012, I think we’ll be seeing less hype, and more substantive focus on the value that can be delivered by a variety of devices – not just phones – to create integrated experiences for health consumers.
Continued Smart Phone Growth
While growth in the use of mobile devices for Internet consumption was tremendous in 2011, we won’t see any slow-down in 2012. Expect a big jump in January as consumers take to the new smart phones and tablets they received as gifts, then a return to consistent month-over-month growth throughout the remainder of the year.
Forecasts indicate that overall internet consumption on mobile devices will exceed that on traditional computers by 2015.