The redesigned NHS website is a bit of a shock to the system. I knew ‘NHS Choices’ was coming as a website, but I had understood it to be a microsite of www.nhs.uk rather than its replacement. (The T&Cs seem to have been expecting a subdomain, too.) But in the context of refocusing on the end user, it makes perfect sense – telling him/her what he/she needs to know.
Immediately you’ll notice that somebody’s been looking at the web 2.0 style guide. Huge fonts (a whopping 4.6em?!); wide screen layouts, breaking away from the 3-column approach; tab-based navigation; lots of whites, greys and gradients; Aqua-style buttons; even a few ‘stickers’. And yes – user-generated content:
‘Your thoughts’, lets you have your say for other users to read. To begin with you can make comments only on hospitals. Eventually these comments will become part of each hospital’s ‘scorecard’ showing the public’s opinion of it.
Look up your local hospital, and you’ll be invited to rate its service in several areas on a 1-5 scale; there are also big textareas for up to 500 words on ‘what you liked’ and ‘what could be improved’. They promise that:
We’ll publish all your comments whether they’re good, bad, or both as long as they meet (SD: the lengthy list of) moderation rules. Whatever you write, your privacy will be protected and your relationship with the NHS will not be affected.
Again, this makes a lot of sense. Time and again, you hear that people think the treatment they get from the NHS is great, but that they hear it’s bad nationally, so they conclude they were lucky. I guess this is an attempt to let the satisfied masses voice their satisfaction. You just have to hope that people are motivated enough to do so; sadly there’s no eBay-style inducement to leave positive feedback. And sadly, nobody needs asking twice to leave criticism.
Dig into the site, and you’ll see lots of graphic-rich material, and map-mashing (based on Microsoft’s Virtual Earth, this time). At the moment, I’m having real trouble finding fault with it… although with the backing of external third parties like Dr Foster, LBi and Sapient, and at a reported cost of £3.6m, you’d hope this might be the case.