Healthline: Topic Center Redesign
In 2012 healthline.com went through a major redesign. Here is what triggered it:
- The overall experience of the site was outdated, the site looked like a depressing waiting room – Not very engaging for readers looking for health information. Here is what the site looked like back then.
- Back in 2011, Google introduce a set of changes to their search algorithims known as Panda, which meant to filter out sites with poor quality content/user experience from top search results. At this time healthline.com had a lot duplicated content and most of this content was licensed from A.D.A.M.
For improving Healthline UX, we needed to re-think what we called topic centers, which in essences are sub categories covering a specific health conditions. For instance, we have a topic center for Type II Diabetes that house several articles related to this topic, ranging from common diabetes symptoms to lifestyle changes.
For this task, I took the following approach:
- Research: I wanted to know our audience, lucky Healthline had already commission to The Stainberg Group to do a marketing analysis. This really allowed find our differentiators in the market place.
- Information Architecture: Part of this task was to re-organize the site navigation
- Rapid wireframes and prototyping: We wanted to quickly build a prototype for initial usability testing.
- Small usability test: Before we went into development, we teated the new nav structure and the layout of the topic center, which included articles with actual content.
- Visual design: Since we had such a strong foundation from all the previews steps, the visual design phase and approval process went very smoothly.
Getting to know the user
The primary audience in healthline.com is what in the media business people call “groceries shopper”. That is to say the woman, mother, the head of the house. She is the one the makes all the decisions.
This pie is very high-level, of course. There are many other factors aside of gender we took in consideration. No to mention that the user’s needs will vary, depending of what health concerns they have.
As part of overhauling the UX of the site, we needed to re-organized the global navigation, and the navigation of the topic centers. Basically, we needed to build a site within a site. For this, I consolidated the old navigation into two buckets: “Health Topics” and “Health Tools”, where “Health Tools” would house the links of the most common health topics, and health tools would house all the links to our most popular tools, like symptom checker. This approach allowed us to achieved the following:
- Bring more enphasis to search (cleaner design)
- Improved CTR in the leaderboard ad, which is now more integrated with the content
- Prioritized a more contextual navigation, based on the health topic of your interests
Here is what the old navigation used to looked like, which was very conventional. On the right are examples of what we did, you can see it life here.
The outcome was an improved site with a better user experience, and better optimized for SEO. The new look positioned the brand as a clinical site that is authoritative and creditable.