011 – What Every Newly Diagnosed Visitor Wants From Your Website

When someone is newly diagnosed, your organization has a prime opportunity to secure their attention and engage them with your resources. However, many nonprofit websites fail to effectively address the needs of newly diagnosed patients. In this solo episode, Spencer unpacks what newly diagnosed people want from your website and how you can adapt your website to meet their unique needs.

Full Transcript

Spencer Brooks 00:04

Welcome to Health Nonprofit Digital Marketing, where a podcast for nonprofit marketing and communications leaders using the internet to reach and engage people with health issues. I’m your host, Spencer Brooks of Brooks digital, a digital agency for health nonprofits specializing in web strategy, design and development.

Designing websites for newly diagnosed patients 00:25

Today, I’m doing a solo episode here on the topic of what newly diagnosed people want from your website. I started thinking about this idea, this question of what do newly diagnosed people want from your website. In some conversations I had as actually as a part of some user research we were doing for a client. I was sitting in just interview after interview, reading, click survey transcripts and all these things. And I saw repeatedly and I’m sure you listening, if you’re specializing in health issues, this comes as no surprise, but the point of diagnosis that someone has, especially with a major health condition, it’s very, sometimes traumatizing. It can feel like they’re completely overwhelmed, their ears are ringing, they can’t process any other words that that the doctor is saying it’s a highly emotional pain point. And so, as I was talking with people who had experienced this, just asking them in general, like, hey, what can you tell me about your experience with this particular health condition? The point of diagnosis came up again and again, as just a real pain point. And so, from my perspective, like, I’m looking at this from the angle of okay, how can an organization use the internet, use their website to help make that point of friction just a little bit easier? How can you best use your website to serve someone who is newly diagnosed, and I think there’s, there’s a couple unique things about newly diagnosed people that I’ve observed.

Emotions of the Newly Diagnosed 02:21

The first one is obviously that they’re overwhelmed and panicked. That may not come as a huge surprise, but I think not many people see that in the context of a website, right? If you imagine someone sitting in maybe their doctor’s office, five minutes after receiving a diagnosis, on their phone, rapidly googling stuff, that’s the that’s the emotional condition that they’re going to be in when they come across your website. And the messaging that you use the design, the content, everything needs to reflect the fact that they’re in that emotional state, they’re probably not even at a very rational place, they just, they need some empathy. And they need to be talked to in a way that acknowledges that’s just their emotional state. So that’s, that’s one thing to keep in mind, that I really think every website should address is that that fact. They’re also trying to make sense of a lot of complicated information, especially if it’s a chronic health issue, or even, you know, just any, anything serious, is going to require a mapping of the space for them. And what I mean by that is that they’re going to have to make sense of all the types of information that they need to know and dig through medical terms, and really get a good understanding of everything that they need to know about this condition. And so it’s sort of like this, walking into a fog, and they’re trying to figure out, what are the boundaries? And what’s the playing field. So, they’re trying to make sense of a lot of complicated information. And they also don’t know who to trust.

Catering to Newly Diagnosed patients’ needs 04:15

Some of the things that I’ve heard when just talking with people is that they’re clicking through these different Google results. And they’re trying to say, is this source trustworthy or not? And sometimes they just don’t know. And so that actually impacts their ability to receive information because they don’t know if they can trust a site to provide accurate information. Or sometimes they see conflicting information and they go; I have no idea. I just have to sort of pick out of thin air and choose who to trust. So if you combine all those things, someone who’s overwhelmed and panicked, trying to make sense of a ton of complicated information and they don’t know who to trust, then you have a particular approach that you’re probably going to want take on your content that a newly diagnosed person might read, that could be like a page that you have, or even articles or topics on your site that tend to be relevant to someone who’s newly diagnosed. And we’ll talk about some ways to approach that. But I just want to highlight this, those are some unique things about someone who’s newly diagnosed as it pertains to your site. And so that’s something to keep in mind, that should always be a point of reference, as you’re thinking about how to construct that page, and those pieces of information on your site. So newly diagnosed visitors, they’re also important, right, because they’re your future supporters. And you have an opportunity to engage them right now, at this point of, of pain and a vulnerability. And I think if, as an organization, you do it well, and you can draw them in, and you can provide them with reassurance, and you can provide them with clear information, and a plan of action, that you have suddenly earned that person’s trust and in the health space, especially with medical information, like that’s important, it really is. And so you have the opportunity right at the beginning to capture that. And that over time, leads to a very engaged constituent, and someone who might support you in the future, if not financially, then just via spreading awareness or through other mechanisms.

What do Newly Diagnosed people need? 06:30

So, what do newly diagnosed people want then? One thing that I really consistently heard, is, a newly diagnosed person wants a structured path to learn, they want to have someone be able to explain to them the things that they need to know, not in an overwhelming way. But they need to have the information presented to them in a way that makes sense and that isn’t overwhelming. And I think that’s certainly a challenge with any sort of health issue is that there’s an immense amount of information to communicate. So, you have a person who then is newly diagnosed, and they’re just drinking from the firehose, so your job, and the job of your site, is to make that fire hose more like a faucet that they can kind of drink out of. And that certainly is a challenge, I won’t lie. However, that’s something that a newly diagnosed person desperately wants is a structured path to learn, to begin their journey, to start absorbing information in stages. Because the alternative is what they’re doing is they’re going around and just like they’re putting in the broadest term, you know, they could be putting in like breast cancer, right. And they’re just like drinking from the firehose, like, going through the Mayo Clinic site, or WebMD, or whatever on just, you know, like symptoms and treatments and medications. And it’s just a huge amount of information. So, as an organization, you have the opportunity to give them a structured path for learning that’s going to reduce the overwhelm that they might experience.

Improving the Newly Diagnosed experience on a health website 08:26

They also want to be talked to, like a real person with empathy. So, I think if you consider the fact that this newly diagnosed person is in an overwhelmed and panicked state, a bunch of medical jargon, or even an appropriate amount of medical terminology for a person who is in a relatively irrational state of mind, that might not be appropriate for someone who’s newly diagnosed. So, talking to them, at their level, meaning not just their reading level, but their emotional level is important, as well as displaying empathy in your communications, I think is, is incredibly important. They also they don’t want to feel like they’re alone. And that’s something else that I kept hearing is that it’s suddenly it’s very isolating, to be diagnosed with this could be a life changing health condition. And they feel it could be as well not just the person who’s diagnosed it could be the caretaker right? You could you could be dealing with a parent who is just trying to not only understand what’s happening, but then suddenly has a huge burden placed on them as well. And so, part of the desire in that newly diagnosed person has also to be connected with other people and to develop emotional support, and be able to just to not feel like they’re just totally isolated and dealing with this by themself. And so all of this kind of begs the question and leads to, how can you provide this? If we’ve set the stage on okay, what’s unique about newly diagnosed folks? Why are those visitors important? What are the things that they want? The question is, how can you go about providing this on your site?

Thoughts on how you can improve the experience on your site for the newly diagnosed 10:39

So, I have some thoughts, I’ve got five or six of them for you today I just want to go over, and, and explain how you might be able to make sense of all this information and use this to practically improve the newly diagnosed experience on your site. So, the first thing that I would suggest is helping the newly diagnosed visitor map the space and I talked about this a little bit before, it’s providing some sort of mental structure of what are the major high-level topics that pertain to this particular health condition? What are the things that, again, on a very high level, what are the major topic areas that this person is going to need to explore? And I think that can tremendously help with overwhelm because again, this person wants a structured path to learn and so I think being able to present in this case, a clearer information architecture on your site, and, which ties into your navigation as well can actually help the person make sense of okay, this is the space, this is these are the different topics that I need to learn about. And to help set the breadth of, of everything that they might be able to, to learn about. And so what that does come down to is good information architecture, it means that you have mapped out your content into logical organized groups on your site. And that ideally, the people that have the health conditions have actually grouped those things together for you, or at very least, that you’ve taken the time to really sit down and think through the topics and think through the different ways you might organize that, use feedback from your users on the top the topics that they’re exploring.

Creatin a user-friendly health website for newly diagnosed individuals 12:34

There’s also great opportunities to do things like keyword research for Google, as an example, to identify topics that are searched on a lot. All these things can be put together to create an information architecture that then you can put into your website, both in your navigation as well as other places so that someone who visits your site starts to get a really clear picture of how to begin processing all of the information and all of the options they have around this particular health condition. Obviously, it also goes without saying, you know, have a hub for newly diagnosed people, I see this on a fair amount of sites, but not on every site to be honest. And so it’s real low hanging fruit, in one sense to do this, because you can just create a page on the site and start populating it out. I say, in one sense, because you know, it’s easy to create a page on your site, the content on that is it can be quite challenging to try to simplify it down to something that’s manageable for someone who’s newly diagnosed. So the concept is simple, executing it, can take some thought. But needless to say, actually having a hub for the newly diagnosed person is very important. And it kind of along with that, I would say just, this is a practical aside, what you’re going to want to do is make sure that that newly diagnosed page is linked from your other interior pages on your site, because what you’re going to find, if you go and look at your Google Analytics, I’ll probably like probably mind read what it looks like, right now. But that most people are coming from search from Google and they’re landing on one of your interior pages, like an article about, you know, a specific topic within your health space, because they want to learn about that. And so that’s where they’re landing. And so you want to make sure that somewhere on that page, could be like in a sidebar somewhere in the navigation in a place that’s fairly prominent, like it doesn’t have to be screaming at someone but it has to be noticeable is that there’s a link to your newly diagnosed hub because chances are maybe that newly diagnosed person is in the middle of this frantic search where they’re just haphazardly searching a bunch of various different topics, and they run across your site, and they’re in the middle of just going crazy. And doing, like they have 500 tabs open, they’re just scanning through all this stuff. And they see that link, and they hit your, your newly diagnosed have and then that’s their structured path to learn. So, you want to be able, you want to capture people to get them out of that cycle of that 500 tabs of Googling, right. So that’s just a, it’s a very practical thing. But it’s important. So once they get to the, the newly diagnosed hub, as I’m calling it, just a page on your site, you’re gonna want to direct them to your most important pieces of content, and then give them a way to progressively learn more. So, I like to call this showing them breadth before depth. So, you want to, again, be able to highlight, here’s some of the topics that you need to learn about, probably you don’t need to highlight every single topic. But what are the say the five or six key topics that this newly diagnosed person needs to understand in order to begin developing a foundation of knowledge around their health condition, and then link them to not a ton, but maybe like 2, 3, 4 pieces of content that are good starting points for that particular topic.

A Case Study 16:33

We did this for a diabetes website, that it had a tremendous amount of content on it, but it just wasn’t organized in a way that someone who is newly diagnosed could access. And I usually find that that’s the case with many larger health websites, there’s not a lack of content on the site, there’s a tremendous amount of content, the challenge is, how do you take that content and organize it in a meaningful way. And so one way that you can start doing that is to cherry pick some specific pieces of content that you’ve written in the past on the newly diagnosed page and begin directing people to it. And then if you have done the work to organize your information architecture and organize your content under the sensible topics, then you can also probably provide a link to go see a longer list of everything that your organization has provided on that specific topic. And so that’s one way that you can begin to show breadth and then also give a visitor the ability to go deep on particular topics. And so that’s another practical piece of advice there for you.

Where to start with your website content 17:50

I think if you are an organization, moving on to another idea here. If you haven’t, if you’re an organization with a lot of content, if you have a lot of just a ton of stuff. And but you maybe you realize, actually, we don’t really have a ton of content that is found what I would call foundational content for someone who’s newly diagnosed, then start by organizing your existing content and making that available and then add pieces over time. So, most likely if you don’t have a comprehensive newly diagnosed page, then you’re going to start to realize you have holes, you have gaps in your content. And that’s okay. Don’t let that interfere with your work to actually create the page, I think it’s okay to say we haven’t written something on this. But it’s still important to just organize the content that we do have and then work to add the pieces over time. So get what you have out there right now organized in a meaningful way, and then start adding and filling in those gaps as you go over time. And that will help you make some progress and some momentum on the work that you are already doing without holding you up too much.

Creating Connection 19:15

So, the other thing that you can do is since newly diagnosed folks, they want to be connected, they don’t want to feel alone, this is an amazing opportunity to give them a chance to engage with your other channels. So, to sign them up for your email list, to have them follow you on social if you have podcast support groups here, it’s a really good place to aggregate all of those things and give them away to explore. And because of course what you’re going to find is that someone is not going to be able to consume everything that they need to know in one day. They’re going to ideally visit that page, bookmark it or remember it in their head and come back and you want to give them the opportunity to then, to deep dive into some of your other resources. And they’re probably going to want to be keeping up to date on, like maybe the latest news or developments or things that your organization is doing. So this is a great opportunity to get them hooked up to your other channels and get them connected in a deeper way. For example, one thing that we did with a client is we created a newly diagnosed email series, so we used marketing automation to, to put the content that a newly diagnosed person would need to know into like a, I think it was a six-part email series. And as just an alternative way for someone to consume the information that they needed. And we just put that right on the newly diagnosed page, it wasn’t in place of the content that they would read, it was just another option. And that allowed, conveniently, that person to sign up for the email list, but also received some valuable information there in the meantime. And so I think that there is a tremendous opportunity to use marketing automation and email sequences to educate around your health space. And I say it’s a tremendous opportunity, because that’s a very real tangible way to get someone to sign up for your email list and deliver a ton of value rather than just saying subscribe to our newsletter, or different things like that, if you can say we’ve created these, you know, email series for you to learn about these different topics, then there’s a much more compelling reason for someone to sign up for your email list, and you can nurture them that way.

Wrap Up 21:44

And so those are, those are just a couple ways, you know, that you can think about making your site friendlier to newly diagnosed folks, I think that there’s certainly a lot more depth that you can go into, you know, there’s things that I didn’t really talk about, such as actually doing some user testing, maybe trying to find someone who’s newly diagnosed and showing them your site and getting their feedback. That’s a great way, you know, to really see how your site is landing with a newly diagnosed person. But, you know, again, there’s lots of ideas. But very much just practically speaking, if you can create a page on your site for the newly diagnosed and start with just what you have. That’s it’s a huge step forward. And they can implement a lot of those ideas that I just talked about as you go over time. You don’t have to do it all at once. And that’s certainly something I say to a lot of our clients. It doesn’t have to be it doesn’t have to be all at once. You can do this over time, in phases at your own pace.

Outro  22:51

Well, that that wraps up our show today. We are a new podcast, so please consider rating and reviewing us on Apple podcasts or whatever platform you listen on. This show is also part of the thought education of Brooks digital. Like I said, we’re a digital agency for health nonprofits. So, if you liked this podcast, if you liked this episode, please go to our website. It’s Brooks.digital. You can find more of our insights like this podcast as well as some other articles and you can learn more about our work.

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