the NHS and mobile devices

I’ve been looking at the website of my local hospital.  It has become extensive and provides very detailed information about what the hospital does.  In fact in some cases, such as the hospital’s family history programmes for certain cancers, the Web page is the only public source of information that exists.  (Whether a Web page should be the only source of information for such vital services is a can of worms that I won’t open here.)

But the website appears to have been designed with the browsing habits of a few years ago in mind.  One issue stands out: an assumption that the person viewing it will be doing so on something the size of a desktop PC.

Let’s put ourselves in the position of someone wanting to get some information about what the local NHS provides.  It’s really quite likely that they might not want others in their household to find out which pages they’ve been looking at.  In this situation, they’re likely to consult the site on their own mobile phone or other handheld device rather than on a shared PC or laptop.

However, the hospital web pages do not have this sort of accessibility.  They are long and image-heavy and key information is often deeply buried (not a good idea, whatever hardware the visitor is using).  For example, a list of risk factors for one common and deadly disease is only reachable on a 17-page PDF which you first have to download and then scroll several pages into.  No thought has been given to the anxious person who might be accessing the page on a mobile phone with a small screen and who pays by the megabyte for everything they download.

I have the impression that the website was developed a few years ago when handheld devices were not routinely used to access the Web.  By the time the site was ready, the world had moved on and it no longer fully met the needs of the public (something possibly true of other aspects of the NHS too?)

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