The month in COVID on nhs.uk: January 2022
My team and I look after the website’s COVID hub. We provide users with the information they need and we signpost them to COVID-19 services when they need them. Here’s what happened on nhs.uk in response to COVID-19 in January 2022.
This month was kind of quiet so we got a chance to focus on how people were using our service — in particular the big, yellow COVID banner.
The month in numbers
Each week in January, there were between 8 and 18 million visits to the COVID hub — that’s high but nothing like the numbers we saw in December. The most frequently viewed pages were booking a vaccination appointment, information about lateral flow tests, information about self-isolation, the top level of the COVID hub, and information about getting tested.
Overall, there were 15.5 million journeys into 1 of the 18 services that users of the COVID hub are signposted to. That’s about one third of the number of journeys in December.
The COVID banner
There has been a big yellow banner across the top of the NHS website since the start of the pandemic. This is our ‘emergency alert’ banner — it can be used for anything we need to draw everyone’s attention to.
It’s big, it’s prominent, it was never designed to be in place for 2 years.
Given that most of our users are well aware there’s a pandemic on, we asked ourself “What would happen if we turned the banner off?”
The banner is visible on almost all non-COVID pages. It gets a lot of clicks, but you would expect any eye-catching banner and link at the top of the screen to get a lot of clicks. Only about 1% of visits to the COVID hub come from a click on the COVID banner. The vast majority come from Google search.
But we found 4 parts of the website where the number of clicks was really high and — more importantly — the clickthrough rate was also high:
- location entry, disambiguation and search results pages of Find a walk-in vaccination site
- the homepage
- NHS App help and support pages
- internal search results page.
In these parts of the website it was clear that the COVID banner wasn’t merely alerting and signposting people to important content, it was being used to navigate to this content.
Users wanted to navigate to COVID content and they were choosing to use the link in the COVID banner to do this. To give ourselves the option of turning off the banner, we’d need to give users an alternative way to navigate to COVID content from these parts of the website. The next step was different for each of them:
- Find a walk-in vaccination site pages: the team working on this service had also identified the navigation problem. After viewing a site’s profile page there was no obvious link back to the search results page you had come from, so some people were clicking on the COVID banner link and starting the whole journey again. Some users were getting stuck in a loop going from COVID hub > Enter location > Search results > Profile > COVID hub > Enter location, etc. The team has since improved the breadcrumbs and this issue seems to be resolved.
- the homepage: it’s OK to turn the banner off on the homepage because there are links to the COVID hub and COVID vaccinations just a little further down the page. In fact, more people use these links than the banner: navigating from the homepage to COVID content is a really popular user journey.
- NHS App help and support pages: we don’t really understand why so many people want to go to COVID content from here, so we’re asking them with some targeted surveys.
- internal search result page: we think the risk of removing the banner from this page is minimal because a user who is searching for content already knows how to find the content they want.
We’re not ready to turn off the COVID banner just yet, but it’s good to know that when we are we can be confident we won’t break any important journeys.
Vaccination content updates
Some children aged 5–11 became eligible for vaccinations.
We restructured our content for people with severely weakened immune systems. Instead of separate pages about third doses and boosters for this group, there is now a single dedicated page for them: Coronavirus (COVID-19) vaccine for people with a severely weakened immune system. We also added a link to Book a coronavirus vaccination once that service was updated so this group could use it to book their boosters.
We updated our booster dose page many times, as 16–17s, at-risk 12–15s and 12–17s with severely weakened immune systems all became eligible in January.
And while doing this we updated all references to booster doses to match the new style guide entry for booster.
Treatment content updates
We surveyed users of the new COVID treatments page. Satisfaction with the page was again really high but some people told us they were looking for more information on how to obtain PCR tests, who makes decisions on eligibility for treatments and if they need to do a PCR if they have a positive lateral flow test result.
We’ve since updated the page to answer these questions.
We also clarified that people eligible for treatments who have not been contacted 24 hours after a positive test result need to call 111 — they can’t use 111 online for this.
And finally, we added links to the PANORAMIC trial to help them recruit participants.
What we’re doing next month
I can’t share everything that we’re currently working on because some of it is sensitive, but here’s what I can tell you. We will:
- publish the structural changes to the vaccinations topic hub that we started looking at a few months ago (yes, we really will this time)
- look in more detail at our higher risk content, including pregnancy.