A visit to a healthcare professional comes with certain expectations. Patients and their caregivers want to be heard and understood. They seek empathy, pleasant bedside manner, and credible solutions. An effective appointment will leave them feeling hopeful and empowered, and perhaps leave the medical professional with a positive review.
A visit to a health website is no different. A recent digital ethnographic study by research firm KR&I, sponsored by Verywell, found that readers also have expectations when researching health concerns online — whether about a symptom, in preparation for a doctor’s appointment, or to pursue healthy habits.
The research revealed that it’s not enough for a website to simply answer audiences’ queries. How they’re answered — the overall experience users find themselves in — is most important.
The Role of Emotion
Just like a healthcare professional, health websites can benefit from holistically understanding audiences’ needs. After all, readers are real-life patients and caregivers.
Digital ethnography helps achieve the holistic view, providing both informational and emotional insight. Mobile videos and answering questions via an app provides immediacy, real-world context, non-verbal information, intimacy, and in-the-moment authenticity versus after-the-fact storytelling.
Across the board, shared experiences showed that emotions were an underlying factor at every step of the journey. Whatever the reason participants went online, they did so for one reason: They wanted to feel better—physically, mentally, and emotionally. They wanted to find something to change the situation and mindset they were in. Once they did, they were more likely to take action.
Experience Shapes Emotions
What caused the mindset shift? Their user experience. What participants found online shaped their emotions, and ultimately their actions.
Before going online, they felt terrible. This study found that 82 percent of participants felt “negative emotions” like anxiety, frustration, fear, confusion, and nervousness. When their search results took them to a negative user experience, their negative state of mind deepened with feelings of disappointment, concern, overwhelm, and indifference.
But when they found themselves in a positive user experience, they felt content, relief, inspiration, and motivation. A positive user experience made participants feel in control, validated, and hopeful—essentially, it made them feel better and encouraged them to take action, thus potentially improving outcomes.
User Experience Is Worth the Investment
The big takeaway here — for health sites, pharma advertisers, and marketers — is that the environment where health information is shared makes a difference. Sites serve their audiences best when positive UX is a factor in their winning strategy. Consider this when investing your media budgets with health sites. By doing so, you’ll align yourself with readers who are motivated to act to improve their health.
Stay in Touch
To learn more about Verywell’s winning strategy and top-notch user experience, email us at [email protected]. And look out for our next post, “The Online User Experience That Can Drive Action for Your Brand,” to learn more about the four clear criteria that shape positive UX.