Over the past 12 weeks we’ve learned a lot about how users engage with health information, and what they want from it.

We’ve spoken to users in research labs, met patients in GP surgeries and attended events, like the Living with Diabetes Day.

We also looked at how information is currently presented on NHS Choices. Choices is the main digital NHS channel and its analytics have given us insights into what people are looking at for type 2 diabetes and mild to moderate depression and anxiety.

We developed a set of user needs based on this information. We then created content pages and prototypes which we’ve continued to put in front of users and reiterated after each round of testing.

This is what we’ve learned so far.

Users want content that’s relevant and practical

Users want information that means something to them and what they are experiencing. For example, we found when users were first diagnosed with type 2 diabetes, they didn’t want to read about how many people in the UK had diabetes. It wasn’t relevant to their situation. They wanted to understand what their diagnosis meant to them and what they should do next.

“I want info that’s relevant to me.”

Users like action-based content

Action-focussed content tested positively. For example, we created a page explaining what you can do to avoid complications of type 2 diabetes, with links to book preventative tests.

Managing appointment for these tests can be a bit of a chore for users.

“Trying to arrange an appointment can be frustrating”

This is why we tried to integrate services much closer into the content. When telling someone with diabetes they need an annual foot check, it helps to tell them where they can get it and how to book. Your diabetes nurse would tell you. A webpage about foot checks should do the same.

The next step would be to have services that give a consistently easy to follow user experience.

Users don’t want to work hard to find information

Users want information fast. They don’t want to read loads to find what they need. Instead they scan the page for keywords that relate to their circumstances.

Bullet points and action-focussed headings help them to do this.  Designing content for mobile first also helps keep the content to the point.

Users not only told us this, but we recorded their eye movements on the pages with an infrared camera  This shows us where they look, what they read and what they skip over. It gives us another clue about content that’s working and content that isn’t.

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Users like personalised information

We tested a prototype planner, which helps people with diabetes organise and book their regular check-ups. It included things like test results and booking appointments.

Users trusted content that directly related to their situation. They liked that it combines their personal circumstances with general information.

“Their information becomes my information…”

Users were also more receptive to content around a task they were seeking to complete, for example when someone knows they have to go for an eye screening appointment, they have an interest in finding out more about why it’s important. They’re motivated.

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We don’t need to cover everything

We’ve been exploring where we can link to third party information.  Established charities such as Diabetes UK cover content well. We don’t need to repeat everything on NHS.UK.

We created a diet and exercise overview page and linked to Diabetes UK for recipes, diet plans and exercise tips.


  • liked and trusted the information on Diabetes UK
  • didn’t feel that NHS.UK should be providing this information

Some users want more

When we tested NHS.UK content side by side with pages from NHS Choices, some users felt reassured by the more complex medical information on NHS Choices.

Some users also wanted to know more about certain aspects of their condition, especially as they got over the shock and confusion of being diagnosed.

We have more work to do to find how much content is needed for a condition and how this might vary for different conditions.

What next…

Over the next 12 weeks we will apply this user needs approach to other areas and expand on the NHS Choices transformation work on short-term conditions.

We will further explore:

  • the level of medical information users want from NHS.UK and how we can incorporate this information into our practical content approach
  • linking off – what users expect from NHS.UK, what it should cover and what others can do better
  • how booking can be integrated into other content areas
  • expanding on personalised content to include multiple conditions and more complex information

We will also continue to test content with users as much as possible so we can develop a more refined understanding of user needs, and adapt our thinking where necessary.

We have temporarily disabled the comment functionality whilst we make some technical updates. In the meantime, we’d love to hear what you think about our work so tweet us @NHSDigital using the hashtag #NHSTransformationBlog or get in touch at england.digitalhealth@nhs.net.