Olivia Sharp (content designer, pictured fourth from right) explains how she approached redesigning healthy eating content based on user needs, with help from Dushyant Arora (UX designer, third from left).

How do you get through to people about eating well when they’re faced with an avalanche of influences every single day, from Instagram fads and slick food ads, to family habits and busy ‘grab and go’ lifestyles?

On NHS.UK, we already have a large amount of diet and nutrition-related content that drives a lot of traffic. But we didn’t know if it really met needs, complemented users’ journeys or could compete with other influences.

See Healthy eating discovery: why we’re doing it for more about the project’s starting point.

Discovering needs around content

As content designer for this project, I wanted us to understand the current landscape of content, identify areas where we could improve, and then to design, test and iterate new content to meet those needs.

As a team we looked at a range of user groups. Some of the key insights included:

  • Users need practical, trustworthy advice that fits with their lifestyles – personalised rather than generic.
  • The content needs to be visually engaging, to the point and where our users are – people are heavily influenced by engaging sites like BBC Good Food and social media stars like Joe Wicks and Jamie Oliver.

See Healthy eating: identifying our users’ needs for our research headlines.

Using the right words

We were interested to know what language people use around diet and nutrition, to make sure we used familiar words and phrases when designing.

Taking transcripts from our user interviews, we highlighted common words on relevant themes. Below are examples of some of the common language we picked up on across different themes:

  • meals and cooking: “simple”, “one-pot”, “ready meals”, “quick”
  • weight and diets: “watching weight”, “count calories”, “fad diets”
  • emotional words: “bingeing”, “treat”, “sweet tooth”, “craving”
  • nutrition: “carbohydrates”, “fibre”, “5 a day”, “calories”

We’re taking this further with google keyword analysis and aim to test user comprehension and topic labelling in alpha.

Audit, audit, audit

Auditing is painstaking but so important – we needed to identify gaps in our needs and be methodical to pick up on the scale of any issues.

We started by taking an inventory of every piece of content within our project scope. Then we explored analytics data and site-wide surveys, sketched out a site map to show content location and created a set of audit criteria based on the needs from research.

Content redesign

Start with user needs

To make sure we were interpreting criteria in the same way, and to bounce ideas around about improvements, we did some of the auditing in pair sessions, with A3 print outs.

What we learned

There’s a huge amount of valuable, well-researched content on NHS.UK already, but some of its benefits need maximising.

Where we’re doing well:

  • using trustworthy, professional opinions
  • covering topics there’s a need for, like losing weight and eating well on a budget

Some areas where we can improve:

  • making content more concise and structured, and removing some complex language
  • reducing repetition and pages with similar aims
  • making some of our generic advice more personal and targeted
  • using visuals to make content more engaging and easy to understand – for example in explaining food packaging or the maximum fat an adult should eat every day
  • signposting users to relevant content that relates to a known journey – we have a lot of ‘noisy’ links and widgets on pages currently
  • creating more shareable video and visual content

On to designing

I’ve started to redesign existing content to meet user needs and prioritised in line with our key user journeys, working closely with Dushyant Arora, our UX designer.

Dushyant ran a couple of productive (and fun!) sketch workshops to kick off visual design concepts. These were worked up and developed into clickable prototypes, reading for testing with users. Below is a snapshot of the mobile-first prototype annotated with some of the early design rationale:

Early prototyping

Early prototyping (draft copy): click to view full image

You’ll see some nutrition news stories at the bottom right of the image: a number of users we spoke to mentioned being confused by “food myths” in the news, and the healthcare professionals rated the Behind the Headlines service highly, so we wanted to test pulling in a curated feed where users might expect to see it.

Next steps for our content Alpha

Our plan for Alpha is to test out:

  • new page templates and design elements with users
  • simplified, concise content: are users able to get the information they need?
  • different tones of voice: should we use a less formal tone for “lifestyle” content on NHS.UK?
  • changes to information architecture: we believe users will want to return, and browse our content – is a landing page appropriate?

…plus a few other things!

Find out what else is planned as part of the Alpha in Healthy eating: from research to recommendations.

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