NHS Choices’ new content management system is up and running and making a real difference for users, says Charles Creswell, product group lead for care and conditions
We’ve wanted to move our content to a new software platform for some time. We believed it was necessary to underpin our ambitions for the development of the service. And we knew it would quickly unlock some important benefits for users.
But moving home is stressful. For a site like NHS Choices, with millions of contented users, hundreds of important stakeholders and thousands of pages of carefully managed content, it’s a daunting task.
Nonetheless, we’ve spent the past few months doing the digital equivalent of packing our belongings, room by room, into painstakingly labelled cardboard boxes, ready for the removal men. And – hurrah! – we’re finally in and unpacking.
We’ve now moved the bulk of our content to its new home – Wagtail.
Over 70% of visits to NHS.UK – that’s around 380 million a year – now go to pages served from our new CMS. Importantly for our users, those pages have been redesigned to be easier to read, easier to understand and easier to navigate, no matter what device or browser you’re using.
So far we’ve moved and upgraded the following areas of the site:
- More than 3,000 pages of information on conditions, symptoms and treatments. These pages cover around 1,000 topics, such as measles, impetigo and night sweats and account for about 60% of visits to NHS Choices.
- Eight NHS guides housing larger collections of content on broad topics, such as pregnancy and vaccinations. Together they hold around 600 pages of content and receive about 13% of all visits to the site.
- The Behind the Headlines daily health news analysis service, which provides just less than 2% of site traffic.
We’ve streamlined these migrated pages, removing elements that were not supporting users’ needs and making the content easier to maintain.
Additionally, what remains is working harder. Engagement with online communities run by our partner HealthUnlocked has risen 23% on these pages.
We’ve also introduced new navigational elements and consistent design patterns that help users understand where they are and how to move around the site. Among these is the first iteration of a site-wide breadcrumb that’s steadily replacing inconsistent and confusing legacy patterns. And there’s new in-page navigation that reduces scrolling and gets users to the information they need faster.
The latest updates have also allowed us to give our content pages a more granular structure, using schema.org, meaning that search engines and soon syndication partners will be able to read, link and serve our content in new ways.
New APIs supporting this content are already being adopted by our partners and together we’re exploring further innovations, including the value of linking clinical and service information using the SNOMED codes mandated for use across the NHS.
This shift of technology and content also allows us to lay the foundations for a more fundamental redesign of the service. To that end, we’re working with users to better understand their needs and the journeys that they take through our content and beyond.
That knowledge will help us improve the structure of the site to support simpler, more effective and satisfying journeys. That’s a further step towards users getting what they need simply and quickly, every time. And that in turn means more people successfully caring for themselves or accessing the best NHS service for them.
Welcome to our new home!