We’ve built quite a few prototypes for NHS.UK Alpha so far, but there’s one thing we haven’t built yet, and it’s something we get asked about a lot – a homepage. This is intentional and I want to explain why.
More than a website
Spending lots of time crafting a homepage in the early stages of a project feels a bit like deciding on a door before you’ve built the house. With NHS.UK Alpha, we’re exploring how digital can improve people’s interaction with the health and care system. We’re working to understand what NHS.UK needs to be but to do this well and really fulfil needs, we need to go beyond the website and improve the digital capability of key services.
In short, we’re not ready to build the door. Not even close.
Homepages aren’t the only door
Also, our browsing habits have changed through the years. Homepages are a great navigation aid for a site, but they are no longer the most popular route to content. For example, in NHS Choices, 1.4% of total visits start at the homepage. The vast majority (78.6%) come via search. (Data period: 11/2014 – 11/2015). For a high traffic site like NHS Choices, 1.4% isn’t an insignificant figure as it translates to 8.7million visits. Therefore, the homepage is still relevant, but it’s all the more important to get right what it navigates to first.
As we progress through this alpha and we continue to build openly, you’ll spot us via our prototypes page having a go at bringing together the various things we’ve built so far. Sometimes that might present itself suspiciously like a homepage, but it won’t be a proper one we’ve researched, tested and iterated like our other work. For now we’re going to stay focussed on prototyping around information and services. We’ve got a lot still to learn before we can design that door.