take note, health care webmasters.

March 27, 2003

Patients think if health Web sites are pretty, they must be smart

Two studies of Internet health sites reveal that users who lack medical knowledge tend to rely on look and design to measure credibility.

Physicians say you can’t judge a health Web site by its cover, but patients don’t agree.

Nearly 42% of consumers tend to view online health information as credible based on some aspect of a site’s visual design, according to a study commissioned by Consumer WebWatch and led by Stanford University’s Persuasive Technology Lab. But another Consumer WebWatch study, led by Sliced Bread Design LLC, found that only 7.6% of health experts even took note of a site’s design, tending to rely on substance over style.

Very interesting, especially to me. From what I’ve seen, a lot of physician’s offices look like they were done in Frontpage and experience those bad issues inherent with FrontPage. I’ve seen sites that looked horrible, from large health care organizations, but the information inside was brilliant.

What would the general person choose: A restaurant with an exterior of peeling paint, rusty doors, in a rough neighborhood or a nice franchised place with manicured lawns near the mall? You’re gonna go where it’s pleasing to the eye. And that’s what people go to on the web.

To put it in general terms: Physicians are like Programmers, they want more information and don’t care about the user interface. Physicians are like Linux geeks and the whole slashdot crowd. Whereas the general consumer is like a Mac user, where they expect a pretty interface that isn’t too hard to look around. So if you’re in my shoes, who are you gonna side with? You side with both….you have to. Make it usable and pleasing to the eye, while filling it up with as much information as you can link to or host.