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Designing Online Health Web Portal system

Updated on July 23, 2016


The website must fulfill the usability goals and by extension the user experience goals. The ideal system ought to offer all services to virtually all types of customers and meet the usability goals and user experience expectations. However, this is not and most likely is never the case since. This is because of the challenges in developing systems. In this online web portal, there a few challenges that may affect the usability of the system that is based on the user physical, characteristic and technical capabilities.

Health web portal


Challenges present in designing for patients with varying needs and technical ability

First of all under physical skills, some users have excellent eyesight, and yet there are others who are short-sighted, long-sighted or have blurry vision. This presents a challenge in the layout of the website. The contents of the website should be made to be legible by all these types of users, yet they all have different problems. Also, there are other users whose vision is okay and wish to get more styling of the web pages. All these challenges have to be considered by the portal.

Secondly, all humans do not have the same body features, in other words, they are differently ‘built'. There are those with chubby fingers, others have very small fingers, others have missing fingers. Fingers in this context refer to the capability to enter new data into systems or execute some commands. The real challenge comes when users are accessing the portal from touchscreen devices. Minuscule buttons will prove difficult to the users with big thumbs and fingers as they will not be able to interact comfortably with the system. Placing very big buttons in the portal will seem senseless to the users who have fingers that can comfortably interact with small buttons.

Under technical capabilities, some users are tech savvy thus they know a lot about online systems, how to interact with them and so on. Also, other patients have had minimal or no interaction at all with an online system. The challenge becomes designing a system that can accommodate for those who do not have experiences with such kinds of systems and at the same time not inconvenient those who already have the knowledge.

Challenges present in designing for providers with varying needs and technical capabilities

The providers of health care also have varying physical needs and technical abilities. To start off, under physical abilities, these caregivers have different ergonomic characteristics. They have different eyesight, cognitive capabilities, and mobility skills among others. These challenges directly affect the design of the interface of the web portal. Considerations will have to be made for all physical factors of the providers to ensure that they can comfortably interact with the system and accomplish the tasks they set out to do.

Under technical capabilities, some of these providers are well aware of online portals, some need just a small assistance, and they move on while some need total assistance to be able to perform their first few tasks. This challenges the system to provide an interface simple enough to be operated by a novice yet sophisticated enough to handle all the required functionalities. If unaddressed, a wrongly designed interface might introduce the gulf of execution problem. This is the difference that comes from user actions believed to attain a particular goal and the actions that the system allows. A user can get tangled in an infinite loop of steps without getting any worthwhile results.

Also under technical capabilities, the portal has many functionalities.These are to support the roles of each of the providers. This means that the menu or navigation offered by the portal has to be well organized so as not to be cluttered and introduce difficulties to everyone trying to use the portal. Also, the textual content will have to be replaced or paired with icons to help the providers access their roles quickly. This calls for the use of metaphors of the outside world to represent actions of the vendors. The challenge is choosing the appropriate metaphor known by all the diverse users.

List of some of the rules of engagement and how to overcome design challenges as part of developing shared patient-provider tools

Rules of engagement for patients as users

Patients will have to subscribe to some rules to use the portal well and contribute to its general success. First of all, it will be mandatory for all patients to have an enrolled record by a medical practitioner. This will help prevent the creation of needless files as it would have been if it was the users who were given that responsibility. Secondly, patients will only have one record. There is no need of one patient having redundant files as this becomes complicated to update and leads to inconsistencies in the database. Thirdly, only patients will be allowed to add, edit or delete their primal data in the records. This prevents attempts by any healthcare provider to change these records mischievously unfruitful. Fourthly, data entered by practitioners about patients will not be able to be manipulated by the patient. Lastly, patients will only be able to access their records online from the portal and see all the documents related to their interactions with the various health care providers. If these simple rules are followed, a simple correctly working portal will be maintained and also the security of the application and user information will be guaranteed.

Rules of engagement for the provider

Health care providers will have to stick to some rules that govern the correct and allowed the use of the portal. First of all, the providers will be required to register for an account with the web portal. They will be the only users of the portal that will create accounts for themselves reason being that they are smaller in number and more manageable. Secondly, each provider will only be allowed to create one account, any further attempts under the same details will be automatically rejected. This is to prevent redundancy that later on leads to inaccuracy and inconsistency of data. Thirdly, it is only providers that will be able to enroll patients in their registered accounts. Fourthly, providers will have the ability to enter information about patients such as the progress of care, medication or diagnostic data. This is to enable data entry of correct data because if this task was left to patients, lots of incorrect and misleading information would be entered. Lastly, only providers will be able to edit records that they have entered and also in reverse, providers shall not be able to edit records that have been entered by patients. This is to prevent data fabrication on both ends, the patient's side and the provider's side. If these rules are adhered to, the system will run correctly and efficiently.

How to overcome these challenges as part of developing patient-provider tools

Overcome for patients

To overcome the design challenges faced by users, some rules have to be followed to ensure that a system is developed that they can all use despite any physical or technical know-how shortcomings. First of all concerns the physical challenges. The first group of targets in physical challenges are those with eye problems. To be able to develop a system that can accommodate different eyesight capabilities of the users, it should be able to change aspects of its content to suit the user. Therefore, the portal will have some options to change the font sizes of the website hence allowing the user to adjust the site to his/her preferences.

The second physical challenge was about the finger size of the users; the system will be developed using standard sized buttons. These are neither too small to inconvenience the users with chubby fingers, and neither are they too big such that they occupy most of the white space and have negative impacts on the appearance of the website. The portal will also adjust according to user device screen size and therefore, it will be responsive.

Under technical challenges, the system will be able to offer useful information to all users regarding its use. Mandatory fields will be indicated, focus texts will be shown when a user hovers over functionality, sample values will be given to users, placeholders will be used in input boxes to show users the expectations of that particular field. In short, almost everything will be explained in a technologically wise way such that only novice users can see that helping content while expert users do not invoke such content.

Overcome for providers.

Under physical challenges facing providers, some of the mentioned ones were eyesight, cognitive capabilities, and mobility capabilities. The sight problem has already found a solution to having the option of changing font sizes of the contents. Under cognitive capacities, the portal will be built using flat user interface colors that boast of being the most attractive and legible colors. Therefore, providers will have no problem at all reading content from the portal. Under mobility capabilities, the portal will feature voice command support for providers who do not have hands to interact with the system.


Under technical challenges, the first one was about not being able to use the portal for the first task. To support this, a brief tutorial will automatically play after opening the portal that will clearly show provides ways in which they can interact with the system. Also, supportive text such as hover texts and placeholders will be all over the portal to assist the users in knowing what they are expected to do. The second technical challenge was about the use of icons as metaphors. The icons had to be metaphors of the real world that all the providers would understand. Therefore, the portal will have icons metaphorical to a hospital set up. Other universal metaphors will also be incorporated such as a pencil to indicate “edit” and a trash can indicate “delete”. The use of well-known symbols and images is going to help in getting providers a feeling of being sort of used to the system. 


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