The McMaster Optimal Aging Portal: Usability Evaluation of a Unique Evidence-Based Health Information Website Academic Article uri icon

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abstract

  • BACKGROUND: Increasingly, older adults and their informal caregivers are using the Internet to search for health-related information. There is a proliferation of health information online, but the quality of this information varies, often based on exaggerated or dramatic findings, and not easily comprehended by consumers. The McMaster Optimal Aging Portal (Portal) was developed to provide Internet users with high-quality evidence about aging and address some of these current limitations of health information posted online. The Portal includes content for health professionals coming from three best-in-class resources (MacPLUS, Health Evidence, and Health Systems Evidence) and four types of content specifically prepared for the general public (Evidence Summaries, Web Resource Ratings, Blog Posts, and Twitter messages). OBJECTIVE: Our objectives were to share the findings of the usability evaluation of the Portal with particular focus on the content features for the general public and to inform designers of health information websites and online resources for older adults about key usability themes. METHODS: Data analysis included task performance during usability testing and qualitative content analyses of both the usability sessions and interviews to identify core themes. RESULTS: A total of 37 participants took part in 33 usability testing sessions and 21 focused interviews. Qualitative analysis revealed common themes regarding the Portal's strengths and challenges to usability. The strengths of the website were related to credibility, applicability, browsing function, design, and accessibility. The usability challenges included reluctance to register, process of registering, searching, terminology, and technical features. CONCLUSIONS: The study reinforced the importance of including end users during the development of this unique, dynamic, evidence-based health information website. The feedback was applied to iteratively improve website usability. Our findings can be applied by designers of health-related websites.

publication date

  • May 11, 2016