Healthy Living in the North

The journey to 100% mobile-friendly sites at Northern Health

Northern Health's Indigenous Health site displayed on a variety of devices.

Northern Health’s sites – all mobile-friendly on all the devices!

In 2016, which feels like an eternity ago, the Northern Health web team embarked on what became a three-year journey of enlightenment as we moved all the external websites over to a new and mobile-friendly platform called Drupal.

The entire project actually began several years before when it became obvious that we needed to make some big changes to our public-facing websites. They weren’t keeping up to the rapidly growing mobile world and didn’t work very well on mobile devices.

Drupal has been around since 2001, but our team had never worked with it. To familiarize ourselves with this framework and technology, we set out a pilot project: developing indigenoushealthnh.ca on Drupal 8.

After the successful launch of the pilot in early 2017, we moved ahead with the daunting task of bringing all our existing websites over to the new platform. After dedicating many hours and conquering steep learning curves, we launched the first two sites, northernhealth.ca and careers.northernhealth.ca, in the summer of 2018. Physicians.northernhealth.ca and nhconnections.ca followed soon after in early 2019.

Accessibility

The old websites were not accessible to visitors with disabilities, especially our aging population. A website is accessible when its content is available to everyone, regardless of any visual, auditory, cognitive or motor impairment. BC is expected to introduce legislation on accessibility in 2024. We’ve been proactive, working towards having completely accessible websites when the legislation comes in to place.

Some of the changes we’ve made to make the sites more accessible are:

  • Larger font sizes.
  • Colour combinations that work for colour-blind visitors or visitors with aging eyesight.
  • Coding in the backend that lets blind or visually impaired users listen to the page using a screen reader.
  • Making sure someone can navigate the site with just a keyboard.

Mobile-friendly

All of the new websites are fully responsive, meaning whatever device you’re viewing it on, the content will flow and adapt to fit the screen. On a desktop computer the display may have three columns across the page where on a mobile phone the display will flow into one column.

We now proudly have more visitors accessing northernhealth.ca on a mobile phone or tablet than we do on a desktop computer. For example, in May of this year, 116,390 people visited northernhealth.ca: 85,871 of those visits came from mobile phones and only 21,030 from desktop computers, with the remaining 9,224 visits coming from tablets.­

A table and pie chart display the number of visitors to Northern Health sites by device type (mobile - 85,871 (73.95%), desktop - 21,030 (18.11%), tablet - 9,224 (7.94%)).

The number of visitors to Northern Health sites by device type for May 2019.

While we celebrated and embraced these mobile-friendly, ascendible “new arrivals” like loving parents, we secretly knew the real work was just about to begin!

A collage of four updated Northern Health sites.

Northern Health’s updated and mobile-friendly sites have similar templates for familiar user experiences.

Improved experience

Another important reason for making these changes was to update aging site content, much of which was out-of-date, hard to navigate, and not focused on what our visitors or patients required.

We needed to create an easier way for visitors to find the information they require. We dedicated a lot of time to simplify the menus and make information easy and intuitive to find. All of our facilities are now available from the “Locations” tab on the main navigation menu.

The NH Communications team also worked with the Patient Voices Network in the areas of Mental Health and Substance Use, Home and Community Care, Chronic Diseases, and Primary and Community Care to find out what information patients want to see on our website and how they can find it easily. We have endeavoured to make sure this information has been presented in the best way possible.

We’re also working to ensure the content on our sites has been written in plain language, which makes it easy to read and understand.

If you have any questions or feedback about the new sites, please don’t hesitate to contact me or Rosemary Dolman, Regional Manager, Web Services.

Darren Smit

About Darren Smit

Darren is the NH Web Specialist on the Communications team. He is a creative at heart, with passion for photography, graphic design, typography, and more. During the past 17 years, he has traveled to over 80 countries worldwide, and he lives in Prince George with his wife and son.

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I came for… I stayed because… with Rai Read

Rai and her horse are check to check. The sun beams into the picture.

Rai spending quality time with her horse, Macy, on a sunny day.

Recently, I’ve noticed a common theme in my conversations with Northern Health staff! Many staff members planned to come to the North for a short time, but have stayed for a lot longer. Meet one such person: Rai Read, Elderly Service Clinician, who’s based in Terrace. Rai is from England and came to Northern Health in 2011.

I came for…

Honestly, my husband and I came to Terrace thanks to Google Maps. We immigrated to Canada in 2008, and originally moved to Edmonton. Our picture of Canada was a country filled with mountains and trees, and that was not our experience there. Edmonton wasn’t the place for us, and we decided to see what opportunities were available elsewhere.

Two women are horseback with the backs to the camera. They're in a flat, sandy area with mountains and blue sky in the background.

A horseback ride with friends near Thornhill.

We wanted a smaller community with outdoor space to raise our son. Since we were unfamiliar with the area, we spent time looking at photos and maps to learn more. After searching online, we found job postings in Terrace, and I was the successful applicant. If it wasn’t for Google Maps and the internet, I never would have found out about Terrace and moved here.

I stayed because…

For me, a big factor is the innovation at Northern Health. They are constantly looking for ways to change and improve. Leadership supports innovation and encourages staff to learn new things. We have developed new programs and processes that have been extremely beneficial for patients and staff. Having rural and remote communities means that we need to be really creative in how we deliver care, and using telehealth allows us to easily collaborate with different professions and experts.

A boy of approximately 10 stands in front of several paintings, which are hanging on the wall.

Rai’s son Dylan at the Terrace Art Gallery attending local artist Mitchell’s Brager’s exhibit.

At Northern Health, we are fortunate to have lots of strong female leaders. From our CEO, Cathy Ulrich, to my direct manager, Clare Hart. As a woman, it makes me feel empowered knowing our organization supports females to grow and develop. I’m lucky to have such a great manager, and I’m proud to be part of her team.

I’m not into fishing, kayaking, or skiing, but Terrace has much more to offer. We have a fabulous farmers’ market, and options for arts and culture. It’s a great place for our son to grow up. There’s truly something for everyone, and I have no intention of going anywhere else.

 

Tamara Reichert

About Tamara Reichert

Tamara is the communications advisor for the innovation and development commons at Northern Health where she works on a number of projects with the research, quality improvement, clinical simulation, and education teams. Born and raised in Prince George, Tamara grew up on a ranch where she rode horses, played with farm animals, built forts, and raided the family garden. She enjoys spending time travelling, hiking, cooking, reading, and cheering for her favourite sports teams.

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