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Blog Post

Communicating Coronavirus: Planning Your Emergency Response Website

by Christine Flynn
April 13, 2020

During times of panic and uncertainty, like we are experiencing with COVID-19, communicating timely information is vital. People have many questions and concerns and are seeking timely information that they can trust. In the world we live in right now, most of this research is happening online.

Mediacurrent collaborates with some of the world’s most ambitious brands on their websites. We provide development, data-driven strategy, and design in the open-source community. We strongly believe in the Drupal community and its open-source principles, which is why we set aside time every week to contribute code, maintain modules, and add to our repository of free Drupal resources. 

In the coming weeks, we will be sharing information on an exciting open-source offering for communities across the United States (more to come on this offering soon). In this blog post, we would like to open source some of our strategy and UX design to be freely available for anyone who is transmitting critical information to their community. We have been working with and reviewing COVID-19 sites around the US to gain insight. While our website examples are all government, the findings can be applied to others - higher ed, healthcare organizations, corporate sites - who have a responsibility to their people and communities. Here are some of our findings:

Start From Trust

The Georgia Technology Authority partnered with the state Department of Public Health to convert their agency home page into a coronavirus information warehouse. They knew that their constituents would be coming directly to them as a trusted source of information in their state, and they put it front and center.

Continuing their emphasis on separating themselves as a trustworthy source, the team at Georgia also has an explanation in a dropdown how their site visitors can tell it’s an official site of the State of Georgia. They also emphasized how users can tell that the site is secure.

Whoever your users are, try to help them understand

  • Why they can come to you for information
  • Why they can trust you

By reassuring your site visitors, you ensure that they will return for continuing critical updates. 

Answer Questions Quickly

We were lucky enough to score a design review with long-time civic designer Harlan Weber, who pointed us at the excellent way that is handling top-level information on their Drupal 8 site.

The key piece of this design is that site visitors see the answer to their highest level questions immediately, and the information is timely. 

Schools? Closed.

Trash and recycling pickup? Still happening.

If visitors need more information on a specific area, they can click through to learn more.

“People coming to see coronavirus information on your site may already be in an emotionally compromised position. They're likely worried. If you surface what they are looking for right to the top, rather than making them find it, you are going to be helping them immensely,” Weber said.

Whoever your users are, try to help them by

  • Defining the top 5-7 questions they have
  • Giving them a high-level answer immediately with no additional clicks required

Give them what they need, not just what they want

It’s important to provide up-to-date, critical information on your website during these stressful times but it’s also helpful to provide suggestions on what actions visitors can take. 

California’s Coronavirus Response site does a good job of showcasing different “What you can do” scenarios with additional information provided for each topic. 

We realize the impact COVID-19 is having on each and every one of us and the value of distributing information online to keep us all healthy, safe, and up-to-date. If your organization is on the front lines providing trustworthy, important, and timely information to save lives, contact us now for more information on how we can help you.

Christine Flynn

Meet team member, Christine Flynn

Christine is an innovative, energetic project manager who brings skills as a business analyst to her role. A well-rounded project leader, Christine leans on her wide industry experience across investment, technology, non-profit, and government sectors to execute creative solutions for Mediacurrent c

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