New Delhi: The ministry of health & family welfare is responsible for public health, protection against epidemics and infectious diseases, control quality of food, water and create regulations for drugs and medical professionals.
The ministry’s website provides information on the various schemes and programmes of the government, the workings of the various bodies and institutes associated with it, such as government hospitals, medical colleges and autonomous bodies.
Like most government websites, it is completely lacking in visual style. The scarcity of images and visual elements gives the home page and the various sections/webpages a plain look. In spite of the fact that it is a text-centric website, it doesn’t feel overwhelming or confusing as some government websites we have come across tend to do.
No page scroll is required as every element on the website has been included within a single frame of the home page. All the sections have been further divided into subsections, which can be seen from the home page itself by hovering the cursor over the tab.
What is notable is a set of tools available to users at the top of the page. These tools allow one to customize the website’s look and feel and language as per their convenience. You can increase or decrease the font size and even change the principal colour that is often considered the trademark colour of any website. In this case, you can switch between blue, red, green and cream. You can also switch to Hindi language by clicking on the Hindi tab. When the Hindi mode is on, the tab shows English.
The placement of this option right at the top of the home page is very thoughtful and will come in handy for users. The one tool among these that really impressed us is the screen reader access, which basically allows users with visual impairment to access the website. It requires users to install it on their PC and when a user hovers the cursor over a word on the website, the app will read the text on the website aloud to the user. This is designed in line with the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG) 2.0 to ensure visually impaired users can take advantage from the website just as any non-visually impaired person can. The other advantage of a text centric website is that pages load a lot faster.
A dedicated mobile app for the ministry of health & family welfare is still missing and what you get as the mobile site is a poor duplication of the desktop version. The home page doesn’t even fit into the phone’s screen properly. Barring the name of the website, none of the text is legible unless you zoom into the page to have a better look. This takes away the element of user comfort, which is one of the high points of the desktop version of the website.
The website was last updated on 25 October. Like all other government websites, there is a sitemap where you can access all the sections in a simpler and data friendly layout.
The news and highlights section is the only section with some visual element. It is like a scroll where all the releases, letters and public notice show at one place.
Some of the sections in the website that carries information that might be relevant for general public include E-Citizen/Tender, Major Programmes and What’s New. E-Citizen provides user the option to get all the Right to Information (RTI) related information from the ministry such as the response to earlier queries and the format in which they can file an RTI. Major Programmes provides information on the various government schemes and programmes that exist to prevent spread of epidemics, provide financial assistance to poor patients, and health insurance to users.
What’s New carries disease alerts on diseases such as dengue and chikungunya which spread rapidly. Clicking on them provides information how the diseases spread and how they can be contained.
The website also carries links to some of the health-related Digital India initiatives of the Union government such as the Online Registration System (ORS). ORS is a centralized booking system where a user can book an appointment at any of the government approved hospitals and health departments without standing in long queues. It also carries the list of all government hospitals and medical colleges in the country and will redirect users to their respective websites for further information.
The website carries the official landline numbers as well as email addresses of ministers, section officers as well as medical officers working with the ministry. The few numbers we called were working and were answered.
Overall, the ministry of health & family welfare website is a reflection of the government’s ever increasing emphasis on improving digital platforms. The information and the various user friendly tools it offers are actually impressive, but too much emphasis on text and the lack of a mobile friendly design goes against it.
In this series, we analyse the useability of some of government of India websites.