The UX of Health Insurance: Part 1 Overview

The state of South African Medical Aid Websites in 2020

This is Part 1 in a series of 4, where we explore the usability and patient experience across the websites of the most popular Medical Aid companies in South Africa.


If you’re in a rush…

  1. We evaluated 17 Health Insurance Websites and are sharing what we learned in four concise blog posts. 
  2. We used The Sand Dollar Design Heuristic Framework to rigorously assess each website. 
  3. We found that many health insurance websites: 
    1. Haven’t thought about how people are getting from one part of their website to another,
    2. Give users information overload by filling their websites with promotional content,
    3. Sometimes ask users to leave their website in order to complete important tasks.



To kick start 2020 and inform our future work, Sand Dollar Design has completed an in-depth User Experience Evaluation across 15 different South African Health Insurance websites as well as two international providers. 

In order to keep our blog posts concise we will be sharing our insights over the course of a four part blog series, each part focussing on a different method within The Sand Dollar Design Heuristic Framework.

For part 1 we will be discussing:

  • Who did we evaluate? 
  • What was our method of evaluation? 
  • What are our key insights?


Who did we evaluate?

Our team of researchers evaluated the websites of (alphabetical):

Affinity Health, Bestmed, Bonitas, Discovery Health, Fedhealth, GEMS, Genesis, Medihelp, Medshield, Momentum, Polmed, Profmed, Selfmed, Umvuzo, United Healthcare and Vitality


What was our method of evaluation?

Sand Dollar Design Heuristic Framework icon

The Sand Dollar Design Heuristic Framework consists of three usability inspection methods: 

  • Heuristic review, where a team of usability experts examine the user interface and assess whether it aligns to a set of usability standards or principles. The main purpose is to evaluate the usability of the system, i.e. are users likely to be able to use it, or does the site have inherent usability issues. 
  • Cognitive walkthrough, which is a detailed procedure to simulate a user’s problem-solving process at each step in a task, and evaluate whether users are likely to be able to complete tasks in line with their mental model.
  • Feature inspection, where we evaluate which features are available compared to competitors, and how well the features have been designed and implemented.


What are our key insights?

Getting from A to B

Many health insurance providers’ have not considered how users will find important information and functionality when navigating their website.  

During our evaluation we found that it was often difficult to find and complete common tasks, such as joining a health insurance provider, or determining whether or not a dependant could go for an MRI scan on an existing plan.  

Doing the research to determine your users’ biggest questions and needs, and then designing a website that answers those questions and meets those needs is an easy way to build a great website, or improve the usability of an existing one. For healthcare websites this should be easy as the questions that most users will be asking revolve around benefits and price. 


Information overload 

Many healthcare insurance providers’ overwhelm users by including too much content on their websites. 

People visiting a health insurance providers’ website will almost always be in a rush. Most providers don’t understand this, filling their websites with promotional content, lifestyle blogs and paragraphs of non-critical information. Instead of engaging with this content users will usually just skim past it, or become overwhelmed and leave the website. 

Less content gives more value, and by displaying only the most important information with a clear use of hierarchy and plain language, providers can easily improve the usability of their websites. 


An early exit…

Many healthcare insurance providers’ use a mixture of modern web features alongside legacy systems, which negatively affects the user experience. 

Asking users to leave your website may sound crazy, however this is exactly what many healthcare providers’ websites ask of their users when they tell them to: 

  • Download a PDF version of a for-print brochure in order to read up about a plans benefits,
  • Contact the call centre in order to get sales advice,
  • Download and print documents to be filled in by hand and then emailed back to the provider.

These require users to leave whichever page they were on and start again outside of the website. Digital solutions such as online chat and forms as well as interactive maps, benefits calculators and dedicated plan pages give the user the ability to get everything done in one place and reach their objectives faster.


In summary

Whilst completing our evaluation of South African and international health insurance websites we noticed that many of their existing usability issues could have been avoided by following a user-centred approach during the design process. 

Keep an eye out for the next instalment of The UX of Health Insurance 2020 research series with Part 2: Heuristic Review coming soon. 


Find out more

If you are interested in more detailed insights and finding out more about this study, request a detailed report on our findings.


About Sand Dollar Design

Sand Dollar Design is an Experience Design Consulting firm, with a focus and passion for re-imagining the Patient and Provider experience through Digital Health interventions, in order to achieve improved Healthcare outcomes for all.

Find out more about our services at

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