Whether you work for a large hospital network or a small community health organization, your website is your most valuable marketing tool. And it serves multiple, diverse groups of people: patients and prospects, of course, but also employees and potential employees, funders, regulators, media, and the community at large.
Even if it’s a simple website with just a handful of tabs and pages, it has an important job to do: Make it easy for the right people to find the right information at the right time. And while your marketing team may be focused on the site’s look and feel so that it represents the brand appropriately, the biggest driver of a website’s effectiveness is user experience.
User experience (UX) is its own discipline, and your organization may not have that expertise on staff. An experienced strategic and creative partner can help your team build an optimized site from scratch or overhaul an existing online presence so it’s seamless for your audience to use.
A well-designed, user-centric website is a key component of your healthcare organization’s brand. People have all kinds of reasons to visit your site: to find a provider, book an appointment, learn about your services, or manage their care. Any technical or design issue that makes it difficult for them to find or do what they need creates frustration, erodes trust, and prompts them to go elsewhere.
To develop a user-friendly website, focus on these essential elements:
The Americans with Disabilities Act requires that website content be accessible to differently abled people. The requirements are fairly straightforward and relate to layout, captioning, and image tagging. A fully accessible site uses font sizes and color to make text easy to read for visually impaired users, provides captioning for video, and uses alternative navigation for those with mobility issues that prevent them from using a mouse or trackpad. ADA requirements are another reason to design a customized website instead of using an out-of-the-box template from WordPress or Squarespace. These platforms offer some built-in tools for accessibility, but you’ll probably need additional expertise to ensure that your site is easy for everyone to use. Accessibility is vital in the healthcare space.
The first step in developing or redeveloping a website is mapping the user’s path from page to page. A good rule of thumb is that it should take a user no more than three clicks to access the information they need. This information architecture — the arrangement of pages and how they’re connected — yields a wireframe or blueprint that guides the site’s design and build. This part of the process is totally structural, like framing a house before adding wallpaper or carpet. It often involves collaboration between marketers and UX designers or developers. Data about your audience can inform how you design the navigational path for users.
Now we’re getting to the look, feel, and content of the website: fonts, colors, images, copy, and text elements like sidebars and callouts. There’s a tension in any website design between information and ease of use — you have a lot of material to communicate, yet the page layout has to be clean and simple, with a hierarchy that guides the eye through the content in a logical way. Language matters, too: The site’s content should be written in patient-centric words that clarify complex medical terminology.
Does your website incorporate a patient portal, an appointment scheduler, an indicator of wait times in your urgent care facility , even a simple directory of providers? Your marketing team probably has little control over how these third-party plug-ins look or function. But you may be able to add contextual content and graphics to the page to help visitors use these tools. Pay attention to these pages so you catch any glitches when these plug-ins are periodically updated.
Expect that your audience will access your organization’s website not just from a desktop computer but also from a mobile device or tablet. Content management and web development tools make it relatively straightforward to create variations for different devices and browsers, but it’s critical to test the site’s performance across these versions.
It’s both a pro and a con of a website project: It’s a living thing that you’re constantly evaluating and updating. (In fact, we’re currently adding a provider directory to the website of a behavioral health organization we work with.) And to ensure consistent search engine rankings, you should be constantly adding new content for Google to index.
Improving the UX is ongoing work. Look at site traffic and other user analytics to see where people are going and how they move through the site. Understand their journey to see if the bounce rate on a page is high and people either found what they needed or they get confused and leave. Be a user yourself: Periodically spend time navigating the site from the patient’s perspective, identify confusing pathways to information, look for broken links, and generally troubleshoot the site. Listen to feedback from within the organization about issues with navigation and structure.
No matter how great it looks, your website is only as good as its user experience. We can help you make it easy for your audience to find what they need from you online — let’s get in touch.