Welcome to the first blog in our series: Diagnosing your Online Presence Checking Your Websites Vitals - Website Design

Welcome to the first blog in our series: Diagnosing your Online Presence Checking Your Websites Vitals - Website Design

by Stephanie Meadows

There is a saying in the web developing world which states, your website is never done. This rings true as websites constantly need maintenance and updating. But how well do you understand the fundamentals of good web design? And how can you make sure your website has everything it needs to be successful? Think of it this way: Your website is a direct reflection of you and establishes your brands identity. It is the very first impression somebody gets of your practice, which is why it is important to have a website that is first and foremost, nicely designed. But what does that mean anyway? Design can be very subjective. In the world of web design, there are some very basic fundamentals that are important to know when designing your website. At the most basic level, your website should be easy to navigate and provide a constructive experience for your visitors. 

According to a study, 80% of Internet users look for health information online, making medical inquiries the third most popular web-based search, following only email and search engine use. In addition, web searches now account for one of the largest ways people find a healthcare provider. In fact, web searches now outstrip referrals 2-1. Even if a patient is referred to you, they will still look at your website before they make an appointment. All of this data says loud and clear that your website needs to convey the message that you are a professional business and that you care about what you do and how you portray yourself. Too often, physicians will make the mistake of working with someone less experienced or will even engage a friend or relative to build their website, in an effort to save money. The results are often disastrous. Your web designer should have vast experience and understand how to market a medical practice online. In fact, it is a really good idea to use a shop who specializes in medical web design. This way, you avoid the learning curve someone with no medical knowledge would have, and are sure to get a product truly reflective of your practice. When it comes time to design or redesign your website ask yourself this; would you contract with someone to build you a house who wasn’t a licensed and experienced general contractor? Probably not. So why do that with your website?

Like the phrase “beauty is in the eye of the beholder”, effective web design is judged by the users of the website and not the website owners. Art is subjective, and people have to remember that what one person likes, another may not. There are many factors that affect the usability of a website, and it is not just about form (how good it looks), but also function (how easy it is to use). Below are principles of successful web design that will make your website aesthetically pleasing, easy to use, engaging, and effective:

1. Purpose

To begin, good web design always caters to the needs of the user. Your web visitors are looking for information and some type of interaction, (online appointment requests, electronic forms, online bill pay) with your practice. Each page of your website needs to have a clear purpose, and to fulfill a specific need for your website users in the most effective way possible.

2. Navigation

Establish direction through your website. Make your pages easy to navigate with clear direction throughout each page. Navigation is about how easy it is for people to take action and move around your website. Get your patients in and allow them to find what they are looking for with as little hassle as possible! Some tactics for effective navigation include a logical page hierarchy, designing clickable buttons, and following the “three click rule” which means users will be able to find the information they are looking for within three clicks. If a user is stuck having to search for content on your website, they can easily become frustrated and leave your site.

3. Visual Hierarchy

Prominent visuals get attention! Visual hierarchy is one of the most important principles behind good web design. It’s the order in which the human eye perceives what it sees. You want to establish a focal point (i.e. an eye catching header photo) to grab the visitor’s attention right when they enter your website. Visuals should fill your screen, leaving no space outside the design. If your website menu has 10 items, are all of them equally important? Where do you want the user to click? Make important links more prominent and use graphical calls to action to draw users to important features and sections of your site. 

4. Mobile Responsive Design

Research shows that  70 million Americans browse websites on their mobile devices every month. So, every day, the number of devices and browsers that need to work with your website grows. It is critical that you provide the best user experience for your website, no matter what type of device or browser the visitor is using. Responsive web pages automatically adjust themselves to any screen size and reorder content based on the device, screen size, platform and orientation (tablet, mobile, and computer). It is imperative that the site you develop be mobile responsive. This is now the industry standard for website design. We are now in a society where everyone wants their information immediately. It has become a necessity recently to provide that quality mobile experience through a responsive website design which caters to visitors receiving quick information on any device, about your medical practice.

On April 21, 2015, Google Search expanded its use of mobile-friendliness as a ranking signal. This change affects mobile searches in all languages worldwide and has a significant impact in Google Search results. This is another very big reason why the site you develop should be mobile responsive. 

5. Color Palette

A well thought out color palette can go a long way to enhance the user experience. Complementary colors create balance and harmony. It is always a great idea to use the colors from your logo. If you do not have a logo, you should create one. Using the right colors for the text and background will make reading easier on the eye. Vibrant colors create emotion and should be used sparingly (e.g. for buttons and call to actions). Last but not least, white space/ negative space is very effective at giving your website a modern and uncluttered look.

6. Fonts

Use Web safe fonts (fonts that are pre-installed by may operating systems), and be careful to choose a font that is supported by most, otherwise it will not work, and default to Times New Roman). When choosing fonts, pick a typeface that can be easily read. Keep in mind that people will be looking at your website not just on a laptop or computer but on mobile devices. Some large-scaled fonts may read well on (a computer monitor), but not scale or render well on mobile, losing the desired look and feel.

7. Images

A picture can speak a thousand words. Choosing the right images for your website can help with brand positioning and connecting with your patients. If you don’t have high quality professional photos on hand, it is easy to purchase stock photos, as there are thousands of photos available on a variety of topics. Be sure to license the imagery from a reputable source and never download random images from the internet. You could unknowingly infringe on someone’s copyright which can result in hefty fines. Also consider using infographics, videos and graphics as these can be much more effective at communicating than even the most well written piece of text. Everybody hates a website that takes ages to load, make sure the images are sized, scaled and optimized correctly to speed up load time.

8. Content is king! 

Don’t just put content everywhere: The saying “content is king”, applies here. The content you put on your page sets the precedence for the whole site. Excessive content (pages that scroll forever) can make your website look cluttered, unprofessional, and untrustworthy. It is important to strike the right balance of information so that you peak the users interest and so the content will be indexed in search. Everything on your website needs to have a reason for being there. It is important that each piece of content has a great effect and first impression on users arriving at your website. In addition, the content on your website should provide detailed information on each provider and perhaps a quote from each provider. This resonates with patients and can help “humanize” you to them. There should be information on what you treat, your office hours, a map and directions, appointment and insurance information and you should also provide patient education information. Instead of patients coming in with a degree from the “University of Google” and a self-diagnosis, give them a reliable place to learn about their condition – your website! You definitely also want to add a blog. Content marketing using a blog distributes effective content to maintain and attract your audience, and is in fact, one of the most powerful tools for your medical practice to utilize. By blogging you will position your practice as an authority in your industry. Choose a variety of topics related to your specialty, designed to inform and interest patients. Blogging is the key to gaining lots of traffic to your site and does great things for search results. With a well written blog, people can continuously learn about their problems, continuing the dialogue between physician and patient.

 9. Communication

People on the web tend to want information quickly, so it is important to communicate clearly, and make your information easy to read and digest. Some effective tactics to include in your web design include: organizing information using headlines and sub headlines and using bullet points instead of long-winded sentences. Most importantly, you must remember that the average patient does not understand technical medical jargon. Your content must be lay-friendly and use language that is easily understood by the visitor.

10.  Browser Testing

It is very important when developing your website to ensure it performs well and behaves properly in ALL browser types. Nothing is more frustrating than visiting a website that is broken or doesn't operate correctly. Some web designers leave out this very important part of their quality control testing or only develop for one browser type. Each browser works differently so it is key to code for them all so that all users get the best experience regardless of their browser type. Browsers to code for and test in include Internet Explorer, Firefox, Chrome and Safari. Be sure to include the various versions of each of these.

11. Specific items for medical practice websites

There are some very specific features that should be included in a medical practice website. An appointment request form allows a patient to securely request an appointment any time of the day or night. Since people often search at night and on the weekends when you are not open, it is a must have. It is also a great convenience for patients. 

Another important feature is online bill pay. The ability to pay bills online is a major customer convenience and a faster way to get payments into your account. It’s also being used by most Americans to pay for everything from medical bills, mortgages, and credit card bills. Yet many practices still require patients to pay by check or call with a credit card. Collections will definitely go up if a patient can pay easily through your website. 

First time visitors to your website are typically zeroing in on one key question, “What’s in it for me?” You can simplify this mental process by providing a direct answer to this question. Show them examples of patients like themselves who are proof that your care really is exceptional. Ask your happy patients to provide testimonials and reviews on your website to help solidify your credibility.

In the end, always remember that patients want to visit a website that appears to speak directly to their needs. And they will remember the first time they go to your URL to see your site. First impressions are everything! Overall, the principles we have outlined here are imperative and should be applied, as your personal website helps to establish your medical practice as the authority in your field. It is a place to interact with your patients, and keep you fresh in their minds. Nothing says “we don’t want your business” like an improperly configured or poorly designed website, so have a professional bring your vision to life. 

Are you ready to design a new website? Does your website need to be updated? 

Contact iHealthSpot today at 877-709-0999 for your FREE consultation with the experts today!