Someone needs to tell you: Your website matters. It matters as much as, if not more than, your actual brick and mortar office. For many, it is their first experience of your practice. It is the first impression you make on many of your patients or patients-to-be (or not to be, depending on how that impression goes…).
In the industry, we call the experience people have using your site “user experience” or “UX” for short. It boils down to things like the look and feel of the site, how easy it is to navigate, and how fast it responds.
When people have a good user experience, they trust you, they have positive feelings about your service, and they come back.
When people have a bad user experience, they generally do not trust you, have negative feelings about your service and they do not come back.
There are some factors which vary from user to user: the look and feel, for example, or the type of navigation. A very young, tech savvy audience will have different needs from an older, less tech savvy audience.
Knowing who your practice appeals to and what they expect is an essential piece to a good user experience.
But in general, you can extrapolate from your off-line experience: Your practice appeals to your patients in the same way that your website should. How you choose colors and graphics, where and how you locate your navigation, the words you choose to use — everything should be chosen with your ideal patient in mind, just as you do when you choose color, furniture, location, etc. for your brick and mortar practice.
Are you unsure whether you have a great website? Certainly, user experience is a huge industry, with major retailers spending lots of time and money to get their user experience perfect.
But for a small medical practice, you can hack the system quite easily. Simply ask a few of your patients if you can watch them use your website. If you spend a few hours watching a selection of your clientele using your website, you’ll learn a lot about how well it works (or doesn’t work) for them. Some research points to only needing 5 users to get enough information to make solid decisions on user experience.
Actually watching people use your site is helpful: you will be able to see bottlenecks, places that delight them, things that frustrate them, and more. You’ll see things that you can ask about later, and you can tell quickly whether the overall experience is a good one or not.
If you aren't up for user testing, there are a few ways to know whether your website is working well or if it needs to be revamped. Here are a few to keep in mind.
1. It isn't optimized for mobile.
If you find yourself having to pinch-to-zoom when your website loads on your phone, it's probably not optimized for mobile. Being optimized for mobile isn't just a convenience factor for people visiting your site on their phones though. If your website isn't mobile optimized, it could be hurting your search ranking.
Earlier this year Google rolled out the mobile-friendly algorithm that penalizes sites that aren't optimized for mobile. If you aren't sure if your site is mobile-friendly you can check out Google's mobile friendly test here or read the mobile friendly guidelines.
2. You're using generic or cheesy stock photos.
You know exactly what I'm talking about here. The thumbs up, big smile, look straight into the camera lens kind of photo. It's generic and your visitors aren't relating to it.
Instead, try to use photos of your own employees or limit the number of purchased photos you do use on your site. More and more stock photo services are popping up online that offer more genuine images. There's really no excuse for bad stock photos on your website.
3. There are no profiles of the staff.
It's amazing how many websites I've visited and most of them offer no profile of the physicians, nurses, or other staff members. Chances are that patients are skipping scheduling an appointment with your practice if they don't know who you are.
We want to know about your education, experience, and maybe even what you like to do when you aren't at work (a profile picture doesn't hurt either). The physician and patient relationship is important. Why not start it before they pick up the phone to schedule an appointment?
4. It doesn't have a blog.
Your website needs to have a blog. Why? It helps drive traffic, show your expertise, and communicate important events or topics to your patients. There are tons of benefits to blogging.
This post explains the benefits of blogging further and offers a great guide on how to get started with a blog.
5. There's unnecessary animation and/or music.
Animation might seem like it would add some fun to your site but when you only have 3-5 seconds to convince a visitor to stay on your site, it's not a good idea.
Music and/or animation can increase the load time of the page. When you're fighting for just 3 to 5 seconds to convince someone to stay on your site, you need a faster load time. Image sliders can be just as bad so beware of a web design company that will try to convince you that a slider is a great idea.
Music can also be distracting or annoying depending on the visitor. It's best to just skip the fancy animation and music and focus on building a user friendly website that's informative.
Having a website that appeals to your audience is important. If your website hasn't been updated since the 90s, it should be pretty clear that you need a redesign. Your website doesn't need to win an award for best design but it should be updated every few years.
If you or your patients know of a website that works well or that you like the appearance of, consider simply contacting that practice to find out who worked on their website.
Spending money on a site that works is a solid investment.
And using a company with a proven track record in your industry can help. They’ll have a better knowledge of medical terminology and the pages that most practices need in their navigation.
Everyone seems to have a horror story about hiring a web design company who charged too much and didn’t listen, so it’s important to hire carefully. But when you find a team you can work with, paying for their services is money well spent.
A pretty website is useless without a solid content strategy. Making sure that your content is top notch should be a priority when designing your website. Hire someone that can write for your patients in a way they understand and respond to.
Money pages are the most important: the About Us page, the Home page, the Contact Us page and the Blog. Make sure to optimize these pages and take the most time with them. If you are not sure how to optimize a page, take a look at this blog post to give you an idea of where to start.
Your website matters. It’s the first chance you have to give a great first impression to potential future patients. Take the time to make sure that this impression is one you’re proud of and one that your patients and future patients feel good about.
Make sure your website is also serving a purpose. Your purpose could be to educate patients or maybe it is to communicate each physicians expertise in their specialty. Whatever the purpose might be, it should be clear and user friendly.
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