The healthcare industry and Internet marketing have at least one thing in common: both are changing rapidly. Healthcare practice websites built even two or three years ago may be seriously out of date in 2016 and require significant upgrading to continue being effective for patient communication and appointment scheduling. Here are key trends to incorporate in Web design going forward.
Responsive Web Design
Responsive Web design is a set of techniques used to make a website adjust automatically for optimal display on desktop monitors, tablets and mobile phones. Now that mobile Internet access exceeds desktop access — and the gap is widening — every healthcare website must deliver mobile users a high-quality experience. Mobile Internet users are likely to access healthcare sites “on the run,” to schedule appointments, confirm appointments, get driving directions and do research.
Websites built on solid CMS platforms such as WordPress can usually be made responsive by converting to one of their responsive templates — a fairly inexpensive, easily implemented task. For a fully custom website or one with complex content, the conversion will likely entail a complete redesign; in such a case, selecting a Web designer with demonstrable responsive design experience and expertise should be a key component of the vetting process.
Mobile-Driven Page Layouts
Considering the importance of the mobile website user experience (UX), many Web design firms have rightfully begun to design Web pages for mobile screens first. Some important design factors to include in a 2016-quality website:
- Tell stories. Vertical scrolling is OK. In the past, websites tried to cram all of the important information “above the fold,” to keep desktop users from needing to scroll down. Mobile users, however, are comfortable with vertical scrolling, so today’s Web pages tend to let the story unfold vertically, feeding the user information in bite-size chunks. Here is a good example of an effective storytelling technique on a home page.
- Use “sticky” navigation to keep the main navigation in view as users scroll down. This is often done with a “hamburger” menu at the top of a page; here is an example of user-friendly, sticky navigation. For medical practices, using a sticky phone icon alongside the menu is also very important, making it super simple for users to call no matter where they are on the website.
- Mobile Internet users are attracted to and motivated by visual communication. Replace bland stock photography with high-impact, custom images; add custom graphical elements such as charts, graphs and simple infographics; add short (1- to 3-minute) video.
- Make contact forms simple and large enough for mobile users to fill out, as they may not have the patience or dexterity to deal with numerous, hard-to-view form fields.
If SEO is part of a healthcare organization’s marketing strategy, implementing up-to-date local SEO techniques will be quite important in 2016. Over the last year or two, Google has made significant refinements and changes to its local search results and search algorithm; today’s local SEO focus has changed as a result. With regard to website design and local SEO:
- NAP (Name, Address, Phone) citations are critically important. Make sure the organization’s name, address and phone number are displayed consistently on every page of the website.
- Add or add to a user review page. User reviews have grown in importance for local SEO; having reviews on the website sends Google a signal that the healthcare organization is competent and credible.
- Add relevant, local-oriented content to the website — for instance, mentioning the geographic area of coverage, neighborhoods served, and commentary about the nature of the local market.
- Attend to the basics. Content site-wide must be unique, relevant, engaging and informative. Each website page must have a unique title tag incorporating a strategic keyword specific to that page. Here is a useful on-site SEO checklist that covers all the necessary points.
- Last but not least, a mobile-friendly website is also very important for local SEO — something covered in detail earlier.
Review the Website Annually
Going through a complete website overhaul is an expensive, time-consuming and often painful experience. Unfortunately, with the state of Internet marketing being what it is, an overhaul may be necessary every three to five years — unless a medical practice reviews its website design annually to identify and implement tweaks and upgrades. The old adage “out of sight, out of mind” is equally ill advised in healthcare and website design.