Getting specific about patient-friendly info, images, and user experience
We’ve discussed before the importance of your practice’s website. It is usually the first stop for patients, especially younger ones, when looking for a doctor: 88 percent of patients under age 40 said in a recent survey that they will choose their next provider based on the provider’s online presence. And, patients are using doctors’ websites for more than just choosing a doctor. Increasingly, they expect to be able to schedule appointments, pay their bills, communicate with their providers, and access patient education resources on doctors’ sites.
In our first post on this topic, we covered why medical practice websites need to be mobile-friendly and patient-focused. In this post, we’ll get specific about do’s and don’ts that can affect your website content and visitors’ experiences.
What your practice can learn from the #1 hospital’s website
Mayo Clinic is ranked the #1 hospital in the U.S., so perhaps it’s no surprise that its website is among the best, too. Web agency Vintage analyzed the websites of U.S. News’ Best Hospitals in the nation. They looked at factors such as overall Internet traffic, visitor activity, and bounce rate—that is, the percentage of people who land on a web page and leave without clicking to another page. “If visitors bounce, it suggests they either didn’t find what they were looking for, or the page wasn’t user-friendly,” according to inbound marketing software company Hubspot.
These are the patient-friendly options Mayo Clinic’s website does right, and this is one of the most-accessed elements of any practice’s website.
Vintage’s analysis praised Mayo Clinic’s choice to prominently feature patient recovery stories on the home page. “This is a good way to present your clinic to new patients. Knowing that others received professional treatment, and were able to recover [alleviates] the initial fears and doubts of the website’s visitors.”
Another thing Mayo Clinic does right is feature patient-focused options right at the top of the screen, including “Find a doctor” and “Request an appointment.” For a small practice the options could be “About our doctors” and “Where to find us.” We know from our first post on the topic that the most-accessed areas of any doctor’s website are the practice’s location, hours, parking and contact information. It’s a good idea to embed Google Maps on your practice’s website. Here’s a tutorial on how to do that. Be aware that it will display your Google business rating as well.
It’s also important to only devote valuable space on your website to features that you regularly update and keep current. For instance, if you had the best of intentions but can’t write frequent blog posts, ask your developer to hide that option in your navigation. It’s better to have no blog than an out-of-date one, or a page saying “Coming Soon.” The same goes for social media links. Don’t link to Instagram (or Twitter or Facebook) unless you regularly use that platform and promote it to patients.
Why stock photos may be a turnoff for patients
First impressions matter, and online you only have a few seconds to make a positive one on website visitors. A common mistake that even top hospitals make is using stock photography.First impressions matter, and online you only have a few seconds to make a positive one on website visitors. A common mistake that even top hospitals make is using stock photography. Click To Tweet
Among Vintage’s findings was that generic or lackluster images do nothing to attract patients. Even Johns Hopkins made this mistake (at the time of the analysis in 2016): “Just like every other site in our list, Johns Hopkins Hospital greets us with a photo slider. And just like every other website on our list, it could have had much better images.… When people browse the Internet, they perceive images a lot faster than text,” noted Vintage, citing an MIT study that found it takes the human brain only 13 milliseconds to identify an image being seen. So if it’s a stock photo that’s being used by numerous other medical practices, like this one, it will not be memorable and will potentially turn off prospective patients. If using original photos is not possible, you can do a Google reverse image search to ensure the stock images you choose aren’t widely used on other websites.
Your website’s visuals should make viewers relate to what they see and produce specific feelings and reactions, a method called Emotional Design. This is a “psychological approach to design that aims to invoke the intended user with emotions and anchor the visitors to your website’s objective,” according to web design firm Speckyboy.
Stock photos and color choices on your website can negatively affect patients’ emotions.
Consider the emotions you want your website visitors to experience—Confidence? Trust? Hope? Then consider scheduling a photo session from this perspective, suggests Vintage.
Another underrated design element to consider is what colors you’re using on your website. Colors are associated with different emotions: “Red is danger, aggression; blue stands for calmness; and green for permission, freedom, nature,” according to Speckyboy. When designing for emotion, “making the tone darker or lighter can drive the intended emotion in various directions.”
How your website’s design affects user experience
“How your users feel when they’re using your website is hugely important,” according to WhiteCoat medical marketing firm. Like other businesses, medical practice websites need to be appealing and functional, but they have another objective as well: they “need to serve as reassuring, educational platforms for patients.”
Consider these two important questions when evaluating user experience of your website, and have someone user-test your site.
One way to make sure you achieve this is to consider user experience (UX). A buzzword in web design and internet marketing, UX refers to the overall experience of a person using a website, with particular focus on ease of use, explains WhiteCoat. The company boils down UX into two basic questions:
- Can users accomplish their goals on my website?
- Do users have the best possible experience on my website?
“If your UX strategy doesn’t meet both these metrics, you could lose existing patients and cause prospective patients to go elsewhere for a different provider.”
Medical websites must consider factors that other businesses may not. They must be accessible for visitors of all ages, literacy levels, and various health conditions that may affect their ability to use your website—for instance, visitors with poor or altered vision. That should inform your design.
Make sure the copy on your website is large enough to read comfortably on a desktop and on a mobile device. According to WebsiteBuilderExpert.com, “16px is the ideal font size for your main body text.” You can also show patients—especially older ones who may not be as tech-savvy—how they can adjust a website’s text size on their browser. This Google help page explains how to do this in Chrome, one of the most popular browsers.
It’s a best practice to use video on your website, so ensure that patient education videos have captions turned on and autoplay turned off.
Rendia’s developers suggest, “Get someone to user-test your site. It could even be your kid or your neighbor. You can also hire testers via a site like Fiverr to quickly assess your online presence.”