Design essentials for healthcare websites
Your healthcare website should be designed to convey personality and professionalism. It’s the first point of contact for most people and they will make an instant judgement about your business based on that initial experience.
Every part of your website, from your home page to your contact page should be customised for your brand and your specific practice. The last thing you need is for your web design to look like any of the many healthcare websites out there. Your site should be designed to visually communicate how you are different and how you can help so that you are connecting with potential patients faster and assuring them that you are the expert best suited to solve their problem.
The design of your health website should be sympathetic to your client needs, so accessibility and security also need to be carefully considered. Here are just some of the key issues I’ve come up against when designing websites for health professionals.
Keep your patients at the centre of everything you do
Your healthcare website isn’t for you. It shouldn’t be judged by what your friend’s sister thinks of the colour combo. Or what your hubby makes of the fonts. Your site is first and foremost for your current and prospective patients. What do they need to see reflected there? Your brand and the branding on your website need to be able to connect with the people you want to help. I find the easiest way to think about this is not to imagine a fictional ‘ideal client’ like so many marketing gurus will try to do. That’s hard and longwinded. Just try to think of ONE patient who you have loved working with and who has benefitted from your services. Put yourself in their shoes and think about how your site design speaks to them.
The informative content you include, of course, will also need to speak to those patients. Patient testimonials, comprehensive general health advice and in depth, relevant information are all crucial to connecting with your site visitors. More on that in my article Websites for healthcare professionals: what to include in 5 steps.
Design is not an afterthought
Your website is a critical part of your branding and marketing. It’s the front end that allows potential patients to connect with you, so it should reflect your brand but also be tailored specifically for how you deliver care.
Mental health professionals in particular will be acutely aware of the myriad of competing distractions for patients with mental health challenges. A site that is too busy can be overwhelming and a challenging introduction to your services. So minimalist design is a must.
A great healthcare website utilises clean design and is mobile friendly. Ensure your colours and fonts are kept to a minimum, that they match your logo, and that they are used consistently across your entire site. Your site design should evoke feelings of support, well being and and care so your visitors know they’re in good hands and can trust your expertise.
If you’ve tried DIYing your site or have wrangled help from your neighbour’s nephew’s best mate then despite best intentions, it’s an easy mistake to just throw something together that looks vaguely ‘pretty’, but that fails to do the one thing you need it to do. Which brings me to my next point.
Help Google help you
Your website should be user-friendly and allow potential clients to find what they need to quickly. If patients can’t find what they want fast and with as few clicks as possible they’ll leave. Or in web speak, they’ll ‘bounce’. And Google will down rank you if everyone who lands on your site immediately leaves. Google boosts sites that poeple spend time on because time on site proves a site is helpful to it’s users. If users stay on your site, Google will recognise your authority and expertise and will serve you up to more people searching for your help. So you may as well help Google help you.
The best healthcare websites have a logically structured site that is easy to understand from your navigation bar. Your services should be instantly understood — no one likes landing on a website only to question what the business even does (usually a result of lack of strategy and research, which never bodes well as an initial introduction).
Your home page should give an overview of your services and all of your other pages should be succinct and in line with what your patients need to know about you. At the same time, all of your more comprehensive information can usually be moved out of your web pages and into your blog, where visitors expect to see long-form articles, to avoid making your primary website pages confusing. Your contact details should be clearly visible and there should be a frictionless process that makes it easy for prospective patients to book a consultation.
People with disabilities are not a niche market. They are your potential patients too — so your website design should be accessible for them. Ensure that font size, contrast and colour combinations are all easy to read on any device so it’s legible for everyone in every setting. There are a lot of tools out there to help ensure your site is accessibility compliant, so just make sure your web designer knows that accessibility is important for your healthcare practice and they’ll be able to advise you.
Any health or medical wesbite should have security of patient health information front of mind. The Commonwealth’s Privacy Act of 1988 (Privacy Act) applies to Australian government agencies and private-sector health service providers, regardless of size. Healthcare websites are always siloed off from the medical records system, so this isn’t about concern over health records themselves. But there is other patient data that you may be collecting. A key example is your booking forms. Most medical websites accept information about patients or potential patients via enquiry forms when they book an appointment online, so the security of your website should not be overlooked. The Australian Digital Health Agency has a great guide to help small healthcare businesses ensure they’re getting privacy right, so check that out for more info and ensure your web designer is across it.
One of the first things I can see impacting trust and professionalism is a simple lack of brand and unique practice focus. This is an easy fix, and forms such a simple cue to support your potential and returning patients. The other key design features that are essential to ensure your healthcare website has health at its core include design alignment with your patient needs, excellent user experience that makes it easy for them to find the information they’re looking for, accessibility and security.