Last month, Simon Marett and Michael Sullivan delved into the detail behind good logo design and the pitfalls to avoid when you are devising a logo for your practice. Here they look at website design and the key aspects you need to think about before launching a new site.
You will see from the points below that not all of them are design-related and there is a lot you can do in advance by planning properly.
By dedicating time and thought to planning at the start of the process, you will find you will save time, effort and money in the long run.
As with logo design, there are now some online tools and websites available that enable you to ‘do it yourself’, but unless you have the time and patience to learn how to use the software, it is always a good option to appoint a trusted designer or agency.
They will have designed and built dozens of websites and that experience will help guide you through the process.
Here are a few aspects for you to consider:
1 Define the purpose of your website
An example of a nicely structured site with navigation and sitemap in contrast to an unstructured site
We get approached by many healthcare practitioners who want a new website. They are often starting their own practice or, in many cases, they have an existing website that they are unhappy with because it is looking tired, dated or needs a refresh.
The first question we always ask is ‘why’? Before you start investing money into website design and build, it is vital that you are clear about the purpose of your website and why you want one.
Is it just a shop front for you and your practice or do you want to enable patients to book appointments online?
Most of the practitioners we work with also want to educate and empower their patients so a blog or resources section of the website will be needed.
You may also want to consider how you are holding patient data and how you want your website to integrate with your patient management system and customer relationship management (CRM) system so you can send patient emails and newsletters.
There are endless possibilities, but the key takeaway here is the importance of planning and asking the right questions that will pay dividends down the line.
2 Use a sitemap
A nicely designed site with main navigation in contrast to one where everything is dumped on the homepage with no navigation
One of the most common mistakes is where time has not been used to think about the structure of content on a website.
A good example of this is where all the content is placed on the homepage with little thought given to the visitor, the information they might be looking for and how to find it.
We always advise our clients to do some market research and find examples of websites that they like and dislike and look at how they have structured the text, video and image content across their website.
Biographies of your practitioners, images of your staff, pricing information and the patient journey are all good examples of content you can place on a sitemap.
This simple exercise will make it easier for patients to navigate through your website and discover the content relevant for them.
3 Get your imagery right
Avoid a mishmash of stock images that are different colours and styles
Good use of text or copy on your website is clearly important and we look at that in more detail in point 4 below. But never underestimate the power of good imagery on a website.
Imagery can often be the difference between having a good and great website, as it can help you connect emotionally with a prospective patient.
Spend some time researching the types of images you want on your website and remember to keep your target audience in mind.
For example, if you are targeting patients in the age range of 40-60, then using lots of images of young people in their 20s is not going to help.
Another good tip is to ask a designer to put a colour filter or treatment on the images you have selected. This will help you achieve a consistent, premium feel across your website rather than a mishmash of stock images that are different colours and styles.
Use a good selection of images with filters as opposed to small, stock imagery can make a site look cheap and under-designed
4 Pay close attention to copy
Text broken up into digestable blocks is better than large blocks of text on a dark background
Striking a good balance between space, imagery and text will help you towards your goal of creating a great looking website.
Copywriting is a specific skill and two common mistakes we see are when the copy on a website is unstructured and where large amounts of text are placed on a dark background. This can be a major turn-off for visitors and makes it difficult to read.
So, before you copy and paste your copy onto your homepage, ask your designer about copywriting or break your paragraphs of text into blocks and think about headlines, sub-heads and calls to action to help future website visitors read your website.
5 Think responsive – tablets and mobile
A site that looks great on a mobile as opposed to one where the navigation does not render well on mobile
In today’s mobile-first world, the majority of websites are now viewed on mobile and tablets, so spending hours proofing your new website on your laptop or desktop is not going to give you a true picture of the patient experience.
Most good website software tools like WordPress now offer a Responsive Design tool that will allow you to view the website on different devices and test how it will look for future visitors.
So, before you sign off your website and send it live to the world, make sure you have gone through the site on your laptop, tablet and mobile and checked everything is working as it should.
Designing and building a great looking website that you don’t have to refresh every 12 months is essential for any healthcare practices.
Some principles remain whether your website has five pages or 500 and it is vital that practitioners go through the right processes and dedicate time to planning before they start spending valuable budget.
Working with a recommended designer or marketing agency is often a smart move in the long-term. They will have been through the process many times before and established tried and tested frameworks and processes.
This can make the experience of designing and building a website a lot smoother and ultimately deliver you a better end-product that will be built to last.
Simon Marett (left) and Michael Sullivan (right) are managing director and creative director of Ellerton Marketing Ltd, a specialist strategic marketing consultancy for independent healthcare practitioners