(Or Driving Users Away?) Find Out Now!
By Brian Lani, Vice President of Creative Services, Legato Healthcare Marketing
Digital. Digital. Digital.
It seems that is all anyone hears about these days in the marketing realm. But how many rural healthcare organizations are paying attention to the original – and most essential – digital marketing tool: the website?
Everyone understands that a website validates the legitimacy of your organization: From showcasing the services you offer and communicating important information, to demonstrating the personality of your rural healthcare organization’s brand, your website has a pretty important job!
But in today’s competitive healthcare arena, websites must also be easy to navigate and filled with useful, relevant and up-to-date information. If your website isn’t effectively checking these boxes, then your organization is going to miss out on securing potential customers.
The good news: You don’t have to be an IT specialist or an artiste to evaluate your organization’s site – you just need to know the principles of good communication. To help you evaluate how well your site is doing, we’ve put together a list of key concepts below so that you can take the temperature of your site – and gauge how user-friendly and effective it really is.
To start, obviously you have a website, but ask yourself: Is the content of value? Is it easily searchable? Does the site complement your brand and portray a positive reputation? Is the site ADA compliant? Does it function as a one-stop resource for your consumers?
Those are the big questions – but how do you know the accurate answer to any of them?Keep reading to find a checklist that will help you evaluate your rural healthcare organization’s website by taking a look at 1) what your site looks like, and 2) how easy it is to use.
Below is a list of basic things to look for when evaluating how your rural healthcare website appears to users. Remember, you don’t have to be a master designer to understand how your website looks to others; instead, review your current site to see how well it stacks up to these basic principles:
- Brand Standards: Your website should reflect your brand standards, from font choices, heading sizes, colors, button styles, to spacing, design elements, illustration styles, photo choices – they should all be themed to make your marketing materials – including your website – representative and coherent.
- Consistency: Make sure your website pages are consistent; regularly reviewing the site as a whole, rather than just the latest updated pages, is a great way to confirm this. Remember that simplicity is usually best – and what’s simpler than making sure that it’s all consistent?
- Visual Hierarchy: This is a fancy-sounding way of saying that you’re organizing design elements in order of importance. Essentially, it’s how you position elements – from photos to copy – on a page to influence how your site’s users understand what’s most (and least) important. There are four main ways visual hierarchy works:
- Scale: What’s most important is the largest
- Contrast: Using color or shape to make something stand out
- Direction: When one element is different from the majority of the others, directing the user’s gaze
- Position: What’s most important is on top
- Space: Keep it pure and simple; white space is every user’s – and therefore every website’s – friend. It’s often called negative space, but what we’re really talking about is a making sure that your site has a lot of clutter-free (white) space.
- Typeface: Fonts can work as organizational tools, so as tempting as it may be to play with fun fonts – don’t. The fonts you choose should be extremely legible, so nothing too artsy or scripty. Rule of thumb when it comes to choosing fonts: Use a maximum of three different typefaces in a maximum of three different sizes. We’ll talk about color a little later, but when it comes to text, keep color minimal and always make sure the color of your typeface contrasts with the site’s background.
- Images and Graphics: They’re not the same thing – images typically refers to photos, while graphics refers to components such as drawings – but the principles behind their use are the same: choose wisely. Photos on your website are a great opportunity to feature your facility, as well as people who live in your community (and remember that stock photos are a good supplement when you need them).
When it comes to photos, perspective and alignment are key: Use both to direct the eye by simply avoiding the status quo. For graphics, only add them if they help a user complete a task or perform a specific function. In both cases, odd number groupings (e.g., one or three elements, as opposed to two) are most effective at communicating importance to the user.
- Color: To put it simply: Don’t use too many. Most experts recommend using a maximum of five different colors in design, and remember the rules about consistency: They should be the same colors throughout your site – per your brand standards.
Now that we’ve tackled the basics of how to evaluate the effectiveness of your website’s appearance, let’s talk about the other essential: your site’s usability.
In a recent HubSpot article about best practices for website usability, Jamie Juviler argues that “While the appearance of your website is certainly important, most people aren't coming to your site to evaluate how slick the design is. They want to complete some action, or to find some specific piece of information.”
On that note, let’s take a look at:
- Navigability: While the word itself is a mouthful, a site’s navigability is essential to your user’s experience. Simply put: If it’s at all difficult for a user to find what they’re looking for on your site, they’ll simply go somewhere else.
There are two key elements to what makes a site easy to navigate: conventionality and consistency. We’ve already discussed consistency, but below are some important aspects of conventionality:
- Place the main navigation at the top or left side of the page, and your logo at the top left or center of the page
- Make your logo clickable, so it always brings visitors back to your homepage
- Have links and buttons that change color or appearance when a user hovers over them
- Ensure that image sliders have buttons that users can click to manually rotate slides
The bottom line about conventionality: When it comes to websites, following the crowd is a good thing. These straightforward techniques are simple ways to meet the expectations of your website users, which is essential to maintaining an effective website.
- Consolidate: Generally speaking, keep your content on the surface page as much as possible; you can’t expect users to dig too deep for information. An accordion menu is a great tool for this purpose: You can keep all of your information on one page without asking your user to keep scrolling, which is especially annoying to many mobile site users…which brings us to our next point…
- Mobile-friendly: Your site should be responsive – you want to ensure that your site functions at its best, regardless of how your users are viewing it (computer, tablet, phone, etc.).
- ADA Compliant: And speaking of user-friendliness, you want to make sure that’s the case for all users: A simple way to conduct an audit of your site is to use a WAVE Web Accessibility Tool. (Hint: Google Chrome has a WAVE tool that can help you identify your site’s accessibility issues, including missing alt tags, styles, etc.)
- Voice Search: We’re not letting any secret out here: People love voice search, particularly because it allows them to multi-task. The tool has been rapidly growing in popularity every year: According to a 2018 survey cited by the Local Marketing Institute, “74% of voice search users looked for a local business weekly” – and that was four years ago! You want to make sure your site is recognized by consumers using Apple Siri, Amazon Alexa, Google Assistant and Microsoft Cortana.
As you’ve probably figured out by now, we could go on all day about how to use your website to market your rural healthcare organization – but we have covered some of the basics to get you started on evaluating your site’s effectiveness.
Additional Website Tips
A couple of other key things to remember: Make your website a destination by
- including a call to action directing consumers to your site – especially service line content pages – on all relevant communication pieces
- encouraging patients to access their EHR via your website
- setting up your provider page so that it is easily searchable based on star ratings
- using video stories and provider bios on your website to give consumers a strong sense of your organization – and to drive traffic through your organization’s doors.
Last but never least: Be vigilant when it comes to making content updates. Your site could meet all of the above recommendations, but if the content is outdated, your site is doing little to help your organization.
At Legato Healthcare Marketing, our website development services are always tailored directly to the specific needs of our clients. Are you ready to make your organization’s website stand out for the right reasons? Email Brian Lani, vice president of creative services, at firstname.lastname@example.org or call me at 920.544.8102 ext. 102.