Have you ever experienced a twinge in your neck, itch in your throat, or another random symptom, and turned to Google for answers? If so, you’re in good company — a whopping one billion searches per day are health-related!
With the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic and vaccination campaigns capturing public attention, accurate, user-friendly healthcare websites are more crucial than ever. Consider your healthcare organization’s website — is it a useful resource that serves your community, or is there room for improvement?
If you feel your website could serve visitors more effectively, you might contemplate revamping it or even building a new one. In this guide, we’ll cover the top four best practices to enhance your healthcare organization’s website:
- Map and optimize the user journey.
- Prioritize accessibility.
- Make your donation and/or volunteer opportunities easy to find.
- Use a continuous improvement approach.
Optimizing your healthcare organization or hospital’s website design ensures patients and community members can find the information they need quickly and without hassle. This can establish your organization as a reputable, trustworthy institution. Let’s dive in!
1. Map and optimize the user journey.
Healthcare website visitors want to find information quickly and easily. They may be searching for crucial medical advice, doctors’ names and contact information, a map of your facility, or other must-have information. Often, these visitors are in a rush or feeling stressed, so it’s your job to ensure that your website is easily accessible.
You can improve your website’s user experience by mapping the user journey. The user journey is the way visitors interact with your healthcare website. It encompasses each step they take, from when they first arrive on the site to when they click away.
When you understand what your website visitors are looking for, you can optimize your website to make their visiting experience as stress-free as possible.
To create a user journey map, follow these steps:
- Create personas for each segment of your website’s visitors. Consider your audience’s demographics and group audience members based on shared characteristics. For instance, you might create profiles for different age groups, such as young, middle-aged, and elderly visitors. Or, you might group website visitors based on their user intent, such as those who are visiting your website to schedule an appointment, search for a doctor, or research medical information.
- Review your website analytics. Assess your site’s metrics such as time spent on each page and the bounce rate to determine your most popular pages. This lets you know which pages visitors are most interested in.
- Determine how you can meet visitors’ needs at each step of the user journey. Combine information gathered while creating your user personas with your website analytics to decide how you can meet visitors’ expectations at every step of the user journey. For instance, can you redesign your main menu to highlight your most valuable pages? Should you use buttons and links on your homepage to direct visitors to your internal directory or research library? Think about how you can make each users’ experience more streamlined and convenient.
Let’s take a look at how one hospital website provides a clear user pathway for its visitors. Northside Hospital, a network of hospitals in Atlanta, offers a convenient series of links on its homepage that appeal to different visitor intentions. Visitors can select whether they are a new or returning patient, doctor, job seeker, current employee, or someone else. The links in the three columns on the right change based on the answer you choose. For example, here’s what appears when you click “New Patient”:
This is an innovative way to keep your website’s homepage streamlined and uncluttered while providing resources and directions for each type of visitor. Consider your own user pathways and design your site to facilitate a faster transfer of information.
2. Prioritize accessibility.
An accessible website is usable by everyone, regardless of their age or ability. Accessibility is highly encouraged for all websites, but it’s a requirement for hospital websites in particular.
Hospital websites must comply with accessibility regulations such as Section 508 of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) and the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG). These regulations ensure that anyone can quickly and easily access the medical information they need.
To comply with these requirements, your website must follow four guidelines. Your site must be:
- Perceivable: All users should be able to perceive the information on your website. You can boost perception by using sufficient color contrast between the foreground and background, adding alternative text to images and videos, and creating audio descriptions for text when necessary.
- Operable: Anyone should be able to use your website to find the information they need. You can make your website more user-friendly by offering a simple, streamlined navigation menu. This ensures that your website supports keyboard navigation and uses clear and descriptive headers and labels.
- Understandable: Your website’s content must be comprehensible to all audience members. Make sure you avoid jargon and idioms, use straightforward language, and keep your navigational mechanisms the same across all pages.
- Robust: Your website’s content should be robust enough that assistive technologies can accurately interpret the information. To ensure your website stays robust, stay up-to-date on emerging technologies and improve your content to align with innovations.
By making your website accessible to all users, you’re making health information and access more equitable and reaching all segments of your community.
3. Make your donation and/or volunteer opportunities easy to find.
In the wake of the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic and the challenges it’s presented to the healthcare field, many people have been inspired to give their money and time to healthcare organizations.
- Offering a streamlined, mobile-friendly, online donation page. Ensure your donation form only asks for necessary information to help donors move through the page quickly, no matter what device they’re using.
- Using call-to-action (CTA) buttons to point visitors to your donation form. These CTAs should tell visitors to “Donate Now” or “Give Today.”
- Promoting your website’s donation opportunities using your social media and email platforms. Use your communication platforms to drive traffic to your website and promote your fundraising campaigns.
With a simple online donation process, you can provide a convenient way for community members to show their support in a difficult time.
In addition, if you are accepting volunteers, be sure to also make those opportunities easy to find. Your volunteer sign-up forms should be short, accessible, and mobile-friendly to help reach a wider audience.
4. Use a continuous improvement approach.
A continuous website improvement approach involves making incremental, ongoing improvements to your website. This approach to web design and development has several advantages, allowing you to:
- Avoid major overhauls, which could consume large amounts of your team’s time, energy, and budget.
- Maintain a consistent website look and feel for visitors, which secures their trust.
- Make website design choices based on hard data, streamlining the decision-making process.
The steps of a continuous improvement approach include:
- Strategize: In this phase, you’ll create your user journey maps, assess your website analytics, and determine your plan for improving the user experience.
- Implement: Your organization puts its plans into action by making small changes to website pages over an extended period.
- Iterate: You’ll assess the effectiveness of the changes using your website analytics tool. Then, you’ll adjust your strategy based on your findings.
A continuous improvement approach allows healthcare organizations to make regular updates to help their websites maintain value long-term without alienating visitors with sudden changes.
With these improvement tips, you should be able to optimize your healthcare organization’s website to serve as a community resource, patient engagement platform, and fundraising tool.
If you need help at any step of the process, reach out to a web design and development firm for assistance. These professionals will ensure you’re using the best practices when it comes to accessibility, user experience, search engine optimization, and continuous improvement.