Creating a medical website involves many of the usual aspects of designing any site while presenting some specific concerns to make it work for your client or business. There are many types of medical websites including sites for private practices and clinics as well as information resource sites.
One way in which a medical website differs from other types of sites is the aesthetic style behind your concept. The site needs to convey a feeling of credibility and authority to the audience. Whether it's for a doctor's office or a medical association, people are coming to the site to find qualified, professional medical information. There are several factors involved in making a credible website to build a user's trust.
A Professional Design
A professional design is needed first and foremost. Studies of medical sites have found that over 80% of users will decide within the first few seconds of visiting a site to stay or leave based on the visual look alone. Something that looks homemade, such as a template where all the information is not entered or updated, does not give one the feeling of expertise. Likewise, things like typos, broken links and non-functioning pages, or the lack of a mobile-friendly option will turn users off.
If you are creating the site yourself, this does not mean you need to hire a designer. There are many quality medical-themed templates available for systems like WordPress that you can buy and customize on your own as well. It's also not a bad idea to hire a professional to create the design that you build or consult with you on your ideas. If you do decide to hire a professional, look for someone who understands the design aesthetic needed.
Several items are recommended to make a website appear more credible.
- Make sure your "About Us" page is well written and informative and more than just a photo and title. If someone is deciding about hiring a doctor, they may want to see their full C.V., including educational background, professional experience, and information that personalizes him or her such as hobbies and volunteerism. Links to published articles, if applicable, are an excellent way to demonstrate expertise. Providing testimonials from former patients is also a strong indicator that you've found a trustworthy individual. Likewise, a page about the team at the practice should include information about professional experience. If your site is for a medical association, readers will want to know who the leaders are behind the organization, such as the board of directors, key staff and even active volunteers.
- Contact information should be readily available and even in multiple places. If a user wants to contact you to set up an appointment or ask a question about an online resource, making it harder to reach someone can be frustrating and diminish your credibility with the public.
- Know who your customers are and make the site simple for them to use. Consider that people going to a medical site are often deeply concerned about a health issue and having a difficult time finding information will be extremely frustrating. If your site's user demographic skews older, you may want to be sure your design elements, such as typography, are larger and easier to read for seniors with visual deficits.
- Likewise, make sure your site meets accessibility guidelines for people with disabilities. This should be a "must have" for any website, but especially for medical sites designed to serve a large and diverse user base.
Simple and Clean Layout
Because you want to emphasize the user-friendly nature of your site while demonstrating professional expertise, using a clean, simple layout is often the best choice for a medical site. Jarring colors or animation will take away from your site's design and annoy visitors. Look at examples of other medical websites to get ideas. You'll see that a constant among the designs are easy-to-follow navigation, bold and large typography, simple yet bold colors and dynamic photos.
It's been proven that different colors can influence how a person perceives a brand. Colors can represent such concepts as power, royalty, fun, feminity or passion. A color that does well with medical sites is blue, which represents trust and authority. Green invokes a feeling of well-being while white conveys a sense of serenity, although generally you should pair generous use of white space with another color. On the other hand, you want to avoid colors that don't fit well with a medical site, such as yellow, which can be perceived negatively by different groups. Some medical sites will make strong use of their logo colors, such as the American Heart Association, which is known for red, symbolizing the heart.
What fonts you use are critical to how a user perceives your site. Stick with best practices for web typography and avoid using fanciful or elaborate fonts. You want people to be able to read your site easily; a jumble of unusual fonts, or too many fonts on one page, can make your site appear scattered and hard to read. Remember that most of your site is text, despite your visual touches, and people come to a medical site to find information, so font choices are very important to your site's success.
There's a wide variety of stock photos available for sites that have a medical theme and even sites that specialize in medical images. However, overuse of these can make your medical site seem generic. It's advisable to use photography that's compelling and unique for your site, whether it's a doctor's office or an association site. Photography taken specifically for your site will make your site stand out more. It's also recommended to have professional photos of your staff, which look more inviting than photos taken with a personal camera or smartphone.
As with any site, you will want to cover the "basics" of effective website creation, including:
- Setting up web hosting
- Acquiring a custom domain
- Designing with SEO in mind from the start
- Using a logical design process
- Adding social networking links
You can use best practices for these items which are similar for most websites.
Medical Website Features
In addition to design considerations, medical websites tend to have similar features that set them apart from other websites.
More and more doctor's offices are making effective use of the internet by saving patients time and providing greater access to their medical information. Patient portals are areas where someone can log in with a username and password and find their medical records, medical test results, and prescriptions. Some portals allow you to send messages to a doctor's office to refill an expired prescription, pay your bill or ask questions of the staff. Some "out of the box" solutions for patient portals include Bridge, eClinicalWorks, and DrChrono.
If you build such a portal, one area you must be in compliance with is the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPPA). HIPPA mandates how a patient's records are kept private and secure. These rules as they pertain to patient portals are complex and consulting with a HIPPA expert is strongly recommended.
Another common feature of medical sites is the ability for patients to download forms they can fill out to save time at their first visit. Some of these may even be available as online forms, in which case the HIPPA rules would also apply.
Giving patients the option to set up appointments online is a well-liked feature of any medical site as it makes life easier for working people and others who find calling more time-consuming. There are many calendar programs you can add to a site, such as Acuity, DocMeIn, and PracticeSuite.
Medical sites designed to provide information to consumers, such as association sites like the American Cancer Society and the American Diabetes Association, often provide libraries for consumers and doctors. These libraries are often part of a content management system and allow users to search on common terms such as symptoms, diagnoses and more.
They also often contain searchable directories of practitioners who specialize in that medical practice area. Other medical information sites will have downloads for consumers and educators such as the Partnership for Food Safety Education and KidsHealth. Depending on the site, you may also be tasked with tracking the number of downloads and searches, plus user demographics using tools such as Google Analytics and Google Tag Manager.
Medical Website Design
Creating a site for a medically oriented business or organization can pose some unique challenges and features. It's a rewarding endeavor helping to promote health awareness, resources and qualified professionals in your community and beyond!