Most plastic surgeons are involved in internet marketing in some way. And a majority already have a web site if, for no other reason, because they have been told they need one. Even so, too many medical professionals do not fully understand effective medical website design basics.
Though traditional means of locating a plastic surgeon remain popular (yellow pages, word of mouth, TV and radio), prospective patients are increasingly making the Internet their primary tool of research. The latest studies indicate that between 50 and 90 million Americans routinely surf the net when researching physicians and other health care related subjects. A sizeable number of those searchers will ultimately connect with physicians based on their impression of those practices as represented on a web site and or blog. Here are some basics to remember about medical website design:
- Don’t Cut Corners – Effective web design requires someone who specializes in what makes a website work. Even if you have a friend with immense talent and good will, the better choice is to contract with a professional who can objectively and effectively give you the best site possible. Too many medical practices have discovered the hard way that for a web site to be an effective internet marketing tool it must be continually maintained and updated. Many self-made or low cost sites start out looking okay but soon become a hopeless mix of broken links, miss-sized graphics and other formatting errors that become negative rather than positive advertisement.
- Never Ignore SEO – Ignoring Search Engine Optimization will cost you more in the long run than not expending the resources to ensure your site is as search engine friendly as possible. Sound SEO techniques are vital to your page rankings and are the key factor in bringing visitors to your site.
- Go Easy on the Flash – Most patients are not coming to your site for a show; they want information. Flash banners and intro screens slow down load time on many computers and search engines CANNOT READ the text in a Flash graphic. There are reasons for using Flash but should be thought through carefully and used sparingly.
- Use Original Photos and Graphics when Possible – Stock photos look great and are often inexpensive but they do nothing to set your site apart from your competitors. The images on your site are the first impression a new visitor to your site has so use photos that stand out from the crowd. It is well worth your money to hire a professional photographer and use photos on your site of people that patients will see when they walk into your office.
- Use Content People can Scan – Good medical website design employs content with visual markers that make visitors pause, read and then read some more. Text for the Internet is different from books, magazines and even USA Today. Large blocks of text are invitations for a visitor to leave you site before they learn anything meaningful about you. Instead, use visual stop signs in your text like: Headlines and subheadings, brief paragraphs, bulleted and numbered lists. and highlighted keywords.
- Make it Easy to Find Your Contact Information – Prospective patients shouldn’t have to search for ways to contact you. That information should be easily found on every page of your site. Even if you provide contact forms and email links, many patients will want to call so make your phone number prominent and easy to read.
- Make Every Page a Call to Action - As we have noted elsewhere, every web page should have at least one distinct and noticeable call to action. There is no way to know what page will be the entry point for a visitor to your site so make sure no page becomes an information dead end. Every single page of your site should be designed so that visitors do not have to think about what to do next. If a first time visitor, in particular, can’t clearly see what to do within seconds of landing on your site they are likely to click the back button and find their way to someone else’s site that makes things easier to understand.