Every so often, your website, much like everything else in your healthcare business, will need an update in order to continue being effective. A great medical website, after all, can be a major source of revenue for your hospital or practice, while an outdated or poorly maintained website can cost you new patients and harm your brand.
The question is: how often should you refresh or redesign your medical website so that it continues to provide value to your patients and bring in new traffic? This answer can vary depending on the effort that was put into the site in the first place, but there are generally three things to keep in mind:
1. Update, don’t redesign.
Consider making design changes to your healthcare website each year. Though it may seem like overkill, doing so will save you money in the long run.
- It spreads out the cost of a full redesign. Putting in about 10 to 20 hours of new design work each year is enough to keep your site tidy and implement some new design changes. Plus, it doesn’t require investing a lot of time or money all at once.
- It keeps things familiar. By making your changes slowly over time, frequent visitors to your site won’t be confused when they come back. This is a practice that the most popular news and media sites stick to (as do we) – and you should too.
- It creates less work. A full redesign can take a lot of time and effort. There is planning involved, new mockups that need to be approved by numerous people, and changes to the content that need to be implemented. Small changes along the way can help you avoid the extra work.
2. Remember the 3-year life cycle.
Usability expert Jakob Nielsen writes that most websites change about 40 percent each year, equating to a completely new design every three years. Nielsen’s research confirms our general practice at MWE: if you don’t continually improve design, you’ll need something new every three years.
A key takeaway from the Nielsen Norman Group article is that web design is stabilizing. Designs are becoming more consistent as research and usability testing tools get better and cheaper, meaning that small changes over time are enough. This is something that is good both for website owners and for people visiting their sites. It means that hospitals and practices don’t have to spend as much on medical website redesigns and patients don’t have to get used to repeated changes that slow them down in finding the information they need.
3. Make it mobile-friendly.Mobile traffic makes up about 25 percent of all online traffic – and that number has been growing steadily in the last few years. In 2010, mobile traffic was at about 3 percent, and from 2011 to 2012 it grew to somewhere between 10 and 15 percent. At these rates, it should surpass traffic from computers in the next year or two. Furthermore, that number is across all websites.
Studies have shown that people using browsing the Internet on their phones are doing so more for research – to look at products, but not to buy them. This means that, as a physician, your website is primarily going to be looked at for research purposes (patients looking for information about your services or for a phone number to contact your practice). Not surprisingly, some of our clients are already seeing half of their traffic in mobile. If your website isn’t mobile-friendly, however, and pages take too long to load people aren’t going to stay.
So, update often or plan on designing a new medical website every three years – and when you do, make it mobile.