Did you know that “website usability” is a science all its own? If you or your practice has a website, you need to start looking at the “usability” of that site. Here’s an introduction…
Your webmaster or marketing consultant may claim to do this automatically, but what I have to share with you may change your mind about what’s really going on when people sit down to browse your site.
The 30,000 foot view of your website’s purpose
Your job as the website owner is to answer the questions in the surfer’s mind as fast as possible.
As your patient arrives on your website, she is thinking of questions like:
- Where do I start?
- Can I click on this? Is this a button?
- Where will this link take me if I click here?
- Is this a link?
- What is the most important thing here?
Leaving those questions unanswered is a huge mistake being made everyday by otherwise intelligent physicians and health care providers who create or own websites.
Consequences of unanswered questions
If the answers aren’t obvious, she will go somewhere else, wind up confused, and make nasty conclusions about your website’s organization and clarity. In the worst case, she’ll transfer those conclusions to your practice as a whole, coloring her whole perception of you.
A personal example from my practice
I run into a version of this in my practice: if the patient sees a sloppy dressing on her hand or wrist after surgery, she concludes that my work must be sloppy as well. Unfortunately, to debate whether this is rational or not is irrelevant – I put extra energy into my dressings so it’s a non-issue.
In a similar way, our websites represent us and our quality service. I’m not referring to aesthetics or design for design’s sake: only as it relates to function.
An example from my website
One example on my own site is that when I learned to put websites together, I was excited to put slick design elements into my site. This included making my hyperlinks some sexy non-black but “understated” color, and removing the underline from each one.
While much more attractive from a design standpoint, this confuses visitors to the site. As website surfers, the vast majority of the population has been conditioned to think that a bright blue, underlined word is a clickable hyperlink. I changed all my links back to the traditional bright blue style to improve the overall usability of the site.
Good questions to ask yourself
Take a look at your site with fresh eyes.
- Are there any unclear sections or design elements you thought looked cool at the time, but could be confusing the average visitor?
- Is it clear what you want visitors to do when they arrive on the site?
- What is your main objective of the site? Is your site a central hub for patient education or simply an “online business card” with your practice phone number and a map?
Trying to accomplish too many things at once on the homepage may just generate visitor confusion. You’ll have to weigh the importance of the content elements of your site – visitors are also becoming conditioned to sift through “busy” website pages to find what’s important (just look at any major news homepage for examples).
Let your webmaster know about any potential problem areas. Depending on your level of control of the site, you might be able to make changes yourself, but the first step is knowing you have a problem.
My Quick Tip Email Newsletter subscribers will be receiving a tip about how to easily find out where the worst problem areas are on your practice’s site. Sign up today if you haven’t done so.
A must-have resource
If you want to know more about this topic, the book Don’t Make Me Think, by Steve Krug is the most comprehensive resource available on website usability. If your webmaster or website creator has never heard of this book, be suspicious!