website design tipsDuring this month’s marketing-themed month, in addition to covering overall marketing strategies, we’ve focused pretty heavily on the importance of developing an online presence when it comes to reaching potential patients. There’s a reason for that: it’s 2013—and in a blink of an eye, it’ll be 2014…and 2015…and, well, you get the idea. Time is moving forward, not backward, and in our ever-progressing technology-centric world, it’s going to become more and more crucial to present yourself and your practice well both offline and on.

Today, we’re going to talk about another way—quite possibly the most important way—that you can improve your online presence: improving your website. After all, that’s where future patients—and even current ones—will go to learn more about your practice, your services, and you. It’s often the first impression you’ll make—even before you get to make one in person. It’s where—and how—your patients will first decide whether or not you’re legitimate and worthy of their trust and hard-earned dollars. In other words, it can be a business maker or breaker. With this in mind, it’s time to design—or redesign—your website with these five helpful tips and tricks (modified from Advia Internet, an Ohio-based digital marketing and strategy firm):  

1. Clean Layout

Before you select a layout for your website, make sure you know who you are as a business—your brand identity, essentially—and make sure you have a marketing plan. Then, choose accordingly. And while you might be tempted to start experimenting with some crazy, flashy layouts, remember, you are first and foremost a medical professional—and your website should represent that. Aim for a clean layout—not boring or stodgy—that’s simple, classy, and, as Advia points out, compelling. “An attractive layout design catches the attention of visitors and maintains it. It’s what keeps visitors exploring further into the website,” the article reads.

2. Balanced Design

Remember the saying that everything’s better in moderation? Well, that applies to your website, too. Too many colors, too many interactive features, too many fonts—too much of anything, really—can completely throw off the aesthetics of your website. So focus on balance. Choose a font color (and maybe one accent color) that stands up well against your background color (black text on a white background is arguably the best for readability); choose a font style (and maybe one header style) that captures your personality but also is easy to read; and use images and videos to tease and captivate, not overwhelm. And please, for the love of all things pretty, do not use comic sans or any other super stylized font, more than two font colors or styles, or anything that blinks—ever.

3. Organized Content

Ultimately, the point of your website is to communicate relevant, well-written information about your practice and your field of expertise (think blog) to your audience. As Advia points out: “Whereas the look of a website design welcomes visitors, it is the content that keeps them around. A web design can look great, but unless it presents content in an inviting manner, it is meaningless.” Some of Advia’s best practices for content include:

  • Using “big, catchy headings” and “brief paragraphs separated with subheadings and bullet points”
  • Categorizing and displaying content in a way that will make sense to a new viewer
  • Being consistent in your content presentation
  • Creating content that is accessible quickly with “minimal clicks”

Put Me Back Together  also recommends keeping content fresh: “There is nothing more detrimental to physical therapists than having outdated information on their websites.” You never want your site advertising services, prices, hours, or locations that are no longer available or accessible. Furthermore, content that looks outdated may lead potential patients to believe you’re no longer in business. Put Me Back Together advises practices to “take a hard look at your physical therapy website [at least] every month to ensure that all of the information and services you offer are up to date.”

And while we’re on the subject of content, make sure you’ve got SEO covered.

4. Easy Navigation

You’ve chosen your layout, created a balanced design, and organized your content. Now it’s time to consider how your audience will move around your site. “Without navigation and ease of accessibility, a web[site] is just a pretty page,” writes Advia. “Navigation acts as a map, directing visitors through the site based on their interests.”

According to a Search Engine Watch article titled “25 Design Best Practices for Your Small Business Web Site,” you can make navigation easier for your audience by placing the content you feel is most important (including calls to action like registration or sign-up buttons) above the fold (the portion of a webpage you immediately see without needing to scroll). Why? Because a lot of the time they won’t scroll—and if they do, you may have already lost their attention. The more work a reader has to do to access information, the less likely it is that he or she will ever do so.

Search Engine Watch also recommends including a static site map with descriptive text to ensure that at any point within your website, viewers can find where they wish to go next. And speaking of finding things, make sure that you provide your audience with self-explanatory navigation tabs and a way to get back to your homepage, like linking your header logo.

5. Working Features

This last part should go without saying, but just in case: make sure your website is functioning—links and all. That means performing regular site maintenance and quality checks as well as asking for feedback from your audience. As Advia points out, “functionality also applies to how the website functions across all browsers, computer operating systems, and mobile devices. It must work perfectly and look great on older and current versions of browsers and be mobile-friendly.” Emphasis on mobile-friendly here. As David Straight and Put Me Back Together (PMBT) point out, mobile-friendly websites are essential for PTs. “In the three months leading up to March 2012, more than 106 million American adults owned a smartphone, according to a comScore report,” said Straight. “In the United States, nearly ninety percent of adults and over half of all teenagers have cell phones with Internet capability,” pointed out PMBT. So while you’re building and designing your website, don’t forget to check its functionality using different browsers and operating systems. After all, what looks wonderful on Mozilla might look horrendous on Safari and even wonkier on an iPhone.

There you have it: five tips and tricks for better website design. And there are plenty more where that came from. Seriously. Just Google “website design best practices.” But before you do, here’s one more tip: hire a web designer. Trust me, getting an expert involved from the beginning is well worth the money—and just think of how many headaches you’ll avoid in the process.