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Medical Website Design Trends in 2015

Co-written by Onur Birsen, MBA, CPA & Michael Dobkowski, BA, MBA

What is happening and how is Glacial Different?

By now most of you have probably heard of responsive medical website design. There is no doubt going into 2015 that this is where website design is still headed. However, there appears to be lots of confusion as to how responsive websites work, and how they differ from adaptive and mobile websites in terms of usability, and maintenance requirements. Glacial aims to help you better understand this topic, along with 9 other website design trends we believe will rise to the top in 2015.

1. Responsive, Adaptive & Mobile Websites

2015 will finally see the shift where more individuals will be browsing on mobile devices rather than on traditional desktop computers. If you cannot easily browse a website on your mobile phone or tablet device, you are not going to revisit that website. It is necessary that web developers think like a website visitor or patient at times. This is why responsive design is so important. It allows a particular website to detect the screen size it is being pulled up on, and automatically adjust to best fit that screen size. In 2015, if you are creating a website that is not responsive or adaptive, or has an accompanying mobile website, you are simply alienating a large portion of your website visitors. Both responsive and adaptive designs attempt to optimize the user experience across different devices, adjusting for different viewport sizes, resolutions, usage contexts, control mechanisms, and so on. Responsive design works on the principle of flexibility. The idea is that a single fluid design based upon media queries, flexible grids, and responsive images can be used to create a user experience that flexes and changes based on a multitude of factors. The primary benefit is that each user experiences a consistent design. One drawback is a slower load time. Adaptive design is more like the modern definition of progressive enhancement. Instead of one flexible design, adaptive design detects the device and other features, and then provides the appropriate feature and layout based on a predefined set of viewport sizes and other characteristics. This can result in a lack of consistency across platforms and devices, but the load time tends to be faster. With responsive website design the entire site is one set of website files requiring one update not multiple for each device. There are both design and search engine related advantages towards moving in this direction. The principle of responsive web design and development ensures a website can be viewed from any device, with any size screen, with an experience that gracefully moves from step-down to step-up. It’s about respecting the fact that users want to consume website experiences on their 4-inch mobile smartphone screen, their 7-inch mini tablet screen, their full-size 10-inch tablet device, their laptop screen and even their big-screen 4H HDTV. The website design is responsive because it constantly takes into account the resolutions of the device. If you think that because you have a responsive website, that you are now mobile-friendly, and that you have achieved your goals for the website, you need to think again. You may be losing users and potential business income if responsive web design is your entire goal and your only solution for mobile.The good news is that we can help you do it right. Responsive website design hit the ground running hard in 2014 and we anticipate this trend will continue well into the future. Responsive design can be a very important tool to optimize a website to load and function properly on many types of devices, and it’s critical to know the ups and downs of responsive vs. adaptive vs. mobile sites so that you can deliver the correct mix to optimize your online presence.

2. Mobile Visits Rise Over Desktop

2015 will finally see the shift where more individuals browsing on mobiles rather than on conventional computers. If you cannot easily browse a website on your device, you are not going to come back to it. It is necessary that web developers think like a website user or customer at times. This is why responsive design is so important. It allows a particular website to detect the screen size it is being pulled up on, and automatically adjust to best fit that screen size.

3. Minimal & Flat Design vs. Call to Action & Conversions

Flat design is a minimalistic design approach that emphasizes on responsive design and its popularity will continue in 2015. Influenced by Swiss design, many groundbreaking companies have embraced the minimalist style such as Microsoft and Apple. The future of flat design looks even more promising with Google implementing flat design with subtle animations on their ‘material design’ guidelines. As part of the minimal design trends we are also seeing small navigation menus and often creative alignment of the user interface. It will be neat to see how far this trend goes into medical website design and if practices embrace this trend or stay conservative. Attention is a scarce resource trait in the information age, and the attention economy requires designers to place important engagement objects in easy to see places. If the engagement objects are not visible the fact remains that website conversions will be diminished. Web designers in 2015 need to be able to balance the need to for website call to actions, and conversions with the artistic flair that creates a minimal flat design featured beautiful website.

4. Leveraging The Price Objection: Financing Solutions

For years it has been commonplace for elective medical practices to feature financing some where on their website. With recent technology advancements and government regulation of financing offers, there has been a substantial decrease in focus related financing placement on a website. We recently embarked on a study with CareCredit and 60 ophthalmology practices to try and understand what putting the best foot forward could do to traffic. Often times financing was not even there, hard to find or involving a sentence with very little information. In most cases it was easy to see how this could be improved. The question was then: Would this make a difference in traffic? If financing has a homepage call-out, place in the slideshow, and a detailed, engaging secondary page, then traffic could be doubled. More traffic equals more interest. It’s this simple equation that works time and time again. The issue then becomes how you prioritize on your website while focusing on modern minimal design. Glacial will be following this piece up with another article detailing the depths of financing engagement and how it helps patients afford elective based surgeries. By not giving financing proper emphasis you will significantly decrease your pool of candidates in the elective procedures category. There is a way that this can achieved even with a flat, minimalist design concept.

5. Parallax, Full Screen Media & Typography

Parallax is a technique where layers of content are designed to work and move together at different speeds in varying directions. The way it works is that background, middle and foreground images are created and designed to move at different speeds so that elements on the screen appear to move independently. Parallax scrolling really made great strides and was impactful in many cutting edge site designs of 2014. Glacial urges practices designing new sites to adopt this dynamic and visually striking trend. It creates a very engaging user experience if used correctly and can really elevate the overall feel of the website. Parallax can be triggered with a click, mouse-over, or a scroll action, and elements can move up and down or side to side in any intended direction. In some parallax designs all of the elements move in unison so it appears that you are moving from one screen to the next. Other parallax designs allow for multiple moving parts in such a way that almost creates active animations. One urge to control with parallax scrolling is the process of making single page websites. Although from an aesthetic and technical point, it is not possible to make the entire website a single page, scrollable experience, we strongly recommend against this due to the detrimental effects it has on SEO. Without individual pages, and links to and from those pages to other internal and external pages, it becomes much more difficult to effectively optimize your website for search engines. In the case you are developing a landing page however, or a website with no intention of having it be indexed on search engines, the single page website model can be a great model to use. Typography is the substance of web design and it continues to be so in 2015. It greatly affects readability, accessibility, usability and the overall aesthetics of a site. With the ongoing emphasis on increased resolutions, 11-12pt font sizes are no longer the standard, and designers are preferring much larger font sizes to make improve readability. The growing importance of content continues to push websites to ensure that their fonts are clear and readable. Hence, typography is going to be a very important design element in the upcoming year. Full screen background images have been used heavily by leading web designers in 2014, and we expect that trend to continue into 2015 mainly because Internet connections are getting faster, and full screen images can deliver a wow-effect. One of the rising trends we expect to see in conjunction with the full screen images, is full screen video backgrounds.

6. Custom Designed Websites vs. Open Source CMS Templates

Glacial Multimedia spent a great deal of time developing methodologies for delivering new website design goals in 2014, including both WordPress template based design and custom HTML5 responsive website design. Most of our competition has gone completely WordPress at this point, leaving their clients with considerable design, and functionality disadvantages. The custom work done on our end is 100% unique, is more flexible, usually looks better, and performs as good if not better than template based websites for search engine positioning. The main advantage to the WordPress template projects is reduced cost. There are sizable cost advantages because design and programming labor requirements are drastically reduced. Hence, in situations where a rapid deployment is required, or severe budget restrictions apply, it can be a viable alternative. We continue to have significant concerns related to the repetitive security issues identified with open source content management systems such as WordPress, Drupal and Joomla. Due to the wide distribution networks of these content management systems, hackers target them much more frequently. In the case you opt to go with a template based design running on an open source content management system, we strongly urge you to be aware of the ongoing security risks, and the need to stay on top of all updates released (including plug-ins).

7. E-commerce

We strongly believe that 2015 will be the year e-commerce pushes through into ophthalmology. As a company, we’ve not only developed a large number of standalone e-commerce applications, but we’ve also invested heavily in developing cutting edge custom e-commerce deployment technology for the optical industry. As customers gain more web savvy, they come to expect that everything can be purchased online. This includes the products your practice may be accustomed to only selling to patients on-site at the practice. Unfortunately, you can expect your brick and mortar sales to continue declining unless you invest in e-commerce capabilities in the future.

8. Lead Management & Patient Portals

A patient portal is a secure online website that gives patients convenient 24-hour access to personal health information from anywhere with an Internet connection. Using a secure username and password, patients can view health information. Adding this into the user interface design on a website is critical for findability. If practices cannot get their patient to use this portal there will be reduced subsidies for meaningful use requirements. Lead Management is extremely crucial when a company has invested in their online presence. It is vital that patient leads requesting contact online are responded to promptly. Our lead management software sends an instant response based on forms filled out on your site. It will also alert the practice, so a more personalized response can be made. It will track the turn around on this contact from the practice, to help improve response time and benefit user experience. It will also maintain contact with the potential buyer though a combination of customized emails & reminders to the practice for direct contact with the lead. Glacial knows that many practices work hard to obtain leads, but then never have a follow up process in place. MDprospects is that process. Not only will this help keep a lead engaged throughout the consultation and procedure process, our lead management software provides reports on how the leads are performing. This will allow an understanding of the ROI on marketing efforts. MDprospects is a great tool for maintaining lead engagement and it has proved vital to the successful growth of lead management for many practices nationwide.

9. Interactive Surveys, Tests and Forms

The usage of self-tests and custom intake forms have been in use for several years. Nowadays many forms are going interactive to enhance the user experience and not just be a dry sales intake form. Patients can now interact and get answers to questions. The more interactive your practice can be, the more impressive you will be to patients who are shopping for a new doctor. We’ve invested heavily in building web based interactive self tests running complex algorithms in 2014, and we will continue to do so in 2015, releasing a number of new additions to our self test suites in various medical sectors.

10. Content Marketing

We define content marketing as the process of creating and distributing relevant and valuable content to attract, acquire, and engage a clearly defined target market – with the dual objectives of converting prospects into customers, and retaining customers through increased loyalty. We believe that practices will learn that publication is only the first step in content marketing; and that the real value comes from strategic distribution, such as optimizing for search and mobile, building relationships with branded publications, and reaching out to influencers in your field. We believe some of the core content marketing techniques below will have the most significant shares in the world of medical content marketing in 2015:
  • Engagement tools
  • Optimizing content
  • Paid promotion
  • Personalization
  • Storytelling
  • Video

Conclusion

Change comes quickly in the world of medical website design. As a team, we are astounded as to how differently we build websites today compared to in 2001, and to the wealth of experience, and know-how we’ve acquired over the years. We’ll always strive to be on the cutting-edge of our sector, and also to educate our clients along the way so as to help them make the best and most informed decisions related to their medical websites in 2015.
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