Website design standards? What the heck are those? Who determines them and how do they impact my practice website?
I don’t expect Optometrists to be expert web developers or coders, but there are some basic aspects of a website you need to consider when looking at your online presence. We are all consumers at heart and we all appreciate a good user experience when we travel around the web – our own practice websites should be no different.
Here are the top 7 website design aspects you need to consider for 2017.
We’ve been saying it for years now but a mobile friendly design that works across all devices is still this years number one factor. Over 65% of traffic to Optometry websites comes from mobile devices and as of March 2015, Google began actively punishing non-responsive websites moving them lower in search rankings, and positively ranking websites that are mobile friendly. To test your website use Google’s mobile testing tool.
2. SEO (Search Engine Optimization):
This helps search engines know what your website is all about, which helps your all important search ranking. Things like keywords in content, images with titles and descriptions and your proper locality information (name, address and phone number) – all are important factors to keep in mind.
3. Content Management System:
CMS’s like WordPress, Drupal etc. are powerful content publishing tools that allow you to quickly update and add content to your website without being beholden to your web designer. At the very least you should be able to add practice news or write a blog post on relevant content on your own. Google looks to see how often a website is updated and this is the easiest way to do that. If you cannot easily add content to your own website I suggest you have a serious conversation with your website designer / host.
Who has access to your website? Who is responsible for the security of your website? Is it being updated frequently? Is it being backed up? Websites are being hacked and taking down all the time, you should talk to your web host to see what safeguards are in place in case disaster strikes.
In 2015 it was mobile responsiveness, in 2016 it was speed and in 2017 – well get to that in a second! Speed matters, Google rewards faster sites with higher search results. According to Kissmetrics, nearly half of web users expect a site to load in 2 seconds or less, and they tend to abandon a site that isn’t loaded within 3 seconds. GTmetrix has a great tool that will analyze your site. It provides you with a ton of data but one number you should pay attention to is how long the homepage takes to load, see screen shot below.
Before your eyes glaze over, 2017 is the year that Google wants the web to become more secure. Https:// provides the little green secure lock icon in the top left corner of your browser bar (in Google Chrome), see screenshot below. Google will once again reward those that make their site secure and punish those that don’t. Talk to your web host to see if they can convert your site to this new standard. A few years ago you had to pay an annual fee for this service but there are now free / opensource options available such as Let’s Encrypt
7. A Clear Call To Action:
People visit your site for some pretty basic reasons such as your hours, phone number and location. Make sure these elements are easily found on each and every page of your site. Try and position a click to call or request appointment button in a prominent place. The site below has a “sticky” button that does not move as the user scrolls, making it easy to request a consultation. Click here to see it in action.
In summary, user expectations and behavior are constantly changing. As small business owners with a web presence it is our job to keep pace with that. It doesn’t mean that you need a new website each and every year, far from it. All of the above items can be added to your existing site quite easily. I encourage you to reach out to your web designer to discuss these items and look at those which can easily be added. Back in the day, the outside of your practice was super important in attracting new patients, but your website is your new storefront and it needs the same care and attention that the outside of your practice does.
Dr. Jeff Goodhew, OD is co-editor in chief for Canadian Eye Care Business Review, he is also part owner of Abbey Eye Care in Oakville, ON. He has special interest in web design and digital marketing.