The new year seems to bring on this urge to clear out and start fresh. I’ve never been a fan of resolutions, but something about January 1 always drives me to tidy up the clutter, whether it’s at my home office desk, my closet or that giant stack of gardening supplies in the back yard.
That urge to de-clutter also extends to the digital life — computer files, old blog posts and yes, websites.
A new year is a great time to audit your existing website and consider a revamp or redesign. It’s a chance to put your best digital foot forward and create a better user experience for your potential patients and customers.
With many of our colleagues and clients starting (or continuing) website refreshes this year, we took a look at the 2021 healthcare website trends that seem to be making a mark in the industry. Here’s what we found.
1. Less encyclopedic content
It appears the days of listing condition definitions and procedure descriptions are on their way out. One of the biggest 2021 healthcare website trends we’re seeing is content that focuses on the patient experience.
Keep in mind that you may still need a list of conditions or procedures for search engine optimization (SEO). That’s why it’s crucial to collaborate with your digital marketing team on the search terms you’re targeting for each page. But once the patient or customer arrives on that page, make sure they’re met with empathy and compassion — not an encyclopedia of medical terms. Instead, try to:
- Build trust with your audience by explaining how you support patients.
- Show your compassionate care by including photos of your doctors in your clinic or hospital, rather than stock images.
- Connect with patients by using plain language that’s easy to understand, not medical jargon. If you need to use a complex word, make sure you explain it.
- Reduce fears and anxieties by walking through the treatment process and what patients can expect.
If you have existing definitions for conditions or procedures, consider creating a health library for this content. We’ve seen many health systems catalog this information in a separate section of the website where patients can search for more detailed descriptions if they need it.
2. More empathy in voice and tone
After 2020, leading with a compassionate, caring tone on your website content is crucial, especially in our post-COVID-19 world. That’s why empathy is one of our top 2021 healthcare website trends.
Your marketing and content strategy should consider the “COVID-19 trauma” most individuals have experienced. Try sounding less clinical and more personal. And while you don’t want to sugar-coat certain conditions and treatments, consider using more positive language in your copy.
3. Differentiators are front-and-center
There’s no shame in looking to your competitors for ideas when you’re revamping your website — we all do it! And while you should pay attention to what their website does have, it’s just as important to note what it doesn’t have. What does your organization offer that your competitor doesn’t?
Don’t be afraid to call out differentiators in your new website content — we certainly see this more among our clients. Ultimately, these differentiators may be what pushes a patient to schedule an appointment.
Last year, I spoke with a doctor for a website project who, I think, underlined this concept perfectly.
The doctor explained how today’s internet-savvy patients already know the condition they have. They may even know the treatment they need. The patient has likely spent hours researching on the web, but now they need to figure out where they should get treatment.
If something about your organization stands out — a care approach, a unique treatment or a new facility — highlight that. It’s more powerful than a detailed description of a surgical procedure and will give you a leg-up over the competition.
4. Short and sweet content
We’ve seen many healthcare websites tighten up their word counts and step away from detailed web pages. Instead, they’re highlighting critical information or differentiators and making use of bullet lists and multiple sub-headings.
Yes, this approach appeals to that shortened attention span we often hear about. But what’s more, your potential patients are looking for fast answers. If they need treatment, they don’t want to wade through large blocks of text.
Keep in mind that short-and-sweet webpages also lend themselves well to mobile devices. This leads us to the next trend…
5. Even more mobile-first design
In November 2020, half of all web traffic worldwide came from mobile devices. That means many of your potential patients are likely interacting with your website from a phone or tablet (check your Google Analytics data to be sure).
Plus, a mobile-friendly website can help your search rankings.
Aside from shortened content, here are a few other mobile-first trends we’ve seen more of in recent months:
- Simplified navigation and menus
- Large call-to-action buttons that are easy to click on a phone
- Hyperlinked phone numbers for appointment scheduling or nurse lines, making it easy to click and call on a mobile phone
- More app development, especially for specific patient populations
6. Global vs. local content challenges
Healthcare mergers and acquisitions are becoming more common, even with the COVID-19 pandemic. In fact, merger and acquisition activity increased in the third quarter of 2020.
What does this have to do with 2021 healthcare website trends? It means we’re seeing more marketing teams face challenges with managing website content for multiple hospitals in different regions. In some cases, they’re looking for a way to integrate hundreds or thousands of webpages — all without sacrificing the user journey.
One trend we’ve seen in this area is for a newly merged health system to establish global pages, which can speak broadly about services and care. Then, they create separate pages for care sites or hospitals that can drill down into differentiators and specific services. It’s a balance of showing breadth and depth while maintaining a local feel that connects with your community.
The biggest challenge with this approach is to make sure the voice and tone stay consistent throughout every piece of content. But a solid messaging framework and brand guide can help make that happen.
Other trends we’d like to see grow
While we’ve seen some exciting website trends in the healthcare space, a few others that we’d like to see rise to the top this year are:
- Usability testing – Whether it’s an internal team or a focus group of patients, test how well your website works. How easy is it to find a doctor or make an appointment? Once your site is live, use heat maps to track the user journey and find trouble spots.
- Patient feedback – Does your organization have a patient advisory council? If yes, consider going to them before launching your website project. Get their feedback on your current website and changes they’d like to see. After all, they’re the perfect focus group for your potential website visitor.
- Accessibility – Website accessibility has been gaining traction in recent years, but there’s more work to be done. We’d like to see it considered earlier on in the website redesign process and content creation. Ultimately, it will make your organization more inclusive and broaden the pool of potential customers.
After what was undoubtedly a challenging year for healthcare, we’re feeling optimistic about what 2021 has in store. Whether it’s a total overhaul or just a content refresh, we’re excited to see the ways our colleagues and clients are improving the web experience for their patients.
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