As a healthcare writer and parent of three kids, I’ve visited more children’s hospital websites than the average Joe. There’s just so much to see and do—watch an inspiring patient video, find a specialist close to home, get to know a new client, research a rare medical condition, read a physician bio… it’s amazing what you can learn about a place with a few clicks of your mouse.
That said, not all children’s hospital websites are created equal—far from it. Some seem to be suffering from neglect, others from an excess of stock photography and still others from overly clinical language.
Thankfully, those sites are more the exception than the rule. Here at WriterGirl, we have our eye on the best pediatric websites. These standouts incorporate some or all of these six best practices:
- Easy navigation
- Family-first communication
- Clean layout with great photography
- Mobile-friendly design
- Prominent “connect with us” options
We’ll take a look at each of these features—and some of the children’s hospital websites that utilize them best. Stay tuned until the end, where we’ll highlight some website “don’ts”— without naming names, of course.
1. Easy navigation
Within a few seconds of loading your hospital website, visitors should be able to find the information and resources they need. The best pediatric websites make a visitor’s “next click” obvious, without a lot of scrolling.
Rady Children’s Hospital of San Diego does this well. The top section of the landing page features a photo, a tagline and tabs representing six oft-visited pages:
- Programs and services
- Find a doctor
- About us
- Health and safety
Some of the tabs repeat multiple times on the landing page for those who may have missed them the first (or second or third) time.
Other sites that provide easy navigation include WVU Medicine Children’s, whose landing page includes a “for your convenience” feature with nine tabs. Each one has a unique icon and leads to more information. UPMC Children’s Hospital of Pittsburgh does something similar, with can’t-miss icons stacked vertically in the landing page’s top corner.
C.S. Mott Children’s Hospital speaks directly to users on its landing page, with an “I want to…” box. With one click visitors can:
- Research treatment options
- Make an appointment
- Get directions
- Log on to the health record portal
Easy navigation is a hallmark of a great pediatric website. It communicates an understanding of the user experience and a respect for visitors’ time and preferences. If you aren’t sure what your visitors are looking for when they get to your site, it might be time to pull together a focus group.
2. Family-first communication
The best pediatric websites put families first. Rather than touting the hospital’s accolades and awards on multiple pages, the site prioritizes content based on users’ needs. Children’s Medical Center Dallas provides a good example of this approach. Landing page features appear in this order, from the top:
- Icons with links to frequently-visited pages (Find a Doctor, Our Services, etc.),
- A coronavirus update
- Stories about cutting-edge treatments
- A “Patient Experience” feature
- Hospital awards
- A video about the organization’s history
- News articles
Top-level features appeal to the highest percentage of visitors. When users get what they need right away, they just might take the time to scroll down for more.
Patient-friendly content is another crucial element of family-first communication. The information on your website should be understandable to a general audience. We’re proud of the work we do for Cincinnati Children’s, a client that requires an eighth-grade reading level for all consumer-facing web content. That’s not easy to achieve when you’re writing about complex topics like endoscopic retrograde cholangiopancreatectomy. But it is possible!
Sidenote: the Cincinnati Children’s site features an extensive library of “health topics” describing hundreds of pediatric conditions. Housing this valuable information on the site means visitors don’t have to navigate away to other websites for the resources they need.
Family-first communication is for everyone, not just English speakers. We’re impressed by Boston Children’s Hospital’s commitment to reaching non-English speakers. Click on the site’s “International Visitors” tab, and you’ll find extensive content in four different languages, including Spanish, Chinese and Arabic.
3. Clean layouts, great photography
Good design is just as vital as high-quality content. The most inviting pediatric websites have clean, friendly layouts with appealing photography. Check out the Ann & Robert H. Lurie Children’s Hospital of Chicago website and marvel at its uncluttered style!
With hundreds of pages to fill, most websites rely on stock photography for at least some of their design needs. It’s important to balance that with photos of actual patients, parents and providers — Phoenix Children’s does this well.
4. Mobile-friendly design
According to some studies, most web visitors are likely to begin on a mobile phone, not a laptop. Make sure to optimize your site for the small screen with:
- Simplified navigation and menus
- Buttons that visitors can select with an index finger, not a pinkie
- Hyperlinked phone numbers for appointment scheduling
- Concise headlines and text blocks
Most pediatric hospitals get this right—we like Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia’s mobile site, with its simplified layout and option to load more stories (rather than scroll endlessly). The mobile site for Arnold Palmer Hospital for Children is a pleasure to visit as well, with a colorful, concise landing page and easy-to-find links.
It’s safe to say that most people who visit pediatric websites are experiencing some level of distress. Maybe they’re looking for a rare disease specialist. Or trying to arrange a payment plan for an unexpected bill. Or aren’t sure what to bring with them to their child’s appointment tomorrow. These visitors know they are looking for information. What they may not realize is that they are looking for empathy, too.
Empathy says to families:
- We care about you
- We understand and share your feelings
- We will treat you and your child with respect
Your site can convey empathy through tone, word choices, pictures, logos, quotes and taglines. One of our favorite taglines is from Intermountain Primary Children’s: “The Child First and Always.” That just makes you feel good.
6. Highly visible ‘connect with us’ options
An excellent child health website invites conversation. Visitors know to find the “contact us” at the bottom of your landing page. What options will they have when they arrive? University Hospitals Rainbow Babies & Children’s nails it with:
- Information about the hospital’s “UH NOW” app
- Phone numbers for appointments, referrals and general info
- A link to an extensive “Contact Us” page
- Links to social media accounts for the hospital’s Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, Instagram and LinkedIn accounts
- A sign-up form for the hospital’s e-newsletter
A phone number to one external organization: The National Suicide Prevention Lifeline. Now, that’s empathy.
What not to do on your pediatric website
Even the best pediatric websites have their shortcomings. Here are few pitfalls your organization should avoid:
- Lack of consistency: Having a high-impact landing page is essential, but internal pages need to follow suit. Be sure all your pages are on brand and share the same design sensibility.
- Oversized photos: We don’t need to see that toddler’s pores!
- A corporate look: Pediatric websites should incorporate fun elements—after all, kids are your organization’s reason for being. You can’t go wrong with a giant, stethoscope-wearing teddy bear or kids in superhero costumes.
- COVID-19 regulations that fill the first screen: The information is vitally important, but a banner at the top will suffice.
- Pop-ups (“can I help you?”) that don’t disappear when you scroll.
If your pediatric website is missing the mark, it’s never too late to tweak, refine, finesse or revamp it. Even small changes can make a big difference in how successfully your site attracts visitors and keeps them coming back again and again.
Need a website content partner? With WriterGirl, you’ll get a reliable content partner who is 100% dedicated to healthcare. Our team of writers, editors and strategists are ready to jump in, so you don’t have to tackle your marketing goals alone. Reach out any time to learn more.