Think about the last time a website really frustrated you — maybe that time you were trying to book a flight or buy a new pair of shoes and the experience was so frustrating you bailed and went to a competitor. That was user experience (UX) gone wrong, and in healthcare, the stakes are a lot higher.

Poor UX in other verticals might mean an abandoned cart, but in healthcare it means lost opportunity to turn your website visitors into scheduled patients and build those lifelong relationships with healthcare consumers that make a real difference.

That said, the general principles of UX apply to healthcare too. Especially when you think of how healthcare consumers are being conditioned by their daily experiences in other spaces. To dig a little deeper into that, here's a look into some of the fundamental elements of effective UX.

Understanding Behavior
Design is all about catering to human behavior, which should be the root of your UX. Healthcare marketers should be working with and listening to your patients through things like user interviews, customer journey maps, and task analyses to make sure your site and platform experiences always align with patient behavior. This is especially important as consumer preferences change over time. Focusing on patients (over just building a beautiful website) will help you build a web presence that generates leads and balances form and function. It'll also make future changes less labor intensive.

Being Strategic
The best UX hits the sweet spot between your consumers' needs and behaviors and your business goals. One of the best ways to strike that balance is by incorporating your marketing personas when building out your UX strategy — websites that use marketing personas are two to five times more effective, and on top of that, are generally easier for consumers to use.

That might be challenging if you've got physicians and administrators who have a lot of pull, but in the age of patient-centered initiatives, even the decisions they make are consumer-focused, so it makes sense that a website should follow that same principle.

Keeping Things Usable
Not too many years ago, healthcare websites were basically really fancy fliers. These days though, the advent of patient portal software, sophisticated content marketing, and even new complexities in healthcare itself has changed the concept of usability.

Today, consumers use your site to comb through physician directories, navigate your multiple locations, pay bills, research services, and even access their personal medical records. Consumers aren't just stopping by your site for quick information, they're using it to solve problems. That means your site needs to offer a smooth experience to all your visitors regardless of age, disability, or impairment, and empower them to be active participants in their healthcare experience.

UX Best Practices You Might be Missing
You're going to be developing your own standards that are particular to healthcare and your organizational needs, but it can be helpful to understand a few best practices from the general UX world.

  • Invest in responsiveness: People are accessing your site via mobile, tablet, and desktop, and if you want them to avoid going to the hospital down the street or putting off that procedure for another month, your site needs to be built to adjust.
  • Listen to Your Users: This is where the right healthcare CRM can be really powerful. Your site visitors have opinions and behaviors that translate to valuable UX optimization insight. Giving them even the simple features they want like live chat or a simplified physician directory can translate directly into more visits and higher revenue for your facility.
  • Act on CTAs: Think calls-to-action are just for information services and e-commerce? Think again. Your visitors live with CTA buttons and words every day. Make sure your site melds seamlessly with the UX world they're accustomed to by making sure their action cues are at least similar to what they experience everywhere else.
  • Work in White Space: We know — you've got a LOT of information to get across to your visitors, but remember that you're trying to keep their attention. White space has been shown to improve visitor attention span by as much as 20 percent. Plus, it's the norm for most sites. Don't hesitate to use navigational cues to guide different users through experiences instead of trying to get everything in front of them at one time.

UX is Different in Healthcare
Getting the full benefit from a well-designed hospital website means not just understanding UX, but also getting a solid grasp on what makes the healthcare web experience different.

First off, remember your strategy. Hospitals offer complex, life-changing services that play a different role in consumer lives than say, cell phone service. That means you have an opportunity to use UX elements differently. For example, “soft" conversions like newsletter signups and follows on social media can become a front-line tactic in bumping up community health event attendance or increasing service line awareness.

We touched on it earlier, but your personas are critical. Focusing them on a service line or procedure can be very effective, so don't forget to look deeply into complicating factors like age. Your most health-literate populations (think seniors) are probably also your most web-illiterate and might need a very different approach to UX than a Millenial who's just frustrated that they can't make an appointment easily online.

What's most important though, is remembering to center the patient experience. Consumers come to you with problems that can be much more difficult to pin down than booking a car. Empathy for the challenges of navigating the healthcare system and decision-making process will be powerful tools in drawing clear outlines of the problems your website helps users address.

That empathy is also the first step to building a hospital website that really performs and helps you meet (and exceed) all your healthcare consumers' expectations. The next step? Approaching your redesign from the right perspective. This white paper will get you started.