5 Ways to Make Hospital Websites Less Ugly

More than ever before, patients are using the web to get the information they need to make important health decisions—yet most hospital websites look about 10 years out of date.

And it isn’t just a matter of aesthetics. Ugly websites are also hard to use, making it difficult for patients to get the information they need—and making it less likely they’ll choose your institution for their care.

Read on to learn the top 5 reasons medical websites are ugly and how to fix them.

1) Ban the Blue

Ban the BlueI’m not sure how blue got associated with healthcare but it’s a color that you see everywhere—not only on websites, but on logos, letterhead, brochures and every other piece of branded material put out by hospitals.

But blue isn’t just boring. It’s also cold, impersonal and off-putting—common complaints that patients have about the healthcare system.

Hospitals need to step away from the blue and warm up their color palettes to make websites more inviting. New York-Presbyterian Hospital is one of the few places that’s bucking the trend, using reds, greens and golds to create a hospital website that feels warm and welcoming.

2) Say No to Stock Photos

providersSee that picture on the right? If you have it or anything like it on your website, you have a problem.

You should always use pictures of real people who are connected to your institution—especially patients. No, HIPAA isn’t an excuse to avoid using patient photos.

It can be a pain to get HIPAA releases, but real stories from real patients are some of the most compelling content you can put on your hospital website.

3) Clear the Clutter

Massachusetts General Hospital Home Page
Massachusetts General Hospital Home Page

Current web trends favor simple, clean designs stripped of all superfluous and unnecessary design elements.

But most hospital websites are amazingly cluttered—for example, Massachusetts General Hospital has 12 drop down menu options and more than 20 links on the homepage alone! New visitors are likely to end up tearing their hair in frustration, bewildered by too many options and no clear way to navigate through the site.

Instead of endless menus, try placing a callout box on your homepage that reads “New to Our Site? Start Here” with a link to a quiz that can help visitors narrow down the information they’re looking for.

Another option for making your site easier to navigate: have a pop-up box offering live chat support to help visitors get what they want.

4) Less Text, More Video

A 2012 Google study found that 1 in 8 patients watched videos before choosing a hospital for their care, with 43 percent viewing patient testimonials and 32 percent viewing patient-generated content. What’s more, 53 percent of patients who didn’t watch hospital videos didn’t know they existed (probably because the site is too cluttered…see above).

Video doesn’t have to be slick or expensive to be effective. The video below, produced by New York-Presbyterian Hospital, features a service dog with a GoPro strapped to her back. Low-tech, yet has a powerful impact.

5) Make it Mobile

When Google published its hospital report in 2012, roughly 1/3 of patients used tablets or mobile devices on a daily basis to research hospitals and/or to book appointments. Three years later, we have to assume that number has doubled or tripled. And yet there are still major research hospitals that don’t have a mobile responsive site! What’s more, most hospital mobile sites are ugly and difficult to use.

Given that more than 30 percent of consumers are “mobile only” users, hospitals need to be investing as much into mobile design as they do into desktop sites (or, er, invest more given how they’ve neglected desktop development).

One hospital that does it right is Brigham and Women’s. It features easy to read and clearly labeled icons, with a link to patient and visitor information front and center. Also note the prominent link to video (35 percent of mobile users watch video as compared with 10 percent of desktop users).

About Alisa

I'm a writer, blogger and social media specialist with nearly 15 years experience in medical and science writing for organizations that include Caltech and UCLA, as well as non-profit fundraising and political organizing. I specialize in making complex information clear and compelling. Learn more about my work here