Google Recognizing “Mobile-Friendly” Pages in Search Results


hand holding mobile phone

It’s no secret that mobile traffic is up significantly. After all, many of you are probably reading this very blog with some sort of mobile device. Even if you’re not, it’s probably within arm’s reach!

Google recently announced that they will start letting users know which pages in the search results appear to be mobile-friendly. It’s a useful feature that I think will really help users know which results to choose when doing a search.

According to Google, pages may be marked “mobile-friendly” if they avoid using technology such as Flash (which isn’t very friendly to mobile devices), has design and content elements that size appropriately for such devices (responsive design, anyone?) and they may even detect how far apart links are from each other.

At Geonetric, we’ve always believed that providing the user the best experience on whichever device they use is not only a good idea, but THE idea. These changes from Google, which will roll out slowly in the coming weeks, appear to be another great win for webmasters striving to provide all users a great experience.

To learn more and to see all the criteria for getting pages recognized as “mobile-friendly”, check out Google’s blog post.

Making the Move to a Responsive, Mobile-Friendly Healthcare Website

pella-regional-health-center-responsive-website-design

With the number of mobile-connected devices projected to exceed the world’s population by the end of 2014, it’s more important than ever to have a Web presence that can accommodate mobile users. And since 31% of cell phone owners, and 52% of smartphone owners, have used their phone to look up health or medical information, healthcare organizations need to make their online experience seamless regardless of what type of mobile device is trying to access their information.

Pella Regional Health Center wanted to ensure visitors had access to their entire site, not just a select subset. Enter responsive design. It enables organizations to build and maintain one site that adapts automatically to the capabilities of the device being used. Essentially future-proofing an organization’s website since it presents the best user experience possible whether the Web visitor is accessing the single site from a desktop, tablet, mobile device or even a mobile-enabled refrigerator.

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Making the Call to Action a Priority on Responsive Healthcare Websites

Abington Health Mobile

On your website, how do you decide where to place your most important content? On a desktop it’s fairly easy because we know people use the “T” pattern to skim content. If you are like a lot of our clients, you use side panels and place them on your pages accordingly. But what happens to those panels on a responsive site?

If you haven’t given this much thought – now would be a good time to start. Panels on sites using responsive design can fall to the very bottom of the page when a mobile device is used. And this can lessen the effectiveness of your calls to action.

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IOS 7 First Impressions

ios 7 passcode screen

Apple’s much-debated mobile operating system refresh has been in our hands for a few days. While there has been a lot of commentary about the new interface, it’s come mostly from hardcore early adopter-types. I’ve been curious about how more casual users would take to the new changes, so I did a quick poll of iOS users around the office to get their thoughts and first impressions. Here’s what I heard:

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Responsive Design is a Journey, Not a Destination

Highway with arrow, illustrating the responsive design journey

We’ve been talking about Responsive Design for a long time. In truth, Geonetric was one of the first healthcare Web firms to promote the benefits of this approach in our industry. With the explosion of new devices, form factors, and formats like Windows 8’s touchscreen computers and convertible laptop/tablets, it’s more important than ever to evolve our thinking from “the mobile Web” to a “Whole Web” philosophy.

The initial goal of Responsive Design was simply to deliver all of the content and functionality on our websites to the mobile audience. And it accomplished that. Adobe Flash® features went out the window. Mouse-over menus were outfitted with touchscreen friendly navigation support. And content was prioritized to keep the most important items visible as screens got smaller and smaller.

But now as designers gain more experience with Responsive Design, they’re not just adapting their design techniques. They’re also adapting their processes to deliver a better digital experience given the new demands of emerging platforms. The mobile first design approach – where you create a design for the mobile site before the desktop site – is an example of this.

Changing our processes requires us to rethink the solutions we deliver. This has certainly proven true as Responsive Design evolves beyond making more usable mobile sites to developing the whole site based on the mobile experience. I’ve heard a lot of hospital marketing executives expressing a desire to have their website “not look like a hospital site.” And let’s face it – hospital websites were starting to look a lot alike. It’s time for change.

The drive to create great mobile experiences has initiated a Web design renaissance. We think not just in the horizontal but also the vertical. Designing “above the fold” is an antiquated concept, and scrolling is no longer verboten as gesture supports – such as swiping and pinching – make it easier for visitors to find information below the fold. Designers need to embrace the new reality – a lack of the type of precision control in how their designs will look to any given user as they build sites that adapt.

The emergence of mobile isn’t an event or a change that happened very quickly. It’s a series of changes that have been happening and will continue to happen. That’s why it’s an exciting time to be working in the healthcare Web space. But, it’s also a risky time for organizations that are resting on their laurels and not being aggressive in keeping up with a changing Web!

To learn more about how healthcare website design is changing and explore some hospitals that are breaking the “hospital website design” mold, join us for our webinar, “Pushing Hospital Website Design” at 3:00 p.m. CT on June 20.

How Healthcare Marketers Can Improve the Mobile Experience

Cover of April 2 edition of Alert! magazine featuring responsive design

With the dramatic rise of mobile-enabled devices, healthcare marketers are looking for new ways to connect with mobile users. Stand-alone mobile sites and mobile apps just aren’t cutting it.

It’s time to consider a whole new approach to the mobile Web. One that is much more efficient for healthcare marketers to maintain and improves the mobile experience for visitors to your website.

It’s called responsive design.

Responsive design enables a website to automatically adjust to the device being used. Every site visitor has an optimal experience regardless of whether they are accessing the website with a Smartphone, tablet or on a desktop computer.

Geonetric’s Vice President Ben Dillon shares how Cone Health and Rush-Copley Medical Center leverage responsive design in his latest article “Connecting With Mobile Users: Responsive Design Offers a New Approach” which appeared in Issue 2, 2013 of the Healthcare Strategy Alert! published by the Forum for Healthcare Strategists.

Check out the article and see how responsive design helped these healthcare organizations meet their online goals.

Concord Hospital Launches New Responsive Design

Concord Hospital partnered with Geonetric to take their website to the next level. Concord Hospital wanted a site that would engage the community with enhanced functionality and content – built on a responsive platform the new site does just that. The Concord Hospital team jumped in with both feet and worked diligently to make sure the site would meet the needs of the hospital’s growing mobile market by providing an optimal viewing experience for all site visitors, no matter what device they are using to access the site.

In addition to promoting the hospital’s Centers of Excellence, the website takes advantage of VitalSite SmartPanels to cross promote events, providers and locations. This functionality provides the visitor with a quick link to providers and locations that are tied to a key service line. The new website also features the Healthwise health library, which provides health information, decision points and a symptom checker.

Congratulations on the launch of your new website Concord Hospital and welcome to the Geonetric family!

Concord Hospital's responsive design hospital website home page

Death of the Mobile Web

Photo of a finger swiping on a touch-enabled interfaceIt’s time to stop talking about mobile.

Sure, smartphone and tablets are increasingly becoming our go-to devices for browsing the Internet. The average Geonetric client has more than 20% visits to their website coming from mobile devices today and will likely clear the 25% level by mid-year.

So, why should we stop talking about it?

Convergence

We’ve had increasingly fuzzy categories in the mobile space for a while now. Phones are getting so large that they barely fit in your hand. A greater range of tablet sizes have made some “tablets” barely larger than some “phones.”

More than that, though, Windows 8 has hit the scene.

Windows 8 is the latest Microsoft operating system. While it’s similar to what you use today, it’s designed to natively support touchscreens. The result is an explosion of new devices on the market. Wander into your local Best Buy and look at the new computers and laptops. You can now buy a 27” touchscreen computer that you can pick up and put on the coffee table to flip through vacation photos – is that a tablet? My wife just purchased a new convertible laptop. It’s a 12” laptop that, with a flip of the screen turns into a large tablet. Or look at the heavily-marketed Microsoft Surface Pro which the folks in Redmond bill as “A laptop in tablet form.”

The numbers aren’t keeping up

Most of us these days are using Google Analytics to get our Web metrics. While GA is adapting to the quickly changing landscape, they’re clearly not keeping up with what’s important when it comes to the mobile landscape.

I mentioned earlier that one-in-five visits to our clients’ websites came from mobile devices. Last year, GA finally rolled out the ability to view traffic from “tablets” separately – an important bit of information. Your strategy might be different if your traffic comes primarily from iPads verse phones. It doesn’t, by the way. We’re typically seeing mobile traffic split about 4:1 phones to tablets. But I digress.

GA isn’t categorizing devices like the Microsoft Surface as tablets or any other form of mobile. Furthermore, it only reports other key information in specific scenarios (touchscreen support only for mobile) or not at all (do they have a mouse?).

So what does it all mean?

Going forward, we’re not going to be able to determine how many mobile-esque devices are really used to access our sites. From here on out, we’re undercounting.

But remember why we cared about this in the first place. The information isn’t merely academic. We wanted to know because our desktop-targeted websites just didn’t work on these new devices. We were building stand-alone microsites as a crutch to provide some limited access to our online presences for smartphones.

But that’s not the way serious websites deal with their mobile audience anymore. We use responsive design which, we all recall, helps insulate us from whatever new devices come in the future. At one-in-five visits (and we have some clients that are closer to half of visits), haven’t we reached that tipping point where there’s really a choice not to go with responsive sites?

So it’s time to stop talking about mobile and, from here on out, just refer to it as the Web.

The desktop-centric Web is dead. Long live the responsive Web.

Embrace the Web’s Fluidity with Responsive Design

Stylized computer with blocks flowing out from the monitor.

There’s so much change happening right now in Web design that I have visions of designers in therapy sessions.

“You’ve got to let things go, Bill! You have baggage and it’s holding you back,” the therapist quacks. “It’s time – move on. Responsive Web is here. It’s not Y2K anymore.”

“But, what about control?” I question. “I’m used to being in control. Isn’t responsive design trying to strip this from me?”

“It’s not about control, Bill. You need to revisit your Web design past,” he croons. “Remember, the Web is fluid and does not like to be contained.”

This is the mantra we all must embrace. The Web is fluid. It does not like to be contained.

Let’s Shed Some Baggage Together – Don’t Fear the Scroll

For years we thought all good content must be above the fold – anything of importance should be at the top of the page, visible on the monitor.

In the early days of the Web we were trained to fear the scroll. Why? Remember dial-up? Slow CPUs and primitive browsers? In thosedays, scrolling meant waiting for content to load. Chunk, chunk, grunt, flicker, stutter, grunt.

Today’s Web content can be viewed on dozens of devices – all with different screen sizes and aspect ratios. Today’s responsive Web pages do not have a fixed width or height. They respond – conform to the device they are being viewed on. As pages are viewed on narrower screens, they generally become longer. As well, swiping and pinching change the way we look at page limitations. Consumers are universally schooled in how to manipulate a page with these new gestures.

If we were to continue designing for “the fold” it begs the question, “where is the fold – and on what screen size?” Fast Web connections, CPUs and browsers (even on mobile) make scrolling a non-issue.

Let this one go. Breathe in. Breathe out.

To Understand Our Responsive Design Future We Look to Our Past

A mobile-first approach to Web design forces us to prioritize content so that it’s optimized for a small screen.

People tend to build out to their constraint. In other words, we fill the space we’re given. For example, a desktop Web experience is often deep and broad, much like a brochure – big photos, lots of content, and lots of pages. A mobile website is more like a billboard. It has the same underlying concept and aesthetic as the brochure, but we concentrate on the one thing. We only add content as the screen size allows for a broader view.

Ironically, as we build great mobile Web experiences, we are inherently revisiting our past. We are eliminating bandwidth. We are reducing clutter. We are embracing fluidity.

And we are becoming comfortable with things we can’t control. Which reminds me of this quote:

The control which designers know in the print medium, and often desire in the Web medium, is simply a function of the limitation of the printed page. We should embrace the fact that the Web doesn’t have the same constraints, and design for this flexibility. But first, we must ‘accept the ebb and flow of things.’

- John Allsopp, “A Dao of Web Design

Thank you Mr. Allsopp. Your statement is timeless and brings clarity.

The Web is fluid. It does not like to be contained.

Repeat.

Is Your Future Site Headed Toward Responsive or Mobile-Optimized?

SHSMD March/April 2013 Spectrum Newsletter featuring an article on mobile and responsive web designWondering what kind of mobile website you should build?

I’ve got some news for you. You already have a mobile site. Whether you think about it as mobile or not, the site your hospital has right now is being accessed by smartphones and tablets.

What kind of experience are those site visitors having?

If you’re not sure, it’s time to make mobile a priority. You have two main options for presenting online content to your growing mobile market. The first option is to create a mobile-optimized site that is separate from your main website. The second option is to have one website built using responsive design, which allows it to adapt to different screen sizes.

Both options are better than not having any mobile-optimized presence; but choosing one path for your mobile future is important.

Geonetric’s Vice President Ben Dillon gives you all the information you need to make this tough decision in his latest article “Choosing Your Mobile Future” which appeared in the March/April 2013 issue of Spectrum.

Ben goes into detail on the two options, explaining the advantages of each. He even showcases a great example of each – Methodist Medical Center of Illinois mobile-optimized site and Altru Health System’s responsive website.

So if you’re not sure how to choose your website’s mobile future, start reading!

Rush-Copley Medical Center Promotes Providers with Innovative New Website Design

Rush-Copley Medical Center’s new website design was strongly influenced by Rush-Copley’s  marketing goal to fill their physicians’ calendars with new patients. On the home page, Rush-Copley’s doctors’ are front and center – making it easy for patients to get to know them. And with strong calls to action, it’s easier than ever for site visitors to schedule an appointment.

Taking a nod from retail designs, Rush-Copley’s new homepage is broken into sections, allowing many topics to be presented while keeping the design clean and uncluttered. It takes advantage of the fact that 18.02% of Rush-Copley site visitors are accessing the site through smartphones and tablets. The layout encourages swiping and it is completely responsive – so it will reformat to look amazing on any device without panning and zooming.

We also greatly expanded Rush-Copley’s doctor profile pages and location profile pages. The doctor profiles include videos and articles by their physicians in addition to contact, location, patient testimonials, accepted insurance plans and other important information. The location pages include directions, videos, online bill pay buttons, in-office procedures, office forms, and much more.

Congratulations to Rush-Copley for aligning your new site design with your marketing goals.

Rush-Copley Medical Center's responsive design website home page

Are You Tracking Your Health?

mobile_monitoring_2013According to a new report from the Pew Internet & American Life Project, nearly seven in 10 Americans track a health indicator, such as weight or blood pressure.

As we look to the health system of the future, more self-management will be required, and capturing this information and sharing it with a caregiver will be critical for patient-centered medical home models. So seeing people track their health is a good sign. But 7 in 10? That seems out of step with my personal experience.

Let’s look at what Pew means here. From the Tracking for Health report, they found that people who track a health indicator track their weight, diet or exercise routine (60%), track other indicators like blood pressure, sleep or headaches (33%), or tracking health indicators for a friend or loved one (12%).

Furthermore, half of “trackers” chart progress “in their heads.” Only 34% put that information to paper and a spare 21% use technology (I know that doesn’t add to 100% – respondents could pick multiple answers).

So that 7 in 10 includes everything from diabetics with glucometers to weight watchers to anyone at the gym who knows how much weight they lost last week. It’s broad, but at some level more of us are paying attention than we might realize.

And I shouldn’t be so cynical. Respondents with more chronic conditions were much more likely to be tracking (no chronic conditions: 19%, 1 condition: 40%, 2+ conditions 62%), so we can assume that some of that tracking was for those chronic conditions. In addition, more than half of trackers say that tracking has affected their health or how they treat an illness or condition.

Techno-trackers

Let’s focus in on the 21% of technologically-engaged health trackers:

  • 8% use a medical device, like a glucose meter
  • 7% use an app or other tool on their mobile phone or device
  • 5% use a spreadsheet
  • 1% use a website or other online tool

Younger trackers are more likely to use an app (16% of 18-29 year-olds) but older users are more likely to track overall (41% of 65+). Older health trackers are also more likely to use a medical device in their tracking (14% of 50-64 group, 12% of 65+ group), but this is probably due to the chronic conditions that are more prevalent in these populations as much as age-related factors.

This tells me a few things. First, convenience matters. The ability to take the tracking tool with you seems to correlate with greater adoption rates as does having a device that does the tracking for you. Second, health consumers use the tools that their doctors give (or prescribe) to them.

Third, and perhaps more astounding, is that the growth of apps in this space must be very dramatic. We know that SmartPhone adoption has grown at a tremendous pace in the past several years. Couple that with the fact that use of mobile tools for tracking has nearly reached the level of tracking of medical devices (which we’ve had for a long time), and it appears that mobile tracking will be the most significant shifting point in this space.

Convergence of mobile and devices?

We’ve seen substantial growth in the number of connected health tracking devices in recent years. These range from internet-connected bathroom scales, to blood glucose meters that sync through apps on your mobile device, to internet-connected forks that help you manage overeating. In fact, this year’s Consumer Electronics Show dedicated two tracks to digital health.

Devices based in the home, like the bath scale, typically utilize Wi-Fi to sync up data. For devices on the go, however, the growing pool of SmartPhones provide a more reliable tool set to sync data, visualize the data and support self-management.

This allows devices to be smaller and more elegant. Consumers love this. For example, the Misfit Shine, a quarter-sized activity tracker recently raised eight times its goal in a crowd sourced funding campaign.

Coupling better devices and better tools will bring progress, but if these tools are then prescribed by doctors and made part of the care experience for patients, this could be an industry game changer.

One parting bit of data for the analytics geeks out there. Several Pew reports have been released recently. In addition to the Tracking For Health report, there’s also a new version of Pew’s internet healthcare tracking report, Health Online 2013 and, in November, a report on Mobile Health was released.

Let’s pull together a few stats across those reports:

pew_reports_ben_dillon

Building an Extraordinary Mobile App

I’ve weighed in before on when to use a mobile app rather than a mobile website. But once you choose the app route, how do you create something that consumers will actually use?

This was the question posed to a panel of application developers at the mHealth Summit. Their thoughts provide a great framework for anyone approaching the app market.

Start Out by Solving a Problem

Many apps fail right off the bat because they are based on a clever idea that just doesn’t appeal to the consumer. Don’t build first and then try to find a market for the app! A better approach is to find a distinct pain point for a group of people and then solve that problem with the app.

One way to find a need for a consumer-focused app is to mirror the patient’s journey with their health challenges. Condition-centric apps tend to deliver more value after diagnosis, educating consumers about their condition, connecting them with a support community, encouraging lifestyle change and helping with the long-term management of their disease.

Direct to Consumer is Really Tough

Consumers are fickle. They don’t download many apps. They don’t try many that they do download. Most of those are only used once or twice and then they’re abandoned or deleted.

As a developer, the panel encouraged building apps with the intent of selling to companies or provider organizations that will then take it to consumers rather than marketing to consumers directly.

Providers, on the other hand, have the opportunity to integrate apps into the work they already do with patients and physicians can prescribe it to patients.

Design the Experience Carefully

The panel encouraged the audience to focus their apps on the things they truly need to do and do those things well. In other words, be very focused when it comes to selecting features.

Design, too, is a major consideration. Be conscious of the way that you use space, time and effort. Follow a philosophy of “more signal, less noise.” Many apps use up their most valuable screen real estate with elaborate filter criteria rather than valuable content and information.

The most important information should also be the most obvious. Don’t give everything the same weight. To accomplish this, build the experience around the information that you’re presenting, not around navigation. The most important detail should be brought to the front and the context should be obvious from its presentation.

An EMR example was used to illustrate this idea. In a typical EMR, patient identifying information might be in small print in the application title bar, meaningful information is buried under levels of navigation, and organized by episodes of care.

Apps are a Commitment

This type of development can be expensive.  Many of theapps discussed by the panel cost upwards of $100k to build.  Why the big price tag? Well, the app market is complicated with lots of operating systems and devices to consider. Add in the ongoing commitment of supporting new devices and a stream of OS updates and it end ups being a significant investment.

The Future of Apps

Apps clearly have a role to play in the mobile landscape, but it’s important to understand where they fit.  To learn more about the future of mobile, download our free white paper.

Intranet in Your Pocket?

IImage of a woman surfing the intranet on her smartphone‘m at the mHealth Summit outside of Washington D.C. learning about the emerging role that mobile technology is playing in healthcare delivery. The numbers are the ones we’ve heard over and over again – growing smartphone and tablet adoption, faster data plans and pervasive Wi-Fi.

Most of my focus relates to the ways in which consumers use mobile technology and the opportunities mobile provides for healthcare organizations to connect with consumers.

In contrast, much of the mHealth Summit discussion revolves around how clinicians and staff use mobile devices. A recent study from Manhattan Research indicates that large numbers of clinical professionals are using smartphones during patient consultations.

This BYOD (Bring Your Own Device) world presents an opportunity to change the way we communicate within our organizations, and yet very few healthcare organizations have a mobile-optimized intranet.

One of the challenges that regularly pops up in intranet discussions is one of access. Many of our hospital employees don’t sit in front of a computer most of the day. However, they do have smartphones in their pocket which would be an ideal way to deliver intranet communications.

There are a few steps to make this work. For starters, intranets need to be made accessible via mobile devices, the authentication process needs to be streamlined, and most importantly, intranets need to apply responsive design concepts to ensure they work smoothly on all devices.

These are little more than speed bumps on the road to new opportunities.

Watch our webinar to look more deeply at how to enhance communications with your employees and staff through your intranet.