Hospitals and health systems are continually looking for ways to make their websites more engaging. I’ve been talking with Web managers over the past few months through our Ask Ben consultations and the goal of creating a more engaging site is the most recurrent theme. Why?
Online consumers have always been fickle, but their attention span is shrinking. According to an annual report into Web habits by Jakob Nielsen, “users want simply to reach a site quickly, complete a task and leave.” The time they spend on sites is decreasing, and bounce rates (the percent of site visitors who depart after viewing a single page) are increasing.
Organizations want more than just a “click by” visit. So, they are continually trying engage online visitors and provide the information they seek. In fact, many organizations measure the success of their website in terms of visitor engagement.
But according to analytics guru Avinash Kaushik, measuring engagement is a long-standing quest on the Web. He says that’s because “it is not really a metric, it is an excuse…an excuse for an unwillingness to sit down and identify why a site exists.”
In other words, organizations are trying to use their websites to generate value in a way that’s both meaningful and measurable. But they’re doing this without a strategy and a clear definition of how to connect with visitors.
There are many ways you can engage consumers on your site. The most effective way is to add functionality that allows consumers to complete tasks. If consumers have to leave the website to engage with the organization – for example, place a phone call to schedule an appointment or pay a bill – they will. And this will make it even more difficult to measure the success of the website.
Earlier this year, we conducted a survey to measure the functionality hospitals currently have on their site and plan to add to their sites. Most sites have the traditional capabilities that offer information about the organization (i.e., maps, doctors, locations, jobs, classes). (Figure 1) However, much of the “up and coming” features (Figure 2) focus on functionality that engages visitors. Healthcare sites are adding more self-service options to help consumers complete transactions (i.e., donations, bill pay, credit card processing) or interact with the organization (i.e., portal technology, secure messaging, prescription refills).
The leap from nebulous engagement to far more concrete value comes down to having site functionality.