Gray Walls of Text
No doubt, you’ve visited many a website and confronted the typical ‘gray wall of text’ that passes for content on most pages. Encountering that is like looking for sunshine and walking into a fog bank. Only those who desperately need the information they hope to find will stick around. The simple fact that they’re not always rewarded speeds up the tendency to bounce—abandon your website for the next one on the list. Yes, that’s a threat, but it’s also an opportunity for you to make improvements that can keep current users happy and appeal to new ones.
Social and Mobile Affect Healthcare Websites
While great content has always been the key to great websites, two factors demand a change in thinking about our intended audiences and how to reach them: the rise of social media and the technology shift to mobile devices for Internet connection. As marketers and healthcare professionals, we must keep these factors in mind and:
- Put ourselves in the minds of our site visitors and patients
- Get past marketing speak and provide helpful details
- Revise current website copy to emphasize benefits users receive from our services
- Streamline content and quickly get to the point
- Create strong calls to action that focus on users and benefits
Social Media Shifts the Focus
The rise of social media changed marketing from push (organization outward) to pull (customer chooses whether to connect). In fact, this customer-centered change actually means that users are the ones who decide the value of your marketing message, and, by extension, the value of your organization, services and products.
These days, the customer view is: “I’ll choose when to connect with you and I’ll probably do so only if I really like something you say or do. Whether I like you or not, I’ll share my thoughts and feelings about you with everyone I know.” This peer-to-peer sharing aspect of social media may have you running scared—what with reviews and recommendations for healthcare providers now showing up on sites like Yelp, Twitter, Facebook and Angie’s List. But there’s no reason to panic. Turn these social network connections to your advantage. Stop talking about yourself and start talking about your customers.
A list of products and services—that gray wall of text outlining your organization’s features and specifications—is no longer enough to give you credibility online. When you focus your website content on users’ needs and the benefits they receive from your products and services, you’ll win over the skeptics, who will then share their love for you with their friends and families. Good word-of-mouth is marketing gold.
Mobile Devices Shift the Access
If social media shifted the focus to users, the innovations of mobile devices changed the access to information. We’re no longer tied to our massive desktop screens or wired Internet connections. As newly mobile users, we demand 24/7 access to all the information we can think of—from any location and any device. That means healthcare websites must deliver the goods to stay in the game.
Behind the technology scenes, website design reinvented itself as “responsive” to accommodate the continually changing and unpredictably evolving mobile devices showing up in consumers’ hands. The best websites now scale to fit the screen you’re holding, all without your conscious involvement. Such amazing tech wizardry comes with an impact for online marketers. In many ways, if your healthcare website is not responsive, you’re all but invisible to the increasing number of mobile users.
Responsive design and mobile devices also demand a shift in our approach to website content. On one hand, these changes can help us with content governance—those methods we use to keep content fresh and up-to-date. That’s because responsive sites need only one code base and a single content repository to offer access to all our content all the time. On the other hand, content must render well and be meaningful on any device. That requires us to be more thoughtful about our website content from the get-go. We must now make decisions about the priority for placement of key elements and messages when screen sizes change so users always get quick access to the most important items.
Focusing Content on Users & Benefits Addresses Both Issues
Although we know talking about ourselves and our accomplishments is the easy thing to do, that approach won’t serve us well as we move into the world of social and mobile. Instead, our best work will happen and we’ll deliver the greatest value when we put ourselves in the minds of our site visitors.
As content creators, we’ll also enjoy the opportunity to take a fresh look at our organizations, services and products as we think about making content engaging, intriguing, interesting, meaningful and helpful. No one has time to wade through paragraphs of filler, fluff or marketing-speak. Users will reward us with their attention when we streamline what we say, cut to the chase and get to the point. When we create clear calls to action, we help visitors quickly and accurately complete the tasks they came to our sites to do. Remember: Say only what you need to say in as many words as necessary but as few words as possible.
Focusing healthcare website content on users and benefits also gets everyone thinking about top priority content and how content and design work together for the best user experience. Remember: the website is not your electronic filing cabinet. Just because you can create/publish/file doesn’t mean you should. Consider: If X piece of content isn’t necessary for a top-notch mobile experience, is it really necessary for desktop users? Brainstorm ways your organizational goals can match your users’ priorities and you’ll succeed. Make your entire site available on any platform at any time; don’t be a content gatekeeper. Share your information freely and your users will love you for it.
Let’s Get Started!
Find out more about improving healthcare website content by putting users and benefits first. Join us for a webinar—Focusing Healthcare Content on Users & Benefits—at 3 p.m. CT on September 18, 2014.