A modern website has to walk a very fine line. It has to be visually appealing without sacrificing an intuitive interface. It has to lead your potential clients to the right pages, but it can’t be demanding and overbearing. It has to provide all the information a visitor wants, but it has to do it without long-winded explanations and huge text blocks. And it has to do all of that just as effectively on a phone as it does a giant computer monitor.
When you take a more structured approach to your website, you can create a powerful marketing tool that will benefit your optimization strategy.
When it comes right down to it, though, veterinary websites are more than just marketing tools. This is how you will start to build trust from the instant someone finds you online. People want the very best care for their beloved pets, and if they see that you haven’t cared to update your homepage since 2001, they are very likely not going to trust you with the health of their furrier family members.
The Foundations of a Quality Website
While every clinic is different, most all veterinary website design should focus on some important elements. These are the characteristics that make up the foundation of a useful and optimized online customer experience.
- The appearance – You’ve literally only got seconds to impress someone with this.
- The content – The things you say about your clinic need to be clear and direct.
- The ease of use – There should be a minimal number of clicks between arriving on your site and being able to take an action.
- The navigation – New and returning customers need to be able to poke around quickly and easily.
- The call to action – Your site should tell a visitor what they can do here and, more importantly, why they should do it.
Optimizing the Decision-Making Process
Getting the most out of your website is more than a sheer mechanical process. It’s more than “this content” + “those pages” + “that kind of button” = “countless new patients”. It’s important to understand that a website is about making connections with pet owners in the local area and giving them a reason to choose you over the other clinics.
Those kinds of decisions aren’t always based on the words you use, but the impressions and emotions you create. Final decisions – especially those that involve a favorite pet – are often based on an emotional response. We’re not talking about showing lots of pictures of puppy-dog eyes and cats doing silly things. An emotional response could be a reaction to the difficulty of navigating the site, or being impressed by the modern appearance and professionalism of the site.
If you can create this kind of emotional response, it can lead to quicker actions. Your potential clients will be more likely to click through to the contact page or learn more about you.
But only if your website meets their expectations.
Veterinary Website Blueprint
Website trends change all the time, but the most successful examples will include the following as part of their plan.
- Speak directly to your audience – Make it clear what they will get for trusting the care of their beloved pets to your clinic.
- Be mobile responsive – As of 2015, the number of searches done on a mobile device officially surpassed those on desktops and laptops. These devices are becoming the number one source of information, so your website needs to look great and function well on screens of various sizes.
- Keep it simple – Flat, minimalist designs have been popular for a while, and are gaining more popularity. It allows you to engage with your clients while highlighting your skills and experience. Don’t present a cluttered website. It’s just creates confusion and reduces clarity.
- But be bold – Make sure that it’s easy to see the things that set your clinic apart from the competition.
- Don’t follow every trend – Big, moving pictures at the top of your website’s homepage may seem fresh and new and super-high-tech, but if it’s done wrong it’s really more of a distraction than anything else. It can also hog all the memory on slower computers, driving down the performance. So before you jump on any design trend, give it a little while to see if it’s really going to increase the number of people who contact you, or if it will just clutter your site.
Should You Patch the Flaws or Start Fresh?
Sometimes you can just change a few things about your website and get everything running well. You can update your links, making sure none of them are dead, upgrade your images to higher-quality or more-recent pictures, or even revamp your content to be more clear and more search-engine-friendly.
Sometimes, however, when the navigation is too convoluted, or the design too outdated, it may be time to start from scratch.
The search engines have a number of criteria for the websites they want to rank, and your potential customers may have even more. They want to know that the veterinarian they choose to take care of their pet is one who looks and feels modern and professional in every sense.
Take a step back from your homepage and give it a look with fresh eyes. How would you react to it if you were seeing it for the first time? If you’ve just let it sit for the last 5 years without really adding anything new because it was “doing its job,” then maybe it’s time to take another look and start with something new.