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How to Make a Good Healthcare Website

woman on healthcare website

It’s a question healthcare marketers ask all the time: What are the keys to a good healthcare website? We want a formula. Tried and true best practices. Something that will boil it all down to a clear roadmap.

If you search the web, you’ll find website checklists galore. And there are some undisputable basics: You need responsive design, strong content, clear navigation, appropriate accessibility, meaningful images and so on. But how much of each do you need? And are these the most important considerations?

There’s a maturity curve to consider, too. Beyond the basics, there are new technologies, integrations, plug-in tools, and more. I could potentially create that more advanced checklist, build you a website that checks all the boxes, then tell you: There, now you have a good website. And if you have the budget to pay for that, you’ll feel good. And if you don’t, you’ll feel behind the curve.

There’s no one formula for a good healthcare website

The truth is – and I’m sure you saw this coming – there is no one formula. However, there are two key points behind every successful website:

  • Know your external audience. Build the healthcare personas and their healthcare journeys. Understand their needs and expectations. Then build an experience that resonates with them and encourages them to take the next step.
  • Clearly define your internal goals. Websites serve many functions and produce many outcomes. Which are the most important? And how will you measure them? Answer those questions, then build an experience that builds ROI toward those goals.

There you have it. Those two points – those are the key to a good website. They set the foundation, and everything else builds from there.

A good healthcare website is more than just a pretty design

Consider this health system’s story: It launched a healthcare website that had all the bells and whistles for that point. The content was solid, with hundreds of pages that were top-ranked by Google. The latest in self-service functionality and technology was in place. And the design was beautiful. Yet when it launched, leaders across the organization called it an enormous failure. Some even sent hate email to the digital group – calling them professional failures, decrying what a horrible job they did.

How could this be? Well, it turned out leadership was not aligned on goals. Many of the leaders had completely different ideas about what was important in a website. They wanted research to be highlighted. Medical education to be more prominent. Content to be more high-level. The organization as a whole hadn’t defined the goals and KPIs. (Read more about why digital KPIs matter, and how to create them.)

And while the site did a good job building around the needs of more casual healthcare consumers, the needs of patients with severe acute illnesses weren’t adequately investigated or addressed. No personas or journey maps had been built. Not surprisingly, the resulting site didn’t meet their needs or follow the route of their journey.

The point is: A good website doesn’t just have certain features or bells and whistles. It meets the needs of the organization it’s built for, and the audience who will use it.

But how do you pull audience and KPIs into a good website?

You’re right. To simply say that a good website requires clear definition of goals and solid understanding of audience is rather nebulous. A checklist would be easier to navigate.

The answer is that once goals and KPIs are defined, and audience needs clearly mapped out, there needs to be a careful and formal hand-off to the design team. A good website design team will take the time to truly understand the nuances. And they’ll look into their design and functionality toolboxes to determine which items will help the organization reach its goals and please its audience. Each stage of design and content development will be tested against the personas. How will “Anita” respond to this? Let’s follow her journey – where might she get stuck?

The designer will be aware that defined KPIs will be measured soon after launch, so they’ll be considering how design can help the organization reach those goals.

As new issues are raised within the organization, or groups bicker over design details, teams can again and again come back to the two main themes: What will help us reach our KPIs? What will please our audience?

And there you have a successful, quality, “good” website

I’m sorry you didn’t get the checklist you wanted here. But in working with health systems around the nation for years, I’ve seen it over and over again. If you take these two key foundational steps up front – defining goals and KPIs, and truly understanding your audience needs – you’ll get the quality website you have in mind.

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Linda Watts

Linda is a healthcare digital strategy leader with 20 years of progressive experience in guiding diverse health system teams to develop and execute digital experiences and infrastructures. She is passionate about improving healthcare consumer experience, while also ensuring business ROI, to help health systems expand on their broader missions to improve their communities' health and well-being.

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