About ten years ago we all came to the realization that we needed a website. Maybe we didn’t exactly understand why, but we knew that without one we would look hopelessly out of date.

So most physicians got on board and built a website. But for many of them, it’s little more than a 21st Century Yellow Pages listing.

Ideally, a medical website isn’t just a snapshot of your practice name and address. And it isn’t a place for every tiny piece of information to be crammed on the page. It should constantly be working to help you improve your medical practice. And that means it needs your attention to be sure it is up to the task.

The One Thing Your Website Should Do Well

Make it easy for site visitors to make an appointment. Be sure you have a clearly visible button for making an appointment.

You can help this button stand out by letting it stand alone. Get rid of buttons for patient portals and financial forms. Those links can be housed in your main menu. If you want site visitors to make an appointment, let that button stand out!

While you’re at it, get rid of the over-abundance of mediocre pictures and feature a single, high quality image that draws people to the page. The simpler your web page, the easier it is for a visitor to engage with it.

Keep It Simple, Sebastian

This can be tricky for most physicians who know so much jargon they don’t even realize it’s jargon. In addition, their writing skill is built on composing complex, technical texts and manuscripts.

Most people who surf the Internet need simple text. It’s not necessary to say “erythematous” when “red” will do just fine.

Long, complex sentences are difficult to follow. Simpler sentences will help your readers absorb your message. Try to break your sentences down instead of creating longer compound sentence structures.

This concept extends to the paragraph as well. Paragraphs should be no longer than 3 to 5 lines. This breaks your information into easier to digest chunks for your readers. It also creates valuable white space on the page. That white space is an important visual break for the reader who is trying to make sense of complicated medical information. White space offers many other benefits, summed up nicely in this article on UXMyths (user experience myths).

Nobody Reads Anymore; We Scan

We can lament the decline in literacy on another day, but today, we want people to absorb the content on your website. The Neilsen Norman Group research on this topic is clear—English readers almost always approach a web page in the same way.

We start in the upper left corner of the page and scan across the top. Then we scan across the middle of the page from left to right. Finally our eyes make a final scan down the left margin. This makes an F-shaped eye scan pattern.

Knowing this, you would do well to design your webpage with this pattern in mind. Use an informative headline across the top, another subhead a bit down the page, and high information bullets down the left margin. If done well, you might even entice your readers to do more than scan your text.

There are many further steps you can take to improve your practice website. Creating a blog and patient education materials, a great about page, sharing patient testimonials, adding administrative forms to help the office run smoothly—these can all add value to your website and help your patients. But the first thing your website needs is to be easy to use for the average Internet user.

Whether you are updating your current site or building a new one, make it effortless to schedule an appointment; keep the content simple; and take advantage of the way users interact with the web page. These three basic steps will get your website working for you.