by Amy Rogers, MD, Coffee Break Medical Marketing

Man using tablet computer

In just four years, smartphone ownership in American adults has jumped from 35 percent to 64 percent. Any way you slice it, that is phenomenal growth. Even more impressive is that 62 percent of them have used their smartphone in the past year to look up information about a health condition.

The bottom line is that medical practices are missing out on important opportunities if they don’t make their online content easy to use on mobile devices.

What Does it Mean to Be Mobile-Responsive?

There are multiple ways a website can display on a mobile device. Here are few of the methods used:

Miniaturization. This is when a website simply shrinks or expands to fit the screen. With this approach, text can be difficult to read and navigation buttons hard to use on a 4” screen. Most users will find this frustrating and simply navigate away.

Separate Mobile Sites. You’ve probably visited a website that gives you the option to use their mobile site or go to the full site. There are some advantages to this for certain businesses, but they won’t apply to most medical practices. This approach requires design and search engine optimization for both sites and therefore carries significant costs that the other methods don’t.

Mobile-Responsive Sites. These sites reconfigure themselves based on the size and orientation of the screen on which they are displayed. They don’t require separate coding or SEO, and they use a single web address. Whether the user views the site on a desktop, a tablet or a smartphone, they will be able to easily read and navigate the site.

What are the Advantages of a Mobile-Responsive Site?

User Experience

There are many advantages to a mobile-responsive site, but the primary one is user experience. When a site is mobile-responsive, you adapt the layout so that the screen shows the components according to your priorities.

For example, if you have a three column website as seen on a desktop, you can have it change to one or two columns based on the width of the screen. This allows readers to view information without shrinking or expanding the screen or scrolling back and forth across it.

Second, you can have the most important content show up front and center on mobile devices. Mobile users often want to book an appointment. Scheduling information can be placed so it is immediately visible in a mobile-responsive design.

Search Engine Rankings

To improve your search engine rankings, the most important thing you can do is create quality content readers are looking for. Search engines simply want to offer up appropriate suggestions to search queries.

But, after you’ve created that quality content, there are a few things that help search engines display your site to searchers interested in your topic. One is a mobile-responsive website. In February 2015, in response to the increased number of searches from mobile devices, Google announced that it would boost the rankings of mobile-friendly web pages.

If you want to do everything you can to get found by patients searching for health information, a mobile-responsive site is a necessity.

Patients Who Need You

Adults with low household incomes and lower educational attainment are more likely to be “smartphone dependent.” This means they have no other consistent means to access the internet.

This is arguably the group that needs access to the best, evidence-based medical content available on the web. And when these patients search for health information, they need it to be mobile-friendly.

The reality is that mobile is here to stay and ignoring it is quite simply a mistake you can’t afford to make with your practice website. If you aren’t sure whether your site is mobile-responsive or not, Google offers a testing tool to find out. If your site isn’t mobile-friendly, it’s time for an upgrade.