10 Veterinary Website Must-Haves
Can you believe the World Wide Web celebrated the 25th anniversary of its inception in 2014? Since its inception, the web has been in a whirlwind of constant change. A veterinary website designed and built even 4 or 5 years ago likely lacks some contemporary standards for user-friendliness, compatibility with new devices, and search visibility. This is perfectly natural—many of these technologies and approaches didn’t even exist 5 years ago. Like humans and animals, websites require regular checkups and maintenance to maintain optimal functionality.
Does your website pass muster? Here’s a checklist of 10 must-have features for every modern veterinary website.
✓ All veterinary website pages are responsive and mobile-friendly
Websites are viewed on a menagerie of devices, from palm-sized phones to widescreen TVs. Modern websites are built to accommodate a fluid, unpredictable range of screen sizes, from very large to very small. The technology used to adapt the layout of a single web page to any screen size is called responsive design. Responsive design is a necessity not only for usability, but also for Search Engine Optimization (SEO). In April 2015 (known as “Mobilegeddon”), Google started ranking responsive web pages that pass its Mobile-Friendly Test higher in search results.
✓ Website traffic can be measured and analyzed
It’s difficult to impossible to gauge the success of a website without a means to measure how many people are visiting it, and what they’re using the website for. Your veterinary website should be connected to an analytics tool, such as Google Analytics, that allows you to track how many visitors it has, where they’re located geographically, what devices they’re using, which pages are most popular, and even which websites referred them to your website.
✓ The most sought-after information is prioritized
Which pages are most popular varies from website to website, but analytics have shown that some pages are consistently near the top of the list for veterinary practices:
- Home page
- Contact information
- List of services
- Doctor and staff bios
- Virtual tour
What this shows is that website visitors are seeking information about who you are, where you’re located, what you do, and how your facilities look. They’re using this information to make quick decisions about what actions to take next, including whether to purchase your services. Google calls these snap decisions “micro-moments.” A well-planned website prioritizes succinct information that facilitates these micro-moments.
✓ Calls to action are clear
Large, prominent buttons for important online services, such as appointment booking, prescription refills, and patient forms, offer clear next steps to visitors. Calls to action answer the question, “okay, now what?” after a relevant piece of information is found.
✓ Basic contact information is prominent on every page
It’s essential that location information and a phone number with click-to-call capability are located in a spot that’s visible as soon as the page loads, on both desktop and mobile screens. Ever been to a local business website that didn’t make it easy to find out what city they were located in, much less how to get in touch with them? Not only are a large number of visitors seeking a way to reach you, but an immediately-visible city or neighborhood name, if not a full address, lets them know they’ve arrived at a website that’s applicable to them. More detailed contact information, such as your full address, email address, fax number, and hours, can be listed in a separate area to avoid clutter.
✓ Links to social media and review websites are included
Make it easy for your clients to interact and follow you on social media, by placing links on every page to the social media profiles you maintain. Some social media websites, such as Facebook and Twitter, offer live feeds of latest posts that can be embedded on your pages. Offering links to trusted online review websites conveys a sense of trust and open communication.
✓ Images are high resolution
Many modern desktop and mobile screens display at a higher resolution than older displays. This display technology is given different names by manufacturers, such as “high definition,” “high density,” “hidpi,” and “Retina.” Text and images look stunningly crisp and detailed on these displays, but graphics prepared for older displays may look fuzzy and of poor quality. A fully-modern website uses high-resolution photos and graphics to leave a “sharp” impression with visitors.
✓ Text is large and high contrast
Since it’s impossible to predict the size of screen your website will be viewed on, or the visual acuity of the person viewing it, text should be sized to accommodate the widest array of scenarios. Large text that contrasts clearly with the background will keep your content legible even on tiny screens in poor lighting conditions.
✓ Contact information includes a Google map pinned to your claimed business listing
Detailed contact information should include a Google map with the location pin placed on your claimed business listing, not just your address. Your claimed local business listing will display details such as your name, contact information, hours, photos, and reviews, right on the map. In addition, the map will offer interactive functions such as customized directions, sharing, and street view. (New businesses or locations might need to pin just their street address while waiting for a business listing to become available to claim.)
✓ Website pages are coded for SEO and accessibility
Under the hood, the code used to craft a modern veterinary website is tuned to assist organic SEO. This means the way the website is coded and structured helps search engines, such as Google and Bing, understand the content clearly and present pages within the appropriate search results. So, not only is the appearance and content of your website important, but the very way it’s built can have an impact on its prominence in search results.
A modern website is also friendly to accessibility devices, such as screen readers for the visually impaired. For instance, making sure all text content is set in plain text and not embedded in images will assist both accessibility and organic SEO. Videos can be accompanied by text transcripts, for search engines and those who can’t or would prefer not to watch video.
No need to throw the website out with the bathwater
A beauty of the veterinary website is that they’re never frozen in amber. They can always be updated, often with minimal investment. Web standards change constantly, but that doesn’t mean it’s necessary to throw out a website and start from square one every few years. Your website can be kept fresh and relevant through an approach of progressive enhancement—an incremental process of regularly assessing, tweaking, and measuring performance to ensure its most important features get a passing grade.