Redesigns for health system websites are complex and time-intensive. It isn’t easy to take apart, reorganize and rebuild your entire digital home. A lot can potentially go wrong — to the tune of millions of dollars.
A poorly done redesign won’t only cost you web traffic. It’ll cost you patients.
Some website updates flop — hard — and others end in wild success (like a 141% increase in organic traffic or a 1,088% increase in new users.) What’s the difference between a major fail and a successful project?
In our experience, it helps to:
- Put in the legwork ahead of time (start planning early!)
- Use strategic content written by healthcare experts
If you’re updating, merging or migrating your site soon, start planning now. Our hospital website redesign guide helps you set the foundation for effective messaging and, most importantly, an effective website.
Step 1: Get Stakeholders Involved
Before starting any company-wide initiative — especially one as large as a redesign — it’s crucial to get everyone on the same page. Inform every team and strategic leader about the changes happening and why those changes are taking place.
You might be starting a healthcare website design project for many reasons, like to:
- Unite your hospitals that are coming together under one health system
- Optimize your website for search and win the right keywords
- Improve the user journey and make your site a better resource for patients
- Clean up redundant content and make marketing more cost-effective
No matter the reason, you’ll need executives and subject matter experts (SMEs) on board from the start. Their input and feedback will be helpful throughout the process, and their buy-in keeps your project on track and aligned with goals.
Some strategic decisions may be controversial to team members, such as sunsetting microsites or using language that SMEs don’t use (but patients do). Use data when presenting these kinds of decisions to leaders in your organization.
Your content agency can also help you communicate with stakeholders about the project. At Aha Media Group, we create resources you can use to educate SMEs and promote buy-in at every level.
Step 2: Audit Your Hospital Website
A website audit lets you evaluate your site at the page level and see what’s working (or what isn’t). Auditing your website helps you know which pages to keep, merge or sunset.
What steps should an audit include? Here’s what we recommend:
- Pull data from your website analytics tools to assess metrics like traffic, engagement and conversions and find SEO issues like missing or duplicate metadata.
- See how your website functions from a UX standpoint. Look for pages that are missing calls to action or internal links, which lead to a dead-end user journey.
- Use a competitive analysis tool to see which keywords your competitors own and how your website stacks up.
- Assess the quality of your content to check if you’re making any common hospital website mistakes.
Insights from your audit become your customized hospital website redesign guide. Use these findings to plan effective website content.
“A content audit helps you understand your existing content, where it lives and where you have information you don’t need. It can highlight things you may not have noticed, like repetitive content or content gaps. Your audit becomes your roadmap.”
Cindy Schaller, Account Manager for Aha Media Group
Step 3: Create Your Sitemap
Now that you have your audit, consider what you learned from it. What problems do you need to solve? How can you optimize your site and improve the user experience?
Use these findings to guide you as you create your sitemap — it organizes your webpages and maps out the structure of your health system website. Your sitemap tells you what pages will exist on your new site, where they will live and how your pages are connected. See an example of a sitemap for a health system’s website:
Step 4: Build the Foundation of Your Messaging
We could make a lot of construction analogies here, but to put it succinctly, content crumbles without a strong foundation. When you rush into content writing, you risk having content that doesn’t resonate with readers or achieve your goals.
That’s why we recommend investing time into documenting 3 things before writing any web content:
- Personas: Update or create your healthcare customer personas so that writers understand their audience and the main populations that land on your website.
- Messaging architecture: Your messaging architecture includes the stories you tell and the key ideas your content communicates. It keeps your content consistent and aligned with business objectives.
- Voice and tone: Your messaging architecture describes what you say; your voice and tone describes how you say it. (Need help documenting yours? Consider scheduling a voice and tone workshop.)
“It can be tempting to omit steps like working on your messaging if you’re on a tight timeline. But don’t skip these initial steps. Good content takes time, and putting in the time to build a strong foundation helps you get content that supports your goals.”
Madeleine Schroedel, Account Manager for Aha Media Group
Step 5: Create Content Briefs
Our hospital website redesign best practices list would be incomplete without content briefs, which are like outlines for your webpages. They tell writers what content will live on each page and which keywords to target.
Content briefs take time to create but pay off in the long run. Planning the content for each page (before it’s written) lowers the risk of duplicate content, reduces the need for significant edits and helps your healthcare website design project move forward on schedule.
Create your content briefs after documenting your sitemap and messaging strategy. For each webpage, make sure to include:
- 2-3 key messages
- Primary and secondary keywords
- Main call to action
Step 6: Set a Realistic Timeline
What’s a realistic timeline for a health system website update?
If your project includes rewriting and redesigning hundreds of pages after completing an audit, interviewing SMEs and doing the foundational work for your messaging … your redesign can take up to 2 years (or more).
Initiatives at this scale take time to do correctly. Fortunately, the more time your team invests in the beginning, the less time you’ll spend on edits (or worse, complete rewrites). As they say, “slow down to speed up.”
Here are two other ways you can “speed up” your project:
- Prioritize: If there’s a conference coming up, decide which parts of your website need to be ready before it. If you want to promote a service line, consider rewriting those pages first.
- Turn around feedback quickly: Schedule weekly meetings with stakeholders to review deliverables and aggregate feedback for the project team.
Big Project Coming Up for Your Team?
We’ve guided major health systems through hospital website redesigns using these best practices, and we can help your team with it, too.
We offer as-needed content support to help with large projects with no minimum hour requirement. Learn more about what it’s like to work with us: