Responsive web design is a technique that forces sites to adjust to the type of device they are being viewed on, delivering a positive user experience whether browsing on a mobile, tablet or desktop PC. GP practices wishing to boost patient engagement and provide a simple-to-use platform for information requests and appointment bookings should be looking to responsive design, particularly with Google set to place even more weight on mobile search results.
Internet browsing habits have changed – mobile users will quickly leave a website they cannot access
The way we browse the internet has changed considerably. These days it's not the norm as it was a few years back to switch on a PC and search for information, make purchases or book appointments. Instead we pick up our tablets or grab our smartphones and in a few taps we're right where we want to be, doing what we need to be doing, right in that moment.
The trouble is, if when we try to find what we are looking for using a mobile device, we come across a website that is challenging to navigate or has content that is difficult to read, we quickly become frustrated. And the standard next step? We go elsewhere, and will more than likely never return.
Google says that 61 per cent of web users are unlikely to return to a mobile site they had trouble accessing, and 40 per cent visit a competitor's site instead.
How to design a website for a mobile audience
The reason we have these experiences with some websites when browsing on mobile devices is because the sites have not been designed with a mobile audience in mind. The way around this issue for website owners up to a few years ago was to run two versions of a site: one for desktop, one for mobile. This worked fairly well for a while, but technology quickly caught up and offered a much more streamlined, flexible and cost-saving way to make websites appeal to both desktop and on-the-go audiences: responsive web design.
Responsive web design is a technique that creates flexible sites that transform in appearance depending on the type of device they are being viewed on. The result is a seamless user experience across mobile, tablet and desktop browsers. This is important, because many people use a variety of devices, often commencing a search on a desktop device, perhaps whilst at work, and then moving to a mobile device to continue reading, maybe during their lunch break or commute.
Research reveals that 83 per cent of mobile users say that a seamless experience across all devices is very important.
Why responsive web design is vital for GP surgeries – create a positive experience for existing patients - and reach out to new ones
For GP surgeries, it is vital to deliver a smooth and pleasant user experience to patients seeking information and wishing to book appointments. If a patient wants to find out how to use the services offered by the practice, to find out the opening times or how to join, or of course would like to make an appointment, the process MUST be a simple one. We are all pushed for time in today's fast paced environment, and will often only have snapshots of time to do important things for ourselves whilst juggling work, leisure and family commitments. Trying to navigate around a website that has not been set-up with mobile users in mind is only going to serve to frustrate and could well negatively affect loyalty and even damage brand reputation.
For practices that are actively marketing their services and seeking new patients, internet must of course factor as a key initiative, which means the practice website HAS to be responsive otherwise a large proportion of the potential audience could be missed.
What is Google's 'Big Divide'?
Another very important reason for making sure a website is responsive is the forthcoming 'big divide'. Google, considered the world's most popular search engine, is set to split mobile search and desktop search results in 2017. Because the intention is to update the mobile website index a lot faster, this means that mobile users will be presented with better quality results. Google already prioritises websites that are optimised for mobile in search results, but this latest update really will leave no room for websites that run separate desktop and mobile versions.
By 2018, almost 2.6 billion people – over one third of consumers worldwide – will use smartphones. What is more, research by Google reveals that 75 per cent of users prefer a mobile friendly site with half reporting frustration or annoyance when encountering sites not designed for mobile browsing. These are just some of the numerous statistics that weigh in favour of responsive web design.
For GP practices it is essential to make sure patients are taken care of in all respects, including when they are searching for information or looking to book appointments. Patients will be seeking to do both much of the time on their mobile devices, again strengthening the case for responsive web design.
If your GP practice does not have a responsive website, or indeed has no website at all, why not talk to the experts at Tree View Designs? With more than 15 years spent working within Primary Care and over a decade alongside practice staff and patients, we are in a unique position to take your practice to the next level.