The pharmaceutical industry is a big and valuable part of the UK economy. As well as its obvious function of contributing to the health of millions of people; it also works in conjunction with the NHS to promote ongoing medical research. Considering the size and importance of the pharmaceutical industry, in terms of websites devoted to the industry, many appear to have come from the Dark Ages rather than through any form of medical web design process!
There seems to be a big trend for using particular colour schemes for medical website design, with turquoise being the most common and blue coming a close second. Many sites are also built on ill-fitting templates and their content is boring, often outdated and very slow to load. Very few have an efficient database and the result is redundant and duplicated data slowing down load times still further.
This does not seem to change whether the site is selling B2B or B2C. So the question arises: Why are so many pharmaceutical websites out of date and do they really need to be so boring?
One reason may be that pharmaceutical companies, especially the big ones, will always continue to make sales, regardless of how good or bad their websites are. Established doctors, dentists and even vets will have ‘trusted’ suppliers that they use for repeat orders and feel that they just have to put up with the inconvenience of a poor website experience when it is time to place an order. When these sites were created, medical website design was an entirely different scenario but surely logic suggests that sales could be vastly increased by some simple improvements?
Perhaps those involved in medical website design need to backtrack a little and revisit the basic principles of any type of website design. The most important of these is to define a clear objective for the website and focus on that. When you consider that most pharmaceutical websites are used for e-commerce purposes that would be a good starting point.
Medical website development, where products are being sold online requires more thought and planning than a website that is used purely for advertising purposes, as it effectively replaces a shop window or glossy sales catalogue. Today’s Internet users expect a Home page that can be accessed instantly, with the rest of the website optimised for single click viewing of products.
All content is very important, but where Genetic Digital medical web design is concerned, images are especially so. Images need to be of professional quality to reproduce well on a website so using a professional photography service is worth considering. The trick is to use the smallest file size possible, which will load quickly and will display without losing definition. The file type and size should then be standardised throughout the entire website.
The other matter to be addressed is that of ALT tags. Every image on a website should have one, which serves two purposes, accessibility and to enable search engine optimisation. ALT tags can have the very useful purpose of providing some useful information about the product on show. Attention to these details is particularly important and is something the Genetic Digital medical website design team is concerned with.
Websites with many products will often only have small thumbnails and it is worth providing a method for users to enlarge them. There are two ways, the first requiring a user click and the second enlarging with just a mouse hover over the image. With the latter, it is worth bearing in mind that some users ‘read’ with their mouse pointer and for them the use of images which enlarge automatically can be annoying. Research on this matter should be carried out
Still keeping in mind the objective of the website, pharma web design must include an efficient search facility and some very carefully planned navigation. Some pharmaceutical websites will have literally thousands of products on offer and a user will be totally lost if they land on the wrong page (by following an internal link for example) and may well go elsewhere to buy.
As with any e-commerce sites, there are some pages which are essential and must be made easy to access by users. The first of these is a page dedicated to company contact information. This should include full address, phone/fax number(s) and possibly a dedicated e-mail address. Also, providing a contact name will help to make customers feel reassured that ‘someone is out there’ if they should have a question or a problem at any time.
Although the most important requirement for medical web design is functionality for users, there is no reason that the aesthetic design features have to be bland and eminently forgettable. Tasteful use of colour and putting some thought into making non-product pages more interesting may be enough to increase traffic. There is definitely no place for Flash images, pop-ups and sound effects; not only do they not suggest professionalism, they are a turn off for visitors and will not be supported by all browsers.
No matter how good the medical website design that has been created, it will still only remain viable or functional with continuous maintenance and updating. Attention to the product database is the main priority, it should be checked regularly for functionality, kept updated in terms of product prices or information. Discontinued products should be removed at the soonest opportunity, perhaps with an alternative suggested in their place. A constantly updated website has two useful purposes; keeping customers happy and giving the search engines something to look at.
The answer to the question is definitely NO – there is no real reason for pharma websites to be the way they are currently, which is mostly outdated and dull. Putting some thought into medical website development, some relatively basic housekeeping and realising that there are colours other than turquoise or blue, could be all it takes.