If you build the Web site, don’t assume they’ll come

As hospitals experiment with Internet sites — many aimed at allowing patients to schedule or register for an appointment on-line — it’s important that the Web site visitor find them easy to use, says Rockford, IL-based health care consultant Stephen A. Frew, JD.

Most hospital sites now on the World Wide Web are a complete waste of time and resources, Frew says. "Most hospital sites don’t have any clear idea of what they want to achieve, who will be using the site, or what those users want when they reach the site."

The worst sin for the hospital Web site is a lack of clear purpose, he adds, or what he calls the "Build It and They Will Come" syndrome. This myth, he suggests, causes Web site developers to assume that if they are "on the Internet," it will have some mystical power to draw users to the site.

"Today’s Internet users will give you about 15 seconds to show them why they should stay at your site, and then they will click on to other sites," Frew says.

Steps to a successful site

Here are Frew’s suggestions to improve sites and make them a valuable hospital asset:

1. Reduce photos and other graphic images. Skip the cute gimmicks.

2. Skip the corporate and statistical material on the home page and save it for elsewhere.

3. Figure out what the site is supposed to do before you design it.

4. Design the site for the user, not for a graphic design competition.

A complete article with site make-over suggestions, including examples, is available at Frew’s Web site: www.medlaw.com/sitecrit.htm.