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Nov 2014

Technology that Makes your Site more Personal

In the world of the web, content is king, but people are the purpose. For healthcare websites, this is especially true. As a technologist and programmer, it’s easy to think of the web in terms of code, features and widgets, but solutions that don’t web-demo-infographicmeet the needs of our users aren’t really solutions at all. As Meredith, our Director of Content Services, often reminds me, we need to put ourselves in the shoes of our users to make sure that the technologies, content and graphics we create are meeting the constantly evolving needs of our client partners and their audiences. It’s something our team keeps globally front and center in every project, but how do you know specifically who is actually wearing these shoes? Audience definition and the use of personas can help make sure your website is meeting the core needs of your various audiences, while catering to each different user types.

Hitting the mark with your website can be challenging and confusing. In addition to patients, potential patients and family members, information and functionality on your website must also support job seekers, referring physicians, researchers, caregivers, potential donors and many more.

The Multiple Personalities of the Web 

“You can please some of the people all of the time, you can please all of the people some of the time, but you can’t please all of the people all of the time.” ~ John Lydgate

One of the most common mistakes made in web strategy and information architecture is to cast such a wide net that you encompass all your potential users. From the mother of three trying to research health information for her family to the potential employee looking for information on employment, the users coming to your site will be a diverse mix. Creating a web site that serves them all equally is a challenge that all healthcare web professionals face.

So, how do we make sure we are pleasing and serving our users in a way that makes sense to the individual and makes them feel that content has been created for their specific needs?  Personalization based on audience segmenting and personas creates a web user experience that is more engaging and encourages loyalty to your site.

Finding the “Person” in Personal

Audience segmentation creates focused content and navigation strategies based on defined audiences. These definitions can be broad and may not typically account for the demographics of your users. Potentials patients, referring physicians and job seekers are good examples of audience definitions that may share certain content needs, but have a unique perspective and purpose for what is needed from your site. Clearly defining these audiences and using them to guide your information architecture is a critical step in the planning and discovery phase of any project.

The creation and use of personas is a more personal approach that can be utilized within any audience segment. Creating a hypothetical person, can help clarify your mobile and desktop strategy. A key demographic in healthcare marketing, women between the ages of 30 and 60, represents a range of people in different stages of life and it is easy to start thinking of them in terms of their statistics and not their needs. Jenny, a 42 year old mother of three with a working husband and live-in retired father in-law, is a person we can serve and measure our potential strategies against. Likewise, Margaret, a 58 year old woman with a husband nearing retirement and a child about to graduate college, is a totally different person, but one with overlapping and unique needs.

So, after defining three to five personas…then what?

Personalization is a concept that has been around forever. From a monogramed cuff on a standard dress shirt to your custom smart phone settings, personalization is a way to make a common item feel special.

With Technology, We Can Personalize the Web

There are creative solutions that can provide your web users with personalization and the technologies that support them.

A little help from big brother. Predictive marketing is a common practice on the web that collects, anonymously, web usage information and presents custom content based on key strategic metrics. Anyone who has ever researched vacation destinations and suddenly notices Disney discounts within content, has been a part of predictive marketing. This method can be applied to your web site through the use of tracking cookies, which collect anonymous metrics and provide content specific to user behaviors. Did a user visit several maternity pages before searching for a Baby Boot Camp class? The next time they arrive on your site, the main rotation banner, graphic ads and related links can be set to target information for a potential mother-to-be.

The advantage of this method is that it is relatively cost effective to create, yet, flexible as the applications are driven by the data and not the site functionality. A disadvantage of this method is that it is specific to a particular computer and will not transfer if the user moves to a different device. Also, users who realize they are being targeted for marketing efforts may have negative feelings about the practice. This can be especially sensitive when health information is involved.

Empower the user. Identity management is another option for personalization that can be used in conjunction with predictive marketing or as a standalone strategy. Encouraging your users to create a profile and setting their interests gives you the same of information as cookie tracking, but allows your users to determine the types of information they receive. This is especially useful with direct marketing, such as eNewsletters.

The advantage of identity management includes a more proactive sense of user participation with a higher level of certainty that the user actually wants to receive information on specific topics or interests. The challenges of this method is that it also requires a higher level of commitment on the part of the user and it is less likely that the user will update his or her profile as interests shift. With the cookie tracking method, you can capture changes in behaviors as they occur.

Make it truly personal. A patient portal, custom homepage/my page and health trackers are great ways to offer your users a truly unique and personal experience. These features combine many of the positives of the two other methods and are not mutually exclusive to either.

Incorporating other technologies and content into these portals is another way to increase personalization. Connecting to a health tracker app, such as Duet Health’s Branded Health System app, or allowing your users to filter content from your licensed health library content can encourage users to return to the site on a regular basis and add to both the exposure and reputation of your hospital or health system.

The benefits and advantages of this method are numerous and range from increased loyalty and participation to a better ability to track the ROI metrics of you site. The only real challenge of this method is that it requires the highest investment of time and resources to initiate and maintain. With the added value of incorporating your custom blog and health content, the upside of full personalization is worth the investment.

Custom User Experiences

Finding the right solution that fits your organization or department budget, strategy and culture can be the most difficult and important step. Regardless of which method or methods you decide to employ, with personalization we may not be able to please all of the people, all of the time, but we create a website that provides our visitors with a user experience that feels like it was custom tailored for them.

AVID Design offers full-scale written and visual communication services for hospitals and healthcare systems, including Content Management Systems, SharePointWeb DesignSEO and PPC, Content Development and AssessmentOnline VideoAnalytics and Measurementand more.

Keir Bradshaw | Director of Web Development | AVID Design


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Aug 2014

New Friends in Mayberry

Dean and I just spent a few days in Mayberry – Mt. Airy, NC – with our new friends at Northern Hospital of Surry County. We had terrific and collaborative meetings, great food and a nice break from Atlanta traffic – our commute was only 4 minutes!

We love to see hospital leadership that has embraced the ability to bring advanced healthcare services and innovative technology to community-based settings so the patients served don’t have to leave for expert clinical care. We look forward to helping the marketing team tell their story and integrate online functionality so all audiences can better understand the capabilities of their specialty care.

While we were there, we enjoyed the beautiful mountain setting and some outstanding food. If you are ever close by, don’t miss Snappy Lunch, Chase and Charli and Trio at the Emporium – best vegetable plate ever! Dean especially enjoyed the fun Mayberry memorabilia and we look forward to getting back to Mayberry soon!

 Dean Richardson, VP of Business Development


AVID Design offers full-scale written and visual communication services for hospitals and healthcare systems, including SharePointWeb designSEO and PPC content development and assessmentonline video and rich mediaanalytics and measurementcontent management systems and more.

Meredith Rose | Director of Content Services | AVID Design

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Feb 2014

Transforming Healthcare through IT at HIMSS 2014

Account Executive Stephanie Imberman and I are at the HIMSS 2014 conference in Orlando all this week. This is our first time as an exhibitor at HIMSS and we’re excited to get started and had a great time getting set up and ready to go. 

Account executive Stephanie Imberman at HIMSS 2014

Stephanie ready to talk Sharepoint and make connections

The HIMSS slogan is “Transforming Healthcare Through IT”, which our AVID team loved! We’re excited to talk about our award-winning SharePoint solutions and IT strategy.

Keep an eye out for updates, and keep up with us during the conference to hear about the great health IT conversations we have while we’re here. Make sure to follow @AVIDDesign on Twitter  and don’t forget to tag #HIMSS14


AVID Design offers full-scale written and visual communication services for hospitals and healthcare systems, including SharePointWeb designSEO and PPC content development and assessmentonline video and rich mediaanalytics and measurementcontent management systems and more.

Tom Brand | Executive Director | AVID Design 

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Jan 2013

Top Ten Tips for Creating a Successful Healthcare Website RFP

Every year our organization responds to a number of Requests for Proposals, or RFPs, from potential clients who are looking for help with their website. We strive to give these potential clients everything they need to make the best decision for their organization. Over the years, I’ve noticed that there are certain best practices that make RFPs more efficient, accurate, and successful for the client. We are frequently asked for advice about creating more successful RFPs, so we try to keep a running list of what works and what doesn’t.

One of the most important things to keep in mind when creating an RFP is to avoid creating a series of vague questions that different companies may respond to in different ways. Remember that you want to compare your potential providers to one another apples to apples, so keep questions specific enough so you get the same type of answer from each provider. This makes it easier for you to make your decision.

Here are our best pieces of advice for creating a successful RFP:

  1. Tell us about yourself. Offer some background information about your organization and current circumstances. Talk what your organization does, your size, your current website situation, and what you want to see improved.  Explain what challenges you have maintaining the current site.  This will give providers with a snapshot of your current situation and allow them to tailor their response to better fit your specific needs.
  2. Tell us what you want your website to do. Let us know specific goals you’d like to achieve with your website to allow us to come up with ideas for achieving those goals through creative design, innovative web or application development, and strong content.  Tell candidates if your current website should be used as a base line; Will the amount of content stay pretty much the same or will it need to be expanded?  What features from the current site are working well and need to be carried over to the new site?  Which ones need to be replaced? 
  3. Let us know if you have technical challenges to overcome. Hardware limitations, hosting solutions, or the need for a new platform or content management system should all be taken into account when you’re looking for a new website. Keep in mind any third party apps that will need to be replaced or integrated.
  4. Establish the technical expertise of your potential providers. This can be one of the most challenging sections of the RFP for both you and your potential providers. A simple list of technical requirements may tell you whether or not the provider’s application supports encryption or dispersed authorship, but won’t tell you if it can support your business objectives. Propose meaningful business scenarios which require responders to explain the technical aspects of the application, but also to describe how their products and services could be used to meet your strategic business goals.
  5. Ask specific, open-ended challenge oriented questions. This allows your candidates to respond for themselves and come up with creative, innovative solutions rather than trying to give you the “correct answer” for your potential new website.  Also ask interview styled questions that provide candidates the opportunity to differentiate themselves from each other.  Questions like: Why have other organizations similar to ours hired you?   What makes you different from other providers?  Describe your process and what it is like to partner with you?
  6. If you think your website is tired and dated, there’s a good chance that your content is too. Your content should be reviewed for updates at least once a year, and SEO best practices are constantly changing, so maintenance is more important than ever. Determine ahead of time what your current resources are for marketing and media, and present your needs, whether you need a major content project to update or expand your site, or just revision and SEO work.  Remember as well, content is more than just the written word: Do you have photos and videos on the current site that need to be addressed?  If so, will you be providing new photos or videos or should your potential vendor include those services?
  7. Support should not be an afterthought. Don’t forget to indicate what levels of training, technical support, and maintenance you think you will need to make your new website successful. Provide information about the department and how the new site is going to be managed internally. Think about what in-house support resources you have, and in what areas you will need assistance. Your website isn’t necessarily done the second it goes “Live.”
  8. Divide and conquer. By outlining your organization’s needs by type, such as Design, Technical Development, and Content, you not only make your life easier by getting a better look at the specific components of your website, but this helps candidates provide you with a more complete proposal.
  9. Ask for references and proof of expertise. This is an obvious one. You should be able to easily see how your candidates’ experience relates to your specific needs.
  10. Make response formatting requirements clear and simple. Try to format your RFP like an exam. Ask all of your questions in one section of the RFP to make it easier for you to go through your proposal responses as you receive them.  If you are requiring the vendor to respond to specific checklists, make sure to provide them in a format the vendor can use.  Specific formatting and checklists are not easily transferred from .PDF documents, so consider providing them in a format that will allow the candidates to accurately reproduce your desired format.

What is your biggest RFP challenge? If you have any questions or want to talk to AVID Design about RFPs, feel free to contact me, Dean Richardson, VP of Business Development.

Looking for a web career? Join our fast-growing niche-focused healthcare Internet communications and development firm, AVID Design. View our open positions today!

AVID Design offers full-scale written and visual communication services for hospitals and healthcare systems, including SharePointWeb designSEO and PPC content development and assessmentonline video and rich mediaanalytics and measurementcontent management systems and more.

Dean Richardson | Vice President of Business Development | AVID Design

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Nov 2012

The Importance of Browser Compatibility in Healthcare

We’ve all been on a website at some point where things just weren’t quite right. Text or graphics were missing or invisible, links or images were broken, or maybe things just didn’t sit right on the page. Our first instinct is usually to refresh it. If that doesn’t work, our next instinct is usually to leave and find what we need elsewhere.

Even if the site works perfectly everywhere else, if it doesn’t work on the browser we use, we tend to believe that it’s just a bad site. This is why browser compatibility is so important, especially for hospital and healthcare websites.

When it comes to healthcare, there is a higher standard of responsibility placed on each organization to ensure that all information is available and correct everywhere. If you’re a parent with a sick three-year-old, and you’re trying to decide if you need to go to the pediatrician, Urgent Care, or the ER, you need information immediately (we’ve been there, and it’s no fun for anyone), and you can’t get a phone number because your local hospital’s website doesn’t work on Firefox, it is less of an inconvenience and more of a disaster. The broken website somehow becomes a part of the decision about where you’re going that night.

One of the most important quality assurance checkpoints that AVID Design goes over when we build a new healthcare website is browser compatibility. We want to make sure that our sites work equally well in every browser, so that no matter what type of computer or browser someone is using, they’ll be able to see our client’s site with no issue.

Browser usage has changed drastically over the last several years. It used to be a choice of Internet Explorer, maybe Netscape, and really that was it.  There was a time when developers could tell consumers how to view their site, rather than consumer usage dictating how web development works:

Photo Credit: http://ih1.redbubble.net/image.10929601.1750/sticker,375x360.png

We now have a surprisingly equalized spread of browser usage, including Google Chrome, Safari, Firefox, and, of course, Internet Explorer (versions 7 through 9. IE6 is dead and it can’t hurt us anymore.) At AVID Design, we test all of these main browsers for compatibility. We limit our list to these, as users who are on browsers such as Mozilla SeaMonkey or Opera know that they make up an exceedingly small percentage of the population and usually know to check a different browser.

Our method of fixing browser compatibility is in accordance to best practices as well as our own experiences for creating the simplest, most effective, and permanent solution for any browser error:

  1. Get it right the first time – Okay, I know this one sounds obvious, but it’s very easy to lose sight of the issue when working through the technical and design issues of a new site or application.  By utilizing standards-based architecture and design, most browser compatibility issues can be avoided completely.
  2. Create the problem across all of the browsers – This seems counterintuitive, but it really helps in creating a single, permanent solution. Trying to tweak your code for one browser can lead to others being affected, and soon you’ll find yourself constantly making small adjustments to keep your site from falling apart on all of your browsers, so we try our best to create one solution that works everywhere. This is the first line of attack and works about 96% of the time.
  3. Browser-specific hacks – If creating a universal solution didn’t work, we create a browser-specific hack. This simply involves using code that other browsers will not look at, so that when a website is viewed through that browser it will still render as intended. This is not the same as conditional CSS changes, which should be avoided unless absolutely necessary, because these sorts of changes are the ones that tend to impact the site in other browsers and cause mayhem.
  4. Conditional CSS – Yes, I know what I literally just said in the sentence above about using Conditional CSS changes to make a site work. This is almost never the best solution, but occasionally, there really is no other option.

Overall, we understand that our clients have a higher level of responsibility to provide complete, functioning content on their websites than just about any other industry. We make it a priority to hold ourselves to that same standard to benefit not only our clients, but their patients.

Have you ever had a bad experience with a broken website that caused you to go somewhere else to get what you need? 

AVID Design offers full-scale written and visual communication services for hospitals and healthcare systems, including SharePointWeb designSEO and PPC content development and assessmentonline video and rich mediaanalytics and measurementcontent management systems and more.

Keir Bradshaw | Director of Web Development | AVID Design

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