Website design basics: Top terms to know
Whether you're making tweaks to your current website or diving into a full redesign, working with professionals on your hospital website may go more smoothly if you know how to speak their language.
Website design terms healthcare marketers should know
Of course, you don't need a degree in computer programming to talk with developers and designers about what your website needs. But it can't hurt to familiarize yourself with a few terms that are likely to come up.
Back end, front end
What it is: The back end of a website is the behind-the-scenes structure and coding that makes the site work. The front end is everything a visitor can see—all the images, words and pages.
Why it matters: Visitors may not be aware of the back end of a website, but it's an important part of their experience—and yours. It affects how your site is structured, how well it works, how search engines rank it and how easy it is for you to make changes.
The front end is how visitors access and interact with your content. So making it approachable, interesting and easy to navigate should be one of your main goals.
Content management system (CMS)
What it is: A CMS is a tool that helps you publish content to your website.
Why it matters: A CMS makes it easier for nonprogrammers to add, edit or delete website content. It can give marketers more control over the message without involving the cost of a programmer for every change.
Cascading style sheets (CSS)
What it is: CSS provides an overall framework for how content appears on a website.
Why it matters: Using CSS allows programmers to apply styles globally to all content on the site, rather than embedding those styles in the HTML coding for each element. That makes future style changes much faster.
What it is: Unlike a static website, which looks the same to every visitor, a dynamic website contains variable content that can automatically change depending on factors like the visitor's location, the time of day or the visitor's preferred language.
Why it matters: A dynamic website gives you more flexibility to customize your content and offer an individualized experience for healthcare consumers.
What it is: In a fixed layout, the width of elements on the page is designed to stay the same, regardless of the visitor's screen resolution, browser window size or monitor size. (In a fluid layout, by comparison, the width is set as a percentage so it adjusts to each person's settings.)
Why it matters: Fixed layouts and fluid layouts each have pros and cons. But a fixed layout may give designers more consistency and control over how a website looks.
What it is: Broadly speaking, a landing page is the page a person comes to first when entering a website.
Why it matters: You might create a special landing page in connection with a marketing campaign. These can be a useful way to direct traffic to specific service lines or gather information from potential customers.
What it is: The goal of responsive design is to create websites that automatically adjust to a visitor's device.
Why it matters: Responsive design ensures that your website looks great and functions well on screens of all sizes. And it's easier to maintain than a separate mobile site. Learn more about the pros and cons of responsive design and separate mobile sites.
What it is: A template is a predesigned website. Unlike a custom website, which is created just for you, a template allows you to add your content to a predetermined design.
Why it matters: Using a website template may cost less than a custom design, but templates generally have limitations when it comes to customization, performance and ongoing support.
What it is: Usability deals with how people interact with your website—and how you can make that experience as simple and satisfying as possible.
Why it matters: Strong website design is about more than how a site looks. Your hospital's website needs to work the way it's supposed to, be easy to understand and navigate, and help visitors find the information they need.
What it is: Web standards are guidelines from the World Wide Web Consortium. They include recommendations on the coding, structure, presentation and accessibility of websites, among other things.
Why it matters: Following web standards makes it easier for designers to predict how websites will appear on different browsers and to create a consistent experience for users.
Curious how your website design stacks up?
We can analyze your hospital website's performance and help you make a plan for improving it. Contact Coffey for a free website audit.
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