How to Set a Secure, Accessible Veterinary Site
A large number of veterinary sites are relatively simple, with easy-to-navigate information for services offered, an About page to introduce users to your staff, and a contact page. At a first glance, it’s easy to think that this is all you’d need. Most clients, after all, will come into an office, and there’s only so much they can learn online.
Despite this, it’s still essential to have a top-of-the-line site. Your site very well may be the first interaction that clients have with your practice, after all, so it needs to make a great first impression.
Though many veterinary websites have great information on their site and might even have their branding nailed down, we’ve found that there are three key qualities a large number miss: Secure, ADA-compliant, and mobile-responsive.
Let’s take a look at why it’s so important to make your site secure, accessible, and mobile responsive, and the specific steps you can take to do so.
1. Site Security
Even if you aren’t processing payments online or allowing clients to look up their pet’s medical records in a client portal, it’s still essential to have strong site security.
Clients who notice security measures being taken will inherently trust your business more, too. This shouldn’t be overlooked, because if they notice that your site seems out of date and lacking in security protection, they may feel that your practice overall is out of date and look for a competitor instead.
If a client reaches out about training for an aggressive pet, for example, they may not be willing to send that email if they don’t trust that it will stay private.
Site security protects you, too. You want to ensure that only you’re accessing your site, and since there’s an average of one website hacked every 39 seconds online, this poses a legitimate concern.
Here are a few steps you should take right away to increase your veterinary site’s security:
- Use strong passwords, which contain a mixture of letters, numbers, and symbols. Don’t use these passwords anywhere else.
- Increase your site hosting security plans. Some hosting plans allow you to upgrade your plan to receive increased security features, including an https:// URL.
- Install virus & malware protection on your site. This shows potential clients that your site can be trusted and is safe to interact with. McAfee is a great example of a program that will protect your site.
- Keep your software up to date. Update your site, theme, plugins, and anything else attached to it as soon as any versions come out. Many address security risks that previous versions did not. Since new threats and viruses are always emerging, this is essential.
ADA Compliance & Accessibility
Creating an accessible and ADA-compliant site should be of the utmost importance to veterinary sites. Not only will it allow you to connect to all potential clients regardless of potential disabilities, but it can also save you from legal liability and lawsuits down the line.
The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) requires that businesses provide equal access to all customers, regardless of disability. While the first thing that will come to your mind will likely be ramps for wheelchair users so they can escort your pet into their office, your site needs to be fully accessible, too.
You’ll want to make sure your site is up to date with all of the current Web Content Accessibility Guidelines, so hiring an expert may be a good call. These are a few quick steps you can take to make your site instantly more accessible:
- Add alternative text for all images. This allows screen readers to describe the picture for users who have sight impairment. It’s particularly important for CTA buttons and other navigational cues that may be graphics instead of text.
- Have a simple site layout that doesn’t require a mouse to use. Your site should be functional if a user is relying entirely on a keyboard or even voice command software.
- Include closed captions, subtitles, and/or transcripts for audio and video content. This allows those who are deaf or hard of hearing to access this content.
Mobile traffic accounts for slightly more than half of all online traffic, and users who are looking for same-day or emergency services are even more likely to be using mobile.
Mobile responsive sites are fully functional on mobile devices, including phones and tablets. This means that the text is sized correctly so that users can read it (and without it taking up the entire screen), navigation menus work without issue, and images or videos are compressed properly to facilitate reasonable loading times.
Today, many site templates and themes that you can purchase online are automatically mobile responsive, but if you created your site several years ago, that may not be the case.
The biggest takeaway here is to ensure that your site is mobile responsive and that it works on all devices (including both Android and iOS). Do a thorough test, and if something doesn’t quite add up, you may need to give your site an overhaul. Remember that mobile sites need to be fully accessible, too.