Maximising Impact with Effective Life Science Website Design
Bigger doesn’t always mean better. At least when it comes to life science websites that is.
In my time working within life science digital marketing, I’ve encountered a wide range of websites, varying from single one-page websites for startups, to ecommerce sites with thousands of URLs. I’ve come across websites that I consider excellent, to some outright terrible designs.
But this is not a post to criticise.
As websites are often low on the priority of things to do for life science companies, considering all the necessary factors involved is something that should help you determine whether to go through the process of creating a new website, or put it off until it can be completed properly at a later date.
In this article, I want to go through some of the aspects that I consider vital for improving, or creating a new life science website.
Understanding Life Science Companies and Their Digital Needs
Life science companies tend to have a broad scientific focus, encompassing biotech, pharmaceuticals, healthcare and diagnostics, further extending to fields like genomics, bioinformatics, and data science. Regardless of the discipline, they all play a crucial role in pioneering the development of products and services that improve human health and safeguard the environment.
Therefore, the objectives for a digital platform can be broad in nature; from building awareness, demonstrating credibility through to selling a product or a service. But more often than not, it encompasses all of these aspects combined.
Life science companies that have a marketing and/or sales team have probably distinguished the importance of the above, but may not necessarily have the skills or capabilities to do so. This is often where I work with life science companies to create websites that reflect their mission, showcase their capabilities, and connect with their audience, all through using their digital real estate.
After recently re-designing and moving to a new CMS, I realised that there are many different things that need to be considered when determining whether a website is ‘good’ or not, so I wanted to cover some of the basics I had to consider, that often come up time and time again when I’m working with life science clients.
Essential Features of an Effective Life Science Website
When executed with precision and a well-crafted strategy, a well designed website can prove to be an invaluable asset for a life science company. An effective and appealing website is not merely an optional element; it has become a necessity.
In no particular order, here is a list of considerations and features that I recommend to my clients, and what you need to pay attention to.
Design & Usability
Design and usability are particularly important for life science websites - where complex information must be presented in a clear, engaging, and accessible manner.
Good design doesn't just mean a visually appealing website; it's about creating an interface that facilitates users to find the information they need, understand it, and take the desired actions. A website that masters aesthetics and functionality will most likely result in an efficient user experience.
Often the cornerstone of any successful design, consistent branding not only strengthens recognition but also fosters trust and credibility with your audience - with life science websites being no exception.
Key elements of your branding, such as colours, typography, and imagery, should be uniformly applied across your website.
The colour palette should resonate with your brand's personality and the emotions you wish to evoke. Traditionally, life science companies often lean towards the cooler side of the spectrum, like blues and greens, symbolising health, innovation, and trust. However, there's no one-size-fits-all approach, and your brand's unique identity might align with different hues.
Combined with a colour scheme, the fonts used on your website should align with your brand's character and be easy to read. Typically, clean, sans-serif fonts are used in life science websites, offering a modern and straightforward look while ensuring legibility.
Lastly, the imagery used on your website should align with your brand's story and mission.
High-quality images that depict your work, products, or the industries you serve can foster a deeper connection with your audience. Authentic images can be more effective than generic stock photos, as they provide a genuine glimpse into your company and its values.
Maintaining consistency in these aspects of your website design helps create a memorable brand experience that stays with your audience and sets you apart in the competitive life science landscape.
If you are new to my site, you will see that I keep a consistency to orange and navy blue branding, with two typefaces designed to work in harmony. Although I don’t use too much imagery, these are often kept simple and incorporate my two main colour schemes.
But there is no point having a great looking website if it doesn’t work as users expect it to.
Elements on the site - from clickable buttons to scrollable images, must work as expected. Broken links, images that don’t load or non-responsive elements can frustrate users before they’ve even had time to interact with your website.
Whilst many life science websites work well on desktop devices, the design and usability of mobile devices is often forgotten about. A great website should be responsive across varying screen sizes, and allow the same interactivity and functionality regardless of the device.
Loading speed is another critical aspect of usability.
Slow-loading pages can deter visitors, with many leaving if a page takes longer than a few seconds to load. Ironically, if your website design is too well designed, you may have lots of images or graphics that take too long to load. Using efficient coding practices, and/or a CDN may be something to consider to improve on here.
Finally for this section - and often forgotten about - is the need for accessibility. Accessible design ensures that everyone, including people with disabilities, can navigate, understand, and interact with your website.
Ensuring you think about simple design elements like high contrast between text and background, alt text for images, and keyboard navigation functionality can make a significant difference to users with visual or mobility impairments.
A lot of my work with clients often involves SEO in some form or another.
Typically, many consider the importance of keywords and written content when it comes to SEO performance, the technicalities behind how your website is built and structured is equally as important.
When building a website, you should consider the hierarchy of pages, and how they link together. It is important to consider how pages are linked together, and how users (and search engines) can determine links between similar pages.
One of the easiest ways to do this is through creating a proper menu structure in your header menu, supported by links to key pages in your footer menu. Using navigational breadcrumbs and related links on lesser important pages can also be a way to give visitors easy access to other pages, keeping them engaged and on your site for longer.
Referring back to the previous section on design and usability, making sure your website loads efficiently through optimisation of your website code and on-page elements will not only make it load quicker, but ensure that it can be crawled and indexed; a crucial metric for ranking for target keywords in Google Search results.
Unforgotten elements such as a sitemap or robots.txt file (click the links to see mine) - which most people don’t realise exist - are also important to include, and have the functionality to amend. These unseen pages can make or break your website SEO, and in the very worst case scenario, keep your website out of Google!
And finally, the most important aspect of a high performing SEO strategy is ensuring you have optimised your content. Because of its importance to SEO and overall user experience, I’ll go into more detail about content in the next section.
You probably won’t be surprised to see that I have included content creation in its own section here. After all, content is responsible for telling your website visitors what you do, how you can help, and prompt them to take action.
An issue I see with content in many scenarios is that there is often too much, or too little of it. And content should be carefully considered for each page, and optimised appropriately.
For example, for people looking to learn about life science website design, they are probably expecting to see long form content such as a blog (or I hope so at least!). For your homepage, you may wish to keep content short and succinct, leading visitors to visit other pages and learn more.
For products and services pages, you want to ensure that your content provides enough information and context, encouraging leads to fill in a contact form or make a purchase, but without coming across like an unwelcome sales pitch.
Balancing effective content with SEO in mind is something also to consider.
Ensuring you have identified and optimised your content for appropriate keywords - without stuffing them in every sentence - and making sure that each page is optimised accordingly to search intent is a careful balance.
Don’t forget the elements of design and usability with your content also. Your content needs to ‘look nice’ with the design and functionality of your site.
Writing content that uses headings and subheadings, uses white space and proper use of different sizing and font elements such as bold, italic and underline helps make your content stand out and make readers take notice.
In the life science sector, compliance and regulation is all around us. This doesn’t change when it comes to hosting a website.
As a minimum, you should be adhering to data protection and privacy of your locality, including those such as EU GDPR, CCPA or UCPA. This is obvious when you are recording data such as payment or personal contact information, but also required if you are tracking users to your website via Google Analytics or something similar.
For companies that are operating within pharmaceuticals and medical devices products or services, ensuring that you are compliant with regulations are non-negotiable. What you can and cannot say about certain products or services, or how you use customer and patient data is often regulated by bodies such as the FDA or HIPAA.
How Do I Go About Creating A Great Site?
If you are considering creating or updating a site, the first thing I suggest to you is to fully understand the potential scope of the project.
Fully scoping out a website will allow you to understand how long it will take from kick off to launch, and the man hours and costs associated with doing it correctly.
It can also be a good time to discuss what you can add and improve on your next iteration of your site. Are you going to incorporate new branding? Improve your SEO? Remove unwanted or outdated content? There are many variables to consider.
If you would like to discuss or ask for an external second opinion, reach out to me to arrange a free consultation, and as much advice as you can get from me within 30 minutes!
Creating an effective website for a life science company requires a deep understanding of the industry, knowledge of website design principles, and a strategic approach to SEO.
As a life science digital marketing consultant, I help my clients incorporate all of the elements listed in this post together, to create websites that are usable for website visitors yet work as effective marketing tools to grow your business.
If you would like to discuss your website further and how it can be improved, please contact me for a personalised consultation. Let me know what you want to achieve, and we can discuss options to help you successfully implement an exceptional website.