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Posted by Bill Gadless on June 8, 2023

Why Many Healthcare and Pharmaceutical Websites Fail: The Impact of Shortsightedness

The importance and complexity of website design

The power of a well-designed website in today’s digital world is indisputable. For healthcare and pharmaceutical organizations, websites serve not only as an informational hub but also as a key interface between the company and its users. This role has intensified in recent years, as an increasingly tech-savvy audience demands more digital access to services and resources.

However, developing a website for the healthcare and pharma sectors is no easy task. It requires a harmonious blend of several complex elements: user-friendly design, robust security, regulatory compliance, efficient content management, and much more. The importance of these elements cannot be overstated; they define the overall experience of users and can profoundly impact an organization’s reputation.

The allure of easy, template-based website creation

With the rapid evolution of web development technologies, the market is flooded with tools and platforms that promise to get a decent-looking website up and running in no time. Such off-the-shelf templates and website builders can be alluring. They require minimal technical expertise and provide instant gratification, giving the impression of significant progress in the shortest possible time.

Issues that arise when critical components of a website project are neglected

The flipside of this coin, however, is that the simplicity and speed of these ready-made solutions can often mask the lack of attention to the critical, albeit less-visible, components of a website project. Behind the visually appealing facade of a hastily-assembled website may lie a host of problems: poor site performance, low SEO ranking, inadequate security measures, lack of scalability, and more.

All too often, these issues remain undetected until they escalate into more significant problems. By then, rectifying them can be far more challenging and costly than if they had been addressed at the design and development stage. Consequently, this short-sighted approach to website creation not only compromises the quality of the website but can also have broader implications for the organization’s brand image and trustworthiness.

Rise of “Digital-Last” Agencies in Web Design Services

History and reasons for non-digital agencies venturing into web design

The advent of the digital age brought with it a wave of new opportunities for businesses across the spectrum. For agencies specializing in advertising, public relations, or other traditional media, this transformation opened up a lucrative new revenue stream: web design services. Initially, many of these non-digital agencies shied away from web development, considering it a distinct field requiring a unique set of skills and expertise. However, the potential to bolster their service offerings and deepen relationships with their clients soon proved too tempting to resist.

The compromise on quality due to lack of in-house expertise

As these non-digital agencies started offering web design services, they often found themselves operating beyond their realms of expertise. Many lacked the technical prowess required to build a robust, efficient, and user-friendly website, especially one tailored to the complex needs of healthcare and pharmaceutical organizations. As a result, they leaned heavily on website building tools or off-the-shelf templates, which, while simplifying the process, often led to a compromise on the quality of the final product.

Implications of outsourcing web development

In some instances, agencies chose to outsource their web development work to third-party developers. While this approach may have partially addressed the skills gap, it brought along its own set of challenges. Outsourced web development often suffers from communication gaps, mismatched expectations, and a lack of control over the project, leading to subpar results. This scenario is particularly concerning for healthcare and pharmaceutical companies, given the stringent requirements of their industry.

For example …

A renowned healthcare institution …
… that engaged a public relations agency to redesign its website. The agency, lacking in-house web development expertise, opted to use a template-based approach. The result was a visually appealing website that unfortunately suffered from slow load times, poor SEO ranking, and security vulnerabilities. This short-sighted approach to web development ultimately led to a significant decrease in online user engagement and a tarnished brand image.

A pharmaceutical company …
… that enlisted an advertising agency to develop its website. The agency outsourced the development work, resulting in a series of miscommunications and missed deadlines. The final website, though visually striking, failed to cater to the unique needs of the company’s target audience. More importantly, the website did not fully comply with healthcare industry regulations, leading to severe legal repercussions.

These case studies illustrate the risks and consequences of entrusting web development projects to agencies that lack the necessary expertise. While non-digital agencies may be well-intentioned in their efforts to diversify their services, the resulting shortcomings in their web design projects can have far-reaching implications for their healthcare and pharmaceutical clients.

Short-term Thinking: Clients’ Demand for Fast and/or Cheap Websites

The mindset of quick deployment and its popularity

In an age of immediacy and rapid technological advancement, the desire for quick results is not surprising. The idea of having a website ready to go live in a matter of weeks, or even days, is undeniably appealing. This urgency is often fueled by a business’s eagerness to establish an online presence, launch a new product or service, or simply keep up with competition.

The tools facilitating rapid website deployment

There are an array of tools available that promise rapid website deployment. From drag-and-drop builders to pre-designed templates, these platforms cater to the demand for speed, allowing even novices to build and launch websites quickly. However, in healthcare and pharmaceutical sectors where information accuracy, user trust, and regulatory compliance are paramount, this expedited approach can lead to detrimental outcomes.

The hidden implications of rapid deployment: performance, SEO, quality coding, security, scalability

Rapidly deployed websites often compromise on critical elements like site performance, SEO, quality coding, security, and scalability. These shortcuts can result in slower page loading times, lower visibility in search engine rankings, susceptibility to cyber threats, inability to accommodate traffic spikes, and challenges in updating or expanding the site’s content and functionality.

Moreover, in the healthcare and pharmaceutical sectors, such issues can lead to breaches in patient confidentiality, non-compliance with industry regulations, and misinformation, all of which can have severe legal and reputational repercussions.

For example …

A pharmaceutical firm
… looking to launch a new product, hired an agency to create a website within a very tight deadline. The agency, pressed for time, used a website builder to expedite the process. The resulting website, while launched on time, suffered from poor SEO due to substandard coding. The site was hard to find on search engines, resulting in fewer visitors and less engagement than anticipated.

In another case, a healthcare provider …
… sought a budget-friendly solution to quickly revamp their website. The chosen agency used a pre-designed template and rushed the content creation process to meet the low cost and fast turnaround expectations. The resulting site had numerous security loopholes which, when exploited, led to a significant data breach, compromising patient confidentiality and leading to a costly lawsuit.

These instances underline the potential pitfalls of prioritizing speed and cost over the quality and security of a healthcare or pharmaceutical website. As the old saying goes, “haste makes waste,” and in the digital realm, such waste can have far-reaching and long-lasting impacts.

The Undeniable Importance of a Well-Developed Website

A website as a company’s face to the world

In today’s hyper-connected era, a company’s website often serves as the first point of interaction between the organization and its audience. It is more than just an online storefront – it is the face of the company to the world. Available 24/7/365, it represents the brand, communicates the company’s vision and values, and provides critical information about its products and services.

In the healthcare and pharmaceutical industries, where trust and credibility are paramount, a website has a much more significant role. It serves as a vital information hub, a tool for patient engagement, and a platform for providing services. Hence, it must be developed and treated with the magnitude of importance it truly deserves.

First impressions and their long-term impact

It is a well-established fact that first impressions matter. A poorly designed website, regardless of the quality of the services it offers, can deter users within seconds. Slow load times, difficult navigation, outdated design, and inaccessible content can frustrate users, often leading them to form a negative impression of the company itself.

In contrast, a well-designed, user-friendly, and informative website can leave a positive first impression, increase user engagement, and improve overall trust in the organization. In the healthcare and pharmaceutical context, where the competition is high, and user trust is critical, the importance of first impressions cannot be overstated.

The implications of treating website development as an afterthought

When website development is treated as an afterthought, or merely as a box to be checked, it shows. The resulting product is often a site that’s difficult to navigate, slow to load, unappealing to the eye, and light on valuable content. In the long run, such a website does more harm than good. It reflects poorly on the brand, decreases user engagement, and fails to deliver a return on investment.

Advocacy for treating website development with the importance it deserves

Therefore, it is critical to approach website development not as a quick task to be outsourced or hurried through but as a vital project requiring thoughtful planning, skilled expertise, and an understanding of the unique needs of the healthcare and pharmaceutical sectors.

By recognizing the central role a website plays in establishing and maintaining a company’s digital presence, healthcare and pharmaceutical organizations can ensure that their site serves as a powerful tool in their marketing strategy, a trusted resource for their users, and a reliable platform for their digital operations.

The Components of a Great Website

A high-quality, effective website is not born out of mere luck or a well-chosen template. It’s the product of careful planning, precise execution, and an understanding of the various components that contribute to its success. This section will delve into these components and their importance in creating a successful website for healthcare and pharmaceutical organizations.

Deep-Dive Data Analytics

A great website begins with an in-depth understanding of its target audience. This understanding is achieved through comprehensive data analytics, both qualitative and quantitative. This process involves audience interviews, persona development, journey mapping, market research, SEO data analysis, and reviewing analytics data of the current website.

The insights gleaned from this process help shape the structure, content, design, and functionalities of the website, ensuring it resonates with its intended users and meets their needs effectively.

User Experience (UX) Expertise

The importance of UX in website design cannot be overstated. A website may be filled with valuable content, but if users struggle to navigate through it or can’t find what they’re looking for, they will likely leave frustrated and disappointed.

UX expertise helps shape the information architecture, creative design, content, and conversion optimization of the website. It ensures the website is not only visually appealing but also easy to navigate and interact with, resulting in a positive user experience.

Search Engine Optimization (SEO)

In today’s crowded digital landscape, merely having a website is not enough – it needs to be visible to its target audience. SEO expertise is essential for ensuring the website appears in search engine results when users search for relevant keywords. This increases the website’s visibility, attracts more organic traffic, and improves its overall success.

Visual Content Expertise

Visual content plays a critical role in engaging users and enhancing their understanding of the website’s content. Expertise in creating and utilizing visual content, such as videos and infographics, can significantly improve the website’s appeal and effectiveness.

Industry-Specific Copywriting Expertise

In healthcare and pharmaceutical sectors, conveying complex information in an understandable and relatable way is key. Professional copywriters with industry expertise can create clear, concise, and engaging content that resonates with the target audience and complies with industry regulations.

In-House Development Team

A strong in-house development team ensures that the website’s technical foundation is robust and reliable. They guarantee the site is built for performance, security, scalability, and ease-of-use – all critical for a successful healthcare or pharmaceutical website.

Experienced Project Management

Developing a healthcare or pharmaceutical website is a complex task that requires careful planning, coordination, and execution. Experienced project managers can oversee the project, ensuring it stays on track, within budget, and meets its objectives.

Website Accessibility Expertise

An accessible website is not just a legal requirement – it’s a sign of inclusivity. Accessibility expertise ensures that the website is usable by all individuals, regardless of any physical or cognitive impairments they may have.


In a world where users are flooded with generic content, personalization can make a website stand out. Personalization involves tailoring the website’s content and features to individual users based on their preferences, behaviors, and needs.

Personalization can take various forms, from displaying relevant content or product recommendations to customizing the site’s layout or navigation based on the user’s behavior or demographics. It can also involve personalizing user communications or providing personalized customer service.

In healthcare and pharmaceutical websites, personalization can help deliver a more relevant and engaging user experience. It can facilitate users in finding the information they need, encourage them to explore more of the site, and make them feel valued and understood.

However, it’s crucial to balance personalization with privacy. Users’ data should be used responsibly and with their consent, and personalization strategies should always respect users’ privacy and data protection rights.

By treating each user as a unique individual and catering to their specific needs, personalization can transform the user experience, improve user satisfaction, and boost the site’s performance and success.

Global Web Strategy Expertise

For organizations with a global presence, a one-size-fits-all approach won’t work. Global web strategy expertise ensures the website caters to the unique needs, preferences, and regulations of different geographical markets.

Quality Assurance Process

A thorough QA process is essential for detecting and fixing any issues before the website goes live. This ensures that the final product is free from errors, works as expected, and provides a seamless user experience.

Creative and Branding Expertise

The website represents the organization’s brand. Therefore, it needs to reflect the brand’s identity, values, and vision accurately and consistently. This is where creative and branding expertise comes in, shaping the visual and textual elements of the website to resonate with the brand and its audience.

Leveraging Artificial Intelligence (AI) in Website Development

Artificial Intelligence (AI) is not just a buzzword in technology. It has proven to be a game-changer in many sectors, including web development. AI can help create a personalized, engaging, and efficient user experience, which is vital for healthcare and pharmaceutical websites.

The Role of AI Across Various Elements of a Website

AI can be utilized across several elements of a website, right from its development stage to post-launch support. For example, AI can be used to analyze user behavior data and generate insights that inform the design, structure, and content of the site. It can automate routine tasks such as content updates, form submissions, and error checks, thereby saving time and reducing the potential for human error.

In terms of SEO, AI algorithms can help identify trending keywords, optimize content, and improve the site’s search engine rankings. They can also enhance site security by detecting and addressing potential threats in real-time.

The Role of AI Chatbots on a Website

One of the most visible applications of AI on websites is chatbots. AI-powered chatbots are revolutionizing customer service by providing immediate, personalized responses to user queries round the clock. They can guide users through the website, provide product recommendations based on user preferences, assist with transactions, and offer after-sales support.

In the context of healthcare and pharmaceutical websites, AI chatbots can provide users with health information, appointment scheduling, medication reminders, and even virtual health consultations. This not only enhances the user experience but also helps reduce the load on healthcare professionals.

However, it’s crucial to remember that AI implementation should be thoughtful and purposeful. The use of AI should be transparent, respectful of user privacy, and compliant with industry regulations to maintain user trust and ensure the ethical use of technology.

Emphasizing KPIs, Testing, and Ongoing Improvement

After the painstaking process of designing and launching a healthcare or pharmaceutical website, the work is far from over. To ensure the website remains effective and continues to meet its goals, there must be a robust plan for tracking key performance indicators (KPIs), conducting post-launch tests, and implementing ongoing improvements.

Identifying and Monitoring KPIs

KPIs are metrics that indicate whether the website is meeting its objectives. These might include the number of site visitors, bounce rate, page views per visit, conversion rate, user engagement metrics, or SEO rankings. By tracking these KPIs, you can assess the website’s performance and identify areas that need improvement.

Post-Launch A/B Testing

A/B testing is a method of comparing two versions of a webpage to see which performs better. After the launch, A/B tests can be conducted on various elements of the website, such as headlines, images, calls to action, or page layouts. The results of these tests can provide valuable insights and guide future improvements to the site.

Multivariate Testing

Multivariate testing is similar to A/B testing but involves testing multiple variables at once. This can provide more nuanced insights into how different elements of a webpage interact and affect user behavior. However, it requires a larger sample size than A/B testing and is typically used on high-traffic websites.

Ongoing Measurement and Improvement

Websites should not be static; they should evolve based on user feedback, performance data, and changing market conditions. Regularly measuring the website’s performance and conducting usability tests can help identify areas of improvement. These insights should then be used to refine and optimize the website, ensuring it continues to meet its users’ needs and achieve its objectives.

The Often Overlooked Post-Launch Plan

Website development doesn’t end when the site goes live. In fact, a significant portion of the work begins post-launch. Many organizations, in their rush to get the website up and running, often neglect the critical aspects of site promotion, support, and maintenance.

Site Promotion

Just as a new store needs advertising to attract customers, a new website needs promotion to attract visitors. This can be achieved through various means such as SEO, social media marketing, email marketing, and digital advertising. A promotional strategy should be in place well before the website launch to ensure the site gets off to a good start.


After the website is launched, users may encounter issues or have questions about the site’s functionality. Providing ongoing support to address these queries is critical to maintaining user satisfaction and trust. This could involve having a dedicated support team, an extensive FAQ section, or an AI-powered chatbot to assist users.


Websites are not static entities. They require regular updates and maintenance to stay current, functional, and secure. This could involve updating content, improving UX, fixing bugs, enhancing security, or updating the site to comply with new regulations. A lack of ongoing maintenance can lead to a decline in site performance, user satisfaction, and SEO rankings.

The Case for a Post-Launch Plan

A comprehensive post-launch plan ensures the long-term success and relevance of the website. By investing in site promotion, user support, and ongoing maintenance, healthcare and pharmaceutical organizations can ensure their website continues to serve as a valuable resource for their audience, a powerful tool for their marketing efforts, and a trustworthy representation of their brand in the digital world.

Probing Questions to Ask Your Agency

Evaluating the expertise and in-house competencies of an agency is critical for the success of your healthcare or pharmaceutical website. To truly assess the agency’s suitability, consider asking these probing questions:

Data Analytics

Can you provide specific examples of how you have used data analytics to inform website design and content in previous healthcare or pharmaceutical projects?

Can you walk me through your detailed process of conducting audience analysis and how it impacts website development?

User Experience

Could you share some instances where your user experience design strategy directly led to improved website performance?


Can you discuss case studies where your implemented SEO strategies significantly improved a healthcare or pharmaceutical website’s visibility and traffic?

Content and Personalization

How have you ensured industry-specific content relevance in your past projects, and how would you approach personalization for our website while complying with data privacy regulations?

Technical Aspects

How do you specifically ensure technical robustness, security, and scalability for websites in the healthcare or pharmaceutical sectors?

Post-Launch Plan

Could you share a detailed post-launch plan for a similar project you’ve worked on, particularly focusing on site promotion, support, and maintenance? Provide your process and procedures for post-launch client requests and a roster of the team who handles such requests with expected turnaround times.

Testing and Improvement

Can you provide examples of the KPIs you track and how you’ve used these metrics to conduct A/B and multivariate testing post-launch?

Can you provide specific examples of how you’ve implemented ongoing improvements based on testing results and user feedback in past projects?

Team and Expertise

Could you give a detailed breakdown of your in-house team’s expertise relevant to our project, particularly focusing on healthcare or pharmaceutical website development?

These questions will give you a comprehensive view of the agency’s capabilities and the depth of their expertise, ensuring that they have the necessary resources and strategies to effectively handle your project. Remember, the agency’s ability to provide clear, concrete examples from their past work is a good indicator of their competency and reliability.

A Cautionary Tale

The Risk of Short-Sightedness

This article started by discussing the risks of short-sightedness in healthcare and pharmaceutical website development. By now, it should be abundantly clear why rushing the process, cutting corners, or handing off the project to unqualified agencies is detrimental.

A sub-par website can damage an organization’s reputation, deter potential customers or patients, and cause a financial drain without delivering expected returns. In sectors like healthcare and pharmaceuticals, where the stakes are high and the users’ decisions can be life-changing, the risks are amplified.

The Rewards of a Strategic Approach

Conversely, investing in a comprehensive, strategic approach to website development can yield immense rewards. A well-designed and functional website can enhance a company’s reputation, attract and retain users, facilitate business growth, and deliver a robust return on investment.

It’s important to remember that a website is not just a product, but an ongoing project that requires continuous attention, improvement, and innovation.

A Heartfelt Acknowledgment of Marketers’ Challenges

As we reach the conclusion of this exhaustive look at the perils of short-sightedness in healthcare and pharmaceutical website projects, let’s take a moment to address you, the marketer. We understand that you might have experienced your share of disappointment and frustration. Maybe you’ve seen a website project go off the rails, become an indefinite work-in-progress, exceed its allocated budget, or worse, been left in the lurch post-launch without the support of your partnering agency.

You’re not alone.

These situations are, unfortunately, far more common than they should be. In an industry that merges the scientific precision of healthcare with the dynamic world of digital marketing, the process of creating a website is often a labyrinth of complexities. But please know that it’s not an insurmountable task, and your efforts to navigate it are not only commendable but also critical.

Take a moment to look back at the website projects that haven’t gone as planned. While it may be tempting to blame yourself, consider this – the process of building a healthcare or pharmaceutical website is not just about the end product, it’s also a journey of learning and refining. Every roadblock you’ve encountered, every budget overrun, and every delay has been an opportunity to better understand what your website truly needs to succeed.

We hope this article has equipped you with insights and guidelines to avoid the pitfalls of a hastily conceived website project. But more than that, we hope it has provided you with the confidence to believe that with the right approach, the right team, and the right set of questions, you can create a website that aligns perfectly with your organization’s goals and caters effectively to your audience’s needs.

Remember, the best websites are not merely digital billboards or information repositories.

They are dynamic platforms for interaction and engagement, reflections of a brand’s ethos, and, most importantly, resources that provide value to their users. You, as a marketer, are instrumental in making this happen.

Stay strong, stay focused, and know that every effort you make contributes to a better digital experience for your users, which ultimately benefits your brand and the people it serves.

emagineHealth is the digital-first, AI-powered agency for healthcare and biopharma. Let’s work together to define, create and maintain the best possible web presence for your organization’s objectives.

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