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Website Design & Brand Marketing: Lessons from the ER

The COVID-19 crisis has left businesses scrambling to keep their employees and customers safe while staying economically afloat. If you are one of many business owners now relying on a website to achieve your goals, you may be motivated to deliver a streamlined, easy-to-use, professional online experience. In this time of global uncertainty, a website must be intuitive, efficient, and functional to maintain an online presence and support customer needs from afar.

So, where do hospitals enter into this discussion? Emergency rooms are always in a state of chaos, with a never-ending lineup of accidents, illnesses, and top-level emergencies, much like a poorly designed website with countless pages. Medical professionals must accommodate a vast number of patients and do so carefully and effectively. In this blog, we will be discussing the methods in which emergency departments design themselves to create easy-to-use systems, and how your business can benefit from similar principles.

If a person has an acute or emergency medical crisis, they should already know to go to the emergency room. A hospital assumes that this is common knowledge based on their audiences’ shared environments, and long-standing, global practices. Hospitals share the common practice of having an emergency department readily available. This pre-existing structure makes it possible for people to get the help they need in the time they need it.

In user experience (UX) design, this is called Jakobs Law. Users spend most of their time on other sites, which can often mean that users prefer that a website, like yours, operates the same way as those familiar sites.

Just as individuals share a real understanding of what an ER is, users have the same knowledge when viewing a website. If a user has to learn how to navigate your site, it will not be successful and will result in the user leaving abruptly. If ever tempted to give your website a unique quality by inventing new page names, or coming up with new layouts and pathways, think again. Unfortunately, this redesign is unproductive and often makes a website overly complicated, so it will not reach your audience correctly. For a great design, you must know what to change and what to leave alone.

For example, if you are on the hunt for an art piece and found an artist online, which of the following pages do you expect to find more information? The page that every user assumes to find background information is undoubtedly the About page. Similarly, in a medical crisis, it is widely known that to seek help, you need to visit the ER. The methodology is to have customers locate the correct information, service, or product as quickly and reliably as possible.

Let’s explore another common problem by changing the current ER to be broken into subsections that can serve individual issues more quickly. This redesign allows for more targeted treatment and more specialized doctors in each area. It would also allow for better wait times and faster triaging of patients. So why isn’t the ER broken into sections? The ER is divided based on the specific systems of the human body. If you have a heart attack, you will go to the Cardiovascular ER, and if you have a concussion, you will go to the Neuro ER. But what if you had a stroke? Would you go to Cardiovascular or Neuro? How about if you had multiple problems such as a broken leg and a concussion. Where do you go?

Dividing an emergency department requires users to have a general understanding of the medical system, the human body, and the specific problem they need servicing. Users often have similar issues with websites, brands, or products. Giving users too many choices, such as too many pages, can create unnecessary frustration that may end with a user leaving your site.

While you may wish to separate information on your website to speak to different points about the company, to a user, these page names don’t mean much, and they have no idea which page is going to give them the information they need. The best thing to do is to go simple. Create an About page that has comprehensive information on the company. If the content is quite long, avoid endless scrolling by making it so that the single page has sections with subpages containing more details. If the page has proper copy and CTA’s, users will be lead to more specific subpages once they discover the information they need.

When you keep website design clean and simple and maintain existing structures, you will help your audience navigate the website with ease. If you are interested in a potential redesign, it is worth pursuing a website audit that can help identify problem areas. You may be surprised to uncover a straightforward solution such as reducing copy, having fewer pages, increasing graphics or multimedia footage on the landing page, or verifying that your website is mobile-friendly. Now is the time to check in with your site and the various moving parts that compromise quality and results. Speak with an expert today to get started.


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Toronto, ON. M6H 0C7
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With growing global concerns around COVID-19, the health and safety of our employees and clients is top of mind. Brand & Mortar services will remain open while our team works remotely until further notice. We want to assure our trusted clients that business will remain unchanged while we do our part to #FlattenTheCurve.

For more information, please read our formal statement here.