Digital accessibility

The Necessity of Digital Accessibility in the Pandemic Era

It is certainly an understatement to say that the COVID-19 pandemic changed everyday life and business for many people around the world. One shift that businesses and all types of organizations had to make quickly—or perhaps might still need to complete—is ensuring that their online platforms and digital assets are easy to use, simple to navigate, and work reliably.

This shift has highlighted the need for digital accessibility. People with hearing loss need particular accommodations to assist them, and that includes when using websites. Now, both during the pandemic and post-pandemic, it is even more important than ever before to consider those with disabilities or different abilities. In the pandemic era we live in, digital accessibility is essential.

During the pandemic, it became obvious to everyone how frustrating it is when digital assets do not work properly. In the height of widespread lockdowns, problems like websites or apps that did not work properly could mean the difference between being able to order meals, submit grocery orders, complete your work or schoolwork, keep in touch with friends and family, and much more. While many people became more aware of these problems during the pandemic, these issues have been problematic for those with disabilities for a much longer time.

Ensuring that online content is accessible means making sure that all people can read and understand the content—while taking into account any disabilities, different abilities, or assistive technologies they may have. These disabilities may include impaired vision, impaired hearing or deafness, motor difficulties, learning disabilities, or cognitive impairments.

People with disabilities who may have formerly relied more heavily on in-person interactions (in stores and banks, for example), now find themselves forced to navigate an online world that is not always designed with their different abilities in mind. Companies and organizations must take steps to ensure that all online content is accessible. A few simple steps toward accessibility include:

  • Ensuring websites and emails are properly displayed and easily navigable on a mobile device
  • Making certain that websites and emails can be easily navigated with a keyboard only
  • Creating PDF documents that can be read by screen readers
  • Avoiding text with poor color contrast

During and post-pandemic, these shifts toward accessibility can make a big difference for all people with disabilities. Making sure that online content can be consumed and understood by all people also complies with accessibility laws.

While email was a commonly used form of communication before the COVID-19 pandemic, it has become increasingly popular—even vital—to companies during the pandemic as they have been unable to rely on physical interaction. Many companies used email to convey their business continuity plans and health safety standards to consumers during the pandemic. However, a recent study found that among financial services firms, only 25 percent were testing accessibility in their software development process. This leaves room for incredible improvement in this sector when it comes to accessibility. The pandemic has highlighted the importance of digital content and communication, and it continues to showcase the need for accessibility. To learn more about how you can ensure that your digital content and online services are accessible, we encourage you to contact us today at AudiologyPlus.

eCommerce tactics

5 eCommerce Strategies That Will Help Your Practice Grow

eCommerce is booming. By mid-April 2020, there had already been a 129 percent year-over-year growth in eCommerce orders in the United States and Canada. Many sales and finance experts believe this growth is due at least partially to the COVID-19 pandemic. While more traditional sales avenues might have suffered during widespread lockdowns, eCommerce grew.

eCommerce works not only in retail; it has been introduced to the field of audiology as well. For those in the profession who are more traditionally minded, the increasing shift to eCommerce may be more difficult. There is good reason, however, to embrace eCommerce. When done right, it can help your business thrive in a new way.

Here are five eCommerce tactics you can use to increase your conversion rate and help your hearing practice grow:

  1. Add a countdown timer.

Once a customer adds an item to their cart, the countdown begins. Adding a sense of urgency to their purchase can speed up the process. For example, you may alert the customer that their options for express or next-day delivery will expire within a certain number of hours. This will encourage them to complete their purchase more quickly and can help avoid cart abandonment.

  1. Capture your user’s data.

Learning more about your customer can help you provide a more personalized experience, which can lead to more sales. One simple and effective way to learn more about your customer is to use a behavior-based popover.

This popover appears after a customer has spent a certain amount of time browsing your eCommerce store. A typical popover of this type will offer a discount in exchange for the customer’s email address. You can also personalize these offers based on the customer’s behavior on the site up to that point.

  1. Use social proof.

When your customer is viewing a product page, your ultimate goal is for them to add it to their cart and complete the purchase. One way to encourage this is to use social proof. For example, you can add user-generated content to the page to show the customer how real people use this product in their everyday lives.

You can also showcase real-time customer reviews and ratings. Highlighting good reviews will help your potential customer make the decision to purchase as well. Another tactic is to display a counter with the number of people who are looking at or have added this same product to their shopping cart.

  1. Offer product recommendations.

Did you know that product recommendations can generate sales uplifts of up to 11 percent? You can recommend products to your eCommerce customers by showing them products that are new, most popular, or currently trending. As the customer continues to browse, personalize the recommendations based on the products they search for or look at.

  1. Display a dynamic banner.

This banner will be one of the first things a potential customer sees when they visit your eCommerce page. It should grab their attention, spark interest, and encourage them to stay on your site.

Try personalizing this dynamic banner using data from the customer. For example, you could display delivery details based on the customer’s location.

With these five strategies, you are well on your way to winning at eCommerce. To learn more about how to succeed in eCommerce and grow your hearing practice, we invite you to contact us at AudiologyPlus today.

Woman accesses her website using secure credentials

How Secure is Your Website?

Website security doesn’t tend to be a popular topic among small business owners. Sure, everyone knows it’s important, but it seems to be more of an abstract threat than, say, someone breaking into their car. So the cars get locked every day, but the website… well, it’s often left more vulnerable.
The truth is, website security threats are a more serious issue with each passing month. Simply put, more people are going online than ever before—including those with nefarious intentions. According to Internet network giant, Cisco, last year’s 6.6 million cyber attacks will grow to 8.4 million this year, and more than doubling to 17.4 million by 2020.
And don’t be fooled thinking that hackers are only aiming for big fish. Most cyber attacks crawl websites looking for weak links, and they tend to find them in smaller businesses with fewer resources dedicated to proper website security.
So how secure is your site? Do you think it could withstand potential attempts at hacking its code? Let’s review some of the best practices for enhancing your security (and restoring your peace of mind):
SSL Certificate
SSL (Secure Sockets Layer) certificates ensure that any data transferred between your website and your server is properly encrypted. It keeps any private data submitted by visitors to your site (i.e. contact information, payment information, etc) encoded during its transfer to avoid becoming compromised.
Having a valid SSL certificate for your website is the primary layer of security you should be offering visitors, and as of this year, has nearly become mandatory. That’s because, at the end of 2017, Google began warning visitors to any website without a valid SSL certificate that they are visiting a website that is “not secure” via its Chrome browser. And if getting your website flagged as a “not secure” isn’t bad enough, being without an SSL certificate also means your site is ranked lower in Google’s search results.
Not sure if your website has a valid certificate or not? Simply type in your URL and check if your web address begins with “https://” or “http://.” If you have an “s” it means you do indeed have a valid SSL certificate in place for your website. Depending on your browser, you may also see a lock icon or the word “secure” beside your URL as further indication of your valid SSL certificate in place.
If your website doesn’t have one, you can contact your host provider or domain registrar to purchase a valid certificate. If you have a webmaster who handles your website, simply ask him or her to purchase the right kind of SSL certificate for your needs. When we build websites for our clients, we automatically include a valid SSL certificate on their website, as it’s that important. It’s just one part of our definition of a modern website.
Choose a Secure Host
Your website’s data is stored by your hosting provider, which manages large numbers of servers that store data for countless websites. Because they house so much data, servers are prime targets for hackers. It’s wise to take the time to research your hosting options for your website and scrutinize the security claims made by various hosting companies.
Many different types of hosting options exist and, in general, the greater the security offered, the more expensive hosting becomes. Ultimately, having a dedicated server (which houses your website only) is the most secure option when it comes to hosting. This is also the most expensive option and is commonly used for very large or sensitive organizations.
Sharing servers with other websites is the most common arrangement, as it’s much more cost-effective. But shared hosting comes with the risk that the server itself will be vulnerable if any one of the websites it houses gets hacked. If this happens, your website would likely be down for a certain period of time while the host reorganized its data and patched its vulnerability.
We prefer cloud hosting for our clients, and recommend it for other small business owners as well. For the level of reliability, scalability, and security it provides, it’s the most cost-effective option. Our proprietary cloud hosting solution also ensures that our client’s websites are always lightning fast. We go into more detail about choosing the best host for your needs here.
Back it Up
When a website is attacked by malware (aka malicious software) or other invasive code, the result can be subtle or obvious. There’s a reason these programs are often referred to as “viruses” or “bugs,” as they operate similarly.
Malware can be latent, like a symptomless infection, operating in the background while silently recording sensitive information from you and your visitors. Or, it can reveal it’s presence instantly by affecting your content—leaving it scrambled, inaccessible, or completely wiped out. Ultimately, it can be a serious threat to your business and your peace of mind.
Considering that experts warn us that new malware code is released every 4.2 seconds, there’s no denying the need to not only secure your website from malware penetration, but also from losing all of your website’s content if your system were to get infected. Backing up your content is essential as a website owner, and most hosting platforms offer this service.
By directly hosting the website’s we build for our clients, we’re able to offer full website back-ups as well—and we do them every day. We take website security seriously, and if anything were to ever happen, we know we always have the most up-to-date version of a client’s site ready to be reloaded in an instant. Getting your website backed-up daily is definitely worth looking into if you want the best protection from the damage a website attack can create.
Stay Updated
If your website uses any third party plugins, extensions, or apps, keeping them updated to their latest versions is a must. Developers of third-party software are constantly improving and updating their code to enhance features, and especially to remain fortified against hackers. It’s an ongoing game as hackers find new ways to manipulate weak code and developers respond by upgrading/changing it.
When this happens, the software updates include what are called “patches.” And that’s precisely what they do: they cover any gaping “holes” in the security of the software’s code. Since these programs are working within your website, their level of security directly affects the amount of protection your website has in general.
In addition to these external applications, you also want to be sure that your website platform is always the newest version as well. For instance, if your website is hosted on WordPress, you can easily and quickly check to see if any new updates are available for the WordPress platform. Keeping your software fully up-to-date is a quick (and essential) way to fortify your resistance to any potential invaders.
Passwords Matter
This might seem obvious, but a surprising number of people fail to select strong passwords for even their most sensitive accounts. A strong password contains a mix of letters, numbers, symbols, and capitalization. Ideally, it doesn’t even spell out a recognizable word.
These days, many of us are juggling several dozen passwords online. From the small copy order you placed online to the flight you arranged for an upcoming trip, you likely needed to create an account on both websites to complete your order. And having an account means having a password.
The simplest way to ensure that you have strong passwords across your various accounts is to use a password manager. While it may seem daunting to have a software application hold the keys to your digital life, it’s by and large one of the most popular pieces of advice from security experts. Instead of reusing passwords across accounts, as many of us do, a password manager generates long and complex passwords for all of your digital needs. You, then, only need to remember one master password to access this vault of keys.
Many people wonder which password manager they can trust, and the general consensus among security experts is to simply choose one of the most popular companies currently available (there are four: 1Password, Dashlane, KeePass, or LastPass) and go from there. The best part? Most of these companies offer basic password management for free.
 
You’ve put plenty of time, energy, and money into creating your website. It’s your storefront in the virtual world and, as record numbers of people continue to go online, will only play an increasingly important role in your business. Use these important tips for securing your website and don’t hesitate to contact us if you’d like professional help with your business’s online presence.
 

Woman planning out her marketing plan

What the Best Hearing Practice Websites Have & Do

Website design across industries has reached a pinnacle in aesthetics, versatility, and user-responsiveness. Gone are the days when a sleek image carousel or flash-based entry on your homepage was enough to have your website stand out. With the nearly 500 new websites joining the Internet each minute, the competition for attention online is more intense than ever before. Ensure that your website has the latest features and installments to capture more online visitors and turn them into satisfied patients.
In the hearing healthcare industry, it’s rare to encounter a practice without a website. Most hearing professionals recognize that more and more of their potential patients are going online to look for local hearing services. They know that having a stand-out website is their best way to attract these patients online.
But surprisingly, many of these websites are missing one or several of the key elements of a modern website. These elements go far beyond simple design aesthetics (but those are important, too), and involve critical structural and functional elements that often determine how easily search engines like Google can find a website related to a search query. Ignoring the latest developments in website design could mean that your website languishes in the far reaches of the search results—effectively becoming invisible.
Consider the following trends that the best websites in the hearing healthcare industry are using to increase traffic to their websites and patients to their offices.
Intuitive Interface
Have you ever landed on a business’s website and found yourself frustrated trying to find the most basic information, like the hours of operation? Most of us have, and this frustration is the result of a poor organization and unintuitive design. When laying out your page design throughout your website—especially for your homepage—the one guiding question you need to ask is, “what are my patients here for?”
Let’s be clear: your website exists for one main purpose: to direct more potential patients through your office doors. In order for it to be effective in this regard, the pathways of information need to be easy to navigate, for both novice and experienced Internet users.
Up to Speed
This is a timeless necessity for every website, but unfortunately, it can quietly creep out of the equation. Unless poorly designed from the start, a website’s speed can be diminished over time by the accumulation of oversized images (added to blogs, for instance) or widgets (like social media feeds added to your homepage, etc). Failing to update your website’s various operating programs and plugins can also slow down its overall speed.
Site speed plays a large role in how well your website is ranked by search engines, so it’s a very important element to maintain. Luckily, checking on how it’s doing is a simple task. Many websites, such as this one, exist to provide a free analysis of your site speed and can help you determine if further action is needed.
Cohesiveness
Ask any branding expert what the single most important element of a successful branding campaign is and most will tell you immediately: consistency. The entire purpose of your branding—those colors, images, shapes, logo, the overall look and feel of your marketing materials, and even the office design you’ve chosen—is to inspire a certain set of ideas about your practice. Maybe you chose to go with soft and neutral colors to encourage a gentle and nurturing impression for your patients. Or perhaps you’ve gone with sharp design elements to translate a more cutting-edge, modern impression throughout your branding.
No matter what you’ve chosen to represent your practice, it’s important that those elements remain consistent throughout your entire design, from your physical office to your printed materials, and yes, even to your website. This consistency provides an intelligence and cohesiveness to your overall marketing approach, and makes anything you produce (be it a digital newsletter or a printed mailer) quickly recognized as coming from you. Brand recognition is always step one, and it’s an important one.
Content over clutter
These days, the most effective way to boost your ranking in search results and establish yourself as a knowledgeable professional for inquiring patients online is to create informative content on a regular basis. Thorough descriptions of services, a complete “About Me” page, blogs, articles, updates, and even newsletters that are then published on your website all serve this purpose and can gain you important traction with search engines and how they rank your website
The best websites recognize the importance of highlighting this valuable content throughout their various web pages. They are careful to use design elements to support and highlight useful content, with a common theme of minimal design. When this rule isn’t followed, helpful and informative content can quickly become buried under cluttered pages trying to “do” too much. The result is difficult-to-find information and an overwhelming experience for website visitors.
Optimized for Mobile
With more Internet browsers using their mobile smartphones or tablets over computers to search online these days, having a mobile-friendly website is imperative. In fact, it’s so important that Google has even declared that non-mobile responsive websites will be ranked lower in search results. That is a pretty cut-and-dry reason to ensure that your website is fully optimized for mobile devices. If you’re unsure whether your website is mobile-friendly or not, simply visit your website from a smartphone or tablet. If it looks identical to how it would on a computer screen, but with much smaller text, buttons, and images, then it’s likely not been optimized for responsive design.