Dental Website Design
By Daniel A. Bobrow, MBA (University of Chicago) & MBA (K.U.L. Belgium)
Success with Web-Based Dental Marketing
This is the first of three Issues devoted to success with web-based dental marketing.
In this Issue we present the first of these key steps: effective website design.
We all want and deserve to receive value for our investment. Of course, value means different things to different people. For instance, one might value getting his or her website up and running quickly, while another might be more exacting and patient. One practice might value appearance more highly than function. Still another might prefer quantity over quality of website visitors.Whatever your “relative value preferences,” there are certain characteristics that you, as a dentist, should require not only from your finished* product, but also from the process.*In reality, your website should be viewed as a living and evolving instrument in a number of respects.
To ensure an error-free implementation you, or someone you trust, must take complete responsibility for coordinating all tasks and resources This is the case whether you plan to perform the strategy internally or with the assistance of one or more vendors. Be careful about “laterally promoting” say, your appointment coordinator to the role of website coordinator. If you choose to manage the process internally, be certain the person to whom you assign this important responsibility is competent, and has the time and resources to take on the challenge.
Confidence and Competence
It is reasonable to expect that whomever you retain to design your website can demonstrate his or her competence so you can have the confidence that your site will be delivered on time, on budget, and as specified. This means that your designer will ideally have experience in the dental website design field, or at least be able to show you sites he has created for other clients, which possess the aesthetics and offer the function you require.
Our goal is to create an online extension of the practice. We strive to ensure that the ‘look and feel’ of all practice communications, including the website, are consistent, and are designed to accentuate the goals, presentation, and ‘voice’ that make a practice unique.
In general, the firm you retain will be willing and able to listen as much as or more than they talk about your website design because, only by listening, will they be able to truly ‘get’ the look and feel you desire. In like manner, if you are seeking advice, your design firm should be able and willing to present different concepts, which embody different approaches, so you may make an informed decision concerning the appearance of your site.
In deciding upon the functionality for your site, imagine your website from the perspective of all who might use it, namely, your current patients, prospective patients, staff, the media, and yourself. Most practices are primarily concerned with current and prospective patients, so we briefly elaborate on these two groups here.
Current Patient Audience: If you want your website to be used by your patients of record e.g. to ask questions, request appointments, receive appointment confirmations, surveys, offer suggestions, complete paperwork, etc. be sure the firm is experienced with handling such ‘back-end’ functions. You may also choose to work with a vendor of such patient follow up services. Issues XI, XII, and XIII will elaborate on these.
Prospective Patient Audience: Issue XI discusses this audience at length. For now, just be aware that most websites lack a means for capturing contact information on prospective patients and an automated means for communicating with this audience during the ‘gestation period’ when they convert from ‘tire kicker’ to ‘trigger puller.’ But to learn more about how to implement this all-important success strategy, you’ll need to wait until Issue XI!
General Design Considerations
Here’s a list of things to consider:
- Secure your domain name. Careful consideration should be given to the naming of your site. If you have already established a strong practice brand, the name of your website will, ideally, be a close match for your practice name. If you select a URL matching your personal name, remember that, when it comes time to sell the practice, your successor may not value it as highly as you do.
- In structuring the layout of your site, you will need to consider not only the format of your home page, but also any ‘landing pages.’ Consider having a landing page for each of your services as well as a:
- Meet the Dentist(s) Page
- Meet The Team Page
- Photo Gallery
- Schedule an Appointment Page
- Assign a unique telephone number so you can track and calculate the return on your website marketing investment
- Add Forms that visitors may complete to receive a report on a topic of interest and relevance to them
- Be sure to include an automated direct response communications campaign (more on this in Issue XI)
- Be sure your website firm offers the flexibility of unlimited e-mail addresses
- Your chosen firm should also offer cost-effective web site hosting, as well as traffic and request Reports, free and reliable technical support, and, thereby, act as your Single Point of Contact
Who should build your website
Look for a firm who:
- Builds, or converts to Fully Responsive Technology using the WordPress Platform so it is fully viewable and functional from all mobile devices
- Can incorporate an Online Chat Feature to engage visitors who may not be ready to call your office
- Specializes in Dental
- Guarantees Results
- Guarantees Delivery within a reasonable time frame (but remember: you must be an equal partner in this process. Your design firm cannot deliver if it is waiting for feedback from you!)
- Has the ability (and willingness) to test your existing design for Maximum effectiveness. The better design firms offer ‘A/B testing’ whereby a given variable e.g. headline, is altered slightly, then every other visitor is exposed to the alternative version. Once a sufficient number of data points have been collected, the version with the “statistically significant” superior response, if any, is selected, and the next variable is tested
- Offers robust, but user-friendly Reporting
- Offers References
- Will, upon request, assist with selecting and securing an appropriate URL (name for your website)
Do you get the sense the person is listening to and understands your needs, or are they reading from a canned script? If the latter, you may expect to be treated as a commodity, which probably is not what you want. In general, trust your gut.
Free To Choose
If you already have a website, you probably know that there are perhaps as many approaches to website design as there are website designers.
As mentioned above, we usually get what we pay for. The cost may be overt e.g. it will cost me $4,612.40 for web designer A’s services. However, there may also be an opportunity cost in not working with that designer. We see this most often in the case where the doctor chooses to have a friend, relative, student, or someone else perform the project for free, at a greatly reduced rate, or ‘on trade’. Human nature being what it is, the person who agrees to these ‘terms’ will prioritize accordingly. Put another way: might it have been worth paying an extra $1,500 to get the same or equivalent website 6 months sooner?
The Post-Purchase Experience
You can pretty well rest assured that, once your website goes live, you will want to make changes to it. You might even experience ‘technical difficulties’ from time to time. It can be a frustrating experience not to have these concerns and requests addressed to your satisfaction or within the promised time frame, so ask for references and specifically ask what their experience has been with post-purchase service.
If you haven’t received mail from companies with names like Liberty Names of America or Domain Registry of America, you probably will. Don’t let the “domain name expiration notice” fool you. Although the expiration date of your domain name may be real, it is NOT a real invoice. The document looks official, and leads many intelligent individuals to send a check for domain name renewal. This is a form of “slamming,” which changes your service to another company without you realizing what you have done. The words “this notice is not a bill” seem to get lost in the verbiage. Liberty Names and Domain Registry are actually the same company, and they are attempting to have you renew your domain name through them, rather than your current domain registrar. Sending a check “gives them permission” to change your service. They are not the only culprits, but their presence and success is significant.
To protect yourself from having your domain slammed, “Know who your registrar is, and if you’re not sure, visit www.whois.com. At this site, you can simply type in your domain name, and then your registrar (the company that owns your domain name), along with other important information, will appear.
Check it out (and off)
Here’s part of a checklist we use to evaluate an existing site’s performance, but can also be useful in judging when your new website is‘ready for prime time.’ Some of the items below are admittedly subjective, but should assist you in developing a framework for evaluating your website.
- Navigation bar at top makes pages accessible and easy to find
- Site Layout is organized in a familiar pattern with important section at top and left and main content in center
- Professional and clean Look ‘n Feel
- Page Width not more than 800px (max printable width)
- Contact Information is ‘above the fold’ for quick viewing and access
- Quick load time e.g. not too much use of Flash and other animation, which is also a distraction to visitors
- Interactive features e.g newsletter sign up, free consultation, etc. allows practice to efficiently build prospective patient contact list
- Free offer for visitor to further encourage completion of a Form
- Follow Up System in place to communicate with registered site visitors
- Means to capture site visitor contact information
- Site ranks in top results in Google for city and ‘dentist’ demonstrating ‘relevance.’ Goal is to rank in top 3 results as these listings receive over 70% of clicks.
- City name is included in the title bar, which is one of the simplest and easiest steps to take.
- Site meta information included (such as keywords and description) that would assist in search engine optimization
- Important words on site are not in graphical images, which search engines cannot understand. They should be in text format.
- Pay-Per-Click (PPC) program in place for web site.
- Links do not send visitor to the home page but more specific landing pages where the visitor is more likely (and quickly) to find what they are looking for
- PPC ads using ‘best practices’ i.e. are managed by a firm certified to manage the program offered by that search engine
- There is a visible form of measurement for the number of visitors per month
- Based on website design, SEO, and PPC analysis of similar websites, will there be a steady amount of traffic?
- Based on usability and design analysis, will the site generate a regular stream of new patients?
Issue IX focuses Marketing Your Website, that is, how to be sure your website gets noticed by compatible prospective patients.
AIM DENTAL MARKETING
Daniel A. ‘Danny’ Bobrow,
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