Choosing the right site for you

Gillian Heron of Pink Inc looks at how to design and develop a successful dental practice website

Before you embark on your website project we would advise you to look at the different types of websites. Consider how much you would like to be involved in the ongoing maintenance of the website (if at all). Look at your in-house technical capabilities for updating the website and generally have a think about what you want your website to achieve.

By considering this information and looking at the type of website you need before you approach a web design company, you will be more focused and prepared. The tighter your brief and website specification the more accurate the costs will be from the outset.

What type of website?

In our experience there are four types of website in the dental market:

1. Static small to medium-sized brochure website (very little ongoing management). Some dental practices just want to provide basic information on the staff, the treatments, location and contact details. This information is very general and therefore the website does not need to be updated on a regular basis, but provides a basic source of information for patients and contact details to get in touch.

2. Static website medium to large (updates managed by the web developer). Some dental practices want to keep their website fresh and up-to-date but don’t have the time and resources in-house to manage it. In this case they may enter in to a contract with their website developer to keep their website up-to-date for them. The dental practice would simply tell the website developer the new promotion or news item etc and the developer would do the rest. If this is a route that you choose, make sure you know the terms of the maintenance agreement before going ahead.

Websites of this size tend to integrate email marketing and run promotions to be more proactive in engaging with their patients online. However, this can also mean additional costs, so clarify this or ask your web company for ideas on how this may be done.

3. Content managed website (managed in-house by the practice). These systems are usually used by larger practices or smaller practices that are actively using their web presence in terms of marketing and online promotion. They offer you complete control over all aspects of your website and are usually developed in-house by a trained member of staff.

If you think that your website may change, grow and develop over time then this could be a viable option for you.

4. Content managed/e-commerce website (managed in-house by dental practice). Dental practices with this type of website are rare, but do exist. They tend to be industry leaders.

Their website will contain up-to-date, relevant information on treatments, techniques and how to get in touch, but in addition to this will also offer the opportunity for users to purchase dental products online.

Any dental practice venturing into online sales will also need to remember that staff time and resources will need to be allocated to allow the website products to be updated, stock inventory levels managed and ensuring orders are packaged and delivered on time.

Once you have decided what type of website you would like for your dental practice you then need to do your research and choose a website design company to help you develop your online presence.

Choosing a web design company?

There are a few things you may want to consider when approaching a website company:

1. Look at their experience. Are they familiar with or have they developed similar sites in the past? This is not always essential; employing a company with a blank canvas can sometimes bring new ideas to the table.

2. What’s your style? Have a look through different web design companies’ portfolios and choose a web design company that you think would do a good job on the design.

3. What else does the company do? Have a look at the other services that the web company offer. Can they look after your print and email marketing too? Some dental practices prefer to keep all of their design with one company, making it easier to manage their brand.

4. Talk it through. Have a meeting with the web company, whether this is in person or over the phone, to determine if they are the right company for the job.

5. How much will it cost? Armed with your brief ask your chosen web design companies to put together a proposal for the work. Consider each proposal carefully before going ahead.

Ready to go?

Not quite. Now you have determined what type of website you need and who is going to build it, you need to make sure that you are prepared.

1. Check with the General Dental Council or Dental Council of Ireland to make sure that you are aware of any information that must be on your website according to legislation.

2. Prepare your written content. You can ask your chosen website company to supply you with a site map so that you know what content needs to be provided. You can either assign a web team to take ownership of the project or employ a copywriter to help you.

3. Get a good photographer. Anyone can download and use stock images but then how do patients identify with the website and with your company? Personalise your website with internal, external and staff/team pictures.

4. Work closely with your website company. Outline any deadlines at the start of the project. Allow both the web design company and yourself enough time to get the project done correctly.

5. Make sure you know the terms of your contract with regard to updating content, proof reading changes before going live, and training.

Now you are ready to design, build and go live. Next issue we will look at promotion.

Published: 15 March, 2011 at 11:13