Featured in the July issue of Med Monthly Magazine
Various surveys have confirmed that a large number of patients search online for healthcare information these days (roughly 75% of American adults – about half of which are seeking treatment). With that many patients online, it’s undeniable that having a website is important. However, how important is it that your website be well-designed and highly ranked in Google? The answer to that may determine whether a do-it-yourself template or a custom design is your best option.
Some doctors may think that all they really need is an online brochure essentially (a site with the practice phone number, address, a list of services and a few pretty pictures). So they use a do-it-yourself web template thinking they’ll get the site up quick, and for very little cost. Pursuing a do-it-yourself website builder is similar to how your patients attempt to diagnose themselves through medical websites like WebMD – it’s possible, but it just can’t take the place of a trained professional.
Your website may be patients’ first and last impression of your practice. And it’s not just about the way your website looks; a bad website can also negatively affect your patients’ experience and also inhibit you from ranking well in the search engines (Google).
Here are three reasons why you might want to consider hiring a professional web design agency to create your website.
Your website has less than 7 seconds to make an impression on a patient or it’s on to the next. Just as taking a one-size-fits-all approach to your patient care would have negative effects on outcomes, a do-it-yourself website design can have a negative impact on your branding.
Customization options with do-it-yourself templates are limited and therefore your site may end up looking very generic. For patients who are searching online and comparing you to your competition (who may have put much more thought and effort into their online presence), you just made the decision very easy for that patient.
To many patients, an outdated website implies outdated care. If you want to accurately “tell your story” online, you need a website that truly represents who you are as a practice. A surgical practice may offer state-of-the-art robotic surgery, but if their website looks like it hasn’t been touched since 2001 then they are sending a mixed message. Think about it – would you trust Amazon.com if its design quality was comparable to the local hair salon down the street?
2. Search Engine Rankings
One thing all these do-it-yourself website builders don’t advertise is the fact that they are not favorable for Search Engine Optimization purposes (your rankings in Google and other search engines).
The way your site is programmed and optimized to be crawled by the search engines is important; it’s the difference between Google having to take the “stairs” versus the “elevator” to crawl your site – i.e. it’s much more difficult to rank your site when the coding doesn’t support such.
3. Patient Experience
By not investing in a customizable website, you may also negatively impact the patient experience. A well-thought-out custom medical site allows for such patient-friendly features as HIPAA compliant online registration forms, special tools like a pediatric dosage calculator, and a layout that improves the ease of navigation.
The mobile experience can also suffer since self-built sites that are data and graphics heavy are slow-loading and turn off mobile users by using up their limited data plans faster.
Patients are searching online more than ever and it doesn’t matter if your patient population is young or old (the 55+ age group is the fastest growing on Facebook according to a report from iStrategyLabs). Therefore, a well-designed, highly functional and well-ranked website is one of your most important, if not THE most important marketing investment you’ll make in your practice.
With that said, just because you decide to go the custom route does not mean you are guaranteed a great website. Everyone, including the neighbor’s teenage son, advertises custom website design these days so be sure to do your homework and ask for past examples and references. It also helps to work with an agency who is experienced in medical web design specifically.
While a do-it-yourself template is more of a time commitment and a professional web design is more of a financial commitment, when choosing between the two keep in mind the factors explained above. While you may save money on the front-end with a website builder, it can definitely cost you more in the long-term. Professional web design is an art that requires a true process; a series of questions need to be answered to establish goals and ensure the site is intuitive, is a strong marketing tool and improves the patient experience.
Amanda Kanaan is the President and Founder of WhiteCoat – a medical marketing agency whose mission is to help physicians stand out in today’s competitive healthcare market. Services include medical website design, internet marketing, social media, branding and physician liaison programs (increase referrals).