If dentists think high-end, they will eventually start getting more upscale patients. But to become high-end you have to be an entrepreneur, which means you have to reinvent yourself and go beyond what’s standard in your industry. Since this blog is about web design, let’s see how having a high-end website can serve your business goals.
You need a high-quality custom website not because you should “decorate” your site but because nowadays it is all about apps and highly functioning websites, so your patients are increasingly expecting to see more robust app-like online features. If you only go with the standard web template packages offered by many dental marketing companies, you will be just like your competition. It’s important to make your online presence high-end if you want to stand out.
Two definitions to clarify:
- A web template: a pre-designed website that may be “customized” to your needs by inserting your logo and maybe other slight customizations, but basically you buy it as is. The more customizations you need, the more you pay. Some customizations may be impossible to do on a template. In short, customizing a template is similar to trying to fix a shoe that doesn’t fit.
- A custom website: a website designed and built from scratch to your or to your marketing person’s specifications, with consideration for your specific business needs.
What do your patients need?
How does a patient think and what do they need when they visit a dental website? I can fill in the blanks here because I’m one of such dental patients, so it’s easy for me to think from the patient’s point of view. Bear with me:
Would I care if your website has intricate graphic art, flowers on the background? No (and that’s NOT what I mean by “custom design”).
Would I care if your website has pleasing colors, is well-organized and readable(nice and easy-to-read fonts), properly highlights important content and conveys a calm and professional feeling? Yes (and that’s what custom professional design is about: simplicity, organization, professionalism). If I’m an older visitor with weak eyes, it’s important for me that the content be readable and legible. If I browse your site amidst my busy day at work, it’s important that the content be well-organized and structured, so I can find what I’m looking for easily and quickly. A clean, professional, well-organized site tells me: this dentist has the money to invest in a professional designer, so this dentist is probably doing well. If your site conveys an upscale, expensive feeling, you win patients’ subconscious respect and trust.
Would I care if the website is functional, convenient to use, doesn’t have broken features, works in all browsers and mobile devices? Absolutely (and that’s achieved by high-quality coding).
Would I care if the website uses stock photosof generic smiling people flashing their white teeth at me? Not really, though it’s annoying and I would think, “oh no, another one of these websites that doesn’t have much substance.”
Would I care if the website looks very similar to other dental websites I’ve seen (that are using the same template)? Well, searching through many other dental websites, I may forget which one is yours. A high-end dentist should stand out online.
Would I care to read your content? Unless you are a doctor who is famous for their high-traffic blog and interesting content, I wouldn’t care or have the time to read much on your website. Remember: visitors don’t want to spend lots of time on your website, they want to do what they need to do and be gone, so make it easy for them. Many studies published by a famous usability expert Jacob Nielsenconclude that visitors don’t usually read much on the web, they just scan a few pages to find what they need.
What I would care about:
Reviews, for sure. Theoretically, I could search Yelp and Google Plus for your reviews, but make it easier for me by streaming a feed of reviews on your website, so I could read them all at once. If your practice has associates or visiting dentists, I may be interested in reading their reviews too. You need someone who can aggregateall the reviews on your website and then automate the selection, sorting, and display of reviews by associate’s name. This is a technical challenge that a professional web designer can solve.
“Do you have any coupons?” I will appreciate it if you have an easy-to-use coupon section on your website. And it’s in your best interest to have it streamlined and easy to manageso your staff doesn’t need to spend too much time doing your web coupons.
“Ok, you got me, how do I convert?”- ah, this is where your New Patient form functionality has to shine. Do you think I’ll go through the trouble of downloading your PDF forms and scribbling on them, then scanning and emailing them to you? No, I want to save my time, give me online fillable forms. Again, you need someone to create these online forms (yes, they can be secure and HIPAA compliant too), to make these forms easy to edit, and to also streamline the process of managing patient form submissions to reduce your office overhead.
“Ok, how do I make an appointment?”Do you think I like being forced to call? That’s so old-school. It’s 21st century now! As a web user from a younger demographics, I’m used to these cool widgets on other websites, such as online restaurant reservations. If you have a feature that allows me to pick a date on a calendar, see what times are available, add it to my Google calendar – all without leaving your website – you got my respect. If your website can send automatic appointment reminders and if submitted appointments are easy to manage in your database, your staff will thank you too.
And that’s barely scratching the surface of what can be done with the web technology; we’re not even talking about features like online bill pay or instant chat – all of which can be seamlessly integrated into your website. If your website is high-end, I will definitely see that you are in touch with technology and that you care about your patients’ convenience and respect your patients by making things easier for them online. I will form a good impression about you even before meeting you in person.
Can all this be done on a templated website?
Are these and many other app-like features commonly included in the template packages offered to you? And don’t forget the admin (under the hood) side of your website: all these features should be easily edited by your staff and at the same time be automated and streamlined to make things easier to manage by your staff – is that included in a template too? Does the template have enough flexibility to accommodate your special practice needs?
You’d have to customize the heck out of a template in order to achieve that, and many customizations are often impossible. Templates are not meant for heavy customizations. They are good if all you need is a cookie-cutter website with your logo on it – but such a website will not do a good job serving your long-term online business goals in this competitive world. It’s easier and more cost-effective to create the right custom website from the beginning and have all these things fit in place naturally.
What does a high-end website involve?
Let’s reiterate. A high-end website (as far as web design and development is concerned) is about satisfying these criteria:
Clean, simple, and professional look; good readability; no clutter. Website loads quickly; no distracting graphics unless they contribute to the content; no generic stock photos.
Who can implement it:a professional web designer who does custom websites, or someone who can find a suitable high-end template for you.
The site is organized and structured exactly as you and/or your marketing person need; important content is properly highlighted and easily accessible; the structure of the site is understandable to your patients and makes it easy for them to find what they need quickly.
Who can implement it:Since marketing should be customized to the needs of your specific practice, it’s unlikely that a one-size-fits-all web template will serve your marketing needs well. You need a professional web designer who can create a custom website to your or to your marketing person’s specifications.
Robust features that utilize the latest web technology, that don’t break, and that are easy and intuitive to use. These may include, but are not limited to, online forms instead of PDF forms, one-click appointment reservations, chat, appointment and financial reminders, bill pay. Online features save time for both your visitors and your staff, thereby increasing your patient satisfaction and reducing your office overhead.
Who can implement it: a professional web designer who does custom websites.
Admin (under the hood) features:
Everything is easily editable by a nontechnical website manager (which is not always a given even with WordPress because many features require additional efforts to be made editable), things such as patient submissions, payments, coupons, reviews are streamlined and automated as much as possible to reduce the need for manual labor which then reduces human errors and amount of time and money spent. Automation also reduces or eliminates the need to pay your marketing company for support and maintenance. Easy-to-use, clear, consistent admin interface with inline custom instructions, which minimizes learning curve and often eliminates the need for training.
Who can implement it: a professional web designer who does custom websites.
Nice, but isn’t it expensive?
An upscale dental marketing company may build you a high-end custom website, no problem – but how much will it cost you and are you being served a package with unnecessary things thrown in for which you have to pay? Marketing may need to be handled by a dental-specific vendor, but web design certainly doesn’t need to be.
Why don’t I need a dental-specific web designer?
One doesn’t need to be an expert in dentistry to implement a well-functioning, well-coded website. However, you need a web designer who is experienced at working with small businesses and who can give you advice regarding technical implementation, what online features will improve your patient experience and will streamline your practice management, and what are the cost-effective alternatives that fit your budget.
If you already work with a marketing person, or if you prefer to handle marketing yourself, you may find that adding a general (not dental-specific) web designer to your website task force is cheaper than working with a web marketing company, and you can get high quality for less money. You or your marketing person can work out a custom marketing strategy; then your web designer can build a custom website under your or your marketing person’s direction and also give advice on what features are feasible and fit your budget. Such a tandem may prove to be more efficient and cost-effective than if you worked with a large marketing company. Plus, your web designer can recommend a high-quality hosting service which handles all the under-the-hood server maintenance (such as backups, malware scanning, etc.) for a fraction of the cost charged by larger marketing companies that host your website themselves.
Of course, actual prices depend on your website needs, but based on my experience exploring the dental-specific market and comparing it with my own services, I can summarize the following: some dental-specific companies have their prices start at $4.5K for a very simple template website plus, in many cases, recurring subscription fees on a monthly or yearly basis. I’ve done a few custom websites with the same set and even better of features for around $3-3.5K, no subscription fees.
What’s wrong with hiring a large marketing company?
Nothing, though it all comes down to the cost and your actual needs. If a marketing company offers you cookie-cutter packages, you may be forced to pay for features that you don’t need or can get cheaper elsewhere. For example, hosting can be bought much cheaper from a third party (with complimentary emails and backups); features on your website can be automated by a web designer so you don’t need to pay for maintenance and support; admin interface can be built by a web designer to be so simple that you don’t need training; the need for subscription fees you are being charged is also questionable. If a dental marketing company can deliver a completely customized, high-end solution without tying you to them with tricks like subscription fees and hosting, and if they can do it cheaper than a tandem of marketing person + general web designer could, then it may be a suitable option. However, I am certain that for price-conscious dentists the tandem of marketing person + general web designer will provide a high-end custom solution, exclusive service and personal attention, and high-quality for a fraction of the cost that larger marketing companies would charge.
Isn’t a “one-stop shop” convenient?
A company that does both dental marketing and web design may be a convenient option if they provide a completely custom solution for your specific practice for a reasonable price. If that’s not the case, consider this:
1. You already have lots of expenses, such as practice costs, insurance, maybe leftover dental school loans, etc. It’s understandable that you may be price-conscious when it comes to investing in your website. You don’t want to be forced to pay inflated retainers or pay for packages with features you don’t need, as is often the case with do-it-all dental marketing companies.
2. Besides, it can happen that the company is good at marketing but their web design services are unappealing, mediocre, and over-priced. You want to budget, but at the same time you want the best quality for your money. If so, you should diversify your options rather than putting all eggs in one basket. Consider hiring a general web designer (as I mentioned above, you don’t need a dental-specific one) and a dental marketing professional separately. This way you may get a better deal overall and still pick the best professionals.
3. You are busy and your time is precious. It’s understandable that you don’t want to have to manage two separate professionals. Consider this: high-quality experienced professionals can work together as one team, so you don’t have to deal with each one of them separately. For example, I’ve worked on many projects as a subordinate of a marketing person or a marketing company, and it usually works out like this: the client deals with the marketing professional; the marketing professional gives directions to the web designer and they work together to implement the marketing strategy into the website. If you hire professionals who can work together as one team, it will save you time and headache and you will get the power and quality of an “all-in-one” agency, for a potentially much lower price.
You don’t necessarily have to pay an arm and a leg to get a high-end website. If you are closed in to your inner dental-specific world with not much diversity and competition, then you don’t see what’s available out there. If you expand your choices to include high-quality general web designers, get quotes from them and compare, you may find cheaper options that will allow you to minimize your expenses and at the same time get a high-end website that maximizes your ROI.