Building Your Website
Your website provides an introduction to you and your practice for potential customers. In many cases, it is their first impression of who you are as a dentist and what kind of attitude you have towards them. You can express your professionalism, your caring attitude or your friendly nature, all in a website they can look at and read in the comfort of their own home or office, at their leisure. They can find out what services you offer and learn about treatments they might need. But, before they can do all that, you have to build a website that is informative, relevant and professional.
Can You Build Your Own Website?
Building a website cannot be that hard, can it? After all, there are all sorts of free and cheap website builders online for novice web designers. All you have to do is go to Wix or Weebly and do it yourself, right? While you can certainly do that, your website will lack the visual appeal, functionality and searchability you need unless you already know what it takes to make a great website.
One of the most significant problems with designing your own website is that, as a novice website designer, it is hard for you to present the professional image on your site that you want. Potential patients see your site as an extension of your practice. If it does not look professional, they see you and your clinic as unprofessional. So, the simple answer is: yes, you can build your own website. The more realistic answer is that your website will be much more effective in creating the kind of web presence you want if you leave this job to experts. In the rest of this chapter, you can learn what to expect from your website designer.
Components of Website Design
Designing a website entails a lot of hard work along with knowledge of the components of website design. You need to know how to make a positive visual impact, how to create an easy-to-navigate website, how to write content for your site and how to build in links and metadata. The following components add together to make a website appealing, findable, user-friendly and informative.
- pictures, photos, graphics
- visual space
You will need the following elements on your site as well.
- your logo
- photos of you and your dental clinic team
- information about the services you offer
- contact information
- calls to action
- social media buttons
- navigation links
- SEO (search engine optimization)
Branding on Your Website
Have you developed your brand yet? Your brand is your unique professional image. It is how the world sees you as compared to other dentists. The first thing you need to do before you ever begin to build a website or hire a website designer to build one for you is to identify your unique brand. What makes you and your clinic different? What sets you apart from others? What is it about dentistry that you want people to think of when they hear your name or see your logo? If you do not already have a particular branding idea in mind, now is the time to decide what you want others to think of your clinic. While you may have many qualities that are desirable in a dentist, you need to settle on one that will be your defining characteristic. A few examples of branding in the dentistry business might include:
- the friendly dentist
- the pain-free dentist
- the caring dentist
- the high-tech dentist
- the helpful dentist
- the convenient dentist
A good website develops your brand, not only in the content, but in the design as well. If your goal is to be seen as a high-tech dentist, your site design needs to be very modern, crisp and clean, and filled with examples of high-tech dentistry. On the other hand, if your brand is “the caring dentist,” your site might have more muted colors, softer lines and more photos of you interacting with patients in a friendly way. This is why it is so important to communicate your brand message to any web designer you might hire. You need to get them on board so they can create a website that expresses the message you want to communicate in every possible way.
Web Page Layout
The layout of each web page on your site needs to be visually attractive as well as easy to read. This requires an eye for artistic design and composition. Your web designer can walk you through their vision of your ideal layout to give you a basic understanding of what they are trying to accomplish with it. The pages need to have the information you need to relay, certainly, but they also need to reveal the image you want to leave with anyone who checks out your site.
Images and Graphics
Images on a dental clinic website need to be clear and understandable. You can supply some of these graphics or work with your website designer to create them. Some of the graphics you might choose to have on your dental clinic website include:
- your logo
- photos of you and your team
- photos of dental treatments in progress
- photos of dental appliances such as braces or dentures
- instructional videos
- drawings of the structure of a tooth
- graphs showing dental care statistics
Too many graphics can make your site confusing and “noisy,” but having a few well-chosen images and videos can add visual appeal as well as promote patient education.
The first thing you need to know about fonts is that not all fonts work on all browsers. If you want your text to display the way you envision it, you need to choose a web-safe font. Some of the most common of these are:
- Times New Roman
- Lucinda Courier
Your web designer can choose a font that works well and adds to your brand message. The font needs to be easily readable. If you use more than one font on your site (and most sites do have more than one) the fonts need to look natural beside each other. Your web designer can use different font types and sizes to create a hierarchy of information. The space between lines of text, also called “leading” is another important consideration in displaying readable website content.As far as color, black type on a white background is the most readable. However, using other colors of type is sometimes desirable as a way of inspiring the emotion you want users to have when they read about your clinic. The fonts you use on your website are more than ways to display words. They are also a part of the overall website design.
Using Space Effectively
Your web presence includes everything you put on your website. What you may not realize is that it also includes what you do not put there. Open space on your site helps present that professional image you want to express. When you consider the opposite, this makes perfect sense. Imagine a site where every space is used. Corners are filled with discount offers, edges are lined with testimonials and between paragraphs the logo is repeated again and again. This cluttered site leaves the impression that its owner is overly anxious to convince. It creates a feeling of pushiness and desperation. The same information can be presented in a more positive way when more space is allowed on the site. What is more, a good web designer knows how to use space to draw the eye to the most important elements of each page.
A site that takes too long to load is a site that users will leave quickly more often than not. If the site has poor navigation, readers become annoyed and distracted from your message. The frustration can lead them away from the site before they see what you have to offer. It can also affect the way they feel about your dental clinic. While they might know very well that the way your site works is not a clear representation of what goes on in your office, their visceral reaction will be to associate your clinic with frustrating delays. A talented web designer will make sure that your site loads quickly and smoothly. He or she will ensure that all the links work well so readers can move quickly from one web page to another throughout your site.
What Is Metadata?
Metadata consists of pieces of information that are not necessarily seen by the people who view your site. They are there to help the search engines find your site. Metadate will be covered in greater detail in the chapter on SEO. The thing to know now is that knowledgeable web designers insert metadata onto your site for you in the most effective ways possible.
Your Landing Page Captures Readers’ Attention
The landing page of your website is generally the first web page visitors will see on your website. It needs to be fully optimized to capture the largest number of Internet users in your local area who are looking for dental services. It also needs to be attractive and easy to read. In addition, website visitors need to be able to move easily from the landing page to the parts of the site they are interested in seeing.
Web Pages to Include on Your Site
No two websites are identical, but Internet users have certain expectations about what they will find on a business website. It should include these basic pages:
- home page
- about us
- contact us
You can title these pages in different ways, but you need to label them clearly enough that users will know where to find what they are looking for on your site. For example, most business websites have an “About Us” tab. You do not have to label it “About Us,” though. If you title it “Our Story” or “Our Staff,” people will understand how to find out about you.
Adding a Blog to Your Website
Posting a blog on your website can give it more traction as the search engine picks up all the valuable information you include on your blog posts. What is more, you are continuously adding to the site, and fresh content makes your site more search engine friendly as well. Add the blog on its own tab so people who come to your site can find it easily. What you are likely to find if you do any analytics on your web traffic at all is that people will find your blog posts directly through search at least as often as they find them by going to your website first. For that reason, you need to have link on each blog post that takes the reader back to your site.
Consider Using Follow-Ads from Your Website
You may have noticed that after you visit certain websites, you begin to see ads from that site as you continue to move around on the web. The ads seem to follow you from site to site. In fact, this is exactly what happens with a follow-ad. By placing a follow-ad command on your website, you make it easy for people to visit your site to remember why they searched for it in the first place. Then, whether they want a routine cleaning and exam or are interested in finding out more about cosmetic procedures, they are more likely to remember to make an appointment at their next convenience.
Calls to Action
Whether your website user is just curious about a particular dental treatment or ready to make their first appointment, a call to action can channel that desire into a concrete action. The call to action should tell the user what to do and how to do it. For example, it could say “call us today to set up your first appointment.” This gives them an action to do and a time frame to do it. Specific calls to action can help you measure the effectiveness of your website, too. For instance, you could suggest people “call for our free brochure on sleep dentistry.” Then, when someone calls for the free brochure, you know they have been on your site and found it interesting enough to want to learn more. The right calls to action, then, can help you find the most promising leads for new patients in your local area.
Choosing a Website Design Company
Effective website design is complex enough that doing it yourself is not the best idea. However, as you are just starting your dentistry business, you need to keep the costs as low as possible. There is a happy medium where you can get good website design at a reasonable cost. Choose a company that specializes in dental services websites. They are the most familiar with the needs and desires of dental services users and the goals of dentists. They know what you have to offer and can work with you to develop a site that can meet your business objectives. Be wary of website designers who promise too much. If it sounds too good to be true, it probably is. Opt instead for a website design company that offers to build you a well-designed website that promotes your dentistry business by using sound website design techniques instead of flashy gimmicks.
Finding a website design company that specializes in dentistry is one of the keys to having a more successful business. However, be wary of designers that promise too much for the price. Make sure they are using unique images and content to help your business shine on and off Google. Look at their portfolio and ask their clients what it was like to work with them. Then, ask the design company the following questions:
- What is the total cost of having the website completed?
- When can the website be ready?
- Do I need to provide the content?
- How much will changes cost after the site is completed?
- Do you do SEO?
- Will the site be a Content Management System that I can add to and change myself?
- Will people be able to view the site on all browsers?
- Can I pay on completion rather than all up front?
- Will I own the domain and the website?