When was the last time you upgraded your practice’s website? Can you remember? If you can’t, then that’s a pretty good indication now may be the time to revamp your web presence.
Of the 170,000,000 unique users heading to Google each month, 74 percent of their searches are for small or local businesses, so if your website isn’t optimized you could be missing out on a number of potential patients and referrals.
Upgrading a website is a massive undertaking and there are several steps you need to consider before just deciding to slap a new coat of virtual paint on your practice’s most powerful marketing tool. But before we get into what to consider when upgrading a website, let’s briefly discuss why it’s important to upgrade your site.
Why Should I Update My Website?
The Web is Different Than it Was Five Years Ago
The internet is a very different place than it was one, two or even five years ago. The fact is that websites of today are optimized to load faster, resize themselves to fit various screens, and house your content in unique and visually stimulating ways. New practice websites accomplish all this while being very friendly to search engines, thus helping your site show up on top of a competitor’s on a search result page (assuming you have quality content and a sound inbound marketing strategy – but that’s another issue).
New practice websites allow you to connect with patients in new ways and create a positive, relatively stress-free experience for new and returning patients alike.
New practice websites allow you to connect with patients in new ways and create a positive, relatively stress-free experience for new and returning patients alike. Features to consider for your new site include:
- Patient portal links to satisfy meaningful use requirements
- Fillable PDFs for patient forms
- Embedded maps for location pages,
- Dialog boxes to submit simple questions
- Appointment request forms
The internet is also moving away from using Flash technology to render video and play audio on websites as the HTML5 revolution begins. If your website uses Flash at any point (for instance as a slider on the main page or as part of a third party patient education section) many users will not be able to see this content for much longer.
Perhaps most important is that the framework that websites are built off of continues to evolve as well. With that comes what you can call “friendly coding” that lends itself to be more organized and easily picked up by search engines. Each page should have proper meta tags, titles and keywords. Not only do older sites not allow you to change or update these settings, some of them may not even have them, at least not programmed where they’re most useful to you and search engines.
How Should I Update My Site?
What You Should Be Prepared For
Before beginning, you should be aware that your website redesign is not something that can be done by next Wednesday.
Most new practice websites can take several weeks or even months to redesign. It’s a tedious, arduous affair and you should prepare accordingly. Before you get started you should first decide what your vision is for the new site, or at least what the problem is with the current site. The better you define what you want and what your vision is for the site the more successful the redesign will be.
Strategy is really one of the most important steps. Other stages of your redesign, following strategy of course, are planning/design, the build, optimization, launching the site and finally analyzing how all of that hard work paid off.
It’s also important to note that to get the best results you’ll want to use an outside firm who can help you optimize, organize and enrich your site. Good firms will also rigorously test your website to make sure it works for all users on various platforms and technology levels.
Creating Your Strategy
As stated earlier, you’ll want to spend plenty of time developing and massaging your strategy. A good place to start after you define your vision for the site is to create a killer specification document that outlines all you want to include in your site. List out everything you want it to do and don’t be shy, this document will change a lot through this process.
Then it’s time to look at your site from a business owner’s perspective and define a few things including:
- Statistically-driven benchmarks of success
- Goals for your new site
- Relevant keywords for your specialty
- Competitive analysis
- Inventory of content/media
In your inventory, make not of your most successful search pages because you won’t want to lose those in transition.
After you’ve developed what you want the website to accomplish and discussed how you’re going to get there, it’s time to begin the fun part: designing and building. This is where your site will begin to take shape. Again, it’s recommended you don’t do this in house. However, feel free to browse around to find some of the latest trends and user interface design options to help narrow down your design expectations from the website company.
Remember when suggesting design options and things you love that your site is meant to be a portal to learn more about your practice. Forms should work as you’d expect, the site shouldn’t be confusing to the eye and menus should be straightforward – in other words, how pretty the site is should come second to usability.
Once this is done, the hard work is essentially out of your hands.
After you receive design concepts it comes down to choosing what you like, tweaking what you don’t and waiting for the results and months of hard work to pay off.
Then it’s time to go live and measure success.