October 1, 2002
by Dimos Zarkadas
A Website is an effective and inexpensive means of advertising
It can have far more useful and comprehensive information about your practice than a Yellow Pages ad, at a fraction of the cost. You can have “before” and “after” pictures, detailed descriptions of your services, the very latest information about your practice and maps indicating your location.
A Website is convenient for you and your patients
A prospective patient gives you a call and asks about your practice. You can only say so much on the phone. Direct them to your Website and let them find out about you instantly, 24 hrs/day, without spending money mailing a printed brochure. A Website is also much faster, easier and more cost-effective to update than printed material.
A Website offers a new way to educate and communicate with your patients
A Website is more than an advertisement for your practice. It has the potential to educate. By offering your patients information, you show that you care about them. This in itself can be a powerful means of promotion. Also, unlike a print ad, a Website is an interactive medium. Your potential patients can request appointments, post questions or evaluate their dental health. By responding to your patients, you engage them and further reinforce your reputation as a caring dentist.
How do I go about getting one?
So, you’re looking at building a Website. Before you set off to find the right people to do the job, you should ask yourself what you want your Website to accomplish:
Do I want it to merely act as an alternative to distributing my business card and office brochure or do I want it to do more?
Do I want it to offer value-added services to my customers such as answers to commonly asked questions, after-hours inquiry forms, videos of my clinical procedures, or price lists for common services?
Do I want it to go beyond my practice and contain educational resources for clients and professionals alike, such as the latest advice on dental care or a library of scientific papers detailing advances in the field?
If you are unsure what you want, it is recommended to start with a simple five to 10-page Website that will allow your prospective patients to:
Obtain information about your credentials and the services you provide;
Become familiar with your office and personnel;
Read what other patients have to say about your practice;
Easily locate your office.
Once you are comfortable with the strategy for your Website, you will need to consult a “Web developer”. It is recommended to seek a professional company with a rich portfolio of Websites. Look at the Websites, test them for ease of navigation, and examine their look and feel. They should all be clear and informative with a clean, uncluttered appearance. Also, it is important that the pages load quickly and do not require excessive scrolling to see the contents of each page. A poorly designed site will tend to load slowly, increasing the risk of losing your audience.
Once you are comfortable with what you see, ask the company how much they know about running a dental practice. Familiarity with your profession is as important as technical expertise in building Websites. Finally, ask about pricing. A $200 Website will likely not do the trick. Seek services from an established company with professional Web designers and expect to pay approximately $1,000-$1,500 for a simple Website of five to 10 pages. The old adage of “what you pay is what you get,” applies here as it does to pretty much anything else.
Building a Website is more than just taking digital photographs of your office and putting together the text. There are several steps involved. Ask your Web developer if they will take care of everything for you. You should only worry about providing your own images and description of your practice.
Look for Web development companies with experience in building Websites for dentists.
The following points will give you an idea on what to expect from start to finish.
Dedicate at least one computer and staff member in your office. At least one computer in your office should be set up to connect to the Internet. It is strongly recommended to have a “dedicated” or “high-speed” connection. It is much faster, doesn’t take time away from your phone line, and allows you to be connected at all times. Expect to pay about $80/month for this service. To order Internet hook-up, contact your local telephone or cable TV company. You should also assign someone in your office to provide quick responses to the incoming e-mail and Website inquiries.
Consult with the Web developer about what sort of Website you would like. Arrange to meet with your Web developer. You will need to bring ideas about the style, design, and color scheme, for your pages, perhaps reflecting your existing logo, notepaper, or uniforms. If you don’t, ask the developer if they can help you from scratch. Be prepared to discuss the size and layout of your site and agree on the basic pages. It’s probably best to start with four or five pages. More can be added later as required. Bring along your existing business cards with company logos, images of your office, and photographs of your staff. Bring any documents you would like to include on the Website. Please keep in mind that same copyrights apply to Websites as they do in the case of printed material.
Design the Website template. A professional Web developer should be able to quickly draft the design of your Website on paper and mockup one page, which you can preview on the screen. This will be your Website “template.” After making any alterations you require, the rest of the site will be built according to the template.
Decide on a “Domain Name.” You will need to choose a professional domain name, e.g. www.mycompany.com. The domain name should be associated with dentistry, reflect your company’s image and the contents of your Website. You may want to consider something other than www.DrSmithCosmeticDentistry.net. The best possible domain is a “.com”. It should be easy to remember and easy to spell. For example, a dental office that uses the slogan “Smile Solvers!” may want to consider www.smilesolvers.com. The domain name is “leased” on a yearly basis. Expect to pay about $20-$40 annually. The Web developer should check the availability of the domain name and obtain it for you immediately. You should also ask your Web developer for at least one e-mail account associated with your new domain name, e.g. email@example.com. E-mail is usually included in the cost of the Website.
Arrange for Website “Hosting.” Your Website needs a home. A “host” is basically a computer on which your Website resides. Your Web developer should arrange for hosting on a reliable network so that people get easy and fast access to your Website. Expect to pay about $10/month for hosting.
Arrange for Website “Maintenance.” It is very important that the information on your Website is updated regularly. You may also decide that you want to add extra information and features in the future. Your Web developer should design the Website for ease of updating and expansion. Ask about hourly rates for maintenance. At the very least, ask about access to your Website. You may want to hire another company to do the job and you don’t want to be stuck with a Website you cannot update.
Dimos Zarkadas is manager, b2bweb.ca, Customized Internet Solutions.