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 By Neil B. Gailmard, OD, MBA, FAAO, Editor March 24, 2010 - Tip #423 
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Upgrading Your Practice Website, Part 2


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Additional Information

I wrote last week about the importance of a strong, interactive practice website. I believe the website is the cornerstone of eye care marketing for the present and into the future. There are many excellent internal and external marketing strategies we can work with that spring from or build upon your practice website.

A do it yourself project?

It is certainly possible to design your own website if you learn how to write HTML code and there are many off the shelf programs and websites available to make it even easier by using a template driven format. I don't recommend going that route because the finished product just won't look as good or represent you as well as a custom design. Eye care professionals (ECPs) are not graphic designers or advertising professionals and if you do it yourself, it usually shows. Besides that point, designing and building a great website is fairly time consuming and you can reduce that if you have professional help. Also, strict template sites have very little ability to work with third party interactive features. Your practice website is too important to do it yourself.

I recommend a hybrid approach between total custom design and a template driven process. I want the look of a custom design but I want the control of being able to write my own text, upload my own photos and make changes anytime I wish with no additional bother or cost. There are web design firms that offer this semi-custom approach at a reasonable price.

Choosing a web designer

Look for a web design firm that...

  • has worked extensively for eye care practices and can show you many existing websites as samples of their work.
  • has a template based system that allows the ECP or a staff person to log on to an administrative website at anytime and make modifications to text, upload new photos and add additional pages with no assistance from anyone. These changes should be in effect on your website within a few minutes.
  • has a customer service staff available to answer questions and will provide some basic technical services such as adding a behind the scenes link to a third party program.
  • has alliances with other technology firms in eye care that can offer additional interactive services (like online appointment scheduling or online contact lens ordering)
  • can integrate with leading practice management software programs.
  • can provide web hosting services.
  • can provide search engine optimization (SEO) services. This is a relatively new industry that seeks to optimize your visibility with search engines like Google, Bing, Yahoo and others. Try searching for keywords in your city and state (like eye exams, optometrist, contact lenses, eyeglasses, or eye doctor). If you don't see your practice in the top few hits, you would benefit from SEO.

Content

Like all great marketing projects, start by thinking what the medium and message will do for the customer, not what they do for you. Naturally, your website will be about your practice, but write it in a way that tells visitors how they will benefit.

Writing the content is easy for some eye care professionals and difficult for others, but good content is a must for a great website. You can and should get help with expressing the ideas in a pleasing style with proper grammar, but start with the ideas you want to convey. A good website development firm will guide you through the process and help you with the content, but only the practice owner (or another party who knows the practice extremely well) can describe what the practice is all about.

Design

Your web designer will guide you through the process and will ask key questions, but start to consider these points:

  • What are your goals for the website; what do you want it to do?
  • What colors do you like or already use in your office and in your practice logo?
  • Do you have a good practice name and logo?
  • What style would you like? Consider adjectives like professional, clinical, corporate, retail, casual, fun, innovative, cutting edge.
  • What is your target market or demographic?
  • What sections would you like to include. Consider that most websites have a main toolbar, usually vertically on the left and another toolbar at the top. Make a list of the broad headings you want to have on your site.
  • What interactive features do you want?
  • Visit many other websites, within eye care and also in other industries, and save the ones that appeal to you. You can use other sites as inspiration for yours, but don't plagiarize.

Photographs

Photographs are a vital element to a good website. You need lots of good photos that present your office and your services in a pleasing manner. With a good digital camera and some basic skills, you can take your own photos of your office and staff. Take several shots of each scene so you can analyze them and choose the best.

You should also have a good photo editing software program, like PhotoShop, so you can modify your photos before uploading them to your website. In many cases, the file size will be too large for use in a website template, but you can use the editing program to reduce it. You can also resize the photo and crop it to remove unwanted elements or to center the subject better.

You can also find stock photos of almost anything you want on the internet at minimal cost or free, but good photos from your practice are generally preferred because new visitors will get a preview of your office and existing patients will see people and elements they recognize.

Promote your website

You and your staff can make a huge difference in how your website is used.

  • Always include your web address on all printed materials.
  • Tell patients to go to your site when you speak to them in the office.
  • Give patients a good reason to visit the site by making it useful; like online appointments or educational videos.
  • Use your website in the office with the patient present. Have it running but minimized in your exam room so you can bring it up and show people.
  • Use paper handouts in the office that refer to the website and to encourage use of special features.
  • Advise people who call to go to the website and give them the address.
  • Advise patients who schedule appointments by phone to go to the site to complete history forms before the visit.
  • As eyewear is dispensed, ask patients to log on and complete your patient survey.

Best wishes for continued success,

Read Past Tips Neil B. Gailmard, OD, MBA, FAAO
Editor, Optometric Management Tip of the Week


A Proud Supporter of

Send questions and comments to neil@gailmard.com.

Dr. Gailmard offers consulting services to eye care professionals through Prima Eye Group; information is available at www.primaeyegroup.com.

Please Note: The views expressed in Management Tip of the Week do not necessarily reflect those of the sponsor.

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