Jul 4, 2013

Templates vs. Custom Design for Small Medical Practice Websites

Templates-vs-custom-designWhen it comes to health care reform, physicians today are feeling the strain. Independent private-practice doctors are increasingly compelled to close up shop and go to work as employees of larger corporate health care providers. To stay independent, small medical practice owners must have a Web presence, and a website is the foundation on which a Web presence must be built.

Web design is no longer the sole province of code-writers; with today’s user-friendly website templates, many doctors feel tempted to forgo the expense of having a custom website created in favor of designing their own template-based site. A custom-designed website, however, has a number of advantages over a page created from a template: It looks more professional, it can be tailored to suit the needs of the business, it can be optimized for search, etc.


Why Does Your Medical Practice Need a Website?

A private-practice physician who doesn’t have a website is not in control of his or her online reputation. When people search for your name or the name of your practice, do you want the first thing they see to be a former patient’s anonymous review on a third-party site?

No. You want them to see your practice’s website where you’re presented as a courteous, skilled and respected professional, and your practice is held up as exemplary. You may even want them to find your practice’s Facebook page or Twitter account where they can interact with your staff directly and evaluate your relationship with your patients.

Custom Web Design — It’s Worth It

The quality of your medical website design is vital because it’s the public face of your practice. Just as you wouldn’t go to work with a dirty face, you shouldn’t let a template website speak for the quality of your practice. Using a template for your practice’s website design says that you don’t care enough about your practice or your patients to put effort into building your public image.

What’s more, a custom-designed medical website can be built around your practice’s unique needs and services. With a template, you’ll just be stuck trying to cram your unique practice into a generic mold. A Web designer can make your page easy to navigate and pleasant to use. It’ll be your unique design; no other website will share it.

A custom-designed website will also be much easier for your users to find than a site built from a template. That’s because your Web designer knows how to build SEO metadata right into the coding of the site and how to fill that site with the type of content that’s going to attract the most users. If you want to write a blog on your website or you’re worried about updating your site in the future as your practice grows and changes, your Web designer can take those needs into account and give you a site that’s as easy to use from the back end as it is from the front.

Keep in mind that not everyone who views or uses your website will be doing so on a computer. Mobile devices account for a huge chunk of online traffic these days. A custom Web designer will be able to ensure that your website looks as good on a smartphone or a tablet PC as it does on a desktop monitor.

More importantly, the designer can make sure your website doesn’t lose functionality when viewed on a mobile device. Your patients will still need to be able to find your phone number or contact page, read your blog post or sign into your forums when they’re viewing your site on a mobile device.

Speaking of forums, social integration is another key benefit to custom Web design. In the era of online social networking, your practice needs to have a presence in social media. Social integration goes further than just having prominent links to your Facebook and Twitter pages.

With custom Web design, you can create a user community right on your website. You, your patients and your staff can communicate, share information and offer one another support. You can even make your patients’ records available to them on your website via secure login, and given them the ability to do things like request prescription refills or schedule appointments online.

Your independent practice needs a website in order to stay competitive in today’s medical marketplace. When it comes to building your site, don’t skimp. An investment in custom Web design will pay off for years to come.

About the Author: Contributing blogger Dr. Dale Howard has been in private practice for over 15 years. He intends to remain an independent physician for as long as he can.

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