Dentists are responsible for more than just oral health – they’re managing and operating a business too and will need to put as much time and effort into that as they do patient wellness.
One of the major challenges that both new and experienced dental practices face is acquiring patients and encouraging current patients to refer their friends, family, and co-workers. New patients and referrals are what keeps dental practices growing and thriving. Failing to address this critical aspect of running a practice can have detrimental effects for years to come. With a little advanced thought, however, dental practices can make sure their time and resources are working for, and not against them.
Today, one of the best opportunities to accomplish these objectives (acquisition and retention) is through a website. These digital destinations can provide an incredible chance to showcase expertise and generate new business, but they can also be challenging to develop. While there is an abundance of information about how to design websites, consider the following some actionable, best practice advice to ensure that your website is working as hard (and smart) as you are.
Below you’ll find some important questions you should ask before designing or redesigning a website to ensure that it’s bringing in dental patients, helping them find the information they need and encouraging them to keep coming back.
Dental Website Expectations
Website design is both an art and a science, but it can quickly turn into a costly, inefficient mess if you don’t truly understand how your objectives align with patient expectations. Often designers (and marketers) tend to romanticize the “user experience” they develop, but by keeping it simple and delivering what patients need, when they need it, you’ll find you will be able to generate more business from far less effort. So how does this apply to dental websites?
If we think through the different scenarios when someone might be looking for a dental website, we can assume that they will likely be doing at least one of three things – researching your practice to assess its credibility, accessing information so that they can contact you, and interacting with you when they are not “scheduled for a regular visit.”
Researching Your Practice
If you were looking for a dental practice, what signals would you look for to measure competence and credibility? You might seek out reviews or testimonials from other patients, you might seek out a list of credentials, or perhaps even “trust markers” like those provided by the Better Business Bureau or a local chamber of commerce. Are those elements on your current website?
As a local business, it’s critical that dental websites feature their phone number, their physical address and some other means (such as a form) through which patients can get in touch. People often go to websites because they need to make contact – asking a question, booking an appointment, or getting directions. – so placing that information in a prominent location is vital to an effective website.
Interacting & Engaging
While most of your dental patients will only need to know that you’re credible and access to the information required to contact your practice, others will look for something more. By providing distinct opportunities to interact and engage with your practice, you’ll provide a digital experience that keeps patients coming back and turning to you for oral healthcare questions. Provide a simple “frequently asked questions” section or set up a form specifically to answer patient questions. That’s the type of dental website design feature that conveys trustworthiness and generates repeat visits.
Align Design Elements with Audience
Most websites fail in terms of speaking to their audience when it comes to their dental website design. The tone, style, and approach your website conveys are critical, however. Not designing an experience for the patients you plan to serve is setting yourself up for failure. In fact, statistics show that 38% of users will stop interacting with your website if they find it unattractive. If you’re a pediatric dentist, for example, you would use an image of a smiling mother and daughter with straight, white teeth. But if you have a downtown office in a major metropolitan area and your clientele is busy business professionals, would you use the same image? Of course not – aligning design elements with the audience you intend to serve is simply a best practice.
Provide Information With Intent
In most instances, a small, brochure style website is all that dental practices are going to need. Those willing to take their digital presence a few steps further however often consider adding content such as articles on oral health or specific procedures to their website. These are welcome additions in most cases, but where most fail is in not creating that content in a way that ultimately leads to a new patient. At every opportunity, make a point to include a direct response “call to action.” For example, “Do you have these symptoms? Schedule an assessment now.”
Measure It To Manage It
Websites can be an effective extension of your dental practice brand. In order to ensure that it is actually contributing to your success however, it’s important that you understand what’s happening in that digital ecosystem. You’ll want to have access to many different data points; including the number of users, how many visited from different channels (search engines, social media, other websites), and metrics on those users’ behavior when they were at your site. Knowing this information can provide you an opportunity to make adjustments to your dental website design and improve it over time. You can’t manage it if you don’t measure it.
Dental Web Design Secrets
The secrets of effective dental website design aren’t really secrets at all – think about what kind of information new or returning patients might need or want, deliver an experience that matches the attributes and desires of the patients you intend to serve, be aggressive in offering your services and measure it all to ensure your dental website is as effective as you are with a dental laser.