Give web visitors a sense of your practice's quality, professionalism

November 1, 2007

Keep these dos and don'ts in mind when designing and writing a professional-quality physician Web site.

Key Points

National report - Even if it is just to get your phone number, online visitors to your Web site get a sense of your practice's quality and professionalism just by glancing at your home page. That is why, experts say, it is important to follow simple rules when hanging your online "shingle."

Dos

Hire right. This is no time to ask your nephew who has taken one computer course to design and create your Web presence.

Web professionals also help with important services, such as search engine optimization (how high your site ranks when Web surfers search by keywords), Web updating and more.

Easy navigating is key. You only have a few precious seconds to capture your online visitors, so make their lives easy by including easy-to-access information they need.

"You want your contact information on every page. I highly recommend directions and maps," Mr. Boyd tells Dermatology Times.

"Navigation should be consistent on every page, in the same location. You should have sub-pages that are clearly marked. We recommend drop-down lists on the navigation menus so that you can get to any page on the Web site easily," he says.

Make it clean. Your Web design should be clean (not too busy) and modern, Mr. Boyd says. "Using great photography is a big bonus."

Think of your site as dynamic. Web sites need updating to reflect the practice in real time, says Catherine Maley, president and senior marketing strategist, San Francisco-based Cosmetic Image Marketing.

"Do not let (your practice Web site) sit," Ms. Maley says. "You have to keep updating the content, offers. . . . To keep the search engine directors interested in you, you (or your vendor) have to keep resubmitting new pages."

Think privacy. If you are going to be sending clients e-mails, especially with personal information, you need to be HIPAA compliant. There are vendors, Mr. Boyd says, that sell HIPAA-compliant e-mail solutions.

Brand for consistency. Your Web site design, feel and messages should be consistent with what you do in print and other online advertising and marketing efforts.

Don'ts

Don't forget to proofread. Web content should be informative, accurate, interesting, to the point and grammatically correct. Check phone numbers, even the name of the practice and doctors, to make sure everything is correct.

Don't use flashing, blinking, scrolling text. "Easy does it on animation," Mr. Boyd says. Flash animation requires that people visiting your site click to skip the introduction, and many people who are frustrated with the extra step will click right off your site.

Finally, don't hide the fact that you have a Web site. "You want to make sure that your Web address is on every piece of communication that goes out of your practice: pens, notepads, PowerPoint presentations, letterhead, business card," Ms. Maley says.