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If you’ve spent more than a few years at your ophthalmic practice, it’s likely that you’ve seen your practice website go through some changes. Sometimes they’re minor – a quick addition to the staff bios, a new page here or there.
But sometimes the changes are far more widespread – changing hosts, transferring domain name providers, or updating the content management system.
The largest of all? A complete overhaul of your practice website.
If you’re a practice administrator, head of marketing, or even a physician at your own solo practice, a website re-design can seem like a daunting task: first, you have to find a web designer who knows what they’re doing. Maybe you’ll go with a freelancer, maybe an agency.
But will they understand the needs of your practice, or are they the guys that will build a website for anybody? How much will it cost? How long will it take? What if something goes wrong? And how can you know that you’re getting a good product when there are so many confusing technical terms being thrown around?
It’s easy to get overwhelmed by the immensity of a practice website redesign, especially when you’re trying to manage other aspects of the business…but every hour that your old website spends up on the Internet could mean missed opportunities, lost patients, and a brand that’s diminishing in value…
It’s ok to admit that you need some help. Just keep reading.
Steps to a Successful Re-Design
1. Define What Success Looks Like for Your Practice.
Before you even do your research on hiring a design agency, you need to define what success looks like for your practice as you embark on the journey of creating a new website.
What should the website do? What should users get out of the website, and what will the end result be for your practice? Do you want more patients? Do you want to increase the number of premium procedures you perform each year?
Asking the hard, strategic questions and defining what success looks like for your business will help the agency you hire design a site that will achieve your business goals. After all, you’re not just creating a new website to be prettier than your old one – it has to serve your business.
2. Develop a Brand Strategy
Just as you wouldn’t begin such a large project without thinking through how it will serve your business, you shouldn’t begin without considering how it will serve your target audience…and that’s where your brand comes into play.
How will users feel when they visit your website? And what is your target audience, after all? Are you targeting millennials who want a premium, luxury experience with their LASIK surgery? Or is your target demographic the aging population who wants to know they’re in good hands with their cataract and refractive procedures?
Defining what your brand will be (and who it will be for) is one of the most important things you can do. Before any code is written, before any pages are designed, defining what your brand will be and who it will be for should be your focus.
3. Decide on a Content Strategy
One of the best ways to drive traffic (read: eyeballs) to your site is by sharing content. Too many ophthalmologists don’t understand this essential aspect of website design; instead, they adopt the “if we build it, they will come” mentality.
Designing a new practice website? Don’t assume that if you build it, users will come.
Instead, ophthalmic marketers should use content creation as a primary means of driving traffic to your practice and establishing authority in your market…and creating content means deciding on a content strategy.
We’ve talked at length in other posts about how to create content for your practice, but what’s important for this step is deciding what types of content you’re going to share, and how you plan on sharing them. Will your new practice website have a blog? Do you want to have a video library? Will content be freely available for anyone that wants to see it, or will it require a paid membership (or simply an email address)?
These are the questions that are important to ask (and answer) when strategizing and designing your new practice website, as they will inform layout decisions and technologies needed to make your practice website a success.
4. Make Your Site “Sticky”
Now that you’ve decided on a content strategy, you’ll need to begin creating content…but not just any content – sticky content.
When we say “sticky,” we’re talking about content that encourages website visitors to stick around and click through to multiple pages on your website.
Sticky content helps lower bounce rate – that’s a marketing term for the percentage of visitors to a particular website who navigate away from the site after viewing only one page.
Video is a great example of sticky content that helps users find what they’re looking for and encourages them to stay on your site for longer periods of time. Having a video library on your website can be good, but a better approach may be to include a video on each page of your website.
For example, rather than having a library with explainer videos of all the different surgeries your practice offers, try including a video or two about each surgery on its respective page. Having a video about how cataract surgery works and another about what to expect after cataract surgery will keep interested visitors on that page for much longer than just a page of plain text.
5. Develop an SEO Strategy
Ah, the most misunderstood aspect of website design: SEO. Short for Search Engine Optimization, SEO is the seemingly confusing “black box” of the Internet.
How does one get on the front page of Google? Can an SEO firm guarantee that I’ll be #1 in search results? What is considered good SEO, and what is spammy? Can’t my website get punished for bad practices?
These are all common questions, and SEO is a post in and of itself. The important thing is to be educated on SEO – what it is, what it’s not, and how you can leverage best practices to your advantage.
So rather than taking up valuable screen real estate on SEO and the mess of confusion surrounding it, you can read our post on “Unearthing the Mystery of Search Engine Optimization” here.
6. Develop a Social Media Strategy
Unlike SEO, social media is a bit easier to understand. We all use it, and we’re familiar with most major platforms.
Developing a social media strategy should be at the heart of the content strategy you developed above. Content doesn’t exist in a vacuum. It is created to be shared and discussed…and that’s where social media comes into play.
To develop a strategy, first decide where your practice should be on social media. Twitter, Facebook, and LinkedIn are all popular platforms of choice for ophthalmologists and their practices, but we’ve also seen some engaging examples of ophthalmic practices on Instagram and Pinterest.
At the end of the day, it all comes down to what you’re going to post, who you’re posting it for, and where you want it to be seen. Need some suggestions? Read our post on social media for physicians here.
7. Measure Your Traffic
Creating a new ophthalmic practice website is a complete and total waste of time if you’re not measuring traffic in order an analyze your website and see if you’re meeting business objectives.
Remember step #1, “Define What Success Looks Like for Your Practice”? You have to know what success looks like in real terms in order to use analytics to see if you’re meeting those objectives.
But traffic, page views, and referrals aren’t the whole picture – measurement also means taking into account user experience best practices, not just time spent on your site. Are users able to find the information they’re looking for? Is your website usable on mobile devices, or does it become completely worthless on anything smaller than an iPad?
User interviews, surveys, and follow-ups with patients are important to understand if your new website is converting…not just in terms of page views and vanity metrics, but also in aspects of user-friendliness, usability, and the like.
8. Optimize Your Site and Make Adjustments
Perhaps the most important aspect of the website re-design process is a little dose of humility: your first attempt at a website re-design may not be perfect. Or, perhaps the strategies you thought would work just aren’t cutting it – they aren’t leading to real business results.
When this happens, it’s important to take a step back and assess the root of the problem to find where the breakdown is occurring. Sometimes it may be necessary to make a mid-course correction. These may be painful – it may take more time and cost more money – but in the long run, it will be worth it for your practice.
If you need to make an adjustment to the way your site is laid out or how it functions, don’t fret – many good companies (and ophthalmic practices) have had to change aspects of their business or marketing when things weren’t working out (heck, Instagram used to be an app for virtual check-ins with the ability to add a photo. Aren’t you glad they made a mid-course correction?)
Don’t be afraid to optimize every aspect of your site and make adjustments when necessary.
It’s all about management
At the end of the day, an ophthalmic website re-design is all about management. Whether you’re the ophthalmologist or marketing director, website designer or practice administrator, a re-design process is all about managing the process and the people in order to get the best product possible.
When done right, a website re-design can work wonders for your ophthalmic practice, engaging more visitors, increasing revenue, and helping you accomplish real business goals. So, if your practice website is due for an update, be sure to follow these steps and engage in strategic thinking before the coding begins.