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The Designer Matters: A Guide to Choosing the Best Web Design Agency for Your Practice

Every medical practice needs an online presence – and for most practices, that means hiring an agency to design and develop their website.

Healthcare practices have unique needs when it comes to websites, so it is important to find the right web design agency for your specific needs.

In this post, we’ll look at the various types of web designers and help you find the best fit to get your practice online.

A Variety of Web Design Options

Very few healthcare providers have a background in design or marketing. They know it’s important for a healthy, growing practice, but they don’t know where to begin.

So what do they do? Many doctors choose to outsource the design and development of their practice websites.

But there are so many options: should they go for the low rates a freelancer offers, perhaps at the expense of reliability? Or should they hire a large company that specializes in medical website design? What about a niche agency that can custom-build everything from scratch?

Amidst the other challenges of starting a new practice, it’s easy for doctors to feel overwhelmed.

Before you hire someone to design and develop your practice website, it’s important to know the different types of designers, what you can expect from each, and how to make the process the very best it can be.

Why Does It Matter Who I Choose?

We’ve all heard the saying “You get what you pay for” – and that’s especially true when it comes to designing something as complex and important as your practice website.

In a perfect world, all design would be both good, cheap, and fast. It would be easy to design a professional website yourself.

But we live in the real world. There are opportunity costs and tradeoffs to consider.

So if you’re looking to build – or update – a practice website, you need to know what you’re getting into. Let’s explore a few different types of web designers, how they work, and which might be the best fit for your practice.

The “Do It All” Designer

The “Do It All” Designer is generally a solo designer that will offer to build a website for absolutely anybody. Doesn’t matter what industry you’re in or what you’re offering – they’ll build it for you.

This may seem good at first, but there are some definite trade-offs…

What they say: “We offer custom website development plans designed for small businesses.”

What that really means: “We claim that we have expertise in every industry, but we’re really just using a few templates with rotating stock photos and contact information. It doesn’t matter to us if you’re a multi-million dollar law firm in a large Metropolitan area or the local Boy Scout Troop – just give us your $499 one-time fee and leave us alone.”

How they do it:

The name of the game is templates and volume.

The “Do It All” Designer will pay thousands of dollars in pay-per-click ads every month to buy that #1 spot on Google. The “Do It All” Designer likely outsources most of their work to an army of freelancers in Southeast Asia, who copy and paste your text, slap a few (bad) stock photos on it, and call it “custom”.

Oh, and don’t forget the hidden hosting fees, change fees, and lengthy contracts that tie you down to them and nobody else. Multiply a $749 profit per site by a few hundred websites per year, and the “Do It All” Designer has a pretty profitable business.

What you’ll get:

You’ll technically get a website – but it’s probably going to look like everyone else’s. It may or may not be mobile-friendly, and it probably won’t be fast. The websites the “Do It All” Designer builds likely won’t utilize a content management system, which means that future content additions or changes will be costly and have to be hard-coded. This means – you guessed it – more change fees.

Messenger Healthcare Marketing | The Designer Matters: A Guide to Choosing the Best Web Design Agency for Your Practice
Some of the “Do It All” Designer’s templates

The Big Company

What they say: “We are an experienced digital medical marketing agency utilizing a wide array of talent to achieve our customer’s goals. We combine programmers, designers, marketers, copywriters, strategists, consultants, and IT professionals to provide a high-quality digital marketing experience for our customers.”

What that really means: “We’ve been at this for a long time. We specialize in one industry and claim to make truly unique services to our clients, but if we’re being honest, we have a few templates and still farm the majority of our work out to India. It’s only because we have lots of clients in this one industry that we appear to be unique.”

How they do it:

Most of the Big Company’s employees are in sales. They’ll have a US-based office, but most of the actual work will be done overseas. The Big Company may take more time to discover what content is meaningful to you and create a site that attempts to fit your needs, but at the end of the day, most of their business is about volume, not actually taking care of their customers.

What you’ll get:

You’ll get a website that appears more unique than one made by the “Do It All” Designer, but if you do enough searching, you’ll discover that your website looks very similar to others in your industry that The Big Company has built.

They’ll all have the same functionality and similar design. Don’t expect high-quality photos – The Big Company will usually buy stock photos, mark them up, and re-sell them to you.

Your website will likely have a Content Management System, but The Big Company will probably force you into paying a hefty monthly fee where only they can make edits – their business model depends on it, after all.

While these websites are often better than those built by the “Do It All” Designer, The Big Company is in the business of volume and churning through clients.

Messenger Healthcare Marketing | The Designer Matters: A Guide to Choosing the Best Web Design Agency for Your Practice
The Big Company – every website looks the same…

The Freelancer

What they say: “I’m a designer and developer who utilizes the latest technology to craft meaningful brands and digital products. I’m dedicated to providing clients with the best experience possible.”

What that really means: “I’ve got to pay rent this month. Your site is one of many projects for me right now, and Client X is being a little needier right now, so I’ll get back to you when I can…”

How they do it:

Working from home and coffee shops is the name of The Freelancer’s game. This isn’t necessarily a bad thing, but it can mean a lack of consistency during your website design experience.

99% of the time, The Freelancer is juggling more than one project at once, which often means there can be delays and inconsistent communication during your website design. The Freelancer often bills hourly, which can save you money – but only if they’re good at budgeting their time and nothing goes wrong.

Now don’t get us wrong – The Freelancer can be a great way to get a great website at a fraction of the price of a larger agency with higher overhead…but you need to do your homework. Look for someone with experience in your industry who has a proven track record of satisfied clients, a good body of work, and a deep investment in the client relationship. You want someone who has been down this road before managing projects for clients like you, not someone who is just hustling on the side for some extra cash.

What you’ll get:

With The Freelancer, individual results may vary. There are lots of experienced, professional, and talented freelancers out there, but when you’re hiring, you have to be selective.

Many freelancers don’t specialize in an industry, but in a skill…so while they may be great at building websites, they may not understand the individual needs of your practice.

In addition, The Freelancer’s hours may be odd, and a lack of a dedicated office may mean that their availability for a conference call or a design sprint may be limited. If you want to get the most bang for your buck, The Freelancer can be a good choice – but be sure you establish ground rules up-front and clearly communicate expectations, timeline, and budget.

Messenger Healthcare Marketing | The Designer Matters: A Guide to Choosing the Best Web Design Agency for Your Practice
The Freelancer: results may vary.

The Niche Agency

What they say: “We are a design & development firm helping organizations in ______ industry thrive in our digital age. We craft digital products for the human experience that help brands stand out as well as stand for something.”

What they mean: Oftentimes, The Agency means exactly what it says! Their teams tend to have deep experience in a variety of disciplines (from design to development and marketing, etc) – and chances are, you’ve heard of a few of their clients before. Plus, since they often specialize in one industry, you’ll get deep expertise and insights that are relevant to your practice.

How they do it:

Everything The Agency does is custom – from websites and mobile apps to any additional functionality your digital presence needs, they spare no expense.

This often means that you’ll pay a premium – but you won’t find any cookie-cutter templates or outsourced work here. The Niche Agency’s team will shepherd you through the design process, doing a deep dive into your practice’s needs to come up with the best and most innovative solution.

What you’ll get:

With The Niche Agency, you’ll get a completely custom website, from A to Z. Every aspect of your website will be designed and coded by hand and will seamlessly integrate into a content management system, eCommerce platforms (if necessary), and other web applications.

You can expect more thoughtful use of typography, animation, and video throughout your site, and photography will be custom-tailored to your needs.

In short, every part of your website is uniquely yours. Your website won’t look like the practice’s down the street. The Agency will do a deep dive to understand your needs before prescribing a “one-size-fits-all” solution.

What’s Best for Your Practice?

At the end of the day, there’s something for everyone.

Before you embark on your practice web design journey, be sure to do your research. Know what’s most important to you: is it price? Availability of the designer? Custom functionality on your website?

Each type of web designer, from the Freelancer to the Niche Agency, will have something different to offer. Just be sure to do your research to find the best fit for your practice.

Ready to take your practice website to the next level? Contact our web design experts today for a free consultation about your practice website.