In 2008, I learned HTML and taught myself how to build my own website after being frustrated with my large group practice website’s inflexibility.
There’s no greater level of power and control over your message and presentation than if you create your own website. However, not all of us have the time or patience to learn the necessary skills, and getting outside help is the most cost-effective use of our resources.
Perhaps your site is worn out and stagnant, and just needs a facelift — you might be looking for a change.
Lots of people design websites, from individuals to large, full-service marketing firms. They go by names like:
• Web designer
• Web developer
• Online marketing agency
• Online branding agency
You may find a variety of these businesses locally or online who can deliver an online product you’ll use for years to come. With so many companies out there producing quality websites, there’s no excuse for accepting mediocrity.
Here are four warning signs you are about to hire the wrong person to get this very important job done:
1. They don’t discuss how much control you’ll have over the site from the beginning.
Be upfront with them about what you want.
Do you want them to control everything from writing content to automatic updates?
You can specify if you want them to set up the site initially and show you how to add to it and update it over time.
Find out if you own the site and its use even if you fire them in a year or two.
Make sure you’re comfortable with the degree of freedom you have once the initial design and setup process is over.
For example, today you may not be interested in doing any of the blog posts or updates but may change your mind once you hire an assistant to help you in six months. Will you have the flexibility to take over the reins of the site at that time?
Find out in advance.
2. There’s no discussion of what it costs to add to the website later.
This includes design tweaks and changes once the initial work is finished.
For instance, if you don’t like the first, second, or tenth redesign of the logo or image at the top of the website, is it free to keep changing this a hundred times until you’re happy?
Most Web design companies tell you explicitly what it costs to change some component of the original design. This could be an extra hourly rate cost to your practice. Make sure it doesn’t sneak up on you after you’ve hired the designer.
Find out exactly what’s included and exactly why you need that additional service. This could be search engine optimization (SEO) service or social media management. Can you add it on later? Do you really need it? Make sure you know what you’re paying for.
In a previous blog post I outlined several key numbers to know about the cost of having a website for your practice. Find out what these costs are as early as you can in the process.
3. Existing websites they’ve already developed seem very trendy, modern, and "artistic."
Unless you’re catering solely to 20-something Silicon Valley technology startup company employees in your practice, this should be a red flag.
Most patients who see physicians today couldn’t care less about how trendy or updated the design of the website is. Never forget what patients are thinking about when they’re trying to find you online: Who and where is this doctor, and can they solve my problem?
If the website answers those questions quickly and accurately, you’ve won.
Most Web design companies have online portfolios of sites they’ve already built for other clients. Take a close look at those and look for comparable clients like other doctors, counselors, attorneys, and other professionals.
Are the sites simple, with clear language and easy-to-read text? Is it easy to navigate the website? Easy to find the phone number and address?
Some Web design firms are proud of the fact that they customize every design; that using a template to put a site together is somehow evil.
This is nonsense. A good template that is a clear and simple design will get the job done and re-inventing the wheel just costs you extra money. A custom-designed site will cost anywhere from $3,000 to $10,000. This is rarely worth it for a basic physician practice website.
4. They offer add-on services very early in the discussion.
Extra services like social media management and blog post writing cost a lot but may not be worth it to you, especially in the beginning. Just start with the basics and add extras if you’re convinced later of their benefits and return on investment.
This is where an online marketing plan is important.
What do you hope to accomplish with the site?
A conscientious design firm will ask this on the front end.
In conclusion, paying someone to build a website for you can be a long-term and lucrative investment that pays off financially very quickly.
It’s similar to getting estimates for any other non-urgent service you need at your office. Many companies are available. If you don’t like the sound of one proposal, go to the next one.
If you’ve been burned by a Web design firm in the past, what happened? Leave your story in the comments below!