Dental Web Site Design – Form vs. Function.

What Goes into a Good Dental Web Site?

We’ve all heard the great debate on form vs. function.  I am sure you have seen it – a famous dress designer who now has a brand name line of garden tools.  Yes, that’s a sexy looking shovel with nice crystals glued on – but how well does it perform and look after 10 minutes in a muddy yard fixing a sprinkler head?

Affordable Dental Web Sites

Functional Web Sites

Ok – so the bottom line is utility vs. marketing.  Where is the balance?  The answer depends on your exact industry.  So let’s apply rule #1 in marketing…always know your audience.

Taking the dental industry into consideration, what is the audience?  It doesn’t matter which survey you ascribe to, all agree that over 80% of people making appointments are female.  Now there are two things to understand – your intention for that audience and the purpose of your audience.

Your desired intention is simple – for your audience to schedule an appointment.  Your audience is typically looking for one or more of the following:

  • Where are you located?
  • Do you perform the service I need?
  • Do you take my desired method of payment?
  • What about the doctor?

So we now know your audience and their purpose.  Your web site needs to be purposed to answer these questions. 

What should your web site NOT do?  Let’s consider your front office.  I have worked with many coaches and trainers and the front desk is always trained to answer the phone and capture the potential patient.  The front desk should not get into diagnosis, pricing, or other issues that should be discussed at the practice by the doctor.  The goal is to be friendly, gain a comfort level, answer basic questions and schedule an appointment.

Your web site should work in the same manner.  Too many times I’ve seen sites that delve into great detail on treatments, staff bio’s and extraneous information.  Should your web site be educational?  No, it is not your purpose or goal.  Let, the ADA, or some other site educate – you can always link to it from your own site.  You want to educate during treatment acceptance at the office.  You want to get them in the door first and then sell them on your staff, facilities, knowledge, technology, etc.

Form or Function?

Too many times designers and practices work on making a beautiful site and lose sight of these basic goals and intentions.  Animations are overused and typically don’t work on some handhelds.  They are important for attention grabbing but should not be overpowering or used in navigation.

Too much information tends to bury the important things people are looking for.  Excessive menu options and links also distract the user.  The purpose of your site should be clear and concise – you are seeking function, not form. It is a marketing piece, but on the balance scale it should lean to the utility side.

For these reasons a site should have a clean and simple design.

$ Snake Oil $

As you well know, there are many people out there trying to sell you snake oil.  I have doctors call me and tell me they just heard that they need X or Y on their site because someone gave them a slick presentation. 

Likewise, I’ve had doctors ask me why I believe their brochure isn’t successful.  One doctor had pictures of him fly fishing and another doctor had pictures playing golf.  The people who designed their brochures told the doctors they wanted to make them feel real, personable and wanted to capture them doing something they like. 

Oops.  Again, let’s take the audience into consideration.  Though many ladies fish and play golf – many do not.  As a matter of fact, many hate it when their husbands do either activity. So mentally these brochures have already turned off their audience.  So even though it was a beautiful brochure by a legitimate company, they forgot the first rule of marketing.

Also, too many times I see web sites that are made for doctors, not patients.  The language used is that of a doctor and medical staff.  I can tell the doctor and staff had too much input.  A truly caring and professional design company should not cater to the doctor’s whim and should stand by their design. 

Isn’t a customer always right?  No!  I would not argue with my periodontist on procedural specifics of an implant.  He’s the doctor, not me!  Too many times “crowdsourcing” occurs.  A test site is created by a legitimate designer who understands the audience and purpose and it is submitted for feedback.  Make no mistake, this is an important part of the process – but what happens next is the doctor reviews it and then shares it with everyone in the office for peer review.  The next step is amazing; everyone in the office becomes a graphic designer overnight full of artistic concepts and opinions.  The designer caves in under pressure to make questionable changes and additions and a good design goes bad.

Crowdsourcing opinions for design is a huge mistake, because an effective design is intended to speak to a specific audience and purpose and should not be the result of a popularity contest.  Otherwise sites quickly become jumbled with information, links, pictures, and more.  The ability of a user to quickly find what they need and schedule an appointment gets lost in the process.

Don’t buy into the snake oil that a large flashy site with many features and loads of information is good for you.  Yes, those types of sites have their purpose – but it is not yours.  Keep your web site clean and purposed – it will bring you more patients!


8 Responses to “Dental Web Site Design – Form vs. Function.”

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