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Optimizing Dental Practice Websites for 2015 and Beyond
Incorporating responsive design for device-friendly website usage
The dental practice website. When managed correctly, it can be a powerful marketing tool for driving new patients to the practice. In our technologically driven society, it is simply no longer sufficient for a dental practice owner to set up a website merely as an item to check off on the marketing to-do list.
If done correctly, a successful website is an ongoing responsibility and is a fluid component of any dentist’s marketing plan. One of the most important, if not the most important, recent upgrades necessary for the success of the practice website is the integration of responsive design. If you want to attract new patients and keep your existing patients engaged, responsive design is no longer optional.
Responsive Design Defined
Websites built even 2 or 3 years ago were, for the most part, created for viewing on desktop or laptop computers, not the now-pervasive smartphones and tablets. However, according to Pew Internet, a project of the Pew Research Center, in 2013, 56% of American adults had a smartphone and 35% owned a tablet device.1 Using these devices, the layout and design of traditional desktop websites have effectively become virtually inaccessible to the significant component of the population that is doing at least a portion of its web browsing on smartphones and tablets.
As anyone who has opened a traditional website on a smartphone and attempted to scroll, zoom, and click to navigate while squinting can attest, websites designed for desktop or laptop computers with 12- to 22-in screens generally aren’t properly sized for a 3- to 9-in smartphone or tablet device. When viewed on a smartphone or tablet, a traditional website may have text that is too small to read. Links and dropdown menus may not function properly. Graphics or video may load slowly, and the site may not load properly at all. At the very least, it is incredibly frustrating for users; at worst, it causes them to abandon the browsing session. In fact, according to Compuware Corporation, a technology performance company, 74% of mobile visitors will abandon a site when it takes more than 5 seconds to load properly on their devices.2
Cue responsive design. A responsive design website is a recent innovation that is quickly becoming the industry standard. Responsive design websites are built using a flexible programmatic architecture that enables the website to reconfigure itself automatically, seamlessly detecting the type of device and the size of the screen that is being used to access it (whether desktop, laptop, netbook, tablet, or smartphone) and shrinking to fit that device instantaneously every time the website is loaded. Diana Friedman, chief executive officer of Sesame Communications, states, “Mobile devices now lead Internet search traffic. A responsive designed website is a must for every practice that wants to convert more prospective patients into appointments and rank higher in search results.”
The Strategy Behind Responsive Design
Before responsive design, the common strategy to meet the needs of those browsing on mobile devices was to create both a traditional website and a separate “mobile site.” This strategy has largely become obsolete for several important reasons.
First, and possibly most importantly in terms of search engine optimization (SEO), Google prefers responsive design, having made it clear that having one site for all devices is best for SEO purposes. A responsive website also has the distinct advantage of keeping all of a dental practice’s site traffic going to one online destination, giving it the potential to have more authority and popularity with the search engines, rather than splitting traffic between a desktop site and a mobile site. Google has even gone so far as to state on its official blog that responsive web design is its recommended solution for mobile optimization.
Additionally, a responsive website is easier to manage. Having multiple versions of the practice website creates duplicative work whenever a change or update needs to be made. With a responsive site, changes can be made once and appear across all versions of the site, saving the practice time and money. Since responsive design is based on screen size rather than a specific device, as newer technology emerges (ie, wearables such as watches and glasses), responsive design ensures that the website will appear correctly no matter what device is being used.
Why It Pays to be Proactive
Today’s dental patients are online, so dentists need to be online, too. Pew Internet Research has found that 31% of Americans use their cell phones to look for health and medical information online,3 and according to the “Think with Google” website, users are 67% more likely to use a service if they have a good experience on the mobile site.4 It stands to reason, therefore, that when a dentist’s website cannot be accessed from a smartphone, the result is countless missed opportunities to connect with potential and existing patients.
Responsive design is not merely a trend; it has become a necessary component of a dentist’s online marketing strategy and part of the “optimal treatment plan” for any dental practice website. Moreover, upgrading to responsive design in 2015 will serve to keep the practice website on the forefront, saving dentists from having to play “technology catch-up” with their websites down the line. Plus, a responsive site provides patients with online access to the practice information that they want and need on the devices they use most.
Best Practices for Implementation
It’s one thing to make the decision to update an existing website with responsive design functionality; it is another thing to actually implement it. Here are a few tips to consider when taking this important step:
Convenience Is Key
Mobile users are instant gratification–oriented. They are typically looking for specific information and need to be able to find it quickly so they can take action on the go. The practice phone number, address and driving directions, appointment requests, and patient testimonials all need to be a part of the responsive website experience, making the most pertinent information easy to find for the mobile user.
Branding Is a Must
Any branding elements used in the practice’s marketing—a distinct font, the practice logo or color scheme—should also be reflected on the practice website. Having a responsive design website ensures branding consistency by prominently displaying the practice name and logo on the site even when it’s viewed on a 3-in phone screen.
Work with a Professional
There are many self-proclaimed “experts” when it comes to website design and mobile optimization. Always work with trusted website design vendors with a history of success-building sites for the dental professional. Sesame Communications (www.sesamecommunications.com) is an industry leader and was the first major website vendor in the dental industry to offer responsive websites. PBHS (www.pbhs.com) also offers responsive design on all of their new websites.
These days, patients are busier than ever and growing increasingly reliant on their devices to instantly provide them with the information they need. They must be able to access a site whether they are at home, at work, or on the go. Optimizing the dental practice website with responsive design ensures it will continue to serve as a powerful tool for practice growth in 2015 and into the future.
About the Author
Naomi Cooper is president and founder of Minoa Marketing and chief marketing consultant for Pride Institute. She is a respected dental marketing strategist, consultant, author, speaker, and industry opinion leader. Naomi teaches Pride’s groundbreaking marketing courses and works with individual dentists to craft and implement a customized modern marketing plan. She also consults for leading companies across the dental industry, developing a cohesive marketing approach and creating momentum for their marketing efforts aimed at the dental profession and the dental consumer. She can be reached via email at naomi@ minoamarketing.com, and she blogs regularly at www.minoamarketing.com. For regular updates from Naomi, including dental marketing/social media tips and tricks, follow her on Twitter (@naomi_cooper) or “like” Naomi Cooper – Minoa Marketing on Facebook at www.fb.com/minoamarketing.
1. Smith A. Pew Smartphone Ownership—2013 Update. Pew Internet website. www.pewinternet.org/Reports/2013/Smartphone-Ownership-2013/Findings.aspx. June 5, 2013. Accessed September 17, 2014.
2. New study reveals the mobile web disappoints global consumers. Compuware website. www.compuware.com/en_us/about/press-releases/2011/7/new-study-reveals-the-mobile-web-disappoints-global-consumers.html. July 19, 2011. Accessed September 17, 2014.
3. Health fact sheet. Pew Internet Research website. www.pewinternet.org/fact-sheets/health-fact-sheet. Accessed September 17, 2014.
4. What users want most from mobile sites today. Think with Google website. www.thinkwithgoogle.com/research-studies/what-users-want-most-from-mobile-sites-today.html. Accessed September 17, 2014.