Three Website Design Trends Every Dentist Should Embrace
Keep your dental practice website working for you, your patients, and Google
Want to know the secret to making your practice stand out from your compe-ti-tion online? Invest in your website.You've likely already spent countless hours with a design team and a good portion of your marketing budget to build and maintain your current site, but in the fast-paced world of online marketing, resting on your digital laurels simply won't cut it.
Today, a website that isn't mobile-friendly could be doing more damage than good. Users are five times more likely to leave a website if it isn't mobile-friendly,1 which could mean countless lost new patient opportunities for dentists with desktop-only sites. And search engines are increasingly shifting their algorithms (ie, formulas for deciding the order in which websites appear in search results) to reflect a preference for mobile sites as well.
As web browsing continues to become increasingly mobile-centric, embracing these three trends in website design can help you keep your dental practice website both patient- and mobile-friendly.
1. Converting to a Mobile-First Strategy
"Mobile first" is a website design concept in which a site is initially built from the perspective of a mobile user rather than a desktop user. Google has influenced the proliferation of this strategy by indicating during the past year that they will be changing their algorithm to preferentially index mobile websites, which means that sites that are not mobile-friendly could potentially appear lower in search rankings.
If you have yet to convert to a responsive website design, now is the time to consider making that investment. A responsive website will automatically resize based on the device being used to view it, which makes a site much more convenient for mobile device users.
Google will continue to index and rank desktop-only sites and for the moment, will continue to display them in mobile-based searches, but in the near future, websites will not rank in mobile searches if they are not mobile-friendly. And as Google continues to roll out its mobile-first strategy, dentists without mobile-friendly websites may eventually notice that their sites no longer appear in search results (even in desktop search engine results), causing a significant drop in overall website traffic.
This shouldn't create panic. Your website will still function, and patients will still be able to use it; however, a mobile-friendly revamp is something that should absolutely be included in the practice's marketing budget as a priority upgrade for the near future, at least by the end of 2018.
2. The Increasing Prevalence of Online Chat
With an estimated 8.5 billion text messages sent every day in the United States,2 there's no question that today's patients are accustomed to text messaging. More and more dental practices are implementing text messaging for appointment reminders and patient recall through companies such as Sesame Communications (www.sesamecommunications.com) and Weave Communications (www.getweave.com), but there's another trend emerging that takes real-time practice-to-patient conversations to a whole new level: online chat.
You've likely encountered an online chat feature while shopping on an e-commerce website. While browsing or completing a transaction, a small dialog box pops up asking if you'd like to chat with a representative. These chat features allow you to ask questions and address problems faster and easier, without having to dial a call center and wait on hold.
Imagine the increased opportunities to engage with prospective patients online if they had the ability to reach out via chat in real time to find out if you offer a specific procedure or check on the availability of new patient appointments. ChatPath (www.chatpath.com), a company that provides this service for dental practice websites, uses an artificial intelligence-driven chatbot to automate online chats, answer common questions, collect contact information, and schedule appointments-even when your front desk team isn't available.
3. A Continued Need for Video and Visual Imagery
It has been said that a picture is worth a thousand words, and that rings incredibly true in the context of mobile-friendly websites. Smaller screen sizes make reading large blocks of text cumbersome, especially for older patients. This makes video a terrific vehicle for presenting information to patients in an incredibly engaging way.
In fact, 90% of web users say that videos are helpful in their decision-making processes,3 so incorporating videos such as office tours and question and answer sessions with the dentist into your website provides patients with the answers they are looking for while also serving to visually showcase the practice.
It is a good idea to avoid having a video's sound play automatically; give the user the choice to unmute instead of forcing blaring audio effects on them. Including subtitles within videos makes it even easier for patients to watch without sound, as they may be at work, on the train, or sitting on the couch with their families.
And remember, video isn't the only option to engage patients visually. Other types of engaging visual content include photos, cartoons, memes, GIFs, and infographics.
Whether your target patients are millennials or baby boomers and whether your goal is patient retention or new patient attraction, it is absolutely critical for dentists to have mobile-friendly websites in order to engage today's patients.
In 2018, nearly every dentist has a website, but not every dentist chooses to invest in his or her website on an ongoing basis to keep it current. By staying abreast of online trends and working with a trusted web designer, you'll continue to differentiate yourself and your practice from the competition.
1. Miller M. SEO in 2017: Mobile optimization as a competitive advantage.
optimisation-competitive-advantage-265760. Updated December 23, 2016. Accessed December 15, 2017.
2. Burke, K. How Many Texts Do People Send Every Day. https://www.textrequest.com/blog/many-texts-people-
send-per-day/. Updated May 18, 2016. Accessed December 15, 2017.
3. Kolowich L. 16 Video Marketing Statistics to Inform Your Q4 Strategy.
statistics#sm.0000h4rgwfoa1fouwqm23llpma557. Updated November 28, 2017. Accessed December 15, 2017.
About the Author
Naomi Cooper is the president of Minoa Marketing and the chief executive officer and co-founder of Doctor Distillery.