Inside Dentistry
September 2020
Volume 16, Issue 9

Going Mobile

Attract more new patients with a responsive website design

Richard P. Gangwisch, DDS

No, I am not talking about the 1970s song by The Who. It's people in the United States-and for that matter, the rest of the world-who are going mobile. More than half of the internet searches that are performed are now done on mobile devices, and as practice owners with websites, we have to be ready to meet this trend. If your website is more than a couple of years old, the chances are that it does not have a "responsive" design. A web page that is designed to be viewed on a desktop doesn't display well on a mobile device. Menu items and buttons are often too small to physically click on, and the text can appear so small that the user needs to zoom in to enlarge the content on the screen in order to read it.

The early approach to solving the mobile dilemma involved detecting whether or not the user was using a mobile device and then sending those who were to a completely different webpage that was designed specifically for smartphones and tablets. That method was fraught with many issues. First, it was difficult to keep up with the list of currently used mobile devices to ensure that all were being redirected to the mobile page. Second, because the mobile page was an entirely different website, it had to be maintained separately, which meant additional labor and associated costs to update or change it. And finally, the mobile-friendly pages tended to lack a lot of the functionality that the desktop versions incorporated.

Look Great on All Devices

Today, there are responsive templates that make it easy for your complete website to be viewed on all devices, including computers, tablets, and smartphones. In order to determine if your website is built using a responsive template, open it on a desktop computer's internet browser in an adjustable window (ie, not maximized or full screen). Click on one of the resize handles, and slowly reduce the size of the window. If your website employs a responsive template, the presentation of the content will automatically adjust to be optimized in whatever size that you make the window. If it doesn't automatically adjust, then you should have a conversation with your website provider about an upgrade or consider seeking out a new company.

Because more than 50% of the total internet searches performed are done on mobile devices, Google has decided to give "mobile-friendly" websites priority in its listings. This is another good reason for you to switch your website to a responsive design. Prospective patients who are trying to find a new dentist on their phones will see your website listed before others, and then when they click, they won't have difficulty reading or navigating your content.

Optimizing Your Site

Ensuring that the most relevant information is "above the fold" is extremely important on smaller screens. Imagine how a newspaper is folded at the newsstand so that the headline is prominently displayed. Above the fold is a term used to describe the area of the newspaper that can be viewed without unfolding it. Regarding digital presentation on a screen, above the fold is the area that is first viewed without scrolling. Because mobile devices offer so little screen real estate, the above the fold content can make or break whether someone viewing your website becomes your patient or ends up going to the next dentist on Google's list.

Using an image that takes up the majority of the screen is usually best. I recommend using pictures of people, whether they include models, actual patients, or the dentist and his or her team. People relate better to pictures of people when they are looking for a dentist. Pictures of nature are better suited for websites that are looking to attract users for things like outdoor activities.

Including a slide show on the website's main page is a great way to display the things that you want in a very limited viewing space. You can include pictures of the doctor or doctors, the staff members, your office and building, some actual patients, or some of the high-tech equipment that you have.

Your name and address should appear in text on the main page. Although there is little room and that can make it tempting to embed them into an image, search engines can't read your name and address if they are part of an image. You don't want to miss out on appearing in search engine results because of that.

Improve Navigation

In addition to displaying an image and your name and location, there are some other very important items to squeeze in. One way to do that efficiently is to incorporate a tab bar that has easily clickable icons on it. To simplify navigation, this tab bar should appear on all of the pages of your website. Many useful items can be displayed on the tab bar, including the following:

Clickable telephone number.This makes it ultra-handy for your prospective patients to contact the practice. When the phone number is touched, a dialog box will pop up asking users if they wish to call the number. It doesn't get much better than that. Because the tab bar resides on every page, it gives browsing users an easy way to call your office at the moment they decide that you are the dentist for them.

Clickable address or location button. This should forward users to a map application on their device so that they can get turn-by-turn directions from their location straight to your office. This feature is used extensively, so make sure that it is available on your website.

Hamburger button.This button, which is an icon comprised of three symmetrical horizontal lines that resembles a hamburger, opens a menu or navigation pane when clicked on. Most tech-savvy people know what a hamburger button is used for, but many of your prospective patients may not, so I recommend that the word "menu" be placed next to it.

Time for an Update?

In order to remain competitive, a mobile-friendly website is essential in today's market, and one that is designed using a responsive template is preferred. If your website has not been upgraded recently, you should evaluate its design, as well as its functionality, and consider an update in order to maximize your potential to attract new patients.


Richard P. Gangwisch, DDS, is a master of the Academy of General Dentistry, a diplomate of the American Board of General Dentistry, and a clinical assistant professor at the Dental College of Georgia at Augusta University. He maintains a private practice in Lilburn, Georgia.

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