Mike Shoun, CEO
Affordable Image
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Website Design and Usability for the 21st Century Practice
By Mike Shoun, CEO

Trim away all of the techie complexity and consider this: what website features actually reward the dental practice by attracting and serving Internet visitors? Since the average first-time visitor to a website spends just 40 seconds there, the website must appeal to the visitor immediately. Even return visitors have limited attention time. What features attract and keep visitors at a website and increase the chances of receiving their business?

In earlier times, just a fancy and pretty website or a “gee-whiz factor” could intrigue visitors. Today, usability is key. A Nielsen Norman Group report suggested that designing a website for usability produces an average of 83% ROI – a substantial return for online marketing efforts. Following the mantra of Steve Krug’s website design book, Don't Make Me Think, the first goal is: make each webpage “self-evident, so that just by looking at it the average user will know what it is and how to use it.”

Two great reasons support this design goal. First, studies and experience show that visitors who find a website unattractive, challenging or not easily usable will likely click away and keep searching. Today there are plenty of competitor websites out there, and people will just search again to find another dentist. An attractive, modern website that stands out from the competition and does a better job of providing your visitors with what they’re looking for will give your practice a distinct advantage.

A second reason to design a wonderfully usable website is as Steve Krug wrote: “Making pages self-evident is like having good lighting in a store: it makes everything seem better.” An effortless website experience doesn’t sap our energy, enthusiasm and time. Good website design recognizes the value of internet marketing and supports your branding, that combination of emotions, symbols, visuals and impressions people recall about any business.

Following the “don’t make me think” principle at the individual website level, the designer should:

1. Create a universal layout for all pages
2. Develop easy, intuitive navigation
3. Use a seamless strategy to link website segments
4. Use reading-friendly color schemes
5. Offer page content that is easy to read and is what the visitor was seeking on that page
6. Feature photos, illustrations and other images that directly relate to the content’s message
7. Supply obvious and supremely easy ways for visitors to contact the business to get more information or make an appointment

There are some more technical features that contribute to visitors’ overall experience as well. At the level of Internet efficiency and broad appeal to visitors, website designers should:

• Implement search engine optimization (SEO) techniques so visitors can find the site
• Ensure the site loads and displays correctly on all browsers and on PCs, iPads, tablets and smart phones
• Limit page sizes to assure quick, responsive loading as the visitor navigates the site

Usability of a site blends with what value the site brings to the visitor. The longer visitors stay on your site, the more likely they will take the action you desire. Factors that tend to keep visitors longer include:

• The visual appeal (layout, graphics, colors, balance, fonts)
• Functionality (navigation, tabs and menus, call to action, social media links, online appointment scheduling)
• Relevant content (substantial information visitors can use, presented with high quality writing, no distracting or misleading errors)

Research has shown that website visitors don’t read nearly as much as we wish they would. Visitors scan pages. That fact suggests website design and web page content will succeed if they serve the scanning mode.

When writing content for web pages, Steve Krug’s philosophy advises: “Get rid of half the words on each page, and then get rid of half of what’s left.” One way a content writer or editor does this is by trimming or eliminating “welcome to,” “our history,” and other conversational kinds of text from main pages. A scanning reader is usually looking for substance, not conversation.

Your visitors’ time is valuable. Help them quickly and easily learn what products and services you offer, how to contact you, and who the members of your team are. Your website content should reflect a careful blend of market research, industry knowledge, and details about your practice that would be helpful to both new and existing patients.

Competition in dentistry is growing. The number of dentists is projected to increase 16% from 2012 to 2022. Gaining new patients and retaining current patients means reaching them where they browse, chat, learn and shop. A strong Internet presence can deliver better search engine rankings, increase potential patient awareness, stay in touch with current patients, and help build a brand identity to pave the future road to practice success.

Mike Shoun is the President and Owner of Affordable Image Dental Marketing Solutions - a full service marketing company dedicated to the client's overall success. 

Mike can be reached at (602) 265-2299 ext. 211, or email mike@affordableimage.com

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