I have a soft spot in my heart for dentists. After all, my mom is a retired dentist and my sister is a partner in a successful dental practice. But as smart as dentists (and doctors in general) tend to be, web design experts they are not.
Dental and medical practice websites are often some of the worst designed and outdated on the web. Beyond aesthetics, these sites inadvertently create poor experiences for their visitors.
In this article, we’ll cover 4 of the most common dental website design mistakes. But before we get to that, let’s ground ourselves by thinking about what their visitors are looking for.
Guiding Principle: Make it easy to find 5 fundamental pieces of information
By and large, first time visitors are first and foremost looking for a few pieces of information, roughly in this order:
- Insurance providers you accept
- Convenience of location. Is it located near my home or work?
- Who are the dentists or doctors? What do they look like? Do they seem like someone I can trust?
- Schools the dentists or doctors attended
- Contact methods and details (online forms, email, phone number)
I bet this list will frustrate many dentists and doctors. This has hardly anything to do with their skill, experience, education, reputation or quality of their work! In fact none of these really address those items.
Of course your skill and experience matters. But prospective patients won’t have first-hand proof of that until after they’ve gone to an appointment. The website’s job is to get them into your office!
Bottom line: if you do nothing else, make sure these five items are easy and intuitive to find in your dental website.
Mistake #1: Making it hard to discover what insurance providers your dental practice accepts
This seems so intuitive, and yet it’s a surprisingly common miss in dental and medical practice websites.
I’ve experienced this myself. Recently, I needed care within days and was unhappy with my current dentist. I had to take time during work hours to call, and wait on hold to find out if they accepted my insurance plan. This was repeated for over 5 different practices wasting over an hour of time.
Sure, you might think: our practice is listed on the Insurance company’s portal. Patients can search for dentists there. True. But every insurance company portal I’ve ever used is extremely hard to use, slow, and contains limited information about the doctors. It’s an incredibly frustrating experience. Worse, it quite often contains outdated or incorrect contact information.
Bottom line: if you don’t accept my insurance, I cannot be your client.
In this day and age, making people pick up the phone for something so simple sends several unintended messages:
- You are behind the times
- You are not technology savvy (no matter how fancy your office and dental equipment is)
- You have no regard for my time: appointment times are probably meaningless and you’re going to make me wait in your waiting room
- You’re “fat and comfortable” with your current patient base and don’t really care about new patients
Assume that your clients are just as busy, if not busier, than you are – because they probably are. Make basic information prominent and easy to find.
Mistake #2: Difficult to determine location of your dental practice
Yes, all dental practice websites contain their address. But almost all could do a better job making it easy to know whether the location is convenient.
Because I have to copy and paste your address into Google Maps. Now admittedly this is a trivial, small inconvenience. But it’s completely unnecessary when you can embed a map right on your page. It’s yet one more small frustration that will get unconsciously registered in a prospect’s mind.
Besides, why would you want prospective customers leaving your site?
On the web, your competition (and a million other distractions) are just a click away. If you’re lucky enough to get a prospective new customer to visit your site, work hard to keep them there!
Here’s a well designed dental practice website “contact” page I found by Googling the phrase “Denver dentists”: Levin Family Dentists.
This is a well constructed Contact page: large map with the address easy to find below the map. Prospective (and current) customers can easily determine the location relative to where they live and work.
There is one item that could improve this page: the map is not mobile device friendly. The rest of the page and indeed the whole site looks great on mobile devices. However, the map disappears at smartphone sizing.
Which brings us to the next mistake…
Mistake #3: Not mobile device friendly
This is by far the biggest mistake I see in dental and medical practice websites. They have sites designed years ago in the PC era. (Often they don’t even look good in newer laptops with higher resolution monitors) Remember, times change quickly on the web.
80% of Internet users own a smartphone. Well over 50% of web traffic comes from mobile device such as a tablet or smartphone.
It doesn’t matter how good your dental site looks on that nice, large flatscreen monitor in your office. If it’s not optimized for a smartphone screen, you’re frustrating your customers, new and old.
Don’t make current and prospective patients pinch and zoom in order to search your old, outdated site just to find your address.
Imagine a client that’s late for an appointment. They’re running from their office to their car, desperately trying to find your location on their smartphone. How many clicks do you want them to have to make to find your address? How much time do you want them to spend trying to copy and paste your address into a map app?
Mistake #4: Old, outdated website
Businesses need to update their websites every 2 to 3 years. Technology, consumer electronics and design trends change quickly. You need to keep up.
Google for dentists in any major city and click on the first few search results. Time after time you’ll find sites that are old, slow, outdated and not optimized for today’s screens and devices.
First impressions count. Your website needs to look and perform in accordance to today’s standards. According to the dental practice experts at The Dental Geek:
“An antiquated website is the online version of olive green shag carpeting or hard, uncomfortable chairs – it will leave your visitors frustrated, uninterested and less likely to give you their business.”
Beyond aesthetics, if you’re not maintaining your website, customers may subconsciously wonder if you’re also not keeping up with the latest techniques and research.
Closing thought: don’t make your website visitors have to work!
All of these website design mistakes, and many others, can be avoided by two website design principles:
- Always put yourself in your visitor’s “shoes” – imagine coming to your own site as a brand new patient does. Better yet, do some cheap “usability testing” and ask friends and family to perform simple tasks or search for information on your site. You might be surprised what you learn.
- Don’t make them think! The best websites are intuitive. Even on your first visit, every link, button and piece of information is right where you expect it to be. Dental and medical practice websites don’t need to win design awards. But they certainly shouldn’t frustrate prospective patients before they’ve even met you.
Napkin photo by doobybrain