By Laurie L. Sorrenson, OD, FAAO
Last year I decided that an update to my practice web site was in order—the site was functional, but didn’t do enough to draw visitors in. I also felt it could be more user-friendly. I wanted a site that would make it easy for visitors to make appointments, shop for contact lenses, browse our eyewear and fill out patient forms online.
In addition, I wanted the site to have some personality. We wanted an original site, and that’s what we got–you can see my husband’s original artwork in the background, which includes imagery inspired by Austin, Texas, the city my practice is based in. For example, there are drawings of guitars related to Austin’s famous live music scene, Texas state flags and local street signs.
To achieve this originality, we weren’t able to use a common web site template, which made the redesign more challenging. It was a process not for the faint of heart, taking us six months to get it finished and online. Eyehub.com, which offers web site design tools for ODs, has some great templates and examples, and I would have been fine with them, but my artist husband wanted something more unique.
Once the main site was designed, another challenge remained: ensuring the site was easily accessible via smartphone and tablet. We could have just had our web designer, EyecarePro, create a site that would automatically scale to any size screen, but we opted for a separate site especially for mobile devices. I didn’t really want to because the full site is prettier and does more! But all my younger staff and the IT people told me that is what people want and like, so we did it.
Now, when visitors accessing our site on a smartphone or tablet go to www.lakelinevision.com/m, they view a screen in which all the key information—insurance, doctors, locations, etc.—is presented as a simple list. There are additional buttons visitors can tap to call us, look at a map with our location, see our hours of operation and, most important of all, to book an appointment.
My advice to other ODs seeking to redesign their practice web site: Consider how individualistic you want your site to be. If you are OK with having a functional, attractive site that is not one-of-a-kind, but serves your patients well, then take advantage of the ready-made design templates available to ODs.
If you strive for something more unique, be prepared for a long, sometimes tedious process. It’s rewarding to have a site that reflects your practice’s character, however, it can be more costly requiring more work from your web design team. Either way, ensure your site is easily accessible, whether visitors are viewing it from a desktop computer, laptop computer, smartphone or tablet.
What has been your experience with practice web site updates and redesigns? Did you take an individualistic approach like I did, or did you use a standard web site template? What was the most challenging part of the process for you, and how did you meet that challenge?