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What Makes A Great Dental Website?

By September 14, 2021September 21st, 2022No Comments

what makes a great dental website

You may not believe what I’m about to say.

Ready for it?

Custom website design isn’t about custom design; it’s about custom photography. Great photography can make almost any dental website design look amazing.

I know that there are custom dental office website companies out there who are going to argue the nuances of this article, but someone needs to say it.

The days of $4,000, $6,000, $8,000, $10,000+ dental websites should have ended a long time ago. Still, for some reason, website design companies keep convincing dentists that they need to spend thousands and thousands of dollars for a website that’s custom.

My argument is that website design costs should be ZERO dollars ($0), and I intend to show you why. Here at My Social Practice were flipping the website design process on it’s head.

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What’s Custom Dental Website Design Anyway?

Is custom design some type of aesthetic, ascertained through a magical design process?

Does it require some sort of a certification?

Are there only certain designers or marketing companies that offer custom sites?

Those are some of the ideas that pop into people’s heads when custom dental design is brought up. And by the way, the answer is “No” to all three questions.

When custom design is brought up, most dentists get a picture of a website that doesn’t look like any other dental website on the planet. And, for some reason, custom website design is the answer and believed to start with a blank screen, requiring intense creative thought, planning, and tons of time for development. Which is why dental website companies (Not us) are charging thousands and thousands of dollars for development.

This is not how custom website design is done now-a-days. If your custom designer isn’t starting from a template you’re wasting your money.

I Just Heard Someone Say, “Custom Designers Never Use Templates!”

Are you sure about that?

The word ‘template’ carries a negative connotation. It sounds like a generic website that looks like every other website. And, in an industry that is routinely being commoditized who wants to look like the other doctor?

A dentist wants their website to define the practice value propositions and core competencies in a clear and unique way to set them apart from the competition. Website designers know this, which is why custom website designers don’t tell their clients that they start with templates. I have yet to meet a custom website designer that uses templates and openly advertises that they do so.

If we were having this conversation ten years ago, I would agree that dental website templates were generic and it would be worth spending some money on a custom design. But we’re not living in the same world as we were ten years ago. The reality is that the best dental website designs, even custom designs, almost always start with templates. 

Let me explain why.

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Dental Website Design Has Recently Changed

There has been a tremendous increase in the functionality of website design software.

In the last few years companies like SquareSpace and Wix have emerged on the scene. These are website builders that allow you to create a website without any computer coding skills. That’s right, you can build your own website for a couple hundred bucks using these tools. It’s going to require some time to learn the system, but there is no reason that you can’t create a great looking dental website.

If you use one of these builders you’re going to lose out on some of the flexibility unless you have some coding experience. I’m also not sure how well they are with dental HIPAA compliance.  But I know many dentists who prefer to do their own website development and use these tools.

Another website software tool is WordPress. WordPress is the most prolific website design tool on the planet. WordPress is an open source code that tens of thousands of designers build with. Most of the custom website design agencies use the WordPress platform or a variation of it.

In the last few years professional website designers have flooded the online market place with website templates. And, these are not generic. There are hundreds of templates for hundreds of industries and most of these templates cost less than $100. Take a look at Themeforest, a marketplace for dental website templates, and see for yourself.

In my 13 years of experience in the dental industry and after looking at tens of thousands of websites, I would bet that if you showed me a website, I could find at least two templates that looked similar.

If you spend enough time looking at dental websites, you’ll start seeing double. Not really! But it will seem like that because there is minimal variation in dental website design.

Everything under the dental website design sun, has been designed and put into hundreds of templates.

Don’t Try To Reinvent The Dental Website Design Wheel

There has been a massive amount of research done on consumer online search patterns. Understanding exactly how website visitors interact with your website is a science. Trust me that there has been just as much focus going into exactly how people behave on a website as a dentist has on an upper second molar root canal procedure.

And, all of this focused research and information has gone into developing very sophisticated website templates. If you’re out there looking for a great website design that doesn’t look like anything else, you’re off on the wrong foot. It would be like looking for a dentists who can do a full mouth restoration and promises your smile is not going to look like anyone else’s.

There is a reason that dental website templates look similar and it’s because they’ve been developed with a massive amount of research behind them. You don’t need to reinvent the wheel. 

For example, you don’t want to remove your phone number from the upper right-hand side of your home page. That is the place the people’s eyes are trained to look for a phone number.  If you remove for aesthetic purposes, you’re not going to impress website visitors with your design, you’re going to frustrate them. A website visitor will stay on your website looking for your phone number for approximately 3-5 seconds. Don’t get caught with the idea that you’re going to come up with something amazing that hasn’t already been done.

Website templates are backed by tons of research.

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Why You Should Never Pay For Dental Website Design Again

How much easier is it to find what you want if you have something to look at? Templates allow a designer to provide the client (dentist) with a rough draft almost immediately. From the rough draft quick iterations help the design process to develop.

I remember when website design took months, now it takes weeks.

There are many companies out there that use templates and processes that speed up the development time. My Social Practice does and Great Dental Websites, a website design company that I admire has we well.

Design Templates And Agile Development

Agile website development is a methodology that focuses on using flexibility in the design process to meet the expectations of the dental client through early and continuous delivery of a website.

We combine agile web development and template because it drops development costs to $0. That’s right we don’t charge for website design. Agile website development allows My Social Practice to build dental websites at no cost to the dental practice.

Great Website Development And My Social Practice

Here’s how a website design campaign should go:

The client dentist shows a professional website designer a couple websites that they like. The website designers sort through hundreds of template designs and identifies 2 or 3 that are pretty close.

The dentist says, “Yeah, that’s close, but I want this… I don’t want that… I want this… I don’t want that”, and so forth. The website designer edits the code of the site, essentially changing the template. Within a short period of time the dentist is presented with a rough draft. using templates and an agile development style is efficient, quick, and managed through multiple iterations of the site.

In my experience, one iteration of a template will get the site to about 80-90% of a finished product. There may be a few iterations, and, Viola! The site is ready to go.

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How Do I Get A Custom Design Using A Template

The fine line that I’m walking here is a distinction between website design and photography. I’m considering website design as the architecture of the site. It’s like the frame of a house. How big is the header image? What should your footer look like? Should you have images on the service pages? Should we include a blog? Should we use animation? Should we use circular image photos or square? So on and so forth.

Photography on the other hand is just that, photography. It’s not the design of the site.

And here is my whole point about why website design should not cost you anything.

You can select about any website template and make it look absolutely amazing with great photography. So it you want a website that is authentic, honest, professional, and is like no other website on the planet hire a professional photographer.

Pay For Great Photography, Not Custom Website Design

Over the years, I’ve spoken with dozens of photographers all over the country, coordinating a photo shoot so that we could get photography for a dental practice website. All of the quotes I’ve received were between $500 – $1,000 for a half to full-day shoot.

Why would I recommend local? Because there isn’t any reason, you should fly a dental marketing team across the country to shoot photos and videos. That will increase the cost of your website development by $4,000-5,000 dollars, and it’s not worth it.

Almost any local professional photographer will have the cameras, lenses, lighting, and sound equipment to make the photos and videos look amazing. An excellent place to research would be local wedding photographers. Once you’ve found someone, put them on the phone with your website designer, and the designer can give them a photography and video shot list.

Your photography will become the element of your website design that sets you apart from the crowd. It’s not going to be the width of your sidebar or whether you use a parallax design or not. It’s going to be the quality of the photography, period!

Take a few minutes to look at how similar almost all dental websites are. When you compare, you’ll find that they’re all easy to navigate, they look cutting edge, include patient reviews, calls to action, accept appointments online, and are optimized for search engines. The overall functionality of the sites will be almost identical.

When you identify the one or two sites that create the feeling that you want for your site, it’s going to be because of amazing photography.

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Dental Website Design: Wrapping Up

The upshot is this; there isn’t anything custom about websites for dentists apart from custom photography. Invest in a great local photographer.

If they’re local, you can have them come back once a year and shoot a few hundred photos on the cheap. You can update your website photos and use the pictures in your dental social media marketing efforts.

If you require a new dental website, take advantage of our dental website development and get a website for free. You can learn more about that here.

About the Author: Adrian Lefler is the Vice President of My Social Practice. He’s been involved in dental marketing for 13 years. He speaks and trains on digital marketing topics; social media marketingdental websitesreputation managementSEO for dentistsFacebook marketing for dentists, and social paid to advertise. If you’d like to book Adrian or one of the other dental marketing experts, please do so on our dental speakers page.