Web design and development are two of the most common needs for private practices. Before you take out ads, create content, or do anything else online, you need a website at the foundation of your Internet marketing strategies.
Web design includes everything that has to do with how your website looks, and web development concerns how your website functions.
Both of these factors are essential to Internet marketing. You need a good-looking site to keep visitors engaged, and you need a functional site to provide a great user experience (which we'll cover later).
With that in mind, there are four major considerations when you're working with web design and development.
Consideration #1. Overall appearance
The most obvious factor of web design is the appearance of your website.
It's important that you create a good-looking website from scratch so you can set your private practice apart from other businesses online.
That also gives you the distinction of having a unique website that isn't available anywhere else in terms of coding. So while other companies may use templates or pre-coded designs, they won't have a distinct identity like your practice.
On top of that, a well-designed website includes your practice's name and logo prominently on every page. Most companies choose to include their name and logo in the header and footer of a page so it's the first and last thing someone will probably see.
Color contrast, fonts, typefaces, images, and scrolling are all important to your site as well. These minor details are surprisingly important, and making the wrong choices with them could turn site visitors away.
Finally, you also have to decide where you'll place different features of your site. You have to plan out sidebars, body text, embedded images, and any extra features you want to use, like Flash.
All in all, you have a lot to consider when you want a well-designed website. To make sure you're on the right track, take a look at websites from private practices like yours and note what they're doing.
Use their site for a while and determine whether you can read everything or if certain elements should be placed somewhere else. This is the same mentality you want to keep when you're laying out your own site — the mentality of your users.
Consideration #2. Functionality
It's not enough for a website to look good — it has to function well, too.
For the most part, that means making sure everything on your site simply works. Make sure all of your links go to the right place, check that all of your videos play, and always proofread a new page right after you publish it.
If you have any fun features like drop-down menus or interactive animations, you should also make sure those work smoothly.
Basically, it's up to you to try and "break" different parts of your site in as many creative ways as possible. The more you test your site's elements according to different criteria, the more sure you can be that your site is fully functional.
Functionality is critical to online success. If your site doesn't work, then you'll lose visitors and potential clients while earning a negative reputation.
After all, who would want to visit a doctor's office when they couldn't even use the practice's website?
Navigation is a specific part of functionality that requires its own section. It plays a huge role in the success of a website since it directs users and makes sure they can find what they want.
Web design is based on the idea that you want to minimize the number of clicks someone needs to make to achieve what they want.
So if someone wants to watch a video, they should be able to do it with one click. If they want to read an article, they should be able to find that article in three clicks, maximum.
With a private practice, this is fairly easy to do. You just need to break your site into segments and link them to one another.
For example, you could have a header on your homepage that has your practice's name, logo, and links to other sections of your site. Those sections could say "Blog," "Medical Information," "Make an Appointment," and "About Us."
These links tell your users what they can expect when they click. Someone clicking to your blog expects to see information on trends, users clicking to medical information want to find helpful articles, and so on.
But the most important link on your homepage is "Make an Appointment." That's the link that people can click to become clients. That's why it's so important that you make that link stand out with color, certain typefaces, or other variations.
Last, one of the most important parts of navigation is a sitemap.
A sitemap is a page exclusively made of links that point to different sections of your site. If your site is small enough, you could include every page of your site on a sitemap.
Sitemaps help users jump from one area to another without looking for menus. They also allow Google and other search engines to read all of the pages that are on your site.
There are two kinds of sitemaps: HTML and XML.
HTML sitemaps are pages with links to other pages on your site that you actually publish on your site.
XML sitemaps are collections of links that you submit directly to search engines like Google.
It's smart to use both sitemaps so you can be sure you're appealing to both users and search engines. With that kind of thoroughness, you're setting your site up for success.
Consideration #3. User experience
User experience (UX) is the last major consideration of web design and development.
UX refers to interaction that someone has with your website. If that interaction is positive, then that's known as having a "good user experience."
A good UX is characterized by someone being able to do or find what they want on your site without any problems.
In that respect, UX is the culmination of every part of your web design and development initiatives. It's a measure of how easily someone can use your site and how well your site works as a result.
As a private practice, UX should be a massive consideration since you want your users to be able to make appointments and find information on your site. And on top of that, users expect your site to load at the drop of a hat.
If someone can't determine how to do either one of those as soon as they go to your site (or if it takes too long to load), you're in real danger of losing a future client.
You can make sure that doesn't happen by creating and providing a streamlined user experience that helps your visitors find what they want.