Considerations when Outsourcing Development

Managing Marketing | Website Development

Your website is an investment in your practice and should be a key element in defining and marketing your brand. Creating and maintaining your online presence is a major responsibility and can be done many ways: internally, externally, or a mix of the two.

Dentists who decide to outsource website design and maintenance to an external consultant or company should consider the following:

  • Decide whether you want to work with a graphic designer or a marketing consultant who has access to a graphic designer.
  • A graphic designer will usually create the website’s format, including all visual elements and any special features like forms and widgets to allow communication like scheduling or confirming appointments.
  • A marketing consultant will come up with strategies to integrate your website into your overall marketing plan. They will likely have website developers on staff or be able to recommend one.

Consider these points if you opt to work directly with a professional website designer:

  • Decide how involved you want to be in the development process.
  • Do you want someone who can take your vision for your website and transform it into reality? Or do you prefer a more hands-on approach where you’re involved in each step along the way?
  • Consider which approach works best for you and how much time you can realistically dedicate to the project.
  • Let your designer know your preferences and expectations.
    • Find out if the vendor has experience building websites for dental practices or other health care providers.
      • Some dentists prefer to partner with someone who’s already familiar with the industry and can offer guidance based on what has and hasn’t worked for other clients as well as some familiarity with healthcare related issues, such as requirements relating to the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act of 1996 (HIPAA).
  • Consider the amount of experience the web design company has.
  • Do you prefer to work with a start-up or an already-established business? While a start-up business might offer lower pricing, you may end up needing to offer more direction and input than would be necessary if you partnered with a more experienced vendor.
    • Look at other websites they’ve designed, preferably ones for other dentists or healthcare providers.
    • Don’t just view a PDF or a few images. Visit those sites, see how easy they are to navigate and make a list of which features you like and which ones you don’t. Share the list with your vendor.
      • Have a clear idea of any add-ons you want so you don’t get over-sold.
      • A designer might be excited to tell you about the different features and options that can be built into your website. Make sure everything has a purpose and helps you present accurate and useful information to current and prospective patients. Don’t agree to extra features just because someone says they’re new and “everyone’s incorporating them.”
        • The final product should look professional, be easy to navigate and be responsive.
        • Responsive design ensures that your website looks the same regardless of whether it’s viewed on a computer, a tablet, a smartphone, or another mobile device. Users expect responsive design and tend to leave sites that don’t load promptly and properly.
        • A single website will work across all platforms, meaning that you don’t need one website for mobile use and another for viewing on a standard personal computer. Website developers typically design the mobile website first and then adapt the information so it can be viewed on a regular computer or tablet.

Don’t Forget! Make sure you own your website, including everything from the domain name to the content and the code. Businesses that don’t own their websites sometimes have challenges when it’s time to update or redesign the site; some that have opted to work with a new vendor have even had to start from scratch.

Find out where the domain name is located and who owns it; if you’re not the owner, have ownership transferred to you with an account that you own. Doing this will help assure that you, not someone else, receive notifications before the domain name is set to expire, typically every one to three years. When referring to an internet address or name, the domain or domain name is the location of a website. This will help enable you to regularly renew the name so you maintain ownership.

It’s always a good idea to have your attorney review any contract before signing. Your website is an integral part of your brand and your practice; protect both by seeking legal review of any contract relating to the creation, maintenance and ownership of your online presence.