12 key questions to ask your website designer

Understanding the project scope, costs and commitments

reviewing website contentAre you about to jump into a new project to build a website for your dental practice? Perhaps you’re finding it all a bit of a minefield with lots of different offers and proposals to consider? If so, then you’re not alone and this is something we hear lots about when dentists contact us for guidance.

With this in mind, here are 12 essential questions you should ask your website designer before you sign-up, together with the types of answer you should hopefully hear if they are potentially “good guys” to work with.

1 – Will I own the website when it’s complete?

The answer to this should be an unequivocal “yes”. There are some companies who “rent” out dental websites and consequently you never own them. This is not a great scenario in that should you receive bad service, then it’s highly unlikely that you’ll be able to move your website to another supplier. There may be some assets in use on a website which you, or the designers, don’t actually own, for example licenced images; however those should still usable on your website even if you elected to move on from your designer.

There are also the designers who build on DIY platforms such as Squarespace and the like and once again, you are only renting the service in this scenario. Your website will not be portable and likely also not supportable by mainstream designers who don’t really use those types of platforms.

2 – Is my website subject to ongoing maintenance fees?

This is a big topic and one to be really careful with. Most web design companies push really hard to sign you up to monthly maintenance contracts. In most cases they are not necessary and will cost you potentially thousands of pounds per year, even if you’ve only having very limited work done on the site. There are a few companies, Dental Media included, which do not charge these monthly fees so please check carefully and understand what you are getting before signing up.

3 – How many pages are included?

A lot of design companies will produce a decent home page for your website but then skimp on the internal content. Whilst a great looking home page is essential, it’s also important to make sure that the internal pages are engaging and informative. When it comes to being found in Google, it’s also important to make sure that each of your main treatments have their own individual pages on your website, so please be sure to check what the overall website fee actually covers.

4. Will the website be mobile-friendly?

This is now essential as over 60% of all web enquiries come via hand-held devices. If you are serving an old-style, static website which looks like a postage stamp on a mobile ‘phone browser, then this is not going to help your business at all. So please make sure that your new site is mobile-optimised to Google’s current standards and that you can see the development of this as the new site evolves.

5. What is the project lead-time?

As with any project, web-based or otherwise, you need to know when the work will be completed and also how you can monitor the progress as the design and build develops. So try to get this documented before the project begins. It is also useful to work with a company which is open to a degree of flexibility; so for example coinciding the launch of the new website with the completion of refurbishment works or after a relocation.

6. Is web hosting included or is it an extra fee?

Many designers will bundle-in website hosting in year one but then often hit you with hugely inflated fees in year two and onwards. So please watch out for this and be sure to know what the annual fees are likely to be.

7. Are email addresses included?

Website hosting will often support a couple of email addresses at no extra charge, but please check for this. There is one exception where it is reasonable for designers to charge extra for email services and this is where you wish to use the ‘IMAP’ protocol which stores email on the remote server and consequently needs quite a lot of storage space.

8. Is the website hosting and email housed in a secure UK based data-centre?

This is obviously important from a security perspective and it pays to know that the quality and robustness of website hosting can vary hugely. You should make sure that your website is published under the secure ‘https’ protocol and that the servers are preferably housed in an ISO27001 approved data centre. The same goes for the email provision. The ISO27001 standard is the universal recognition of secure data management and means that your data should be stored safely.

9. Will the website be on-site SEO optimised?

With lots of new patient enquiries coming from the web, it is important to make sure that your new website is set up to be Google friendly. This means that the on-site SEO must be configured to the highest standards and in compliance with Google’s stringent guidelines. The website pages must also load quickly as this is also now a ranking factor. Many web agencies simply take pre-built WordPress templates and load them up with dental content. However, when you test sites like these using the approved Google usability tools, you typically find that they perform really badly. So make sure your designers know that you will be checking!

10. What about the website text content?

How the text is written on your practice website is very important, not just for users but for Google ranking purposes too. Some designers included text writing within their fees but often it’s rather skimped, or worse, just copied from elsewhere. So please make sure to discuss the content very carefully with your designer to work our who is providing what and to what standards it will be written. Ask for examples where necessary.

11. How many design revisions are included?

Another important aspect to check. Good designers will allow an agreed number of home-page design revisions to ensure that the project brief is met and the client is happy. This happens before the website “build-out” commences. However, other designers, particularly those offering low-budget prices and using pre-built templates, will restrict clients to a single design.

12 . Does the project include photography and video?

Some designers do offer this within their most expensive packages, but please check the quality as it’s often done by a “staffer” with a digital camera rather than by a dedicated professional. The guidance here is to check the scope and quality of what is being offered – more often than not it pays to employ the services of dedicated professionals for these specialist aspects. Good designers should be able to provide contacts for photography and video services and also coordinate any 3rd party work on your behalf.

Summary

There are lots more questions you will need to ask you designer but those mentioned above are some of the key ones on the route to building, hosting and maintaining a great dental website.

If you’d like to know more about any of the topics mentioned above, or simply need some no-obligation guidance, please get in touch with the team here at Dental Media on 01332 672548. We’ll be pleased to help.