There are many reasons why you may want to create a website as a physician: to build your brand as a clinician, to drive traffic to your private practice, or for a side gig. A website is a key part of everyone’s marketing strategy these days; in fact not having one can be an automatic red flag to a potential customer or patient.
However, most of us probably haven’t done any coding since college, or possibly never! With all the options out there for creating a website, it’s hard to navigate what is the best in every situation and to know what to include on the site itself.
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Resources to Help Create A Website
Website Developers: Artillery designs and builds attractive websites optimized for SEO that are pretty reasonably priced (usually 2-5k depending on complexity). Mention PSG for $200 off.
Freelancers: If you're looking for someone to help with certain aspects of your website design (graphics design, integrating additional features to a current website, optimizing SEO, etc.), Fiverr and Upwork (affiliate links) offer freelancers around the world who can help based on your needs and budget.
Questions to Ask Before Starting
When assessing what type of website you want to build and whether you want to DIY it or hire a professional web designer, there are a few of the questions you should ask yourself. The right solution for you will depend greatly on the answers to the following:
Do I want to attempt DIY or would I rather someone else do it for me?
How professional does the webpage need to look?
What is my budget for the website?
How important is it that the website has different functionalities, such as: the ability to book appointments or purchase items; live chat functions; or search functions?
How much regular maintenance is this site going to require?
How much traffic do I anticipate the website needing to handle?
Know Your Needs for Your Physician Side Gig or Practice Website
Obviously, the stakes are much bigger with an endeavor that represents your primary income source, such as your private practice website, then with a side gig you’re doing for fun. With your private practice website, you’re going to want to go all-in from the beginning with SEO optimization, attractive templates, and possibly advanced features such as appointment booking and live chat capabilities. Consider even an online store, depending on your business model.
While it is possible to add all these features using a CMS (content management system), such as our partner Squarespace, if you don't have any familiarity with these systems, there can be a learning curve on the front end. You may have security issues you didn't realize you needed to consider. Using a CMS also requires up-front research. Not all systems operate the same or offer the same features. You want to make sure the one you select offers the different functionalities you need not just now, but those you could potentially need later. Migrating websites from one system to another can be a headache and may even require a complete overhaul, costing you lots of time and/or money, depending on how complex your site has grown.
The simpler your website requirements, the easier it is to DIY. If you need a complex site with multiple functionalities, it can be well worth the investment to pay for someone else to handle and update it. Your website or key feature(s) being down or less than optimally functioning could cost you a lot of money in missed appointments or sales. Even a few new patients acquired monthly will likely offset your investment. Our partner Artillery has made attractive websites for several of our community members that are pretty reasonable in price (usually $2-$5k, depending on complexity). Mention PSG for $200 off.
On the other hand, most of us in the communities start small with our side gigs, and then ramp up our website as (hopefully!) our side gigs grow and the needs increase. Here, starting with a DIY website with great templates that can be easily modified in a drag and drop fashion may make a lot of sense. Of course, if you just want to take it off your plate and/or the opportunity cost of your time is large, you may still elect to have someone else do it.
We've discussed branding before when it comes to setting up your side gig. The same applies for a private practice or other business website. Whatever branding you've built, make sure you carry it over onto your website. This includes the:
Tone (professional, conversational, humorous, etc. depending on your side gig)
If you're paying a designer or developer to build your site, make sure you give them guidance in these areas so their design matches your brand. Most will ask you about these design requirements and more during your initial intake but if they don't, make sure you mention them.
Keep your users in mind. The easier you can make your website for them to navigate and find the information or resources they need, the more likely they are to engage. Here are some overall design considerations, regardless of your gig or business:
Brand Your Name
Domain names are cheap and can be easily integrated into your website hosting. Make sure you pay for a custom domain name (yourwebsite.com) versus hosting it as a sub-domain with a hosting provider (yourwebsite.your-host.com or www.your-host.com/yourwebsite). This will make you and your brand look more professional.
An email address branded to @yourwebsite.com also looks more professional than a Gmail, Hotmail, or other third-party site.
Keep It Simple (and Clean)
The flashier your website is with music, videos, large graphics, effects, etc. the longer it will take to load (which can make people leave before they even start exploring your site), and the likelier it is to display oddly on different devices.
Use simple but professional, high-quality images that blend into the design of your website. Be careful with image formatting though. A .png can be significantly larger in file size than a .jpg, which may bog down your webpage load speed without adding much quality. You don't want grainy images but you don't want 10MB files that take forever to load either.
A professional headshot on your about page can go a long way into connecting with your potential audience. Before they even reach out to engage, they have a sense of who you are, helping you build recognition and a relationship from the start.
Many people browse the internet on their phones or tablets, so make sure your website is well designed for desktop and mobile devices. Due to significant size variations in screens, webpages can look drastically different on a phone versus a laptop. Several DIY website builders let you preview and/or tweak the design for both viewing options.
Have a main menu at the top that's easy to find and covers all the key parts of your business. Common pages to make sure you include on your website and in your menu are:
A homepage: Your homepage (www.yourwebsite.com) is the first impression many visitors will get. Make sure it clearly and simply states what your business is, what you do, and how visitors can find out more. A few testimonial can be a great highlight on your homepage.
An about us page: This is your mini CV. Show your potential customers or patients why they should use your products or services. What makes you unique versus your competition? What are your qualifications and experience? Consider sharing a small personal tidbit about why you decided on this particular business or career path.
A services or products page: clearly list and explain what you provide and why it's specialized or beneficial to your customers'/patients' needs. Depending on your business, you may want to include pricing packages or ranges on this page, as well as a link to your online store for each product, if applicable.
A contact page: make it easy to reach out to you to learn more. For brick and mortar businesses, include your address. Many websites also embed a Google map of their location(s). If your location can be difficult to find or navigation apps typically steer people astray, consider adding some basic directions/tips for finding your suite/building. For businesses, also list your hours of operation, along with your phone and fax (if applicable) numbers. Provide your business (branded!) email address, as well as a contact form to make it easy for them to submit their inquiry directly on the page.
Either a shop or scheduling page: Make it easy to convert sales. The harder it is for people to buy your services or products, the more likely they are to go somewhere else. (If you want an example, look no further than Amazon, which has added several autofill and auto-reorder options, as well as offering a One-Click purchase option.) The vast majority of Americans use credit cards, so being able to take credit card payments through your website is a huge perk for ease of use. Square offers a hardware discount and an opportunity to explore lower processing fees through our group affiliate link.
For private practices, also consider including:
The patient portal link
If separate from the patient portal, a link to your online bill pay
A page of accepted insurances
A link to your new patient intake forms
Even if you hire out your website design, you will need to provide some, if not all, of the content that will go on the site (what information you want included, the actual verbiage, photos, etc.).
Keep It Current
Your website is only as useful as the information you provide on it. You want to make sure you keep it current. If you change your business hours, make sure to update them on your contact page. (If you have a Google listing, keep it current there too, since that's another large driver of traffic.) If you add a new physician, NP, PA, etc. to your practice, make sure to add them to your about page.
We've talked about content creation when discussing growing your side gig. The same applies when building your website. Consider some sort of content creation to help drive traffic and awareness to your brand and business. Several professionals (physicians, accountants, lawyers, etc.) have taken to adding blogs to their website. This provides educational resources to your visitors while engaging them more with your brand. While content creation doesn't ROI immediately for your top-line profit, some advantages to consider:
If you have FAQs you receive constantly through your patient portal messaging system or via email, addressing these topics on your blog can cut down on the administrative time required to address the same questions repeatedly.
By covering relevant topics to your field/business, you showcase your experience and knowledge instead of simply telling visitors about it on your about page.
Having content such as a blog on your website can increase your SEO, which improves your website's search engine ranking. The more you blog, the likelier you are to appear at the top of the Google results page when someone searches for "pedestrians in [city]", etc.
You can help educate and contribute to your local community.
The more evergreen you can make your content while still providing useful information, the greater the long-term value and the less work you have to do keeping it current and relevant.
Whether you DIY or hire a developer, you can typically update your website with ease to make minor adjustments or add new blog posts without having to pay the developer each time (though many are willing to help make updates if required). If you do plan to blog, make sure you alert your designer so they can build the feature in for you or ensure the DIY CMS you select offers the capability.
Think About (Or Have Someone Think About) SEO
This is an extensive topic for which we'll write a separate article, but you want to be cognizant of SEO (search engine optimization). This is the way that Google or other search engines will find you when somebody is searching for something relevant to what you do. So, if you're a dermatologist in Charleston, South Carolina, you want to make sure when a patient types in "dermatologist SC," they get your website as one of the options. There are entire courses on this, because everybody's fighting for one of those coveted top spots in the search engines, but essentially rising in those lists requires making sure you think about what people might search for and designate those as keywords, create relevant content, and make your page easy to navigate so that when search engines crawl your page, they can easily find you. Often very small changes can result in big differences in where you show up in the search, so it's worth making an investment into this if you don't know how to do it yourself, whether that's DIY learning or hiring someone.
Congratulations! You're ready to get started. Creating a website is an excellent opportunity to spread the word for your side gig, private practice, or other business. Don't forget to update your email signature, social media accounts, business cards, and online listings with your new website address to build awareness.
Have a question we didn't cover? Ask the hive mind in our Physician Side Gigs Facebook community.