Getting your practice on the Web
Once you have determined what you want your website to do for you, you have to decide what kind of website you need. I know what you’re thinking: there is more than one kind of website? Yes, there are 2 kinds of website you need to consider for your business: Static and Dynamic.
The kind of website you’re used to seeing is called a Static website. When the internet was new and came over a dial up phone line, you wanted a website that had very small files sizes that would load as quickly as possible. A well designed static site could provide all the information you needed without taking a long time to show up on the visitor’s computer screen. On a static website, the information looks the same to everyone who visits your website – much like an electronic brochure. Changing or updating a static website is done manually and requires some specialized software and skills or a web hosting service which has the software needed.
The Positives of a Static Website
A static website doesn’t use any software programs on your web server (the computer where your web site’s files are located). This makes it less likely that malicious programmers (hackers) can hack into your website and use it to send out spam or spread viruses to your visitors’ computers. In addition, from a web designer’s perspective, a static website can be very simple, but time consuming, to design.
Static websites can also be graphically customized to match your printed material. Your branding, look and feel, will be the same on your website as it is on your business cards. Because the website is unchanging, you have much greater control over the layout of and you can control what information your visitor sees, if that is important to you.
Changing a Static Website isn’t Easy
The biggest disadvantages to a static website is that making changes, updates or corrections is going to require the help of your web designer. They are busy people with other clients, so you will need to plan in advance to have your Christmas Special notice put on your website and you will probably have to pay the designer’s hourly fee. If you want to make frequent updates or announcements to your website, this can get expensive.
Another problem with static websites is that most people take a ‘set it and forget it’ approach to them. Since making changes isn’t simple, changes don’t get made and new information isn’t updated. I’ve seen business websites out there with copyright notices of 2006 and seasonal specials that are more than a year old.
The other type of website you’ll want to consider is a Dynamic web site. The information on a dynamic website changes as your visitor needs. A good example of a dynamic website is a blog. Your visitor can select which articles to read based on date, topic, author, or any number of criteria. Amazon is also a dynamic website where customers can search, sort, and comment on the content of the website.
Keeping Your Content Fresh
While you will probably need someone to help with the initial setup of a dynamic website, you won’t need a web designer to add information or make changes. This makes it easy to keep your website up to date and the information fresh. Are you having a Mother’s Day sale? You can make that change in less than 15 minutes and then take it down as soon as Mother’s Day is over with. Do you want to add an article about how massage can help with back pain? The typing might take a little longer, but the process is still pretty quick.
You can also launch a website with the basic information (home, about, and your services pages) and flesh it out over time. This is a tremendous advantage to a new business as it’s important to get a website out there as soon as possible. You can do this with a static site, too, but you have to go back to your web designer to add the new material.
All of this Flexibility Comes at a Price
The downside to a dynamic website is in its complexity. To the visitor, the site isn’t complex but there is a lot of software running behind the scenes to make the page change as the visitor requests. That software is running on your web server and your web designer will need to know (or learn) that programming language. Fortunately, if you are using blog software like WordPress, most of that programming has been done by someone else. As a side note, WordPress is used for more than just blogs. Entire websites are built on it.
Because there is software running in the background on your server, a dynamic site is more vulnerable to being hacked. Hackers can get past your security and put virus-type software on top of your website software. This software can then be used by the hackers to send out spam, hack into other websites, or put viruses on your website visitors’ computers. (This explanation is a gross simplification but you get the point). This usually means that the software will need to be updated from time to time to include patches for the security holes.
Pros & Cons
This is far from being a complete list, but here is a quick summary:
- Graphically customizable
- Requires edits be done manually
- Easy to forget or put off updates
- Quick and easy to add updates
- Can build up a website over time without additional cost
- Less secure
- Harder to customize
So which type is best for you?
I’ve had a static website for years but I am my own web designer and editing and updating is easy. I am in the process of a complete site redesign and I am going to change to a dynamic website. The deciding factor was my desire to use my website to keep in touch with my current clients and to educate them about new research findings and new techniques.
Keeping in mind that your website should Recruit, Educate, and Inform, I am recommending that you consider a dynamic website, especially if this is your first website. The typical 5 page static website is rapidly becoming obsolete as more of your clients get their information from the internet. They don’t just want a brochure, they want an information source and you can’t accomplish that with a 5 page static site. A dynamic site will make it easy to keep your clients informed on the latest news and specials and a constant stream of new information will keep them coming back to your website.
If you currently have a 5 page static site, like I do, I will recommend that you start considering upgrading to a dynamic site. Don’t do it yet – there are a few things you need to do before you convert over. Use your new website as a newsletter and as a sales tool when you talk to other health care providers you partner with. You have a lot of knowledge and this is your opportunity to show the world what you are capable of.
What kind of website do you think you need?
Comment below – what type of website do you have? How can your website be working harder for you?
Next up: Looking at free website vs. non-free websites. And is non-free a real word?
Photo by: TheBusyBrain