Last week I talked about the need to market your business. If you missed the article you can go here to read it now, before moving on to Part 2.
Since most consumers today turn to the web to find information, a website is a must for any business… even for your healthcare practice.
If utilized properly, your practice website can be a powerful tool to attract new clients to your office and stay in touch with established patients.
And best of all, once built, your website works tirelessly for you. It’ll be there 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, and 365 days of the year, costing you very little to maintain!
Perhaps you’re wondering “How much is a website going to cost me”?
Not only a good, but also a smart question! By the time you’re finished reading the article you’ll have a good idea what to expect.
Two Parts to Every Website
Essentially there are two main components to any website:
- There is the technical part: the domain name, the hosting, and the website platform.
- There is the information part: how the site looks and the information published on the site.
Today I’ll talk about the first component, the technical part. The second part, the information component, will be covered in the following week.
Please Don’t Skip Over This…
Just about now you may notice the temptation to skip over the technical information to follow… please don’t. Even though it may be a bit tedious, it’s not difficult and well worth your time in the long run.
In the next few paragraphs I’ll give you an overview of what’s involved in having a website. Having this knowledge will help you reach an informed decision when it’s time to select everything required for your site.
The Technical Components of Your Website
Before you can setup a website for your practice or for yourself, there are three decisions you need to make.
- Domain Name
- Web Hosting
- Website Platform
Every website is identified by means of a name, aka the “domain name”. Ideally, your domain name (the name of your website) should be the same as the name of your business.
Typically, this is not a problem if you are a new practice. Choose a business name that has the corresponding domain name available.
How do you know if the name you want is available?
Simply type the name into your search engine and see if a website with that name is returned. If a site is returned, the name has been taken. You would need to go back to the drawing board and find another name.
Another option is to go directly to a domain registrar. Search for your desired name and see what’s returned. The added benefit here… the registrar will suggest what variations of your desired name are available for registration.
Finding a domain name might be a bit more challenging if you’ve been in practice for a while and now are getting a website.
Check if your business name has a corresponding domain name available. If it’s available – great! Grab the name and register it at once.
If your business name is already taken, see if you can get your business name with a different extension. While there are many web extensions available today, try to stick with the most common ones, such as .com, .org, or .net.
A domain registrar handles the reservation of internet domain names and everything that goes with it.
To keep your domain name, you have to pay a yearly registration fee to the domain registrar. So, you really don’t “own” your domain name as such… it’s more like renting it. As long as you pay “the rent” the name is yours.
At any rate, the cost for domain registration typically runs around $10-$15 per year (depending on the registrar, additional options selected, number of domain names “owned”, etc.).
If you’d like a bit more information on choosing a domain name you can check out one of my other articles here.
Every website lives at a certain location on the web; that is where your site is “hosted”. It’s the physical place (the server) where the files that make up your website reside.
Your website, or your domain, typically is hosted by a hosting company. This company provides the infrastructure and expertise to host your and many other websites for their customers.
Most domain registrars also offer domain hosting (www.namecheap.com, www.BlueHost.com or www.godaddy.com). The cost to host a single site may range from $7/month to $20/month or more, depending on what other services are selected (automatic update and backup, the level of support, etc.).
Since many domain registrars also offer hosting, should you opt to register and host your domain with the same company?
While more convenient, I don’t think it’s a good idea. I firmly believe it’s best to keep my domain registration and my hosting with two separate companies. Keeping the two apart, adds an extra layer of security (in the event a company gets hacked) and keeps my future options open.
For example, if I want to change my web host it’s easy to do as long as registration and hosting are done separately. All I have to do is move my website files to a new host and tell the registrar where to find the new address. And it’s done!
However, if my domain name and hosting were with the same company, this process would be much more difficult and certainly much more time consuming.
Every website is created either by coding it from scratch or by use of a website builder. The question is what route should you go?
Creating a completely customized site is very expensive (potentially thousands of dollars) and often time consuming. And quite frankly, today, it’s no longer necessary to build sites from scratch.
There are so many tools available that simplify the “website making process” even if you don’t know how to code.
So, let’s look at some of the options out there. Let’s answer the question “which website builder, which website platform should I use to create my website?”
Before I go any further, though, let me clarify something. When you decide on a website builder or a platform, there is one major consideration. Is the platform a hosted (third party) platform or is it a platform where you can host your own site (self-hosted)?
Option One: Third Party Hosted
Website platforms such as Weebly, Wix, Squarespace, WordPress.com, and others fall into the “hosted” option. They offer drag and drop functionality, allowing you to customize pre-made website templates. This makes it easy for a “non-coder’ to put a website together.
With some of these companies you also get a domain name when signing up… and they handle all the “backend” technical issues for you.
At first glance this sounds wonderful, does it not? You can put up a website for a low fee and someone else is handling all the nitty-gritty stuff for you?
But wait…of course, there is more to it than meets the eye.
If you decide to go with one of the above platforms for your website, here is what you must understand.
If you use a completely 3rd party hosted service all the files of your website reside on their server. If you want to move your site somewhere else later on, this process might be difficult.
If you also receive a domain name with hosting, you may not “own” the domain name and hence can’t move it with your site.
Keep in mind that you are building a business website and you want total control over your site. This includes the content of your site as well as your domain name.
The longer your site has been on the web, the more people will know it, and search for your clinic by the domain name. If you don’t own the domain name, you may be forced to change the name of your website, should you want to or have to move your site to a different host.
Option Two: Self-Hosted
Self-hosting simply means that you pay for your “own” domain name and then pay for your own hosting… as I discussed earlier. Once you have your domain name and your hosting account you then install a website platform and you’re ready to build your website.
I realize this sounds a bit complicated. However, it’s rather straight forward once you been through the process once or twice.
I recommend that you go with the self-hosted option. This provides you with more flexibility (if you need it later on) and you will have more freedom over what you can do with your site.
The website platform I recommend is WordPress.org. Please note there is a difference between WordPress.com and WordPress.org. The .com is the 3rd party hosted platform and the .org is the self-hosted platform.
WordPress.org is a popular website platform. It is used by 25% of all websites on the Internet today.
WordPress.org offers many templates you can use to build your website, including free and paid ones. Essentially, you take a template and modify it so it fits your needs.
If you know how to use WordPress you may be able to do this yourself or hire someone to do a light customization for you. Additionally, there are many companies that will put up a WordPress website for you and can provide some level of customization.
Once you have a basic understanding of WordPress it’s also relatively easy to update your own website with fresh content.
Perhaps you have special events at your clinic you would like to post on your website. You can learn to do this yourself or hire a third party service to do it for you.
So how much will a WordPress site cost you?
My answer is “it depends”. If you’re prepared to do some of the work yourself, it’ll be less expensive, perhaps around $300 to $500.
However, if you hire someone to do everything for you, it can get expensive. Most freelancers charge around $80 to $100 per hour and agencies may charge anywhere from $100 and up.
The bulk of the expense in customizing or developing a website is often in clarifying user requirements. Hence, I suggest you put in the leg-work and think about what it is that you want. Not only will this make the entire process much easier, but it will also keep down your cost.
So here is what to do next…
Are you ready to get your website or perhaps update your existing site? Here are a few things you can do to prepare for getting a website, no matter what route you’ll go.
- Get clarity on what you want to accomplish with your site:
- Attract new patients?
- Provide information to current patients?
- Allow patients to make appointments?
- Educate patients via a newsletter?
- Identify five sites you like and could use as a model for your own site:
- What is it you like about the sites?
- Do you like the colors?
- Do you like the graphics or the layout?
- Do you like the type of information they have on their site?
- Identify a Budget for your Website:
- How much are you willing to spend?
- How much expertise can you contribute to the project?
- How much are you willing to do yourself?
- Identify a freelancer or an agency you can work with to build your site.
- Clearly communicate to them what it is you want.
- Have examples of sites you can show them.
- Get estimates of how much it would cost to customize, modify, or get a website developed.
It’s time to get busy…
Let us know how your site is coming along and if you any questions.
By Johanna Hofmann, MBA, author of “Smart Business Planning for Clinicians” and regular contributor to the NPBusiness blog.