“Internet: the final frontier.” Okay, so outer space might not be the most accurate metaphor for the world wide web (may it live long and prosper). However, if your clinic doesn’t have a website, my stretch-of-a-comparison might ring true for you on some level. For instance, if your clinic lacks online presence, its search results might closely resemble a black hole—seemingly non-existent and nearly impossible to detect. But don’t panic; you’re not getting sucked into that dying star just yet. The first step for lighting up your online presence is creating a quality website for your clinic. Here’s why—and how—to make your own website:

First Impressions

Before a patient walks through your doors, there’s a good chance he or she has formed a first impression online—long before a live person has the opportunity to impact that opinion. So, what happens when your patients are searching good ol’ Google (or any other search engine), and you don’t have a website? Your clinic simply won’t show up in the search results—thanks to that black hole I mentioned earlier—which means prospective patients won’t know you exist. And I think we can agree that it’s important for potential patients to know you exist.

But, what if you have a steady stream of physician referrals to make your existence known? In that case, you might argue against the need for a strong online presence. But the truth is that with some form of direct access available in all 50 states, patients are increasingly taking health care into their own hands and finding answers with the help of search engines—not physicians. This Pew Research Center article highlights the magnitude of this trend: “77% of online health seekers say they began their last session at a search engine such as Google, Bing, or Yahoo.”

Ultimately, if the number of people searching for health information online continues to increase—and all signs point to that being the case—your online presence (or lack thereof) will greatly affect the size of your new patient pool. As it stands, if you currently operate without a clinic website, you aren’t only missing out on bringing new patients into your clinic, but you also might be causing unnecessary confusion and frustration for your current patient base. You want your clinic’s phone number, address, and other pertinent information to be online and easily accessible—especially as healthcare continues to become more patient-centric. If it’s not, a lack of readily available information might prove so frustrating that your patients decide to jump starship. Why take that chance? In this day and age, the truth is undeniable: Your clinic needs a website to both bring in new patients and keep your current ones in-the-know.

Design Dos and Don’ts

Your website should be easy to navigate, with a clean design and a clear representation of your brand. It might be tempting to include flashy graphics and bold, bright colors in an effort to make your website stand out. This is a no-no, as it can cause online visitors to become overwhelmed—which means they’re more likely to navigate away from your page in search of a more palatable website. In the name of simplicity, it’s best to stay away from gaudy and overly ornate—or cutesy—fonts. Google Research further emphasizes this point: “We know the first impression a website’s design creates is crucial in capturing users’ interest. In less than 50 milliseconds, users build an initial ‘gut feeling’ that helps them decide whether they’ll stay or leave. This first impression depends on many factors: structure, colors, spacing, symmetry, amount of text, fonts, and more.” So, what’s the moral of the story? Patients will judge your clinic based on its website faster than the blink of an eye. So, K.I.S.S.—keep it simple, stargazer—and stick to a clean, easy-to-navigate design.

Template Tools

Building a simple, yet effective, website might sound like a costly endeavor. And while website design can be pricey, the good news is that it doesn’t have to cost a holographic arm and leg. DIY (i.e., do-it-yourself) website templates are more beautiful and easier to use—not to mention less expensive—than ever before. Just hop on over to sites like Wix or Squarespace and build a website from one of their pre-existing, user-friendly templates. And if you happen to have some basic coding knowledge, you can customize most templates to better fit your brand. Not much of a developer (or designer)? No worries. Most templates have drag-and-drop functionality, allowing you to easily control your site’s appearance. Finally, if you still feel like you simply don’t have the time—or desire—to build your own website, consult with our friends over at E-Rehab for help.

Beyond giving yourself a platform to promote your own services, your clinic’s website also allows you to promote the PT profession as a whole. Regardless of whether you plan on going where no person has gone before, you’ll definitely want to make building a website part of your voyage. Stay tuned to the WebPT Blog; we’ll spend the entire month of March teaching you how to take over the Internet. Have a lingering question? Leave it in the comments section below.