In this blog, we’ll explain the fundamentals of how to create an engaging, mobile responsive website for your practice – on a realistic budget.
We’ll be exploring some of the most popular options available, and comparing the cost and value of each.
Website building blocks: Hosting and Domains
Before we discuss the various options for creating a website, it’s a good idea to cover off the basics of what it takes for a website to be live on the internet. You’re going to need two main things to get started:
This is where the files themselves are actually stored online, in a way that makes them publicly accessible on the internet. Typically your hosting will have a number associated with it, known as an IP address. The IP address is what a web browser (eg Google Chrome) uses to deliver the correct website to the user. You will need to pay for a hosting plan for your site.
This is the address that you want your patients to type into their browser to visit your website (or the address you want them to see when they search for you in Google). For example, if your practice is called Murray Medical, you would likely want your domain to be “murraymedical.com.au”.
For simplicity, many providers offer all-inclusive products to allow you to bundle hosting and domain together. This is generally the approach we’d recommend taking, as it can be tricky (and more expensive) to navigate the components separately.
Importance of mobile responsive design
An important consideration when building a new website is that it’s mobile responsive.
A responsive website automatically changes the layout, images and menu design to fit the screen size of the device you’re using.
We all know how annoying it can be trying to navigate a website that isn’t designed for mobile, attempting to zoom in to read sections and then having to zoom out to navigate. Google’s search algorithm recently started penalising sites that were not mobile friendly, meaning you automatically appear lower in search results. Given that over 48% of all Google searches take place on a mobile phone, it’s critical you take a mobile-first approach to building your website.
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Website design can be a daunting task for many practices. Fortunately, there are some excellent products on the market that allow you to create and update a website – without the need to write a single line of code!
These systems are often referred to as Content Management Systems (CMS). They combine drag-and-drop editors with template themes, that allow you to take a basic starting point and then customise it to create a unique website. We’ll take you through 3 of the most common – WordPress, Wix and Squarespace.
There’s actually 2 versions of WordPress:
- The fully managed version that includes hosting and a domain name
- Build a site, with no installation required
- Very easy to set up and maintain for a small fee – they have a range of plans from $5/mth to $33.25/mth
- It is more basic and restricted, but there’s no security or backup issues
- WordPress.com sites can be set up quickly and you can customise design based on their template themes
- The version which you install yourself for free, on hosting that you’ve purchased
- It’s flexible and lets you maintain quite a bit of control, but the downside is you are responsible for security, performance and back-ups and it is generally more involved
- The good news is some hosting companies have completely tailored their hosting solutions for WordPress.org (we recommend WPEngine)
- There are thousands of themes online for free or at a small cost to use to build your site design. You simply choose one you like, install and then customise it; just make sure you choose one that is mobile responsive.
- There are an abundance of plugins available to extend the customisation of your site – for example an event calendar, Facebook feed or shopfront
For a business site, we would generally recommend using WordPress.org over WordPress.com.
Wix is a very popular all-in-one website builder that has a range of plans available. (We don’t recommend using the free version, as your site will contain Wix advertising and your domain name will end in ‘wix.com’).
Main benefits of Wix:
- You don’t need to source separate hosting or domain name, it’s all in the one place. You can start building straight away without any technical setup
- Wix hosting servers are optimised for Wix websites – so they run faster. Plus there’s a team of professionals in charge of making sure your site is secure
- A truly drag and drop interface; you can place content wherever you want without needing technical or coding skills
- Access to dedicated customer support via email and phone as well as a knowledge base of resources
Some downsides to Wix:
- It’s more expensive than WordPress. A typical premium plan costs between $15 to $20 p/m, which you can usually get at half price for the first year. You get your domain name included for the first year – but have to pay for it after that
- Less customisation options. If any features you want aren’t available in your selected template or via a plugin, you’re going to struggle implementing them
- Once you pick a template theme you can’t change it without rebuilding your whole site
- The biggest downside of Wix is that their templates aren’t mobile responsive out of the box; they do have some advanced tools to tailor the mobile experience but you are then essentially creating 2 sites – desktop and mobile
Another popular all-in-one website builder much loved by designers, as it quite easily allows you to create an expensive looking, professional and highly polished site.
Benefits of Squarespace:
- When it comes to templates, Squarespace goes for quality over quantity, with beautiful. and most importantly, mobile responsive templates created by designers
- Like Wix, everything is in one place – you don’t have to worry about separately organising a domain name or hosting
- No coding experience is required and potentially difficult things like style changes are handled effortlessly
- Access to dedicated customer support, live chat and 24/7 assistance where an agent will reply via email within 1 hour
Some of the downsides:
- It’s the most expensive option coming in at $25 p/m. Your domain name is included for the first year, after which you’ll have to pay $20 – $70 p/m.
- Squarespace is not open source, which means you can’t customise outside of the parameters of what it allows you to do
- Squarespace’s template designs are highly visual and suited to high quality images, so it looks best with professional photos. If you don’t have them already then you may need to look at sourcing some high quality images
This really comes down to a question of how in control you want to be. If you’re not scared of a challenge and want to be in total control of your website and what you add to it (plugins, custom code etc) – then WordPress.org is for you.
If it’s your first time creating a website, the thought of coding terrifies you and all you really want is an online presence to be found by your patients, Squarespace or Wix are best. Of the two we’d go with Squarespace due to the mobile responsiveness and general ease of use. However, Wix has a free version and Squarespace a 14 day trial – so there’s no reason not to try them both out to see which you prefer.
If the above all sounds too technical or difficult – our next blog explains what to look for when hiring a professional web developer.
Regardless of what you choose, rest assured your HealthEngine online booking widget will work seamlessly with whichever platform you use to build your website!