If your medical practice or healthcare organization is considering a redesign or update of an existing website, there are a few things you shouldn’t overlook this time around.
Let’s start with the domain name
Chances are at some point, someone from your group registered a domain name through a domain registrar such as GoDaddy or Network Solutions, or through the IT company you do business with.
When its time to develop or redesign your website, one of the first questions your website developer will ask you is the log-in information to the registrar of your domain name. If you’re like some groups, you’ve may have not done a good job at keeping your registration information current.
What may be even worse is that whoever originally registered your domain name may not have listed you as the registrant and administrative contacts – the way that registrars confirm who owns and has access to the domain. This contact can make changes to it, such as updating passwords and where your domain name points.
What you can do
- Find out how your domain is currently registered and what the contact information is by visiting www.whois.sc.
- Regardless of who registers your domain, insist that the contact information for both the registrant and administrative record for the domain is the legal owner of the domain. Do not allow your IT vendor, or anyone else, be listed as the registrant or administrative contact.
- Be sure to utilize a generic email address such as info@ or admin@. This will ensure that if someone leaves the practice, control over the domain name doesn’t go with them.
- Keep track of your domain name’s expiration date and who the registrar is. There are many registration services that solicit you into migrate your domain without your knowledge.
One of the most asked questions we hear from potential clients is how they can make changes to their website themselves. Most firms today provide a content management tool that allows clients to easily manage website updates themselves without contacting their website developer. Since this is a crucial part of your website, it is a good idea to know what type of content management system they are using – a database driven application or website editor.
What you should know
Be sure to ask what content management system (CMS) your developer uses. Also take time to familiarize yourself with how easy (or not!) it is to make changes using this application. While all CMS’s allow you to make changes to your website, there may be some limitations based on the type of application used.
There are many database driven applications available – Drupal, Joomla, WordPress, to name a few. However, these popular open-source CMS programs tend to be a target for hackers. Generally there are updates (software) available to minimize the risk of an attack. Be sure to budget for these updates.
On the host server, there are also software version updates. This may also dictate that you update your CMS or your website may not work properly. Bottom line, you can’t just set it and forget it. These types of applications require ongoing maintenance.
Finally, keep in mind that because the applications rely on server configurations, they may not be as easy to migrate (move) to a different host without some additional development time. This can get costly, depending on what reconfiguration is needed.
There are also a number of website editors, such as Adobe Contribute. These applications may run client-side (from your desk-top) or through a hosted provider via the web.
Some scripting is added to website pages during development. This allows you to make website changes to editable regions. Since these pages are files that sit on your account on the server, you can migrate existing website files to a new host without much reconfiguration.
However, as new browser versions are made available, older editors may not be compliant. This does not mean your website will not display properly, only that you may not be able to continue to make changes using that application.
Don’t overlook content
Take this opportunity to re-evaluate your website structure (information architecture) and content. Think of this like moving. Wouldn’t you be cleaning out your closets, donating things to good will and, perhaps, buying that new refrigerator?
Chances are that over time, content has been added to your existing site without giving much thought to where and how best to add it. You may not even know what content is on your current website. Now is the right time to take an inventory of that content, re-organize it and clean up your copy. Also, come up with a plan for how to best add content in the future.
Let’s talk about search engine optimization
There are many online marketing firms who will vie for your business. While they may provide much needed advice in how to better position your website on search engines, much of what needs to happen is driven off proper and compliant development practices.
A few things to consider:
- Is there ample content? It all starts with having good keyword rich, deep content on your site. Without content, there isn’t much a developer can work with to optimize.
- How is your website coded? Chances are that if it’s an older website, it may not be XHTML compliant and set-up for optimal load time. These elements may play a roll in how well your website is ranked. Be sure that if you’re developing a new website, that these good practices are used.
- Does your website have keyword rich file-naming conventions, relevant meta tags and valid mark-up? It’s best if your developer updates these items as they know your website and how it was originally coded. If you authorize an outside firm to do this, they may break something on your website. When redesigning your website, be sure that these items are there upon development.
One final thought – don’t forget to have some fun! Its your opportunity to be creative.