Dr Simon Child advises on how to get started with building your own website, including choosing a website developer and links to well-designed GP websites to inspire you
It's not too difficult to create a website yourself, if you are interested enough to do so. But there can be many pitfalls for the amateur so take care and consider using a professional service, which will probably be cost-effective by saving you time.
The starting point for your practice website might usefully be to transfer the content of your current practice leaflet to a website. But a website offers far more potential than a leaflet: space is effectively ‘unlimited' so there's no need to truncate and squash the content to fit your leaflet size and format – expand it and lay it out neatly. Updating involves no printing costs so this can be done as often as required and colour costs no more than black and white!
Once you have the basic data there, consider adding to it. Photos of the interior and exterior of the premises may be of interest to prospective patients, but be sure to use good quality photos. Likewise, but sometimes more contentious, are your doctors and staff willing to have their photos on your website? If so, then again please ensure to use good quality even if not professional photographs alongside their names, qualifications, biographies and interests. Add more information such as self-help leaflets, and details of local health and social services, and self-help groups.
Interactive services such as appointment booking and prescription ordering are popular with patients and also gives patients cause to revisit your site time and time again. This gives you an opportunity to advise them of current news and changes at the practice, and to prompt them to look at your self-help pages.
Choosing a website service
Service costs range from free (funded by advertisements placed on your website), to low cost automated services where you use the software provided by the service to setup and maintain your site yourself. There are bespoke design and hosting arrangements that give a very individual site, but at a higher cost. Consider what would be right for you and your practice.
Do you want to minimise or avoid costs altogether, even if that means having adverts for local undertakers placed on your website?
Does a service offer you a flexibility in arrangements – e.g. many GP-UK.net sites are set up and maintained completely by the practices themselves, using the content management system we provide, but many more also ask to pay a little extra for our personal service to help them with the larger task of the initial population of the site content (or else it tends to never get done because GPs and their staff are always busy).
If using a bespoke service be sure to check the costs of future updating – some will charge you for every change and for adding extra pages, whereas automated services enable you to do this yourself as much as you like at no extra charge.
Not all services are the same.
• If you choose an automated service, does it offer a range of different colours and designs, or do all sites look much the same? This could be a problem if a prospective patient is trying to choose a practice by comparing websites.
• Does the service you are considering offer interactive features such as online patient registration, appointment booking, prescription ordering, updating of address / telephone? And if so, does it do so securely? Unfortunately some don't, relying instead on disclaimers.
Dr Simon Child is a locum GP in Manchester and is the director of GP-UK.netDr Simon Child Good examples of GP websites
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