Your website is crucial to advertising your practice. In today's world of Google searches and Yelp reviews, the Internet is where people turn to research options for any goods or services they're considering. Even those who might learn about your practice through professional referrals or word-of-mouth advertising will most certainly turn to your website to learn more about you.
Many will make judgments about your business based on how the website looks, what information is on the site, and how easy it is to find and access that information.
Far too many professionals take a "set it and forget it" approach to websites. They'll assume, just because they spent money on getting a website up when they started the business, that it's good enough. Maybe none of the info about the business has changed. Maybe it's the same people, same address, same services, so those business owners reason that nothing needs to change. But there's an element that's changed dramatically in the last few years: the Internet itself.
The most important reason to update your website, if you haven't done so in the last few years, is the importance of mobile devices. As of March 2015, more Google searches start from mobile devices than from desktop and laptop computers. Website developers have been anticipating this for years, and anyone worth their salt is designing websites using "mobile-responsive" platforms. That means that the designer's thinking about how the site looks on a vertically-oriented smartphone as well as a horizontally-oriented desktop or laptop computer display.
And, a month after that announcement, Google announced that the "mobile-friendliness" of a site will factor significantly into search results. Which makes sense: If people are searching on their phones and getting results that aren't geared toward displaying correctly on their phones, they'll be disappointed in what Google's given them.
An easy way to judge whether your site's mobile-friendly is to look at it on a smartphone. A good mobile-responsive site will adjust images and text to be more readily viewable. The older your site is, the less likely it is to have mobile-responsive features.
Older sites built on platforms like WordPress will have some mobile-responsiveness, but might not be as clean or intuitive as newer sites, because the designer was building the site strictly with the horizontal display in mind.
Mobile-responsiveness isn't the only reason to change a site's look and feel. Website design changes and evolves over time, meaning that some websites built as recently as four or five years ago can look incredibly dated to prospective clients comparing your site to others.
And even if your fundamental information may not change, search engines will look for site activity -- new content, added pages -- to help determine that a site's being actively maintained. (This is why we advocate blogging as a way to generate regular, relevant content to a site.)
Today, there's a happy medium between either trying to build and maintain a site yourself through a service like Squarespace, or having a web developer create a site that requires calls to the developer to update, and that's the aforementioned WordPress. The new Collaborative Divorce Texas site created by the Crouch Group, as well as this site I created for Linda Solomon last year, are two examples of clean, mobile-responsive websites built on WordPress.
While you can buy a template or use one of WordPress's free templates and make one yourself, I recommend working with an experienced developer initially. A developer can help you get to a finished site faster than you might be able to, and can jump through the hoops it takes to get the site hosted and installed. (And save you the attendant headaches that sometimes comes with that process!)
Once the site's installed, it's easy to change or add text as needed on your own. If you want to maintain a blog as part of your site, WordPress makes it incredibly easy to do so. (And, as you get more comfortable with WordPress, you might be able to make some cosmetic changes to the site on your own, though you should keep a good relationship with your web developer should you want to bring him or her back in to make some changes.)
Ultimately, you want your website to be a good reflection on you and your practice. You want it to persuade people who come upon it to make an appointment with you. If it looks the way you want it to, and it's saying what you want it to, that's ideal. But if it's not living up to your standards, know that it's not impossible to change it for the better.
About the author: Phil West is the principal at Orange Cone Agency, an Austin-based company specializing in PR, content management, and WordPress web development, who handles PR and blog management for Collaborative Divorce Texas.