Don’t Neglect Offline Details When Online
Understanding upfront processes will keep you in control of your website
By Terry Fine
Building or updating your laboratory’s website comes with a host of concerns that are unique to the online world. Mobile-ready design, search engine optimization, security settings, bandwidth needs — all of these considerations and more make it easy to lose track of the more practical matters as you build your online presence. Administrative issues that may seem minor during site construction can become major problems if not addressed early.
Because every host, web development company, and client’s needs are different, each arrangement is unique. Understand how yours divides the responsibilities to ensure you aren’t met with any surprises when maintenance falls through the cracks. Your host —the company that provides the server space and bandwidth for your website — provides your website with the physical necessities to operate. Think of it as your cyberspace landlord. As with any lease, maintenance responsibilities depend upon the agreement. Understand if your host provides software upgrades, security patches, routine maintenance and additional services such as email, or if maintenance is up to another member of your web team.
Don’t confuse your host with your registrar. A registrar provides domain name registration, allowing you to claim your web address, and should maintain associated records to keep your URL indexed correctly. Some hosts provide registrar services, and vice versa, but in many cases, you’ll need to be in touch with both when moving your website. If your domain name is registered to you rather than your host or developer and you are moving to a different host, you’ll need to contact the registrar, or provide login information to your developer.
Your web developer is the one who gets his or her hands dirty building your website. Depending upon the agency you use, your web developer may produce graphics and content for your website, or you may need to provide that content. If you’re not creating the images and copy, you’ll need to address ownership of your content.
From a perspective of self-protection, be aware that some web development companies — particularly those that offshore much of their work — merely cut and paste copy and images from other dental websites. If your site should feature stolen content, you’re committing copyright infringement and opening yourself up to legal liability. That can range from a DMCA (Digital Millennium Copyright Act) demand to pull your website offline to financial damages in civil court. Even if the original creator of your copy or images doesn’t notice or take issue with appropriated content, your clients might. While they may not be astute enough to identify graphic and copy inconsistencies between web pages, visitors subconsciously will know when a website is cobbled together from a hodgepodge of sources because the site doesn’t “feel” right. That’s not the image you want your brand to portray.
An even more relevant concern when dealing with legitimate development companies is content ownership. Are you paying for original copy and graphics to be created, or are you merely licensing material from a web development company? If you work with a legitimate development company, either option can be acceptable, although either option has its advantages and disadvantages.
If you own your content outright, you’ll be able to leverage your content in other places, such as print advertisements, direct mail letters and other campaigns without seeking additional content. You can also rest assured that the copy or graphics on your site won’t end up on a competitors’ site. The down side? A 100-percent original website is more expensive than other approaches.
Using web templates, stock images, and boilerplate content are all effective means to make web development more affordable.
If you’re more price-sensitive, opting to license content can help stretch your development budget. Using web templates, stock images, and boilerplate content are all effective means to make web development more affordable for a small laboratory. However, if you take this approach, realize your content likely won’t stand out as much.
Most laboratories take a hybrid approach depending on their budget. They will opt for stock images or repurpose a template to maximize their investment. Whatever route works best for your business, it’s important for you to know when you’re paying for original content, and when existing content is being plugged into your website.
Have that conversation early. It’s much easier —and more cost-effective —to navigate setup and content problems before your site is developed than deep into the process. It’s your website. Don’t be afraid to take control and understand the process from the get-go.
Terry Fine is President of AMG Creative in Fort Collins, Colorado.