Dental Website Design: What is Best for My Practice?

There are as many ways to design dental websites, as there are ways to create and build dental practices. When designing your dental facility, you need to take many things into consideration: funds available, your technical needs, the image you want to project, the number of patients you want to be able to treat, remodeling or new construction, etc.

Dental website design also requires that you consider many elements and deal with them as prudently as a building project if you want the results you expect.

Some dentists just want to have a basic presence online; other dentists want to challenge or overtake the competition. When they consider the artistic design they want to see in their dental Internet site, some are not too worried about it and others demand nothing less than award winning beauty and class.

Which type of dental website is the best form of dental marketing? Which dentists need exceptional website design? Who should pay more for their dental website? When should design take precedence over content? Is a Flash animation Internet site better than a SEO (search engine optimization) content rich website?

Let’s look at each type of web site design so you can make a more informed decision. There are at least 6 categories of dental website design and price ranges you might find in an Internet search:

1) Business Card Dental Websites : price range is $0 to $500*

2) Informational Internet Dental Sites: $500 to $2,500*

3) Image Builder Dental Websites: $2,000-$5,000*

4) Comprehensive Dental Internet Sites: $5,000 to $10,000*

5) Leadership Dental Web sites: $5,000 to $15,000*

6) Search Engine Optimized or SEO Dental Internet sites: $3,000 to $20,000*

Conclusion: You need a Dental Web site Design that Reflects Your Practice Image

For each design style, answers to these specific questions will be provided:

• What kind of dental website is this?

• Who needs a dental web site like this?

• What can it do?

• How is cost determined?

• What should you pay?

*These are just close proximity costs for all dental Internet marketing firms and depend on the website design qualifications discussed in this dental marketing article. Your brother’s friend’s cousin’s neighbor might be able to design a dental website for less.

1) Business Card Dental Websites: $0 to $500:

What kind of dental website is this?

There is very little design (usually) involved in this site. Often it is one page, the dental logo (if the dentist has one) and some mention of services with address, phone and email. The navigation and header bar might match the color of the dental logo, but artistic cohesiveness is minimal.

Who needs a dental web site like this?

This type of website is for dentists who know people are looking for them online, but are not very interested in growing their business or aren’t concerned about being found in general search engine searches (Google, MSN, or Yahoo). It can also be a good plan for the dentist that wants something now – they have printed up marketing materials with their dental web site address and are just not ready to do more. If you are just starting out – want to be online like everyone else – but are not ready to develop your “complete” dental image – this could be your destination. Cosmetic dentists focused on bringing in more cosmetic dentistry patients or increasing their large restorative smile makeovers clientele would not benefit from this type of site in most markets. The competition in cosmetic dentistry requires more than one or two pages of “evidence of value”. Family dentists who also want to do a few cosmetic cases each month would only want to use this as a short-term strategy.

What can it do?

It can provide a bridge to that day when the dentist is ready to more. For those who are looking for a basic presence for the long run, it will provide a base to direct their marketing and a way to hook up to various dental Internet directory services such as or so prospective dental patients can get more than an address and phone number.

How is cost determined?

The zero dollar cost can come from you creating the site yourself, a relative “who knows design”, or various “free” web site design sites. These “free” companies usually require some type of monthly “hosting” fee. The larger amount comes from a more sophisticated design and someone who will take more care in your design needs. The higher cost design means you hopefully get more than someone cramming your photo and dental logo into HTML code.

What should you pay?

If you’re a dentist in a small market or rural area or are not in need of tons of dental patients today, you might want to test out some of the lower cost options like your telephone or yellow pages company Internet directory. Dentists who want to do more soon or are in a highly competitive market should not create a “cheap” look that might damage their image for the long-term. Even if it’s a small, business-card-sized dental website, you might want to find a designer that knows how to create an effective transition image website. While I believe very few should go this way – if you want to be successful – there are good ways and bad ways to go about it. Choosing the platform for your dental Internet site can be thought of in terms of building a dental practice next to a Black and Decker outlet store versus a Day Spa. Which will reflect better on your dental brand?

2) Informational Dental Internet Sites: $500 to $2,500

What kind of dental website is this?

This type of design brings more “evidence of value” to the fore. There is some artistic and branding cohesiveness involved in this type of dental Internet site design. However, mostly it is about providing information on the dentist, the dental practice and its dental services. There are usually a few more photos than a biz card site and you might have some custom “artistic choices”. This type of dental website is often pleasant to look at, just not beautiful or breathtaking. It might be 3 to 15 pages in size (or bigger) depending on what route you take. The design is mostly a navigation bar on the left and header bar on top and text/photos to the right. Your dental logo colors might be part of the design if it’s not a “restricted” stock Internet site.

Who needs a dental web site like this?

This type of Internet site better serves dentists who want to provide a context for the value of their dental services beyond the “grocery list” of services group. A cosmetic dentist needs to explain why the dental consumer should want this type of service and why they are the right choice for cosmetic dentistry. Family dentists and orthodontists need to create a story to prove the value of their services too: if there are ten competitors in the community, you don’t want to be the last choice. An informational site works good as a “starter site” especially if you just want to test the waters. If you are in a highly competitive retail market or segment of the dental arena like extreme makeovers, than this design probably won’t give you the boost you want. Posting all your smile makeovers (before and after photos) will help: but informational design, which might include some blended branding elements, does not usually have the Wow factor many extreme makeover type candidates will expect.

What can it do?

This dental web site design will “tell” people you know what you are doing. It might not be a design that Wows, but it can provide information that is very helpful in the decision making process: before and after photos, testimonials, and an explanation of what cosmetic dentistry, orthodontics, or other services can do for their lives, and the dentist’s expertise, etc. Whereas a business card Internet site will verify that you exist, an informational dental website will actually start creating more patients.

How is cost determined?

This kind of website design takes more thought, more planning, copywriting and much more programming than a one or two page business card site. Should you have 15 links on your home page that link to every page that can overwhelm the visitor or 5 links that narrow down their navigation choices to better define your brand? Which should be more prominently featured: the dental practice’s look and feel, the dentist or that you are a Sedation dentist? These decisions can slow the process (and make for a better product) but this requires some amount of time, which is money. Usually you will get a page limit (5 or 10 page website), and then a per web page charge. Some web design firms charge upfront for copywriting or it is extra. You might get a per photo limit. All these factors control the price and as you can probably tell, the price can keep going up.

What should you pay?

Some dentists are not very interested in design artistry or advancing their “visual brand”, but want their ideas and the value of their services and dental expertise to be explained effectively: those dentists will benefit from this type of website design structure. A web site design firm that does all kinds of sites and has thousands of clients might do it for less than a grand, but a dental marketing firm can add the type of insight that puts your site in a league all by itself. It all depends on your perspective of value: something you probably discuss with your patients everyday. While you could develop a dental website like this on your own or with a “bulk” web design group (for “near zero” dollars), it is not as easy as it seems to create an effective dental Internet site. When you are ready to take the leap, make sure you know what you’re getting. Going too shallow on price can mean you go without some specialization you really need: like the contractor that has never built a dental practice and forgets to put plumbing in the operatory.

3) Image Builder Dental Web sites: $2,000-$5000

What kind of dental website is this?

This type of website design provides a level of image, brand and identity development that many dentists believe is necessary to encourage people to accept comprehensive dental treatment and/or a cosmetic smile makeover. Since the consumer makes choices based on many stimuli, it is important to try and cover all the bases. You can tell them till you are blue in the face about the effects of bad hygiene on your informational web site, but often it is a visual stimulus that gets them to stop and consider your plea. Creating a dental Internet site that incorporates an above average visual theme (best when designed with your dental logo as a theme element) encourages the visually inspired consumer to take another look at your evidence and read more thoroughly about your value.

Who needs a dental web site like this?

About one in 10 dentists would need to move to this level. If you want to standout from the crowd, this web site design style offers the capability to do it. A good informational site is like a very functional dental practice that offers nice but basic amenities with efficient service. A good image dental website is a facility where fresh flowers greet you at the front desk and a coral aquarium comforts you in the reception area. Dental patients who have only been to the “functional one” will think it is just what a dental practice (or website) should be. But if they are ever exposed to the comforting practice (or image web site) it will be difficult to make them believers in “functional” again. If you believe there is no competition for patients in your area, you probably don’t need an image website. However, if you want to capture the dental consumer who wants a higher level of care, then an image dental website can make the difference for many people. Remember you may not be visually inspired, but many of your target dental patients will be.

What can it do?

This type of dental website design provides many consumers with a positive and powerful link to your personality (or the personality of your practice) that words and even pictures (before and after photos, beautiful models or photos of your dental office) cannot. Imagine a beautiful dental practice with a national expert dentist, and a superior dental team, all the latest technology and every spa amenity built five miles down a scenic yet dusty, dirt road. While you got the land cheap and the county promises they will pave it in the near future, visitors will be infrequent. There are many dental Internet sites built like this: without a dental brand that has been paved properly. You could be the top website on the top five search engines and never get someone to go deeper than your home page. In many sites there might be a blob of text here or a photo there, but nothing guiding their visual journey. A good image website will bring in dental patients that want exactly what you’re offering: nothing more, nothing less. It depicts your level of customer service, smile design, and comfort. It encourages “dental patients” to become “smile enthusiasts”.

How is cost determined?

When creating a website like this, designers and writers want to know a lot about you. They want to understand where the design should go and not go. Should a photo of a beautiful model be employed within the design? What design elements of your dental logo can be accented or enhanced to create a seamless web design? Do you have a lot of before and after photos or is there some aspect of your expertise that can be highlighted (smile makeovers, neuromuscular dentistry, dental implants, etc.)? There is more artistic work required. An informational or starter website has a navigational bar on the left and a header bar on the top. An image site creates a seamless design from top to bottom and from side to side. Bluntly, there is more for you to critique so the designer needs to do more careful work and research so the final design is completed in a respectable amount of time. Throwing things at the wall and seeing what sticks is not a good plan.

What should you pay?

No one should pay more than is necessary, but it mostly comes down to what kind of “image” design you like and who can produce it. It might be the guy down the street, it could be a big corporate website design group and for many dentists it is a firm specializing in dental marketing that knows what patients want. Should you pay more for a Van Gogh or for a Picasso? If you want to be the TOP dental Internet site in the state, you pay more than the dentist who just wants to feel good when he looks at his website and wants his new patients to feel good when they see it.

4) Comprehensive Dental Internet Websites: $5,000 to $10,000

What kind of dental website is this?

This Web site is basically a larger version of an informational or an image website. It just holds more information and has more visuals (photos, etc.) than its cousins. It has anywhere from 20 to 100 or more pages and probably is written by a dental copywriter. It might have Flash animation to spice up its look and boost the value of some of its information presentations.

Who needs a dental web site like this?

About 1 in 50 dentists could utilize a dental Internet site like this. Dentists with a large library of before and after smile makeover photos, an extensive history of dental CE, teaching, speaking or lecturing, and/or a good background noted in several dental public relations efforts can best use this type of site. No one is going to read or look at everything presented on a site like this, but it provides enough evidence to prove any expertise claims you might be promoting. You pick the “real” dental expert: 1) “Hi, I am really, really, really good at what I do: now look at my 5 page website. 2) “Hello, I have learned from the best, but you should review my qualifications first: take a look at my comprehensive website filled with all kinds of proof.”

What can it do?

This dental website design level will encourage, enlighten, inspire, transform, and cajole. Encourage belief in your values. Enlighten consumers about what is possible now. Inspire them to take action to make their lives better. Transform them from dental insurance reliant to cosmetic dentistry aware. Finally: Cajole them to call you ASAP.

How is cost determined?

Dental websites like this are not very common. The big website behemoths are really not ready to create this site for you: cookie cutter is much more profitable for them. This is really where custom work starts. Even doing an image website can be “stock” because it is a home page and a few other pages. Many design websites that seem to promote custom design are just changing colors, photos, reversing design elements, etc. and are not actually starting from scratch. However, once you get to this level – over 15 or 20 pages, the dental web designer needs to be intimately involved with your concept. You don’t want someone else’s design for this type of site. You also don’t want 50 links on your home page to every page on your site – unless you want to confuse visitors about what your dental brand is. You determine what the five or so most important parts of your brand are and then everything else branches off from there. Think of comprehensive dental website development process as you would creating a new dental practice. What would happen if you asked the contractor who put in your foundation to furnish your office? Even I could furnish a dental office! But some things that “we all can do” should be left to someone who has the actual talent and experience. Of course, if you want me to furnish your dental office, my cousin loves to go to garage sales and I’m sure he could find you something NICE.

What should you pay?

I figure this type of dental website should generate “at least” enough to pay for itself in the first six months to a year. Therefore, I would not pay more than what you make off of one good smile makeover case or three or four 6 or 8-unit cases. This is for the initial Internet site design phase not additional updates or maintenance. Family dentists, Pediatric dentists, orthodontists and other specialists (if a web site like this needed in their market) the cost should reflect the value of 3 new patients every month to one every other month: depending on your per patient profits. Also figure the website will have a shelf life of 5 years: give or take one year, depending on how competitive your retail area is. Of course, many dentists will not be satisfied with these results, but this gives you a basis for making some ROI decisions. Depending on your retail area some Internet dental marketing will be required to encourage better ROI site activity.

5) Leadership Dental Web Sites: $7,500 to $15,000

What kind of dental website is this?

This Leadership website has many amenities besides a news page to announce the latest happenings at the dental practice and a complete image blend. It can have a Flash animation dental logo presentation, Flash smile shows, a large before and after smile makeover library, public relations elements and features, educational presentations (Flash), lecture schedule, etc. It might be a Flash website with links to HTML pages. The size is usually over 25 pages – especially if it is not a Flash site. It should be a dental website design award winner.

Who needs a dental web site like this?

About 1 in 200 dentists or fewer require this level of web site design. You don’t have to be a lecturing dentist or a celebrity dentist to go this route. It might be that your retail market is very competitive and you want to stand out from the crowd. You might be producing the income you want, but see the need to head off the competition. The market can change quickly and many dentists recognize today’s method might not be tomorrow’s success. If you are not too concerned about being first on the search engines and just want to Wow and inform, than a website designed completely in Flash animation could be advantageous in developing a leadership position.

What can it do?

This dental Internet site design can enhance every element of your dental brand so you gain and/or hold a high level marketing position. It should create a different level of patient: more informed and more excited about the value of restorative, esthetic or cosmetic dentistry.

How is cost determined?

Much of the cost of this dental website design is determined by time (the size and complexity) and the custom elements you want. There are stock Flash designs and “half-custom” designs, which are on the low end of the spectrum. Then there are from scratch custom dental marketing elements that will be on the higher end. If you write it yourself, you will save money on dental copywriting.

What should you pay?

It really depends on how much time you want to put into it. If you want great custom design with very good copywriting, employ a firm that specializes in dental marketing design and writing. If you want your site to kind of look like someone else’s and read like it too than a “half custom” firm will do just fine. However, sometimes you can get custom work for the same price as “half custom”. Watch out: there some big dental agencies that have so much overhead that they need to charge as much for “not really custom work” as smaller design groups do for custom.

6) Search Engine Optimized or SEO Dental Internet Sites: $3,000 to $20,000

What kind of dental website is this?

This type of website is liked by search engines:,,, etc. Type in a term like cosmetic dentistry, neuromuscular dentistry or cosmetic dentist or just plain dentist and the state and/or city you live in and you will see why many dentists want this type of website optimization. It is a text rich website: Flash sites need not apply at least most of them. You can make a Flash dental website more friendly to search engines but never as good as a non-Flash site. (A complementary HTML Internet site is one way to increase your Flash site’s exposure to search engines.) However, you can have Flash animation elements and still get great search engine receptivity. It probably should be at least 20 pages and continue to grow and change each quarter if not each month. It should have an updatable page where you can input news regularly about your dental practice. This design can be an image or informational website and can have a lot of images (before and after photos and practice photos). To create a search engine friendly site requires special coding and copywriting enriched with dental SEO friendly terms.

Who needs a dental web site like this?

This really depends on whether you want to be near or on the top of search engine searches. This is a marketing strategy more than a design per se. It is not a one-time deal: it requires constant changes and monitoring of the search engine rules. Because they regularly change their search algorithms you might be on top on day and down or out the next. It works best for those in areas where few sites are optimized. Say you have a cosmetic dental practice in Springfield, Illinois and no other dentist is marketing cosmetic dentistry. Then a site focused on this topic could have a good chance of being ranked number one. However, if you are in Los Angeles, CA, your chances are much lower of getting a high ranking unless you are focused on a narrower concept such as neuromuscular dentistry.

What can it do?

It can increase the number of phone calls and emails especially in the first few weeks of a high ranking such as one, two or three. This lets you know your website is actually working for you. After that it should keep creating leads for you at a good pace until another dentist takes over your spot. Unfortunately, for some areas it might take many tweaks of your dental Internet site design and SEO content before anything occurs. One argument against reliance on search engine optimization is that you don’t really create new converts you are just waiting for the current ones to locate your dental website. Proactive, external dental Internet advertising such as magazines, direct mail or newspaper presents new ideas like smile makeovers to new people. Meaning if you are not willing to do both in some consistent form, you might only have limited success. (SEO is just one-way to get noticed on search engines: search engine advertising is another way: with Google or Overture, which is MSN, Yahoo and others.)

How is cost determined?

The cost of a SEO dental web site design is determined by the number of pages and images you need optimized. There is often an initial fee to do the basic changes along with the per web page charge and an ongoing fee to keep you near or on the top of the search engines you want to be on top of. Once again there are SEO firms that specialize in search engine optimization for all kinds of websites and there are dental marketing firms specializing in dentist web sites who have SEO expertise. Which is best for you? Maybe an analogy using dental practice construction might help: Imagine getting the most productive, highest profile contractor in the state to develop your dental practice versus getting a contractor who has developed five really nice practices in your area to design it. One might have a deeper background in contracting, but which one will be more likely to anticipate all of your needs from a dental perspective?

What should you pay?

If it is an image website design with Flash animation and has many pages, you will be paying on the high end. If you choose an SEO group – not a dental marketer – you might pay more for optimization but less for image design, which they won’t probably do very well. You can get good SEO coding and SEO rich content (copywriting) and keep the page numbers down under 15 and get a less expensive site. However, a smaller Internet site probably would not battle the behemoth dental competitor, but it might work in a smaller and/or less competitive retail community. If you are cranking in 1.5 million dollars per year with one dentist and want to keep that pace in this changing environment – a $20,000 SEO image website probably makes sense. Few doctors will get the number one spot so the cost can vary greatly to get near or on top. Expect to pay more the tougher your dentistry market is and if you really want the top spot. has a good primer on SEO and pay per click. Here is a place to start: Google SEO reference page.

CONCLUSION: You Need a Dental Website Design that Reflects Your Practice Image

When a dental marketing firm designs dental logos, brochures and presentation folders, they don’t design them to favor the image of a family and pediatric dental practice when the client runs a cosmetic dentistry and spa dental practice. You also need to make sure your website does not stray from your image. Therefore, if you have just purchased an older dental practice and have one year of experience, a leadership web site would be a stretch. Conversely, if you have a dental CV a mile long and/or dozens of before and after smile photos, a business card web site shoots your potential in the foot.

From a cost perspective, never pay more or less than you have the potential to garner from the dental Internet marketing generated. If you’re serving a middle class clientele that will focus mostly on what their dental insurance pays for, a Lexus dental website would not make sense. Then again, dentists who want people to promote their extreme makeover expertise should not drive up in a used Ford Taurus. Of course, you could create a web façade that makes you seem more than you are. But once the patient walks into your dental practice, this façade of a website can cause significant consumer confusion, which means they are a lot less likely to commit to your treatment plan.

Your dental practice image and the web image should correspond to create true brand cohesion to build your dental practice long-term. Patients will recognize inaccuracies. Remember, referrals are still important. For example, if you are in an older dental practice and are not going to build or significantly remodel in the next two or three years, your web site, and the rest of your image, should reflect much of this reality.

There are patients for every type of dental image: from both sides of the fee spectrum. For example, a “low cost looking” dental web site (done well) can attract even high-paying customers because they perceive you as taking care of business first and worrying about your image second. Not “wasting” your money on “frivolous” extras. Of course, another spectrum sees this as cheap and lacking the comforts they require. Therefore, knowing who you really are (and/or want to be) helps you decide which level and type of dental website is best for your practice.

Dental marketing firms are no different. There are about 200,000 dentists in the US and Canada: one in 400 will want and benefit from the services of my dental Internet marketing company over the next 10 years. They will see and believe something positive about me that others do not. If they believe something about me, or my marketing company, after reviewing my website and that turns out not to be “true”, I will not gain a client or the relationship will be very short.

They might be wrong – but my dental marketing website needs to speak correctly to the type of client I want or I gain few clients. That’s because my website is me, and my company, to a large extent. You will need to think of your dental Internet site in the same way.

Finally, when choosing a dental Internet site developer, consider three things:

1) Have a “buyer beware” attitude. “Free” might not be free. No obligation might include some obligations. Etc.

2) Do some cost versus benefit competitor research. Every dental marketing firm comes at it from a different direction. Cheaper might mean less benefit and higher cost might mean they have too much overhead not better products.

3) Call me old fashioned, but I still believe in people… Don’t let the “Internet” be the final arbiter of your decision: make sure you feel comfortable with your choice including the person you are directly working with. They should get to know you beyond your payment method and the colors you like. A dental website is a major part of your image and Internet site building software alone can’t flesh that out.

Good Luck. I hope this helps in your decision.

Sincerely, Dick Chwalek

Dick Chwalek

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