Friday, February 27, 2009

Do you know how to set up a website? The options

If don't have a website yet I'll go through a few options available to you for setting up a presence online focusing on relative cost and complexity.

Specifically I will cover hosted pages (ie listing on a directory), a blog, various options for websites, web designers and web developers.

The best way to start is often to look at what other doctors and physicians are doing with their websites and then define your vision relative to an existing website. Two key aspects are the look and feel of the site and the types of information you wish to publish. Have a look. If you need some ideas look at some of the medical sites on the DMOZ directory - search under your specialty and have a look around.

I could provide the normal list of technical aspects you should look at for a website but the truth is most of the technical aspects are jargon used to try to complicate your decision. You wouldn't expect a patient to understand technical medical terms and neither should you have to understand the jargon of the web.

Key criteria in setting up an online presence

Here are the key aspects to consider:
  • ability to use your own domain name so you can take your business elsewhere in the future and still be found
  • ability to enter meta information like a page description on each page so search engines can more easily find you
  • design templates for the layout of your site to make your site look professional even if you are building the website yourself
  • a way of easily editing/updating content as things change, particularly if you have lots of content. This is often referred to as a content management system (CMS).
  • whether you want email, phone or in person support if you run into trouble with your website.
  • whether there are any specific tools you want to run eg PHP (a programming language), Joomla (CMS), Drupal (CMS), WordPress (blogging platform), a MySQL or SQL database, etc.
  • whether setting up your website will affect your existing email address and whether you want to use this to move your mail to a new personalised domain name eg
  • the value of your time - do you have the time to put into learning this technology and will you get enjoyment out of the process?
The last question is probably the key one. Do you really want to do this yourself or get someone else to provide you a finished product?

While you are looking at some examples of websites look down the bottom of their main page and you might even find the organisation that they used to develop their website to give you an idea of what choices they made.

More to come in subsequent articles.

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