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HomemibusinessChoosing a Platform for Your Optometry Website

Choosing a Platform for Your Optometry Website

Your website is a crucial part of the strategy for growing your eye care business. According to a recent survey by Patient Pop, 48.5% of people were influenced in their choice of medical professional by the provider’s online presence.1

But how do you choose a website platform for your optometry practice? As Paul Sallaway writes, the choice matters.

One of the main points you should keep in mind, if you are about to launch a new optometry website or update an existing one, is ownership and portability.

Remember that line from the song Hotel California about how “you can check-in any time you like, but you can never leave”?

Well, the same consideration applies to building your website. Where is your site going to reside?

It comes down to two basic options:

  1. Use open source software on a hosting platform of your own choice; you’ve got complete portability (with some disadvantages).
  2. Use a proprietary website building platform where it may be easy to create your website, but you are tied into its service.

The open source choice for most small businesses (by far) is WordPress. Nobody actually ‘owns’ the software and it is maintained and developed by a worldwide community of volunteers. According to HubSpot, 45.8% of all websites are powered by this software in 2023.2 With that sort of market penetration, you can rest assured that it’s going to be around for many years to come.

The two most popular ‘non-WordPress’ alternatives are Wix and Squarespace, and they are what I’ll focus on in this article. You create an account and pay a monthly fee to keep using either platform.

Just remember that once you start using a proprietary service, migrating over to something else later isn’t necessarily easy.

Your choice between WordPress vs Wix or Squarespace may depend on how comfortable you feel about being locked into working with a particular company, their subscription policies, and their feature offerings.

MAINTENANCE AND MONTHLY COSTS

One of the big advantages of choosing Wix or Squarespace is that those companies take care of all the technical updates and maintenance. You don’t have to worry about any of it. Both companies have teams of people whose sole job is to keep your site running.

A monthly subscription for Squarespace ranges from AU$16 for personal plans to $65 for commercial plans.3  A monthly Wix subscription is $15 to $179 for its non-enterprise plans.4

WordPress software itself is free, but it needs to run on a web server. So, for this you’ll have to choose a hosting company. Monthly hosting costs vary from a few dollars per month up to a few hundred dollars, depending on the hosting company reputation, your technical requirements, and level of hosting support required.5

Another consideration, if you choose to have a WordPress site, is that someone needs to stay on top of software updates. Failure to update can sometimes open the door to security vulnerabilities. Some hosting companies will manage updates for you, but your mileage will vary.

In my opinion it’s always best to have your own developer or agency on a monthly retainer to manage updates and troubleshoot for you if the need arises. Again, there is a wide range of monthly support fees in the marketplace, but you generally get what you pay for, in terms of skill and experience. From what I’ve seen, professional site care can range from $50 a month to $200 or more, depending on your needs.

If ease of maintenance and low monthly running costs are your primary considerations, you may be best served going with Wix or Squarespace rather than WordPress.

PLUGINS AND EXTENSION APPS

One of the undeniable advantages of WordPress is the eco-system of plugins that has grown around it since the open source project was first launched in 2003. In fact, it’s a catchphrase among the WordPress community; for anything you want to do, “there’s a plugin for that”.

Currently there are more than 60,000 free plugins in the WordPress plugin repository.

Wix has a decent app store with hundreds of available extensions, some of which are free, others require subscription.

Squarespace, in contrast does not have an app store but there are a small number of thirdparty extensions that you can purchase and connect to your site.

WordPress wins hands down for flexibility with a massive eco-system of free and paid extensions.

FUTURE PROOFING YOUR WEBSITE

The internet is constantly evolving. New technologies replace older ones. Rules and regulations change. Important players like Google, Apple, Meta, and others make decisions that have massive flow-on effects across the world wide web.

So it’s wise to give yourself room to adapt to these changes as they happen.

WordPress wins here. With such a massive user base and active developer community, plugins and features get released at a rapid clip to meet new challenges and take advantage of new opportunities.

And if you have a particular itch that nobody has scratched before, you can even hire a developer to write your very own plugin. With open source, the only limits are your imagination and budget.

If you choose Wix or Squarespace you are really at the mercy of each company’s internal timetables. If they don’t think enough people want a particular feature, they probably won’t implement it. If your website needs are pretty standard that shouldn’t be too much of a concern, but just be aware that it might be frustrating in some situations.

WordPress offers website owners the most flexibility to adapt to a changing world.

TEMPLATES AND DESIGN CUSTOMISATION

I’ve already mentioned how WordPress gives users an enormous selection of plugin extensions. It also has plenty of design templates (called ‘themes’ in WordPressspeak). At the time of writing, there are almost 12,000 themes to choose from. And those are just the free ones! There are also third party ‘page builder’ plugins that you can install if you want to create your own design layouts.

If you plan to hire a designer for the task of giving your optometry website a ‘professional brand image’ they will most likely choose WordPress as it is something of an industry standard.

Wix has a respectable number of website templates (800+), although not all of these look modern and professional.

Squarespace, by comparison has a much more limited selection (50+), but they are all of high quality and show a lot of attention to detail in design aesthetic.

Wix and Squarespace both have easy to use drag and drop page builder tools that will allow you to add, edit, and remove sections of whichever template you choose. Before you go hog-wild with changes, just keep in mind that your website needs to be viewable on all manner of screen sizes. So, if you implement a template change, be sure to see how it looks in mobile format. You may need to apply some additional edits.

Your choice of platform will probably come down to whether you plan to hire a professional to build your site or whether you are happy to DIY your website design. If it’s the latter, you may find that Wix / Squarespace has a shallower learning curve, but WordPress has more ‘out of the box’ template choices.

MARKETING PLATFORM SUPPORT

Serious business owners will know that launching a website is just the beginning in terms of growing your business. You’ll need to think about how you leverage various digital marketing tools to bring in first time and repeat online visitors. And that means employing marketing strategies like search engine optimisation (SEO), pay-per-click ads, and email marketing.

WordPress, with its mature eco-system of extensions and fully customisable code, excels in this regard. No doubt this is a major reason for WordPress being such a favourite with website marketing agencies. There are dozens of free SEO plugins, email marketing integration plugins, analytics plugins, pop-up builders, and more.

Wix also has a decent suite of marketing tools. Squarespace is a bit more limited.

WordPress wins out for having the most mature and extensible marketing support options.

E-COMMERCE CAPABLE WEBSITES

Some optometrists may want to sell their practice products online. Contact lenses and eye care consumables are a popular opportunity for building patient retention in this way.

WordPress has numerous e-commerce extensions with WooCommerce being the most popular. Wix and Squarespace have online store extensions too.

The point to remember about e-commerce is that when you start to go down the rabbit hole, things can become very complex. Shipping rates, discount policies and promotions, customer accounts, refund processing, coupons, payment gateways… there are potentially a lot of moving parts.

So, if you are serious about adding e-commerce options to your practice, I would encourage you to take a look at Shopify, which is another proprietary platform, built specifically for online shopping. With a little bit of technical help, it’s possible to add an online store as a subdomain extension to your main site, for example, shop.myoptometrysite.com

WordPress, Wix and Squarespace each do an adequate job of handling e-commerce, with WordPress having more flexibility through its WooCommerce extension. Shopify is probably best of all for serious online sellers.

CONCLUSION

The decision for you to make today isn’t just about getting online; it’s about laying a foundation for the future of your optometry practice. And with stats like 48.5% of people being swayed by a health care provider’s online presence,1  it’s clear that your optometrist website is a key piece of your business strategy.

We’ve navigated through the pros and cons of popular choices like WordPress, Wix, and Squarespace, each with its unique offerings. Remember, making the wrong choice now could lead to costly reworks or limitations down the road. Whether it’s being locked into a platform with limited flexibility, struggling with a site that doesn’t scale with your growth, or missing out on crucial e-commerce features, your choice matters.

Paul Sallaway is a web strategist and the owner of Optics Digital Marketing, an agency that exclusively works with optometrists in Australia and New Zealand.

He’s offering mivision readers a free consultation to discuss which platform aligns best with your practice’s marketing needs. Visit: opticsdigital.net.

References

  1. PatientPop, Patient survey: Tracking Patient behavior, preferences, and habits in healthcare in 2021, webpage available at: patientpop.com/blog/patient-perspectivesurvey [accessed 16 Jan 2023].
  2. Fitzgerald, A., 20 WordPress statistics you should know in 2023, Hubspot, available at: blog.hubspot.com/website/ wordpress-stats [accessed 16 Jan 2023].
  3. Pricing available at squarespace.com/pricing [accessed 16 Jan 2023].
  4. Pricing available at wix.com/premium-purchase-plan/ dynamo [accessed 16 Jan 2023].
  5. Hostinger tutorials, Website maintenance cost in 2024 and hiring a professional vs self-maintenance, webpage available at hostinger.com/tutorials/website-maintenancecost [accessed 16 Jan 2023].