End the meeting if your healthcare website vendor says this…

Healthcare websites have “significant potential for improvement,” and are lagging behind other industries that are using the web to engage consumers, says an assessment of 636 hospital websites in the February 2012 Journal of Healthcare Management.

As hospitals and physician groups catch up to current expectations for their websites, many are being duped by web design firms. Let’s pull back the curtain on how some website vendors get one over on healthcare clients.

End the meeting if your website vendor says:

“Fixing bugs costs extra”

Getting charged for fixing interactions that should work—such as contact forms, navigation and page loading issues—is a huge red flag.

Here’s one way to handle it:

End meeting if web vendor says this HULK

Your website vendor should ensure that the site works properly. Period. In fact, your healthcare marketing team shouldn’t even see the bugs. The website vendor should find and fix them before your team reviews the site.

Make sure your service agreement includes free, unlimited fixes to any problems that can be attributed to the website vendor.

And if your team messes something up, hopefully you’ve chosen a content management system that’s user friendly enough to let your team make those small fixes without calling a help line.

“We don’t give raw files”

Make sure you own the rights to:

  • Any images or graphics
  • Written or video content
  • Customized templates
  • Domain names

This also goes for any content creators you hire for your website: photographers, videographers, writers and designers.

Make sure your service agreement includes getting any files in raw format, meaning you can edit them.

So if your web design firm used Photoshop or Illustrator to create graphics, you want the jpeg images and the raw Photoshop and Illustrator files. That way, if you decide to include another designer in the process, they don’t have to start from scratch.

Also, in raw format, those elements can be repurposed for your healthcare organization’s other branded content, like presentations, digital signage and print pieces. And if your website vendor or other contracted content creators try to charge extra for giving raw files, find another vendor.

Unfortunately, many smaller healthcare organizations don’t know to ask about this or include it in their service agreement.

“We’ll do SEO Last”

Puh-lease. Optimizing your key web pages should be baked in, not sprinkled on after the fact.

When an agency says they’ll do SEO last, that really means:

  1. Search engine optimization is really not their strength
  2. They want to skip it now, so they can charge you more to go back and do it later

Keep in mind, this only applies to new or redesigned websites. If your healthcare organization is looking to optimize an existing website, it’s fair to be charged for it.

Ideally, your content strategy has outlined the most important landing pages on your website for search traffic and the relevant SEO keywords, tags and descriptions.

Actually, since SEO is among the most popular areas of web marketing for sketchy practices, we’ve dedicated an entire post to just that.

Hope this helps. Good luck with your new website.