February 27, 2007

Websites Need Remodeling Too!

How's your website? Have you added more content, made any improvements lately? It's easy to hire a company to set up a nice looking website. Sometimes the website is part of a package that you get when you buy practice software or marketing services.

Most people are relieved when the website finally goes live. Then they get so busy with other things that new content is added on a very sporadic basis. The site may not have anything new for months at a time. Sound familiar? I'm guilty of this too.

The problem is that unless someone is assigned the task of sending update material to the web master on a regular schedule, it simply won't get done. One of the obstacles to website updating is that you have to get the web master to do it. Then you have to check whether what he or she did is working properly and get them to fix what is wrong.

This has been a big frustration for me and I decided that I was NOT going to be at the mercy of some web master's work load any more. After months of research I found a web site design program that we can handle in-house. (We're using Freeway Pro, which is only for Macs.)

Many of the internet marketing guru's recommend "throwing a bomb" into your website every couple of years and doing a complete re-design. So that's what we did. To save time, I hired a web master who knows the program in and out to do the initial design and set up.

Now my assistant and I are in the final stages of adding new material and fine-tuning everything ourselves. Our brand new totally re-designed website will be up by the end of March (maybe sooner!). We've given our business a fresh new look with a new logo and color scheme carried through in printed materials (business card, letterhead, etc.) and on the internet.

Sometimes you need to "throw a bomb" into your old image and start fresh again. When you remodel or move to a new location, think about the image you present in your printed materials and on your website. Your identity sticks in the mind of your patients only if it's consistent across the board.

I'm so happy to be in total control of my website at last. Now if I want to add a new photo or case study my assistant can do it and I'm right there to edit it as I see fit. And new content can go live the same day! No more waiting for the web master to do it! Your website may be larger and more complex than mine, but that doesn't mean you can't have better control over updating it.

If your website was built with DreamWeaver (one of the most popular web design programs) you can use a program called Contribute that allows you to make changes and updates only to certain portions of the site. Your web master can set it up so it's impossible for you to mess up the code on the essential elements.

The web is an important marketing tool that no practice can afford to ignore. When you have an easy way to do changes, you'll stand a much better chance of keeping your web site up to date.

February 2, 2007

The New Demographics: You Are Where You Live

People sometimes wonder how I can successfully design offices all over the country without setting foot out of my hometown Portland, Oregon. Now I'm revealing to you one of my "secret weapons" that I use to help me understand who your patients are. Knowing their lifestyle preferences, income, age levels and such enables me to design just the right style and color scheme that appeals to them.

My secret weapon is a website called "My Best Segments" featuring free demographic information from Claritas, a world leader in demographics and customer segment profiling. They have taken a mountain of data on consumers, filtered it into cohesive lifestyle groups and given them each a clever title like Money and Brains, Bohemian Mix, Kids & Cul-de-sacs, etc.

At the website you enter the zip code of the area you want to know about and up pops the top five groups living in that zip code. You can click on each group name to find out information like income, number of kids, favorite restaurants and TV shows, types of sports they like, even the make and model of car they are likely to drive!

Demographic characteristics such as education, housing and race/ethnicity are also available. So it's easy for me to get a good picture of the folks who are my client's typical patients and then tailor the office to fit their tastes and lifestyles. It's fun to put in your own zip code and see which group you fit into.

Think of MyBestSegments as a "photo album" of consumer markets. Each of the Claritas market segments has its own pages that display "snapshots" of the segment's demographic traits, lifestyle preferences and consumer behaviors.

Did I mention that all this great information is FREE? Try it for yourself:


Design Disaster: This Beauty is a Beast

Architects just don’t get it.

Look at this new office in Germany. It was featured in Interior Design magazine last month. This design firm made the whole place a monument to their nifty architectural ideas, but totally missed the boat on displaying the frames!

Those horribly outdated fluorescent back-lit displays are the way people displayed frames 25 years ago when I started in this business! It was bad then and it’s an even worse crime now! I can’t believe they didn’t use any halogen lighting for the frames, not even some measly track lighting!

I’ll bet that anyone who is reading this knows better than to use cheap ineffectual fluorescent back lighting for their frame displays.

The real travesty is that these guys spent all the client’s money on fun stuff like the way-cool eyeball in the ceiling, while doing absolutely nothing to help sell the merchandise!

What’s even worse is that the owner of this place must be getting a rotten return on his investment. He probably has no clue how much money he’s losing on this beautiful, but dysfunctional design.

If this is European optical design at its best, they are in big trouble over there. I must stop ranting now before my brain explodes!

Top Three Office Design Trends of 2007

High-tech, hospitality and HIPAA (Health Insurance Portability & Accountability Act) drive the evolution of future optical interiors according to top designer Barbara Wright, of Barbara Wright Design. Here are Barbara’s top three design trends for eye care interiors in the coming year.

• Computers Everywhere
The paperless office is now a reality for many practices. For a new practice it makes sense to go paperless right from the start. Designers locate computer outlets in every room whether they will be immediately put to use or not.

• Multiple Data Collection Rooms and Workup Areas
One Data Collection room is not enough, even for the smallest office. Practitioners feel pressured to increase productivity but don’t want to sacrifice quality patient care. Having staff perform more data collection allows the doctor more personal interaction with the patient. The ongoing proliferation of new and better data collection devices requires two, three or more separate rooms or nooks to prevent bottlenecks and keep patient flow running smoothly.

• Flat Screen Video Monitors
Video screens dot the future office landscape because they are such excellent tools for patient education, product and service promotion. Large plasma screens put the message across in waiting areas; smaller flat screens replace the “old school” eye chart projector in the exam room and add MTV-style flair to frame selection in the dispensary. Adding extra electrical outlets for every possible future video screen location is a must.

• Reception Counter
When patients step up to the latest reception counter designs they may feel like they are checking in to a fine hotel. Reception counters often have granite countertops and gleaming brass logo signage on the wall in back of the counter. The new style reception counter has no untidy piles of paperwork or messy file cabinets in sight to mar the mood.

• Coffee House/Bistro Corner
No need to stop at Starbucks before going to the eye doctor. There’s a coffee bar in the waiting area. Some practices take it a step further and provide bistro-style table, chairs and a copy of the daily newspaper to make waiting a pleasurable experience.

• Restaurant-style Restrooms
Plain old utilitarian restrooms aren’t good enough if you want to impress patients. Now restrooms are equal to those at your favorite fine dining establishment with colorful ceramic tile floor and walls, elegant lighting and sturdy built-in stainless steel paper towel/trash unit.

• Adventurous Color Schemes
Richer darker colors on walls, multi-colored art glass pendant lights, tapestry upholstered chairs and elegant patterned carpet are just a few of the elements designers borrow from the restaurant industry to create an indelible first impression. Earth tones have morphed into the new botanicals: deep olives, pale artichoke, sage greens and other hues drawn from plants and dried herbs.

• Patient Record Privacy
Records must be filed out of sight of patients in lockable file units or in a room with a locking door. Computer screens showing patient records must be positioned so the general public cannot see them. Designers must anticipate visitor sightlines during the floor plan design stage to prevent privacy problems.

• Confidentiality at Check Out Counters
Containing conversations at check out counters is important for patient privacy. Multiple check out counters are becoming the norm in order to prevent bottlenecks at the front desk. Building walls between counters, dropping the ceiling above and providing background music to mask conversations help provide confidentiality in the new offices of 2007.