The following article has been written by our independent reviewer, who ‘tried and tested’ a number of website design companies on our behalf. You can read some of her reviews here – they are labelled ‘first hand experience’.

The internet is a vital medium for promoting your therapy business. Along with blogs and social media, a well-structured and eye-catching website can go a long way to helping new potential clients find you, understand what you can offer and, ultimately, decide to contact you.

There are so many web design companies out there to choose from that it can become a little bewildering – so where do you start? Over the past few months, I tried out a number of companies on behalf of the Private Practice Hub.

Important things to consider include:

How much of the designing do you want to do yourself?

If you are happy to take a more DIY approach to your website, there are a number of web design websites for you to choose from, varying in terms of user-friendliness and customisation. Such sites allow you to choose from a range of templates to get you started, and negate the need for a detailed knowledge of all things technical. You can choose your own images, page navigation and upload and supply all of the text. How much you can customise your chosen template depends largely on the website you use, which is another important thing to consider. Most of these types of websites offer a free trial period, allowing you to shop around until you find the right fit for your needs.

If you are considering a less hands-on approach, there are also companies that will create a website for you, following a design consultation, during which you will be able to specify your preferences, ideas, and what you wish to gain from your website. Some companies specialise solely in creating websites for therapists, and so will have a good understanding of your needs. Many companies ask you to supply your own copy, while others will write it for you.

What do you want to gain from your website?

Interestingly, only one person posed this question to me while I was trying out different web design companies. Having a clear objective in mind before you start can help you – or the company designing your website – shape your site in a way that will most benefit your business. For example, do you want your website to inform readers about your specific type of therapy? Do you want clients to contact you via email, a contact form or phone? Is promoting your professional achievements a priority? How many additional clients a month would you like to contact you as a result of your website? Such questions can help to shape the content of your website, in terms of copy, images, layout and navigation. How many, and what pages are you likely to need to achieve your goal?

In terms of the text for your website, having a clear end goal in mind will allow you – or the copywriters involved – to incorporate the correct words, phrases and quality questions and answers to ensure that your target audience finds you, by improving your website’s SEO. Information such as your location and fees will help to cut wasted enquiries.

What “extras” do you want?

Whether you love social media or hate it, it certainly attracts a wide audience, factors into SEO, and thus increases the likelihood of your website being noticed. All of the web design companies I tried offered the ability to link your site to social media pages including Facebook, Twitter, Google+ and LinkedIn. Some companies even offer the service of setting up a Facebook and/or Twitter page for you, amongst other things, including Google Places.

A blog is also something you may wish to consider. As with social media, it can take up valuable time to keep a blog up to date, but it does carry the added benefit of giving you space on your website to regularly upload fresh, relevant information, improving your website’s SEO. Not all website developers offer a blog as an option, so if you want that feature do check first.

What do you need from a web design company long term?

Depending on the route you take, the level of support you receive from web design companies can vary wildly. Are you happy to maintain the website yourself, or would you prefer more guidance moving forward in terms of continuing to improve SEO and update content? The more DIY options usually provide you with statistics to help you determine how your website is fairing in terms of views, including some particularly useful services which give you a breakdown per page, allowing you to work out for yourself which pages do or do not work well.

If you feel you would benefit from more guidance, other web design companies offer more long term feedback and advice, and will help you to make the most of your website. How regularly you will benefit from this service depends on the company and also the package you choose.

How much can you afford? Or, how much are you willing to invest?

Cost is an important thing to consider when selecting a web design company. It’s important to balance cost with service, design and the end result.

Some companies require you to do much of the design and construction work yourself, while others do all the work for you, taking care of everything from the hosting to the written content. Some specialise solely in working with therapists, while others produce websites for all types of businesses. Some offer a limited array of template designs (which can be perfectly satisfactory for your needs), while others provide something more bespoke. Some provide limited support after your website goes live, while others provide ongoing aftercare. Think about what’s important to you; this should help you narrow down your options.

If you are unsure, many companies offer a free trial, which could be beneficial while you’re finding your feet.

Other important cost considerations include:

Domain names – Some of the DIY sites offer a completely free service, but your website’s address will always be @ or .website-design-company’ A domain address that is uniquely yours carries an added cost, but will look much more professional and make you easier to find online.

Hosting – it is always a good idea to check if hosting and email costs are included.

Packages – Most web design companies offer a range of packages, varying in content, features and price.

Overall, I had a positive experience while trying out different web design companies. The amount of work involved on my part, as well as the level of customisation, “extras” and advice available varied dramatically, depending on the costs involved. Whatever your needs, there is a service to suit everyone. Don’t forget to have a look at my reviews which are labelled ‘first hand experience’ – I hope you find them useful!