• Building an Optometry Practice Website

    1. Register a domain name.

    This means registering the name of the website, eg.optomforum.com.au  It is wise to ensure that the Domain name registrar you use is an auDA accredited registrar.  Alternatively, you could buy the domain name from a website developer or webhost. A couple of the main registrars in Australia are  Melbourne IT and  NetRegistry

    2. Find a Web Host.

    The website needs to be hosted on a server somewhere so that it is always available to people surfing the net.

    Webhosting can be as cheap as $5 per month, but you get what you pay for. If you search for "data centre" then you may get a real webhost - as opposed to a reseller. There may be resources on this page for webhosting providers. Australian hosting companies charge about $15 per month for a reliable account with reliable email servers.

    It is widely believed that Australian sites should be hosted in Australia. However, many sites are hosted in the US and Asia and it doesn't seem to do them any harm. If you intend to sell products from your site then make sure it is hosted in Australia.

    Shared Hosting: This is when many (50 or more) low traffic websites are hosted on the same server computer in a data centre. Shared hosting can cause problems if some of the sites on the computer get very busy and they slow down the other sites. Basically, with shared hosting you don't have full control over the hosting environment. Good webhosts don't overcrowd their servers with websites so that there is plenty of redundancy in case there is a lot of demand. Cheap web hosts may put so many sites on each server that there may regularly be performance issues. Also, it is important that the site doesn't go down. Sites on cheap servers go down often, good servers go down very rarely.

    Dedicated Hosting: this means you get your very own computer in the data centre which has only your site on it. This cost about $200 per month and is not feasable for optometry practice websites.

    If you have more than one site to host then there are options available where you can have add-on domains on your hosting account. This means you can host more websites on one account. Most Australian webhosts limit the number of add-on domains you can have. Many US hosts only limit the bandwidth and allow you to have as many domains as you like. It is conceivable to have 60 websites on one US$5 per month account as long as the total bandwidth does not exceed the limitations in the account.

    IP Address: Another thing to check with your webhost is whether you can get your own IP address. Most very cheap accounts give all the sites on one server the same IP address.
    This is bad because;
    1. If some of the sites on your server are involved in spamming activites, then the IP address of the server could be blocked by anti-spam filters. This could also block your emails as they will originate from the same IP address.
    2. If one of the sites on the server is blocked by any future government filter, then they would block the IP address, thereby blocking your site also.
    3. If you ever want an ssl certificate - ie. if you want to collect customer details securely by encrypted forms - then you must have your own IP address. An ssl certificate will only work on a site with a dedicated IP address.
    4. In the past it was believed that having undesirable sites on the same server affected the credibility of all sites on the same server to search engines. Your site will have the same IP as many other sites, some of which you may not want your business associated with.

    Therefore it is highly recommended to find a hosting service which will give you your own IP address. This will make your site look separate from all the other sites on the shared server.

    GoDaddy is a US based webhost offering very good value. They have lots of space, bandwidth and features. Unfortunately, if you are targeting an Australian audience it is recommended to host in Australia.

    3. Delegate the Domain Name.

    Once you have your domain name and your hosting account it is necessary to set things up so that your server is found through your domain name. To do this, follow the steps below. (If your registrar is the same company as your host then this step may not be necessary.)

    1. Delegate your Domain Name: Log into your Domain Registrar account (ie. NetRegistry or Melbourne IT) and change the Domain Name Server (DNS) details to the Domain Name Server of the Webhost. Your webhost should tell you what their name servers are. For example, if you are hosting with Servers Australia, then you need to ensure that the name servers specified in your Domain Registrar are as follows;


    Delete existing name servers that do not point to your host.

    It can take about 4 hours to one day for this delegation to propagate throughout the internet.

    2. Log into your webhosting account to tell them which domain name you will be hosting.

    If you want more than one domain name to point to the same hosting account, then set up a parked domain or an add-on domain on your hosting account, and point the Registrar of the other Domain name to the Name Servers of your web host. More advanced hosting packages will have a Webhost Manager allowing many different websites to be hosted on one account.

    4. Install the Software on your Computer.

    If you don't wish to learn any HTML at all then install a content management system such as Wordpress onto the server. The template you create with atristeer will work with Wordpress. Wordpress was originally blogging software, but it is now being commonly used as a content management system for making entire websites.

    If you do not intend to use Wordpress and intend to write the code yourself, the software below may of help.

    If you intend to edit HTML directly then it is a good idea to install something like Notepad++ which is an excellent text editor for those who feel confident working with code themselves. It doesn't take up much space on the computer and looks simple, but is extremely useful. It is aimed at programmers and was originally written for C++

    Netbeans is an excellent editor for php and Javascript for those confident with such things. Takes up a lot more room than Notepad++ but it can help with coding.

    FileZilla this is an ftp client  for uploading your files from your computer to the server.

    Paint.NET  Free image editing software.

    5. Website Template.

    The template defines the graphical appearance of the page. ie. background colours, page width, fonts, columns, colours etc.

    The best way to make your own template is to install a program called Artisteer which allows you to define an entire professional looking template without understanding css. Unfortunately it costs approx $150. It is well worth the investment, especially if you are making more than one site. It also allows you to create Joomla, Wordpress, and asp.net templates as well as HTML templates.

    If you don't wish to make your own template, then;

    1. Commission a graphic designer to create one,  or
    2. Buy a ready made template online. or
    3. Download a free template from a site such as Free Layouts. The only condition with most free templates is that the link to the template designer stays on your site. Ensure you read the conditions of each template to make sure that it is really free.

    6. Create Your Own Website content

    If you use wordpress then use the website admin section to create your site.

    If you are working with HTML then edit the templates on your computer using your favourite text editor.

    Save each page as a different filename. eg. the home page must be called index.html (or index.htm or index.php etc) and the rest of the pages can be called whatever you like. Keep in mind that the name of the page should contain the keywords you would like to associate with that page. A hyphen (ie. a minus sign) can be used to separate words within the filename.

    Make sure there are plenty of links other pages within your site to other pages.

    Use Filezilla to upload all the contents of the directory containing your template to the html directory on your server. (Often called public_html )

    Test it out by typing your domain name into your web browser - your site should show up.

    You may need to refer to a HTML Tutorial

    7.  Images

    You could take your own photos and edit them yourself with software such as Photoshop or Paint.NET or you can download images from sites such as;




    These are Cheap photos with no ongoing royalties. Often you may see these same photos on many sites made by professional web-designers. You will still need to edit and size the images with your software. Remember that screens can only show 72 or 96 pixels per inch so don't make the resolution too high.

    Another option is Flickr Creative Commons. These are free original photos, make sure you read the conditions of use. Usually you need to reference the source of the photos if you use them.

    By applying the information above it should be possible to create a professional looking website for the cost of domain registration and hosting, and possibly to buy artisteer. There is no excuse for any optometry practice to not have a website. When your site goes online make sure you list your site on optomforum.com.au    If you want further information, feel free to join the forum to ask.

    What to be Careful of if using Web Developers.

    1.Intellectual Property:  be very aware that if a web designer creates your site then they may own the content. Ensure that there is a statement on the footer of eyery page saying copyright © Your Company. If you do not own copyright then legally you cannot make modifications to the site yourself - even if you have access to the server. Be careful that the developer does not use images or content that is owned by others - you could be billed for royalties by the legal owner of the content. If you use a web designer make sure there is a written intellectual property agreement assigning copyright to you.

    2.Webhosting:  Often the webdesigner will arrange the web hosting. They will arrange it and then bill you for it themselves. Your site may be on the cheapest shared server in Hong Kong for all you will know. Because you cannot access the server, you do not have access to useful traffic information. In the event of disputes with the web designer, they have control of your site. They could take your site offline, or worse-still, put a note on the home page saying you have not paid your bill. Because you do not have access to the webhost and you do not own the copyright to the website (unless you have it in writing), you cannot just move the site to another webhost, or get another web developer to modify the site.  In the worst case you may have to create a whole new site.  If you plan to use a webdeveloper, then make sure you organise hosting yourself directly with a hosting company. Your developer can then upload the site to your webhost. Do not allow the webdesigner to host the site. Do not host the site on an overseas server if you want to show up as an Australian site -  the server IP address is one of the things that tells google which country the site is in.

    3. Search Results:  Some web designers have no idea about how to make a site show up on internet searches. If you have any doubts about this, try to type a suburb and the word "optometrist", and see if the relevant optometry practice websites show up. If Optom Forum shows up before the expected optometry practice website, then there may be a problem. The site may look good but maybe Google cannot work out what the site is about.  Before commissioning a web developer, have a look at their portfolio of websites. Then search for these sites by using search terms that their potential clients would use - if the sites don't show up, there may be a problem.

    4. Domain Name:  It is a good idea to buy the domain name directly from a registrar and not from your hosting provider or webdesigner. It is probably safe to buy a domain name from anyone. However, be aware that whoever registers the name with the registrar owns it. If your web designer or webhost register it in their name then they own it. Problems could also occur if your domain registrar goes broke or fails to remind you to renew your name.

    Do not use a sub-domain as your website name. A subdomain looks like this:   subdomain.domain.com.au    The domain owner owns the name if you are on a sub-domain. Some optometric buying groups have set up websites for their members on subdomains of their domain.  This may be suitable as long as you realise that you don't own the domain name.  If you are on a subdomain and you wish to leave the buying group or make your own new site, you will lose your web address (URL) which is known to clients and search engines.

    Wordpress is the easiest and best way to make your practice website. It does not require any coding knowledge once set up, and yet allows you to manage all parts of your own site.

    Artisteer is an excellent template designer to create your very own website layout. The templates can be used by Wordpress, DotNetNuke, Joomla or standard HTML.

    Notepad++ is an excellent free HTML text editor for working with code.

    auDA accredited Registrars  List of accredited domain name registrars

    FileZilla. ftp client  for uploading your files from your computer to the server.

    Melbourne IT  Domain Name Registrar

    NetRegistry Domain Name Registrar

    Paint.NET  Image editor to create and modify images, graphics, and photos.