In a 2016 survey that polled more than 170 healthcare marketers, about 10% reported Drupal as their content management system (CMS). That same research reports that overall 19% of respondents plan to change their CMS in 2017, with another 27% reporting they had recently upgraded their platform.
Whether you’re part of the group that’s currently on Drupal and are looking to redesign, or you’re considering Drupal for your upcoming platform change, there’s a lot to keep in mind when choosing the right partner.
Experience in Healthcare and Strategy are Keys To Success
There are many Drupal developers out there. In fact, the Drupal community is one of the largest in the world, boasting over 1M members. But not all are created equal – especially when it comes to building a website for a hospital, health system, or medical clinic. Here are five qualities to look for in your next partner that will help sure your redesign success.
- Healthcare experience. Prospective patients expect very specific functionality on hospital websites, from provider directories to event calendars. It’s important to find a partner that can build the modules you need, and keep them up to date. You can’t afford to take risks when it comes to HIPAA and PCI compliance – one missed encryption could put you in violation, which is bad for your brand and your bottom line.
- Object-oriented PHP developers. When interviewing developers or agencies, be sure to ask about PHP experience, particularly object-oriented PHP experience. There has been a big shift in the development world toward object-oriented programming, and it’s not a skillset every developer has. This is of particular importance if you are planning to build on Drupal 8, which has embraced object orientation.
- Sophisticated content strategy expertise. Content strategy is important to all healthcare websites, regardless of what CMS they’re built on. You need to partner with an agency that will help you organize your site content in a way that clearly reflects your site visitor’s objectives, and build out the information architecture in Drupal. In our experience, Drupal’s content model can be confusing if you’re not familiar with the platform. If you work with an experienced strategist that can help you see the long-term vision before you start adding content into Drupal, it will help in the long run.
- Structured content experience. One of Drupal’s greatest assets is the way it manages with structured content, the concept of organizing and treating digital content like modular data. Structured content becomes especially important for healthcare websites that want to optimize user experience through personalization. But structured content gets complicated quickly. Be sure to ask potential partners about their experience with metadata, taxonomy, dynamic content, microdata, and Schema.org.
- Long-term partnership. There are Drupal implementers, and there are Drupal partners. We often hear from healthcare marketers who inherited a Drupal site and just can’t maintain it – even with a Drupal developer on staff. Drupal sites can be quite amazing, but they are also big and complex. Make sure you pick an agency that will be there to support you after go-live, especially if you’ve had custom modules built that will require updates and security patches.
Choosy Healthcare Marketers Choose Proven Healthcare Experience
Since the platform is open source, you’ll find many agencies around the country that have developers familiar with Drupal on staff. Just remember having a developer who is familiar with Drupal isn’t the same as having a team that understands the inherent complexity of healthcare websites.
In our experience, the most successful Drupal sites not only have an external, healthcare-experienced partner, they also have at least one team member in-house with Drupal experience that can assist with day-to-day changes.
Regardless of what direction you decide to go, don’t take chances. Hire – or partner with – developers who have proven experience in healthcare.