If you run a business that requires customers to book appointments, you may find that having a website scheduling system will save you and your customers a lot of time. On your part, you will see a decrease in workload and mistakes because you don’t have to manually keep up with your calendar and constantly communicate your ever-changing availability to your customers. There is also opportunity for several customers to book at the same time, which otherwise wouldn’t be possible given you can only talk to one customer at a time. A website scheduling system is appealing to your customers because it is easier for them to book a service without actually talking to anyone which is ideal in this day and age. Not to mention, an online booking system is a sure way to increase your perceived professionalism and give you a one up over your competitors.
There are several ways to add an online booking system to your website. It is just a matter of which method best suits you and your business. Here are five ways to integrate online booking into your website:
1. Link to an external website
Though it wouldn’t be considered a true integration, adding a link to an external booking website is by far the easiest and one of the cheapest ways to take advantage of online booking. It requires no special development skills as all you must do is find the website that you like and copy and paste the link to your site. You may have to pay a monthly subscription fee to use their booking tools.
The disadvantage of this method is that you are sending users off your site which causes your website analytics to suffer because you can’t truly track your audience behavior. Sending your potential customers to another site may also cause them to lose interest and skip out on booking an appointment due to a lack of alignment in branding. You also have no control over the functionality of the booking site, so if something goes wrong over on that external website, it could hinder your business.
2. Install a plugin
If you have a CMS based website, a plugin is a very efficient way to add a booking system to your website. Most CMS platforms have compatible plugins so all you have to do is find the one that best fits your site. An example of a plugin is Bookly on WordPress. It gives users a booking confirmation and is optimized to allow users to book appointments using both their desktop and mobile devices. Plugins are appealing because they can be installed directly on your website without any coding experience and allow you to customize them to fit the design of your website. Most plugins also have their own set of analytics that provide insight on bookings which may help improve your business.
3. Embed an iframe
If you’ve ever seen a YouTube video embedded on another website, then you know what an iframe is. Also known as an inline frame, an iframe requires you to copy an already prepared code and paste it into your website’s backend. This is usually a free way to integrate another website’s booking tools onto your site so that users aren’t directed away from your site.
Similar to an external website link, however, you will be reliant on another site’s infrastructure which could hinder your business if there are any issues with the third party system. This method may not be the best for SEO purposes as it difficult at times for search engines to index externally embedded code that you put onto your site. It is also important to note that many iframe booking systems aren’t compatible with mobile browsers.
4. Connect via API
This is another great option for content management system (CMS) websites. Most CMS platforms come with a built-in online booking system API (application program interface). Since API is already integrated into your CMS, it is SEO-friendly because it is easy for search engines to index. Aside from developing a custom code, API is the closest you will get to a seamless online booking integration. It provides great user experience and gives you control over the interface.
Some disadvantages of using this method are that it is very expensive and requires the expertise of a development professional. It also requires continuous development to keep everything up-to-date in order to prevent the entire website from crashing.
5. Develop your own custom code
It is no surprise that this method of integration is the most complex and most expensive. This is the process of developing a piece of code that is your own and is seamlessly integrated as part of your website. This is an ideal option for companies with advanced booking processes. As you would have complete control over the functionality and design of the booking system, you can plan to involve the help of a team (designer, developer and product manager) to build this solution.
There is no straight forward solution to finding the best method of online booking integration. It is all about what type of website you have, your budget and what suits you and your customers the best. The good thing is that you can experiment and play around with your options. If one way doesn’t work for you, you can always try another. Having the ability to schedule appointments and consultations from your website is a great way to make your website work for your business and make your life easier.
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