Heartland Dental

Increase appointment requests and improve mobile performance

Problem Statement

Heartland Dental is the nations largest Dental Service Organization (DSO). The marketing department manages and maintains over 1,000 individually branded dental practice websites.

These websites were dramatically underperforming expectations, or in the case of mobile devices not working at all.


  1. Increase appointment requests
  2. Improve mobile performance
  3. Improve organic SEO performance
Initial Problem Discovery

No clear CTA for the user

Upon initial review the websites had no clear CTA.

Where one would expect the Primary CTA to be was instead a box labeled “Virtual Office Tour”.

The ‘preferred’ user action, ‘Make an Appointment’ is located in the top right, and is styled identically to the ‘office hours’ button next to it, and the ‘New Patient Resources’ and ‘Insurance & Finances’ buttons.

Original Heartland Practice site
Initial Problem Discovery

Bloated Navigation

After an initial audit of the primary navigation, it was discovered that the average practice had over 65 items in their primary navigation.

Dental Jargon/ Duplicate navigation

The audit also uncovered multiple instances where one office used one term, while another office used another, however because the descriptions were identical, the offices were choosing to list both.

There was also a significant number of terms being used for navigation that were specific to the dental professionals and unknown outside of those groups.

Heartland navigation detail and audit
Research findings

98% of ALL traffic visited 4 pages

98% of all traffic
competitive analysis

Heartland’s nearest competitor represents approximately 300 dental offices.

Aspen Dental

Aspen Dental

The next closest competitor but unfortunately they have an entirely different business model. All Aspen practices are branded as “Aspen Dental”.

Pacific Dental

Pacific Dental

Pacific Dental practices were going with the ‘Kitchen sink’ approach. They had even more navigation than the Heartland practices.

Western Dental

Western Dental

Western websites were also corporate branded like the Aspen practices.


Heartland had previously hired the research firm of Buxton to provide more patient insight.

At the overall patient level, Buxton found prevalent traits among your patients’ households including:

  • Age Range of 35 to 64 years
  • 2 to 6 of Persons in the Household
  • Length of Residency of 6 to over 16 years
  • Annual income of over $50,000
  • Presence of Children


Personas for Heartland
user journey

Regardless of persona group, our user journey was pretty clear.

Heartland User journey
content cleanup

Bloated navigation & Dental Jargon/ duplicate navigation

To address these issues I took a multi-step approach, each employing 1 of 3 key groups

user group

Content Writers

Working with the SEO/Content team to sort through the previous navigational/ service terms we matched them to high value SEO terms when possible and preferrably to more common non-technical terms when we could.

user group

Regional Market Representatives

The RMS’ were responsible for communicating between the dentists and the marketing department.

We asked the RMS team to take part in card sorting excerises with our new SEO friendly terms and services.

user group

(1,400+ nationwide)

Taking the results from the card sorting exercise with the RMS team I created a google forms survey asking each dentist to identify the services they wanted to offer along with any they were unfamiliar with.


Finding compromise between the users and the ‘stakeholders’

  • Users were clear in their goals – and they weren’t interested in ‘information’ that the dentists considered ‘vital’.
  • Almost to a person, the stakeholder dentists thought the information presented was far more important to prospective patients than any information the patients were clearly coming for.
  • As a compromise, I removed the 60+ services from the primary navigation and created a content block on the home page that would list all the offices current services. The information was still prominent, but it was no longer blocking users from their goals.
New Heartland Practice Sitemap

Initial Wireframes

After multiple sketches and conversations an initial wireframe emerged.

Heartland initial wireframe
wireframes revised

A few tweaks after a round of guerilla user testing at Starbucks

  • Users were having a hard time identifying the ‘New Patients’ item when it was separated by the office address.
  • It was frustrating to some users in testing to not see the actual address before clicking directions. They could determine by addressing whether or not it was worth pursuing.
Heartland revised wireframe
annotated wireframe

Pre-wiring for change

To help with the transition, before any final mockups were sent out I created an annotated wireframe for the RMS team to distribute and pre-wire the dentists for the upcoming changes.

Heartland initial wireframe
final design

The end result

Heartland User journey



+40% Organic SEO Traffic


-60% Mobile Bounce Rate



-60% PPC Traffic



Increase in Appointment Requests YoY