Do you have a website for your Forensic Practice? If not, how are you planning to build one? DIY might not be the way to go.
Website assessment and repair is one of my favorite tasks. Why? Because it is so easy to excel over your competitors (err umm ..colleagues). I have surfed and surfed the sites of vast quantities of Forensic mental health professionals and find most are designed for anything but forensic psychiatry or psychology. Of course, many Experts don’t have a site at all so that’s a plus for you. And others are so proud of the site they built in 2007 they feel they’ve paid their dues to the modern world, and that’s a plus for you too.
The Olden Days
In the olden days, sites were developed using a programming language called “html,” tailored to the small clunky computers we used then, and a very different “interweb.”
They’re easy to spot: all the text in a thin column in the center of the screen or shoved into the upper left-hand corner. Font is usually tiny, and it looks terrible on a tablet, laptop or cell phone. Carbon dating tells us about 2008 html was replaced by CSS—a programming language that is more powerful but infinitely more difficult to master.
Can you really build a website yourself?
By “you”, I mean you or whomever is helping you: a friend or -ex “with tech skills,” or your 3rd cousin that has a great Facebook page. You may well be tempted to take a Saturday afternoon and follow the lure of a DIY site: that it will be inexpensive and easy. This is only true if you give no value to your time and disregard the word “easy.”
These DIY sites are Build-a-Bear workshops of website design.
These services make their claims by offering premade templates, called Themes. You plug in your info (name, address), pick some generic photo from their library and voilà!
“I want my site to reflect my practice and personality”
Don’t like the size of a picture? The font is weird? The theme requires a photo of a cantaloupe and that doesn’t speak to you on a deep level? Too bad. The Theme is in charge. Need a page just for forensic work, a different color theme, a spot for your photo that is the right dimension?
Say you want to use your typical headshot – usually a vertical rectangle, but the theme only offers images that fit into squares.
You can use Photoshop to resize and shape that photo. I’m sure that will be easy to pick up too. And there are college classes. (Sarcasm intended).
Yoga and Skylines
A given Theme limits you to its rules and its aesthetic.
For some reason, it appears the prominent photos are primarily skylines or yoga poses. I have no idea why. I think yoga is supposed to mean serenity or health – is that what attorneys need in an Expert Witness?
A skyline makes sense if you want local attorneys to know you are local. What if the attorney is in another state? If you saw a skyline of my home town you would laugh. It is that unremarkable. Unlike my husband, the Architect, I can’t tell where a place is just by the noteworthy buildings. Further, Expert Witnesses usually testify outside the nearest large city. A skyline communicates the opposite.
Is Geography the most important thing to know about this practice? Do these doctors only work in New York? (Squarespace)
Meds and Yoga? Is that the message behind your Forensic Practice?
Visual elements on a site are engaging and essential, but they must be content-relevant and consistent with the graphic design of the site.
Compare and Contrast
DIY Website-building sites differ from one another.
Wix offers features to include in your site and the ability to bypass Themes and build from the ground up. You can tailor fonts, and add personalized buttons (“Learn More” “Call Now”.) Unfortunately, most “tools” are proprietary and limited. Available shapes and symbols, for example are restricted to what they offer, though for a fee you can buy more from a Wix-only app.
Squarespace and Weebly are reportedly easy to use, with attractive themes, but you cannot change the size of components or layout in many Themes. E.g. page-dominating banners of photos appear in alternating rows 5” high. If you don’t like the look of that, too bad, the photos must fill the huge boxes and the row will always dominate the screen.
By the way, most DIY sites have a free option and a paid option. The free option allows them to advertise on your site. Be warned.
You are not in the Retail business
DIY website design has been a popular trend for the past 5+ years. They appeal to small business owners without much time or budget to develop a website. E-commerce features are common.
Popups and Shopping Carts
I went to the site of a Forensic doctor and was immediately disrupted by a popup. Did I want to subscribe to the newsletter and learn interesting new things about beauty? That really happened. A Subscribe popup is common to e-commerce Themes. A mental health expert had tried to force the forensic practice into a lovely theme designed specifically for aestheticians.
Your Profession is Serious, Not Frivolous
Marketing with a website is too important to mess up. It’s the easiest way for an attorney to find out about your experience, credentials and expertise.
A website that doesn’t accomplish this will simply cause your clients to assume they’re in the wrong place (a yoga expert?) and quickly leave to find someone else.
If you have no website at all, perhaps a DIY website is fine if only to provide your most basic information so at least there’s something for someone to find—if only your phone number.
Substance, however, is your stock in trade. Don’t accept any less from those who support your business.
Hire a web developer who knows what they’re doing and, just as important, knows what you do. Collaborate. Do what you do best and let that person do what he or she knows best.
As a culture, we’ve learned the language of website design—what means “we sell fashion” (Gucci.com) vs. “we are a library” (Wikipedia.)
Visitors to your site need to know right away that they are in a serious virtual space.
Forensic Experts are sought for unique knowledge and skills. DIY websites are not.