Your sage expertise doesn’t deserve a shopping cart mentality, however that’s the focus of most “build-a-bear” websites.

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.  Here’s why.

Website assessment and repair is one of my favorite tasks. Why? Because it is so easy to excel over your competitors (err  umm ..colleagues). By my educated guess, perhaps 10% of all Board-Certified Forensic Psychiatrists or Psychologists have websites at all.  

Can you make a website yourself? 

DIY sites have been popular since Wix launched in 2006. If you made a site prior to the last 5 years it is likely outdated–that’s how fast website design has evolved. Making a website, though, can be exhausting–especially if you have to master a learning curve.  As a result, once built, many doctors feel they’re “done.” No matter how long it’s been since they created the site, they are reluctant to deal with it again, even if they used a “user-friendly” site builder. Consequences of an unchanged site are discussed in 

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 the most-familiar site-builders.

  • Wix
  • SquareSpace
  • Weebly
  • GoDaddy
  • Simbla

These services accomplish ease of use 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? The Theme is in charge. Most DIY sites will allow you to change the cantaloupe, but it’s tricky to make your image fit into the cantaloupe’s spot. Need a page just for forensic work, a different color theme, a spot for your photo that is the right dimension? The theme can make it very difficult and the benefits begin to introduce the very complex skillset you are trying to avoid.

Say you want to use your typical headshot – usually a vertical rectangle. The theme, perhaps, 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?

(Squarespace–well named) 

Visual elements on a site can be 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 the look of the site outside of template-restrictions, and add personalized features like wider, shorter or shaped text. You can tap their internal image library without fear of a copyright issue (most builders have a feature like this.)

Unfortunately, most “tools” are proprietary, meaning a third party writes the code and you can add it to your basic Wix site.  Available shapes and symbols, for example are restricted to what Wix offers, 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 components or layout is also restricted by the 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. 

Because DIY website design has been a popular trend for the past 5+ years, they reflect the explosion in online retail.  Thus, the available Templates are more likely to have E-commerce features. Be careful!

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. An offer of 10% off if you sign up now is typical. You can’t do that on a forensic site! In another case, the mental health expert had tried to force the forensic practice into a lovely theme designed specifically to accommodate ads.

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.

Any website is better than no website.

If you have no website at all, perhaps a DIY website is fine if only to provide your most basic information like a phone number and email address, so at least there’s something for someone to find.

Substance, however, is your stock in trade. Don’t accept any less from those who support your business. If the DIY service doesn’t support the way you want your substantive content to present to attorneys, don’t do it.

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. By the way, companies like Upwork give you access to web developers all over the world, and you may find an excellent person at a reasonable price.

The visual language of website design.

As a culture, we’ve learned the language of website design—what means “we sell fashion” ( vs. “we are a library” (Wikipedia.)

Visitors to your site need to know right away that they are in a serious virtual space of a person who is in practice right now.

Forensic Experts are sought for unique knowledge and skills. DIY websites may not support that message because you are not one-size-fits all. Your practice is, by definition, the opposite.  

Presenting your Expertise for Today. Using a DIY site or Not, a Dated site is Death. 

Back in the Day

Sites were developed using a programming language called “html” until the early 2000s. HTML is tailored to the slower computers and small screens of the era and there and smart phones didn’t have the screens or bandwith for power surfing.

HTML sites date a website. They are 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 is when html faded and was replaced by CSS (“Cascading Style Sheet)—a programming language that is more powerful but infinitely more difficult to master.

Practice Development for Expert Witnesses
Beryl Vaughan, Consultant

Email or Call (415) 302-9589

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