Are you ready to build your website? Or did you build one yourself?
Can you really build a website yourself?
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.
A Few Familiar DIY Sitebuilders
How do they keep their promise?
DIY sites offer premade templates called Themes. You plug in your info (name, address) and you now have a website that looks like many others. Sometimes you can add personal elements and often you cannot.
The ease is seductive, but filled with landmines. Remember, you’re a niche specialist. Blanks will never have enough room for your hard-earned expertise.
Before I get into the functionality of a DIY website, it is essential you remember the following:
No Money Back Guaranty!
Themes fall into generic categories like “Business.” These can include popups that offer a discount for your first purchase, signing up for an email list, promises of “customer satisfaction,” easy returns and refunds, even a money-back guaranty.
Your objectivity, by definition, can never be guaranteed.
Further, anything on your website can be brought up on the Witness Stand. This, not the Theme, must guide your website design.
Always review your site before “going live” to be sure you remove anything that compromises your integrity and/or cannot be defended during testimony. Articles and blogs fall in the same category:
If you say it, you own it. Be honest, scientific and smart. If you don’t know something for sure, state that. Never promise absolutes you can’t prove.
Generally a Theme limits you to its aesthetic.
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.
Need a page just for forensic work on an otherwise Clinical site? Perhaps it calls for a more somber or conservative tone, and a spot for your photo in a business suit rather than a white coat. The theme may not have the flexibility for such changes.
For example, you want to use your typical headshot – usually a rectangle in, of course, portrait orientation. The theme only offers images that fit into squares.
You can resize it in Photoshop, but that learning curve is huge, defeating the usability promised by the Website Builder. (I have more than 20 years of experience in Photoshop and trust me, it is not intuitive!)
Skylines and Yoga Poses
[yourdomain.com] is likely your home page–the “landing page” for visitors. The first thing they see is a “Hero Image”–that wide big image at the top, front and center. For some reason, it appears Hero Images are primarily skylines or yoga poses in the Themes I’ve encountered, though metaphors are always popular. In personal life, I am a fan of a beautiful photograph, but it is likely unrelated to the medical-legal practice. That calls for a pass when working with a Theme. I talk more about this in Easy Fix: Website Graphics Update.
Themes lump professions together without subtlety. There is no theme that bridges clinical work and legal work. Clinical Medicine, Therapy or Law are about as specific as you will be able to get. Forensic Child Psychiatrist? Expert in Veteran’s Administration treatment? Radiologist? Emergency Medicine? You will have to bend the theme to your will, defeating the “build a site in an hour” promise.
A word about Law and Skylines. Are you local?
Skylines have a place on your site if you want local attorneys to know you are local. The skyline might stop you from getting cases out-of-state; a legitimate consideration. When I take on a new client, this is a discussion we must have. Some doctors don’t want to travel, others do.
Meds and Yoga? Is that the message behind your Forensic Practice? (Images from Squarespace; aptly named)
Ultimately, it is difficult to change out the imagery tied to the Theme. The hero image must conform:
- Landscape orientation
- Has to fit the standard dimensions for a monitor’s full width, work the Theme already did for you.
- Changing the hero image will require redefining the dimensions of an image of choice.
- If your preferred image is a circle, for example, creative workarounds add another layer of website skill you will need.
These types of challenges stop many doctors from adapting imagery they find relevant, and defaulting to what the Theme provides.
Visual elements on a site, however, can be engaging and essential, if they are content-relevant. That means the Theme may need tweaking.
What you need to know about free plans
The Free Plan often allows advertisements to be placed on your site! Read the fine print.
Wix, Squarespace, worpdress.com (NOT wordpress.org), offer free plans that allow them to advertise on your site. One esteemed doctor was appalled to learn her website had been running ads chosen by the Sitebuilder for years.
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. E-commerce themes have many of the same features of a generic business theme described above.
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. Whatever you do, if you choose a theme, proof it, proof it, proof it. Ask friends to run it on their computers–does it look the same? Is anything cut off? Ask them to proof the content!
Your Profession is Serious, Not Frivolous
Marketing with a website is too important to mess up. Substance / Knowledge / Experience are your stock-in-trade. If the DIY service doesn’t have a method to present your substantive content, then hire a web developer who knows what they’re doing and, just as important, knows what you do.
If a DIY Site Isn’t for You
If you are reading this blog because…DIY isn’t working out for you, there are other options. Look at appealing websites of your colleagues and attorneys and ask who did their website (a chance to network with an attorney, no strings attached, by the way). Get references from any prospective web developer and a CV. Place limits on the cost and scope, with deadlines for reassessment if the work isn’t going as planned. Collaborate closely.
If you have no colleagues with a lead on a web developer, there are options like Upwork, which gives you access to web developers all over the world. You describe what you need and developers bid for your job with a letter, portfolio and, if you ask, a CV.
If you have a website already, take a look and ask others: does your site communicate that you are actively, currently in forensic practice. Is it engaging? Does it communicate FIRST what is most important? Is it easy to learn your phone number and email? Is your area of medicine immediately obvious?
If you have a site that’s dated or confusing, update it. If a DIY option is your only option, then go for it. But if you can build something more substantial, it is my experience, calls will follow.
This site bears the hallmarks of HTML a programming language carbon-dated to 1995-2007(ish). It was inflexible and forced content into the center, or upper left, columns. Font is usually too small to reads. Such sites cannot be read on a mobile phone.